Trip Coach: November 27, 2007
Mary Waring of mousesavers.com answered your questions on Disney vacations in Orlando and Anaheim.
Mary Waring: It used to be that you could skip making reservations at most Disney table-service restaurants, particularly in the off-season. If you didn't have a reservation, you could usually just walk up and put your name on the list. You might have to wait, but you would get seated eventually. Those days are gone!
With the popularity of Disney's Dining Plan and the general upswing in attendance at Walt Disney World, the table-service locations are constantly busy and many of them do not have same-day walk-up availability. It has become very important to make advance dining reservations if you want to be assured of eating at a full-service location.
There is no cost or penalty associated with skipping most reservations (a few dinner shows and the extremely popular Cinderella's Royal Table meals are the exceptions), so there is really no downside to making reservations, even if you end up not using some of them.
Palmyra, N.Y.: Can we get tickets to the Hoop Dee Do Revue and attend the dinner show without using any Disney ticket to get in?
Mary Waring: Yes. The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue is held at Ft. Wilderness Campground and does not require a theme park admission to attend. Just buy tickets and go!
Woodbury, Minn.: We have a family of 6 (2 adults and 4 kids ages 10, 8, 6,and 5), traveling to WDW from Jan. 21 to Jan. 28th. It appears like WDW really makes a vacation more affordable for families of 4. I have found a suite at the family value resort. Do you recommend a suite or two connected rooms? Which is the better deal? Also, what's your opinion of the dining option? It seems like 10-years-old is really too young to be paying adult prices. Why doesn't WDW make the dining plan age 12 for adult prices?
Mary Waring: Family suites are available at Disney's All-Star Music Resort, in the Calypso and Jazz buildings. These suites, which sleep up to 6, were created by combining and remodeling existing guest rooms at the resort in 2006. The bedding consists of a King bed in the "master bedroom" and a pull-out double sofa, pull-out chair and pull-out ottoman in the "living room." There is one bathroom and a "kitchenette" (tiny fridge, microwave, coffee pot and sink).
There are virtually no discounts offered on the family suites. Unless you really want the King bed or the "kitchenette" in the suite, you may find it's a better value to book two standard rooms at one of the Value resorts instead. This will give you two bathrooms and four double beds, for a maximum occupancy of 8 people. Two standard rooms cost slightly less than a family suite and can be additionally discounted with any available code or special rate.
The Dining Plan must be purchased as part of a vacation package that includes a stay at a Disney hotel plus admission tickets. You get one table service meal, one counter service meal and one snack per day. You must purchase the plan for your entire stay and for each person staying in your hotel room.
The additional cost for the 2008 Dining Plan (on top of the vacation package) is $37.99 per night per adult or junior (ages 10-17), $9.99 per night for children (ages 3-9). It's not hard to spend that much per person on one table service meal, so the plan is a good value if you will eat at a full-service restaurant every day. Disney set the adult rate for the dining plan at 10 years and up to match its theme park tickets—10-year-olds pay adult admission, too.
Lexington, N.C.: I am taking my family—two grown children with spouses and four grandchildren ages 7, 7, 5 and 1—to Disney World for 5 days in January. What is the best way to feed this crew in the park and what kind of tips can you offer for making the most of the trip without spending a fortune? Since this is my Christmas present to my family I want to make it a memorable experience!
Mary Waring: You've picked a great time of year to visit, as the parks won't be crowded. That alone will add value to your vacation.
You don't say whether you've purchased a Disney vacation package or not. If not, you might consider buying one adult Annual Pass and then purchasing the Disney Dining Experience (DDE) card for $65. The DDE card is only available to Annual Passholders and Florida residents and it entitles you to 20% off food and beverages at almost every table service restaurant in the parks and resorts. One card is good for up to 10 people dining together. Even taking into account the additional cost of an Annual Pass over and above a 5-day ticket, it might save you a ton of money!