Dining on a Budget

As my date for ADR’s approaches I am all over the board on what we are going to do for dining. Our trip is 8 days the week after Thanksgiving. It will by our family with 3 girls 11,9,6 and my in laws both in their 70’s. My family has been to Disney once before and did the dining plan but found it to be more than what we needed. My husband and father in law are very budget conscience so I’m trying to balance the budget with the experience. I don’t want the trip to end up being so expensive that my husband says we’re never coming back :slight_smile: In general all you care to eat style meals are way more than we need but i have a few I’m interested in anyway for the experience. I would love to hear opinions… including if you think I should suck it up and eat PB&J for the whole trip to make my DH happy :laughing:

We are driving so we will be bring food/ snacks or go to the store when we get there. We will definitely save some money this way but I also really like the idea of a sit down meal as a nice break for everyone.

Here are my random thoughts so far:

  • Ohana for a breakfast either arrival day or late breakfast on MK day (DD loves Stitch)

  • Ohana for dinner followed by fireworks on the beach?

  • MK Dessert Party (A friend sold my husband on this since we are there during MVMCP. On our last trip we ended up leaving MK before fireworks started after being run over by people trying to get a better spot)

  • Considering PPO at Garden Grill to be positioned for Soarin… is it worth it? Would it be better as a midday break? Or skip GG altogether

  • I keep reading rave revues about Hoop De Doo - Is it worth the price?

  • What are your favorite TS for sharing meals?

  • I am hoping we can get a package for Candlelight processional and was considering Biergarten for this. Do they add an extra charge for those packages?

  • The kids have asked to go back to Tusker House

Thanks!

Garden Grill is one of our favorite character meals. Both breakfast and lunch/dinner are excellent options - PPO breakfast has the Soarin’ benefit, but it does also mean you’re getting up very early which can be a downside for your family depending.

There is a cost adder for Candlelight Processional - want to say it’s on the order of $10’ish per person. Not ridiculous, but not free. On the Dining Plan they hit you for 2 ADR credits which is very steep.

One thing we have found value in with ADRs is getting us to slow down, rest and kind of smell the roses instead of rushing from one ride to another munching on a turkey leg as we go. The added cost is one thing, but for us it really adds to the experience to get a break, enjoy some quality food, and stop rushing for a little while. Then hit the rides hard again after a nice meal…

OK still reading but I’m a firm no on this approach :wink: LOL

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The truth is, I don’t know your financial situation and don’t know your budget, so it’s really hard to give advice. I also don’t know your husband and how much of a spend-thrift he is.

So, I’ll just tell you what my family did with two 6YO girls. We did lots of character meals.
Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
CRT
BOG Breakfast
BOG Dinner
Tusker House
Akershus
and Hollywood & Vine

Of those, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ was really fun.
As a dad, I wanted CRT the most for my girls. The only one I would not recommend was Tusker House, but you may love it. My girls are about the pickiest eaters in the world, so that’s why I can’t recommend that.

Ohana for a breakfast either arrival day or late breakfast on MK day (DD loves Stitch)
Ohana for dinner followed by fireworks on the beach?

  • Are you staying at Poly? If yes, then doing both would be nice, but expensive. If no, then I would definitely pick one or the other.

MK Dessert Party (A friend sold my husband on this since we are there during MVMCP. On our last trip we ended up leaving MK before fireworks started after being run over by people trying to get a better spot)

  • Are you doing the Dessert Party DURING the Christmas Party? I wouldn’t do that - uses up valuable (and expensive, paid for!) party time. If you’re planning to see fireworks during the party I think you’ll find it’s a bit less crowded than on a regular park day. If you’re talking about doing the dessert party on a regular park day, it might be a good idea. But again, it’s pricey and I thought we were being budget-conscious and even talking about all day PBJ buffets :wink:

Considering PPO at Garden Grill to be positioned for Soarin… is it worth it? Would it be better as a midday break? Or skip GG altogether

  • I never agree with using breakfast reservations to get an advantage for a ride. As you started out in saying, dining at WDW is expensive! If you want to go for the meal, then take your time and enjoy it. If you want a short wait, then get a FPP for Soarin or ride at rope drop (we did both, Rope Drop ride was not a long wait at all, probably max of two cycles as we were held up before the preshow, and then one preshow).

I keep reading rave revues about Hoop De Doo - Is it worth the price?

  • Now this is money well spent. It makes for a nice evening, great food, entertaining show and a little time at FW. Ride the boat to/from MK for extra relaxation. This is a good time - do it.

What are your favorite TS for sharing meals?

  • We generally do not share meals in my family. That said, for Kona breakfast none of us could decide - Tonga Toast, French toast with bananas and caramel sauce, regular eggs and bacon - so we ordered one of each and shared that way. :slight_smile:

I am hoping we can get a package for Candlelight processional and was considering Biergarten for this. Do they add an extra charge for those packages?

  • Yes, as with other nighttime shows that have dining packages, there is a small upcharge for Candlelight processional. But this is one of the few that I have heard it is worth it for. I have not done it personally, but the dining package seems almost a must for this one from the way people talk of it.

The kids have asked to go back to Tusker House

  • Obviously! Do it :slight_smile:
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Somehow I missed this in my response. If they like it, definitely do it!

I know it’s an unfair question to ask since everyone’s version of budget is different :slight_smile:

like was mentioned, don’t know your budget. We tried to have fun without breaking the bank. My original plan for the week was muffins/bagels for breakfast, TS for lunch and QS for dinner, 1 character meal, and I figured some snacks along the way. My wife probably thinks I am extra frugal as well. :wink:
I didnt plan well for kids getting cranky in between meals, so we upped the snacks. We added in a couple late night room service Boardwalk pizzas when my QS dinner plan didnt hold them over. We added in an extra TS dinner (or 2?). So overall, I’d say we were slightly over budget, with no signature dining, and one character meal (Tusker House lunch btw).
I tell everyone that Via Napoli was great food at a great price, when sharing the large pizzas.

