Derailed by DVC: Bringing Food from Home

Any entries posted between September 5th – 12th were composed prior to our trip. To follow along with us in our current WDW adventures, follow us on Twitter: malyourpal and timelrod or on Instagram: malyourpal.


So, as you know, this is our first trip as DVC members. We are so, so excited and hopefully having an amazing time right now as you read this. But I have to admit, preparing and packing as DVC members has really been a switch in gears for us. We have been derailed by DVC, when it comes to meal planning in WDW.

For the past five years, we have been riding the free dining plan promo that Disney has offered each fall. Initially, our dining plan {even when we were staying at the All-Star resorts} included one table service meal {which included an appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcholic beverage}, one counter service meal {which included an entree, dessert, and drink} and a snack {almost anything $5 and under} a day. PLUS a free refillable mug, PLUS gratuity was included!

Y’all that is what you call a free dining plan.

Over the years, Disney has been slowly trimming back what is included in the free dining plan. First, gratuity and appetizers were no longer included. Next, they scaled back the dining plans based on resorts, so value resorts were no longer offered the basic dining plan, but the quick service plan. In that plan, you get two counter service meals and one snack a day, along with a free refillable mug. To get the plan that included sit down meals, you had to be staying in a moderate or deluxe resort.

When Tim and I realized that becoming DVC members we would no longer be getting the free dining plan, we were a little bummed, but not much. We are grateful for the opportunity to have had it for the past five years because it allowed us to try restaurants we would have never have considered if we were paying out of pocket, and it essentially turned us into WDW foodies that love to try new restaurants and cuisines. However, we are also looking forward to a new world of being able to think outside of the “meal credits” and see what else Disney has to offer.

That being said, this trip we are trying to budget hard, so we knew splurging on a ton of meals just wasn’t going to happen. After all, we are still on the making-our-money-back end of the DVC buy-in {we just wrote that hefty check in April}, and we have a baby coming in just three months!

Crunch time!

So we hit Walmart hard last week, and tried to find some cheaper meal options that we can make and enjoy right in our DVC room. Here are some things we came up with.IMG_8467IMG_8470 IMG_8472 IMG_8471For breakfasts we plan on oatmeal {my boys love it and could eat it every day, thank goodness}, fruit, toast, and croissants. Lunches, and on a rare occasion dinners, are going to consist of microwavable meals, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, or yes, even a Lunchable or two by the pool. For snacks, we have both healthy and unhealthy options like mini rice cakes, fruit chews, chips, cheese and more fruit, and even the occasional gummy worm.

We plan on eating quick service meals to supplement and we have dining reservations at Via Napoli for lunch {which you’ve hopefully already read about!}, Whispering Canyon Cafe for breakfast, and Hollywood and Vine for lunch.

Honestly, we have no idea if we are doing this right. Please, any current DVC members, give us advice on how you dine in WDW! We may like the way we are doing things this year, or we may look back on this trip and think, “We were crazy. We had no idea what we were doing.”

Either way, I know that there is no chance of us starving in WDW. Busting the budget? Maybe. Starving? No.

I can’t wait to get back and share all of our stories and what we’ve learned!

With love, Malorie

Here’s What We Think: Rapid Fill

Remember those refillable mugs I mentioned in previous posts? Well Disney is crackin’ down. IMG_3555

See, not only were those mugs a good deal while you were staying on WDW property, they were a great deal when regular WDW goers {like ourselves} figured out the loop hole of bringing their mug back year and after year instead of paying for a new one each trip. There were two sides to that debate. Half of the people were outraged with the immoral beings that would dare to bring back a cup from a previous trip in the name of free drinks, and the other half said, “If Disney really cared that we brought back our mug, they’d find a way to stop us from doing it.” As for us Elrods, we fell somewhere in the middle. We never really had to deal with the issue since we tend to go during the off-season and get the free dining plan {our dining plans would come with a refillable mug}. However, on some of our short trips, we definitely fell into the scum-of-the-earth category by bringing back our used and abused mugs.

