So you’ve decided to purchase the Disney Dining Plan…
We have discussed the Disney Dining Plan a few times already; first Tips for Meal Plans and Reservations, then in Secrets to Free Disney Dining Plan. These are an overview of what they are and what to look for in making the decision to buy or not. Once you have looked over the menus of the various restaurants that you want to visit and decided how many sit down vs quick service meals you plan on having during the course of your stay (because you can use more than 1 in a day, you will just be short that many at the end of the vacation), how do you make the purchase? I had an encounter with the half board plus today that I feel the need to share my new found wisdom.
Lack of useful information
I booked my 3rd visit to Disney Land Paris (first with the Disney Dining Plan) this morning. I did so, naively, with the two kids watching TV in the background, full of distractions in the house, while my Facebook was still pinging with suggestions about getting the best deal out there. The one thing that I didn’t want to do was call them to make the reservation; not only is it difficult to make a long distance call via my house phone ( I was out of Skype credits on my cell) but to call France with a UK local number, from Germany, was the kind of logistics I wasn’t prepared for. Either way, I did it. I purchased online…and I had to pay all of it, in full, 3 days before my trip to Italy. WTF was I thinking.
Anyways, I book the hotel, with 25% off the hotel room and tickets, with free half board plus. This meant I didn’t need to book room only and use my military discount to purchase the entrance tickets. Yay for time saving, at least. Because I am an avid researcher, I checked into the upgrade for Disney Dining Plan. It said I can only upgrade from Half board plus to Full Board plus. Essentially goes from one meal a day to two meals a day, but the restaurant choices are still the same. No character dinners.
I still want Buffalo Bill but I know I need to call for that because I want an extra seat for Baby Girl. Last time we went, Munchkin sat on my lap and I did not want that to happen again. I called, asked if I can just book a seat, no meal. They said no. Balls! So I bit it and book her a seat and meal; Hubby really wants to do this show again! Since the Half Board plus does not cover Buffalo Bill in full, I call the number on the Disney website. Wrong! Don’t do that! This is the direct line to the Buffalo Bill people only. They make you pay in full, again! If I had called the general Disney reservation desk or my hotel, I could have added it to my reservation and paid when I checked out in 2 months. Better yet; they would have told me to use one of my vouchers to get the face value taken off the entrance price for Buffalo Bill and just paid the difference. But no, the directly line didn’t feel the need to volunteer information so I paid it all. No discount or reduction.
Next, I finally read all my Facebook messages and realize the irony. I, the travel blogger, and Disney fanatic, made a booboo. It’s not like this situation came up a lot in the travel forums so how was I supposed to know. Well, not really a booboo. I still have 2 vouchers each and there are plenty of restaurant options at the parks, and I did get what I wanted, just not necessarily the way I wanted it.
I finally found an international number; it was for booking packages for Canadians. I call them, they patch me through to Suites (for a research on my December visit… I’m hopeless, I know), then they tell me that yes, I did booboo, gave me the number for the international sales department ( +0033160306053) and they were able to hook me up with EVERYTHING!
The lowdown on Half Board Plus
First – The new Disney Dining Plan (DDP), effective late March 2017, means hotels are no longer serving breakfast included in the price of the room. My DDP category gave us a voucher to use at the Hyperion Cafe on Main Street. Good thing I asked.
Second- I could use my breakfast voucher to reduce the cost of a character dinner. Since Chef Mickey is being remodeled at the moment, they have moved the characters to Plaza Garden. But the first reservation isn’t until 815am. That is at the start of EMH. I don’t know if you remember, but last time we had EMH, we finished Fantasyland and had a snack before EMH was over. I am not wasting more touring time for a meal. Just FYI, the difference would have been 29 euro total for all 3 of us (Baby Girl being free under 3).
Third – Quick service restaurants are not including in the voucher program. I get to pay out of pocket to eat a burger and fries, or sit and have a steak dinner for free. While this sounds like a no brainer, if the kid is asleep or really just wants burgers and fries, what then. I don’t like wasting perfectly good touring time at a sit down lunch, so dinner it is. I don’t mind sit down dinners, we are all pretty tired by then and we need a break. But wait; I just booked a nonrefundable dinner on our first night.
Fourth – Just because I only get 2 meals (we are staying two nights = 1 meal per night staying), doesn’t mean I need to use them on my two full days. We still have valid tickets on check out day.
Fifth – The dates that I booked were chosen for a very specific reason; they are blue on the crowd calendar. They are rarely blue; this is the time of year that they are at the lowest crowd level. Add that to the meal plan, discounted tickets and discounted room, I wanted these dates…but because they were expecting lower crowds, restaurants were compensating by moving around their open/close hours. That week, Chez Remy is not offering dinners and Cinderella doesn’t offer character breakfast. Well, that just sucks, considering what I just said about lunch time sit downs. But I did ask, “When are the lunch times for Remy”…”oh well, 12:30 until 5 pm”. What? 5 pm is lunch? Done! I booked Remy for 5 pm on our second night, and this is covered by the voucher. One down, one to go. Cinderella has lunch starting at 12:30 pm with characters, so I booked that for our leaving day. Tour in the morning, try to keep the kids awake, have lunch, then leave right after. Sleep in the car the whole way home ( they will nap at 9 am and talk loudly the whole drive, just watch). Second voucher, done! Now, Cinderella uses up more than the value of the voucher – 75 euro per adult and 45 euro per child (Baby Girl is free), so I will have to pay the difference of the face value of the voucher.
Sixth – The reservation agent claims that since the vouchers were given as a free promotion, their cash value may not be the same as their retail value. This means I can still use them like any other paying guest, and receive the same meal, but my face value exchange may be affected. She wasn’t able to give me an estimate as to my surplus for the Cinderella dinner. She simply advised me to ask the hotel when I checked in, and cancel the lunch reservation if I didn’t like the answer.
Seventh – snacks are no longer covered by the Disney Dining Plan. It sounds like they replaced snacks with breakfast and then took breakfast away from the hotels. Either way, I don’t think I would have been able to handle the math involved in making the most of my snack vouchers, considering the myriad of snack options and the sheer number of times my kids ask for food outside of the restaurant.
What have I learned today?
Today I learned that just because the website says it serves all 3 meals, that may not when I actually get there.
I learned that I should really just call to make all reservations that include more than just hotel and tickets. This Dining Plan add-on was a little too much for me to handle, considering I can’t view the time slots or voucher worth like I would at Walt Disney World through My Experience. I needed to call to book the restaurants, why not have them book the hotel too.
I also learned that I should never assume the agent on the phone knows everything. I used to work retail and one can’t know everything, or read all the emails. Educate yourself about what you want out of your vacation and tell them what the plan is. If you disagree with them, respectfully ask that they look it up (to prove one of you wrong/right). I can’t remember how many times someone told me they don’t offer military discount – “umm, I used it last week, so I’m going to need you to transfer me to someone else, thank you”.
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