We’re staying at Port Orleans. Knowing that my daughter loves Stitch and I don’t see many opportunities to see Stitch I thought the breakfast would be a good option.

We are not planning on attending the Christmas party (unless someone talks me into it). That leaves only two nights during our trip that we can see HEA so I know it will be busy. I was actually shocked when I heard my husband say he thought the dessert party would be a good idea. He might not realize just how much it will add up to :slight_smile: It kills me that our 11 year old is an adult for Disney prices!!

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Could you calculate out the cost for the week you are looking at (including whatever meals you plan to eat simple stuff on your like cereal for breakfast or a day or two of PBJ if you are at your resort) and calculate an avg per day for the week to run past your DH? Looking at it this way the Occassional splurges will be seem on context of the other stuff you are doing to contain cost elsewhere.

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We ate at Tusker House on our last 2013 trip with an 8, 11, and 17 year old and loved it! It is a character experience, which we weren’t expecting (I made the reservation based on location alone.) We are going back sans the oldest and with a 3 yr. old instead. I am hoping she enjoys trying all the unusual stuff offered, but it could really go south…time will tell! The rest of us can’t wait!! :wink:

Ohana for a breakfast either arrival day or late breakfast on MK day (DD loves Stitch)
Ohana for dinner followed by fireworks on the beach?
We have only done Ohana for breakfast and loved it. However, my crew (besides me) are not big breakfast eaters. We definitely did not eat enough to justify the cost but loved the characters. So, we have found that for us it is better to eat a small breakfast in the room (pop tart, protein bar, fruit, etc)

I am hoping we can get a package for Candlelight processional and was considering Biergarten for this. Do they add an extra charge for those packages?
The dining packages do cost a little more. My daughter did not like the food. It is definitely worth it to get a guaranteed seat for Candlelight processional. Make sure when you make your reservation that you pick a time that matches up to the processional show time that you want to see.

The kids have asked to go back to Tusker House.
We like Tusker house too and have gone several times.

We too found that the dining plan was more food than what we needed. You feel obligated to eat more than what you normally would because you already paid for it. We usually eat breakfast in the room (pop tarts, protein bar, fruit, etc). Once at the park for several hours, we will get a big snack, something more substantial than just a mickey bar. Then we either do a QS for dinner or more often than not, a TS. You could always do a QS along with snacks half the days and the other half do TS.

I think that @OBNurseNH perfectly stated what I was thinking. The ADRs you mentioned are great, but it would get expensive to do all of them. I think you could still have a great trip if you picked just a couple character meals (like 'Ohana breakfast and TH). I think extras like the dessert party and HDDR would be fun, but costly.

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Budget wise, some lunch tend to be cheaper then dinner. Also, when we were four adults, we found that if we had TS lunch, we were rarely hungry for a big dinner! OUr meal planning went like this:

-Room breakfast (sandwiches and coffee and hot chocolate)
-A snack somewhere in the morning (usually from the snacks we brought with us)
-Nice lunch
-Break or more rides
-Snack (usually a Disney one)
-QS dinner (usually an extra side and one main course for two adults)
-Another snack

The thing about Disney is there are so many amazing snacks (Dole whips, cookies, ice cream) and I always want to try them! We also bought a bucket of popcorn (refillts are $1) and that was a great, cheap afternoon snack.

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Thank you all!! Anyone have an opinion on the dessert party at the Magic Kingdom?

Many. All positive. Mostly about the Garden viewing. Also mostly about the experience and not the desserts. Just search for the topic, you will find many. :grinning:

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You can meet Stitch in the MK in Tomorrowland where his now not functioning ride was.

The great food from HDDR can be had by eating at Trails end, this is a place my family requested to return to this trip! It is a nice break on a long MK day to take a boat over to the fort. Enjoy the cooler open air with all the trees. Eat a great meal. And not break the bank. I hear this show is great but is not cheap if a main thing you are going for the food. I vote for this. Bonus. On Sat and Sun they have brunch until 2. Have bacon and eggs and shrimp and fried chicken. Yum.

We enjoyed our view from the garden area. I was not impressed with the desserts and the dessert area was crowded and chaotic with long lines.
I’m not sure for the money I would do it again.

If the fireworks are important to you, I highly recommend the Plaza Garden Dessert Party. The crowds during the fireworks are insane during the Christmas party season since they are only shown a few times per week. It was so nice for us to have a reserved seat for the fireworks & not have to fight the masses in order to see them. The desserts themselves were fine, my 4 year old thought it was really special and fun! My advice is to arrive 30 minutes before Disney tells you to in order to allow plenty of time to eat & get over to the garden.

Our approach to this has been to only do 1 WDW meal a day. This serves two purposes: it is budget friendly, and it better fits how we like to eat (in general we find most of the food to be rather meh and also not particularly healthy). We bring our own food so that we can have quick, light breakfasts in the room and then pack lunches.

Therefore, our WDW meals are chosen very carefully so that they are something that is good and unique, and are often used to accomplish several things. For example:

  1. Dinner at La Hacienda - good, upscale Mexican food with a reservation timed out to allow for Illuminations viewing
  2. Late lunch at The Hollywood Brown Derby - provides a good mid-day break, and using the Fantasmic Dine package also gave us no-wait entry to the show (the “pack lunch” became a “pack dinner” on that day)
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