Well, it turns out Disney did care. Does care. Whatever. Their solution? Rapid Fill.

Rapid Fill – a new system being put into place starting in the value resorts at the end of July 2013 in which refillable mugs come equipped with a hand-dandy RFID chip that allows guests to refill their mugs for free for a certain time period based on price. After that window of time is up, the chip will deactivate and free refills will no longer be available. Prices are as follows:

$8.99 for 1 day

$11.99 for 2 days

$14.99 for 3 days

$17.99 for length of stay

{Elrod WDW Tip: Days are counted as calendar days, not 24 hour periods, so consider buying your mug on your first morning there if you arrive late in the afternoon your first day.}

Once again, the Disney community is in an uproar of opinions. Usually, we keep our opinions to ourselves, but I thought we’d turn that around and start adding a new facet to our blog entitled Here’s What We Think. So in reference to Rapid Fill, Here’s What We Think:

The Pros:  We don’t hate the idea. Yes, getting free drinks at Disney for years and years is dishonest and dirty. We agree that there should be a higher standard to keep visitors from doing so. And honestly, for all of those moral people out there, Rapid Fill will save them money on their shorter trips, since they won’t have to purchase a one-size-fits-all mug if they are only going to be there for two days. As for the price increase on the length of stay mug, it’s only a couple of bucks, and no matter how you spin it, spending $18 on the front end is always going to be be cheaper than paying the high prices for drinks at each meal. It’s probably even cheaper than bringing your own bottled waters and sodas from home for your length of stay! Especially if you suck down a soda at the speed of my hubby!DSCF1088

{Blondie days! Kinda miss those days…}

The Cons:  Here’s where we take issue. We already have about eight or nine of those bright and gaudy mugs in our cabinet right now. I don’t like that I am now forced to buy the same stupid mug every. time. we. go. all in the name of saving money. Can Disney please come up with a variety of new looks for the mugs {and I don’t just mean different colored lids and handles}? Remember the old resort themed mugs? So cute! Or mugs with logos of the different parks, attractions, or classic characters. Good grief, they probably could have made a killing with a stupid 2013 “Monster Summer” Mike and Sully mug. We’ve seen the holiday themed mugs for the parks, lets just elaborate on that idea so the loyal Disney goers don’t grow cold and hateful toward the idea of playing by the rules. It could even be a new collectors item type of souvenir that people actually look forward to buying each stay, instead of feeling obligated.

Another solution to the con could be charging a lower price to re-activate a “recycled” mug. Bring back your old mug and pay the old $15-and-some-change price to be able to reuse it. C’mon guys, it’s green!…because I can promise you that if I have to buy another one of those hot pink, beachy mugs, old ones will begin to make their way to the trash dump!IMG_5589

Issue number two {mainly with Tim}, is the fact that with the introduction of the chip, you will no longer be able to microwave your mug. This is a thumbs down to folks with toddlers whose coffee tends to go cold before you drink it all, so reheating it in the microwave is a common practice.

So where do you stand? Even if you are not a regular Disney goer, will this new system keep you from or encourage you in purchasing a refillable mug?

Elrods Go Disney is excited to be joining in the Disney community debates! Keep an eye out for more Here’s What We Think posts in the future!

With love, Malorie

WDW Vacation Trip Tips

As you know (because I just can’t stop talking about it!), we leave oh-so-soon for mine and Tim’s annual anniversary week-long vacation in Walt Disney World! We have been busy, busy, busy planning, getting ready, and getting excited about our getaway to The Happiest Place on Earth. We have been so many times now, though, that the getting ready has become almost like clock work. Today I would love to share a few of the things that the Elrods do before we arrive and very soon after we arrive, to make the most of our Disney vacation.

Make Lists

Maybe you are not a list person, but when it comes to productivity and remembering every little detail, the Elrods love lists. Tim tends to make them on his notes app on his phone, where as I’m a pen and paper kind of girl. We make lists for everything from “Things to Buy Before We Go” to a simple “Packing List”. In fact, we love lists so much that we have posted a few here on our site for you to use if you like! Click on the What to Pack link above to see those for yourself.

Buy It Here, Not There

Although Disney does have many simple things like toiletries, personal items, diapers, baby formula, and common medications available in many of their gift shops, the Elrods give a big thumbs down to buying those sort of things on property. I know opinions are just that, opinions, but in reading some Disney Goer’s advice to pack light and buy there, we shout out a resounding, “Aghh!” Yes, Disney has those things for sale, but they are so expensive! We highly recommend buying anything and everything you think you are going to need before you go! And if you are planning on going super thrifty, an Elrod WDW Tip is to buy even souvenir t-shirts and such before you go. I’ve seen super cute, authentic Walt Disney clothing and shirts at Walmart for little more than $5! By buying such items before you go, you can look cute and themed in your vacation pictures without having to drop the dough while you’re there.

Make a Vacation Packing Pile

I don’t know why this pile, that would probably look like a pile of clutter to any outsider, makes us so happy, but it just does. Admittedly, we are last minute type of packers when it comes to clothing and toiletries, but a couple weeks before we leave for our WDW trips, we start what we call our Vacation Pile. We pick a corner of counter space in the kitchen, a dresser top, or the dining room table and slowly add things to that spot that we intend to take with us on vacation. What is in our pile right now? New, unopened bottles of mouthwash, our favorite scented hand soap, dish soap, Gerber meals for Jack, a box of Teddy Grahams, and more! Things we don’t want to use before we go, and don’t want to forget to take. Passing by our pile and adding to it over the next couple of days just reminds us of the fun to come! We love it.

Pre-Plan Your Meals

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: If you have a Disney Dining Package, or plan on enjoying any sit-down meals while on vacation, make your reservation ASAP! Disney accepts reservations 180 days out from the day of your arrival. Take advantage of that because many of the restaurants book up quickly. This week, Tim and I are looking over our confirmation numbers and making sure we have them saved in a place where they can be handy when we arrive for our reservations.

Decide on Vacation Must-Do’s

Want to get your picture with Mickey Mouse? Ride the Tower of Terror? Eat a Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar while watching the Wishes nighttime fireworks display? Well, write it down! Or at least tell somebody; say it out loud. Make a list of all of the things that you feel like you must do while there; the things that you would regret and moan over not being able to do on the car ride home. That way they will be tangible, you will be more likely to remember them, and you will have made the most of your Disney vacation. Tim and I have made ours! In fact, we dedicated a whole post to that!

Pre-Plan Your Souvenir Spending Budget

Nobody likes to come home with an arm full of souvenirs and buyer’s remorse. I will be the first to admit that when in Disney, I want to buy up everything! Everything is just so darn cute! When I walk into the kitchen store in the Marketplace I always wish that my entire kitchen was decked head-to-toe in everything Mickey Mouse. Then I get home and realize, “Yeah…that would be a bit much.” Tim and I are budget-conscious people as it is, but even if you are not, I always think it is a great idea to decide ahead of time what you want to spend on souvenirs. That way you don’t over-spend, and you don’t go overboard. We have found that souvenir buying is even more fun that way. It makes you excited to find something you really want, or look for the better deals. It also makes the t-shirt that you can wear over and over look a lot better than the lolly pop or balloon that will be gone by the end of the trip.

Consider a Preferred Room

This is something that you can ask for initially when you book your reservation, or once you arrive upon check-in. Either way, Disney says it is never a guarantee to get a preferred room (although we have gotten one every time we’ve asked for one), and unless you get it as a free upgrade upon arrival, these rooms do cost a little bit more. However, the Elrods say that it’s worth it! Preferred rooms are commonly considerably closer to the eating areas, pools, and transportation areas of the resorts, which means a lot less walking. I don’t know about you, but after a long day in the parks, when I get back to my resort I don’t like having to take a ten minute trot to get to my room. I want to be there quickly so that I can shower, kick my tootsies up, and relax as soon as possible. We’ve already requested ours for this trip! Here’s keeping our fingers crossed! Of course, like we’ve said, we’ve never not gotten it.

Check In Early

Like way early! Like a week early! Yes, that’s right. You can check-in online up to a week early to your resort! We highly recommend this because it speeds up your check-in process once you arrive, and often we get our room earlier than expected, as well. Disney will often tell you that your check-in time is somewhere around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. We usually arrive somewhere around noon! Once we check in they hand us our room key and take our cell phone number with the promise of sending us a text message when our room is ready. We have never waited longer than about half an hour before receiving our text. Often times it is around 10-15 minutes! What do we do while we are waiting? Browse the gift shop. Change into our swimsuits in the lobby bathroom and take a dip in the pool. Hop a bus to Downtown Disney. You name it. You’re in Disney World! There is plenty to do! Just leave your suitcases in the car.

Plan on Purchasing a Resort Mug

I’ve talked about how great of a deal these mugs are before. If you plan on drinking something other than water your whole trip, and think you will buy more than three or four drinks at your resort, then go ahead and spring for the resort refillable mug. It’s worth it.

Don’t Stress

Whatever you do, before or during your Walt Disney World vacation, don’t stress out! If making packing lists stresses you out, don’t do it! If you want to skip the budget and buy what you want when you’re there, do it! The whole point of vacation is to get away, enjoy time with your family and friends, and relax. Make memories. Savor the sweetness of life. You may have noticed that I did not blog this past Friday on Fun Facts ‘n Trivia Friday, but it was because I had just lost a dear friend of mine. An unexpected death is something that will always make you count your blessings and slow down to smell the roses a bit. It is so easy to get caught up in life’s busyness and routines. Vacation, Disney or not, is a great time to break away from all of that. So don’t stress out about it. Make the most of it.

Thanks for reading along! I am having so much fun in the getting ready, but I am so excited about being there, and sharing our trip reports with you when we get back! Happy Blogday Tuesday, friends! See you tomorrow for another [Almost] Wordless Wednesday.

Christmas in July: Tips, Times, and Dates

Can you believe it?

It is the last Tuesday in July and August is literally just around this week’s corner. All this month we have been celebrating Christmas in July and jingle-jangling our way through the Walt Disney World resorts and theme parks. Today I just wanted to bring you a short to-the-point, just-the-facts kind of post with dates and pricing of the special holiday events, and a few Elrod WDW Tips.

The Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts will start decorating and celebrating the Christmas season just before Thanksgiving up until the first few days in January. Elrod WDW Tip: The best time to book your holiday trip is the week following Thanksgiving up to the week before Christmas. It is also best to visit during the middle of the week verses the weekends. Room prices will be cheaper and the crowds will be much lighter. If you are there the weeks of Christmas through New Years, be sure to go in with a positive, holly-jolly spirit; knowing you will see some crowds and that the parks often shut their gates at some point during the day because they have reached visitor capacity.

For Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2011 dates and prices, click the image below.

EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional will run November 25, 2011–December 30, 2011.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights will run November 10, 2011 – January 3, 2012.

Elrod WDW Tip: If you have little ones, be sure to check brochures or ask a Disney Cast Member where you can meet Santa! Last year Jack got his picture with the big man at DownTown Disney for free with very little wait! Santa, and sometimes Mrs. Clause as well, have been known to be spotted at the America Showcase in EPCOT, or even in your resort hotel lobby! Don’t miss your chance to see him so you can whisper into his ear your Christmas wish list.

Well, I hope you have had a Very Merry Jolly July! Thank you for coming along with me all this month to talk about Christmastime at Walt Disney World. Tim and I would love to go back this year to take part in the festivities. However, with Gummy Bear being due on the 2oth, it is not advised by our doctor to travel that far. If you and your family go, be sure to let me know! I’d love to hear all about it.

Until next time, Merry Christmas! And a happy New August!

Here’s What We Think: 1900 Park Fare Review

One of the many WDW restaurants we have returned to several times is 1900 Park Fare, located at the Grand Floridian. We have done dinner there a couple of times and last September we enjoyed the breakfast buffet. Today I thought I would give you an Elrod Restaurant Review of our thoughts on this fun ‘n fancy Disney Dining experience!

Breakfast and dinner at 1900 Park Fare are all-you-care-to-eat character dining experiences, meaning Disney characters are present in the restaurant while you are eating and will make stops at your table for pictures, autographs, and one-on-one time with you and your family. Admittedly, my family and I prefer character dining to standing in lines in parks for character meet ‘n greets. We like being guaranteed the time (no getting to the front of the line just to hear, “Sorry folks! Mickey has to go check on his tomato crop. He’ll be back in just a minute!”) and we find that we usually get more interaction with them when they are coming to our table at leisure, verses being shuffled through a line.

As for the food at 1900 Park Fare, well let’s just have a little chat about that right now, shall we?

From 8:00 – 11:30 a.m. 1900 Park Fare is home to the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast. Let me just say, I love breakfast foods, and for a person that loves breakfast foods, this is the place to be for your morning meal if you are looking for variety. They have seemingly everything you could ever want to your kick-start day on that buffet. Although the choices seem endless, Tim and I did come to the conclusion that the quality of the hot items (i.e. eggs, bacon, sausage) didn’t seem much different than those we got at the quick service counters at the All-Star Resorts. The characters that they advertise will be there are Mary Poppins, Alice, and the Mad Hatter. However, when we went we also got to see a few friends from the Hundred Acre Woods, like Winne the Pooh and Tigger. All of them were very friendly and didn’t seem rushed to get from one table to the next. Alice was especially kind, and Jack, who was three months old at the time, really took a liking to her as she played and cooed with him.

On an Elrods scale of 1 – 10 Mickey Ears, we give the Supercalifagilistic Breakfast a

Definitely an above average breakfast experience, but we would suggest sticking to items that you wouldn’t find just anywhere, like the made-to-order omelets and unique pastries.

From 4:30 – 8:30 p.m. you can eat to your hearts content at Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner. Unlike breakfast, my family found everything on the dinner menu quite delicious. My mom loves the chilled strawberry soup, and the meats are delicious and are sliced right before you at the serving line. The desserts are tasty, as well. You definitely won’t hear my sister and I complaining about the Edy’s soft-serve ice cream bar with assorted toppings. The characters you will meet are as expected; Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, Drizella, and the Fairy Godmother. Although it is always a treat to meet a Disney Princess, I have to admit that it is usually the Ugly Stepsisters that we prefer to interact with. They are so loud, funny, and ungraceful, just as you would expect them to be. The not-so-Charming Prince has been a bit of a disappointment in the past, but of course, as adults we understand that “some are just better than others.” 😉

Overall the Elrods give Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner an

Our only complaint would be a critique that would also apply to breakfast; the tight spacing between tables. Although 1900 Park Fare is a generous sized room, in an understandable effort to seat more guests they have set the tables pretty close to one another. It is not a problem if you are in a prime location, such as right in front of the buffet (which we so luckily got at one of our dinners there). If you are seated in the back or one of the side rooms, it can be a bit of an obstacle course to get to the serving line for your plate.

Want to know the best thing about 1900 Park Fare? Both the breakfast and dinner all-you-care-to-eat and character meet ‘n greet buffets can be obtained using only one table service credit (per person) on the Disney Dining Plan! Now imagine getting all of that for FREE because you booked your vacation while they were offering the FREE Disney Dining Plan!

That is what I call a real deal. That is how we Elrods like to go Disney.

Free Disney Dining Plan: Get It While It’s Hot!

This just in! If you book your Disney vacation package now for certain August and September dates, you too can get the free Disney Dining Plan! This is by far one of the best promotions that Disney has, especially if you like your food! Check it out!

Memories Vacation Package with Free Dining Plan

Discount is valid for stays most nights 8/28/11 – 9/24/11.

Guests who book a Magic Your Way Package are eligible for a free Disney Dining Plan.  Guests at Value Resorts are eligible for a free Quick Service Dining Plan; Guests at Moderate, Deluxe, & Deluxe Villa Resorts are eligible for a free Regular Dining Plan.

Package also includes 20-page Photopass Photo Book.

Sample Pricing: The following pricing is for select dates 8/28/11 – 9/24/11, Sunday – Thursday in a Standard Room. Sample pricing does not include tax. Rates will vary depending the resort, room type, and dates of travel.

  • $2,047 for a family of 4 at a Moderate Resort (2 adults, 1 junior, 1 child)

Discount Codes: The following codes can be used for obtaining these discounts by calling Disney directly.

  • For Value Resorts (Quick Service Dining Plan): QUH
  • For Moderate, Deluxe & Deluxe Villa Resorts (Regular Dining Plan): N23

This discount must be booked from 5/2/11 – 8/27/11. A minimum stay and base ticket purchase may be required. All discounts are subject to availability, certain restrictions apply.  One Photopass book per package.

Elrod WDW tip: We usually stay at a Value resort and the free dining plan there is the Quick Service Dining Plan, which does not come with any sit down meals. We upgrade to that option since Disney has SO many good sit down dining options, and it isn’t that expensive for the upgrade.

For new trip reservations, call 407-934-7639.

Drinking Your Way to Savings in WDW

This post was written in April of 2011. While still offering great info and tips, for updated pricing and information on WDW’s refillable mugs and their new system Rapid Fill, click here.

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What is one of the most fun ways to save money in Walt Disney World?

By buying souvenirs, of course!

So, not all souvenirs actually save you money, but one of them that does is the Disney Resort Souvenir Mug.

If you are staying on Disney property and are staying long enough to eat three or more meals there, you definitely need to purchase the souvenir mug. Food and drinks are pretty pricey in Disney, so this is a great and fun way to save money. After purchase, the mug allows you to obtain as many refills at your resort drink kiosk as you like for the remainder of your stay! And don’t think that just means sodas. Along with an array of regular and diet sodas, the kiosks also have decaf and regular coffee, hot chocolate, hot and iced teas, sports drinks, water, and more! They even have sinks for you to wash out your mugs in between selections.

Initially, each resort used to have their own unique refillable mug, but now every few years Disney comes out with a new design, in several colors, that all of the resorts sell collectively. They are always super cute and Tim and I love to get them not only because they are an asset on our trip, but we also love drinking our coffee-on-the-go out of them at home! They are truly souvenirs that we use over and over again.

Just a few of our resort mugs. Notice the worn Wilderness Lodge mug from when each resort had their own design! That is an old one, for sure.

This February Disney introduced the new look of their new resort mugs. They are super bright and summery. I love them and can’t wait until September to get one! I want the pink one for sure. The only criticism I have about this batch is the lack of a really masculine color. I’m not sure what color Tim will go with…maybe the teal. Check ’em out!

My last point about the mugs is that if you are planning on purchasing the Dining Plan (which you know I fully support) or if you have gotten the FREE Dining Plan for booking at a certain time, like we have, be aware that some of the plans come with a free resort refillable mug! How nice is that! The plans that include them are the Delux, Platinum, Premium Plans (where you get three full meals and two snacks a day per person) and the Quick Service Plan (where you get two counter/quick service meals and two snacks a day per person).

So the next time you head to Walt Disney World, don’t forget to snag the souvenir that will pay for itself by the end of your trip!

Elrod WDW Tip: Before hopping that bus, boat, or monorail to the park, stop by your resort drink kiosk and fill up your mug for the day. You can take these mugs into the park! That way you won’t have to spend money on drinks inside of the park. There are not drink kiosks in the parks to refill them, but if saving is the name of your game (like it is ours) you can always refill them at a water fountain! Water is best when you are on the go anyway. Hydration is key! 🙂