Disney Dining Plan – What’s it all about?

Before I go into details about this dining plan business I will mention – in case you’d not noticed in previous blogs or don’t follow me on Twitter – I LOVE food. Literally cannot get enough especially when I’m in Orlando. My whole trips tend to be planned around where we, well I say we, me mostly, want to eat and when I can get reservations for.  So having the dining plan and the ability to eat wherever I wanted on site without having to worry about the cost was just, to quote Rapunzel, ‘The best thing ever…’

What is the dining plan?

For those that don’t know. The Disney Dining plan is something that is exclusive to guests staying in the Disney hotels who book a Hotel and park ticket package and that can be direct with Disney or through any of the agents who sell it.  You cannot purchase this unless you have the room and the tickets booked together.

There are 3 levels of Dining Plan, the quick service, the Dining Plan and the Deluxe Dining plan.

It is calculated on the number of NIGHTS you have in a hotel not the number of days so do be aware if you have a 13 night stay but 14 days in resort then you only have the amount of credits for 13 nights.  Although they don’t expire until midnight on your last day.

The Quick Service plan gives you 2 quick service (or counter service, basically anywhere where you aren’t waited on) meals per night plus 1 drink (which can now be alcohol) with the meal, 2 snacks per night and a resort refillable mug for the entirety of your stay.

The Disney Dining plan is 1 quick service and 1 table service (each with a drink as above) plus the snacks and mug.

The Deluxe Plan gives you 3 meals (which can be counter or table service) and a drink, the snacks and the mug.

These show up as ‘credits’ on your account – something you can now see on My Disney Experience – it wasn’t available when we went.

You don’t have to use these per day, you are free to use these as and when you like during your trip. But once you’ve used them that’s it.

So for example for us for the duration of our trip we had 14 table service credits each, 14 quick service and 28 snack ones. We were spending a few days off site so on those days obviously we weren’t eating in Disney. That made it easy for us to have a few days when we had 2 sit down meals or to go to a restaurant that uses up 2 of your credits instead of one.

The great thing about the dining plan is that you can use your table service credits for character dining which is why I wanted it.

Resort Refillable Mugs

The mugs you get are great keepsakes but you can only use these in your resort and other Disney hotels/resorts, these cannot be used in the parks. It’s not just soft drinks although there is so much choice with the coca cola freestyle machines. There is also hot drinks (the Hot Chocolate was lovely) as well as tea and coffee and many other bits. Not alcohol though. Every time you use the freestyle machine it will tell you when the mug will expire.

You get the mugs either in the restaurants or shops in your resort. There are several different colours to choose from but the images on them are the same.

We did go to use it on our last day and it wouldn’t work but the cast members fixed it for us.

Where can you use it?

I’ve already gone into detail about HOW to book the dining in my Step by Step Disney Dining Booking 

But how do you know which ones you can use your dining plan for?

My Disney Experience is great for that it will actually tell you when you look at a restaurant if you can use the plan.  You can see below it states under the prices ‘Some Dining Plans Accepted’

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If you’re looking at a place that does accept he plans it will also tell you how many credits from your plan a meal will take. If you click on where it says they’re accepted it opens a window to tell you.

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You can also choose to only look at the places it’s accepted on the search bar.

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There is a LOT of choice.

This is what I love about it. Being as your meals are essentially already paid for (minus tips which I will go into in a bit) and you have all this choice it does in effect force you to eat in some of the nicer restaurants. Although these are places you might not have chosen had you been actually paying for a meal, I felt it forced me to eat ‘properly’ rather than just snack and have the usual ‘easy’ meal of something with chips. It encouraged me to be a bit more adventurous.

I liked the fact that we knew we could eat properly and it not make a dent in the money we’d taken to spend. It does take the stress out of it. And it did mean I could do all the character dining I’d wanted to do 🙂 For that alone the Dining Plan is worth it!

I’ve got the Quick Service plan is it all fast food?

The fact that ‘quick service’ means fast food or burgers and chips and nothing else is a common misconception at Disney. ‘Quick’ does not mean rubbish. Especially not here. Disney has such a wide range of food and although obviously there are places you can get your burgers and Hot Dogs (Caseys Corner in Magic Kingdom does great hot dogs) there is so much more to it.

Take Sunshine Seasons in Epcot for example. This is a ‘quick service’ and look at the choice you have!

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Epcot in particular is great for quick service as each of the countries in the World Showcase has somewhere you can eat so you will find the largest variety there.

This is also a great place to use your snack credits.

This was a quick service from Harambe Market in Animal Kingdom

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These are flatbreads with beans and they were delicious and HUGE! So get the idea of it all being ‘rubbish’ out of your heads! Its not true. Disney caters for everyone and there is also a great choice for anyone with specific diets be it due to an allergy or just lifestyle choice. Vegan and Veggies are definitely catered for here.

What can I use snack credits for?

The snack credits are great although I challenge you to actually use them all!! We used most of ours on Pretzels and Mickey shaped treats! With the ones we had left at the end of our trip going on bags of sweets from Goofys Candy Co and Rice Crispie treats for friends at home.

Most cakes/muffins, ice creams, popcorn and drinks (as long as they’re not in their souvenir tubs/cups) are included. You can even use them in Starbucks for a much needed shot of caffeine when you’ve been up since 6 for extra magic hours!

The famous Dole Whip is included as is the Night Blossom drink in Pandora.

All the items below were snack credit items!

 

How do I know where I can use it?

Obviously looking on your My Disney app will show you where you can use your plan. But it is easy to see going round the park as everywhere you can use it you will see this sign. If you look at the menu from the snack cart during the Food and Wine festival, each one of the things you can have has this logo next to it.

Do I have to tip?

Anyone who’s been to Orlando before or done a little bit of research will know that it’s customary to tip your servers.

With the exception of a few (Cinderellas Royal Table being one of them I seem to remember) tips are NOT included with the dining plan so you do need to tip your server. 18-20% of the bill is what is recommended.

If you are a party of 6 or more this will automatically be added so bear that in mind when you’re using the plan so you’re not surprised to be given some sort of bill at the end of your meal.

When you make your reservation for your meal your confirmation will tell you if its included or not.

You do need to budget for it but it still works out a LOT less than what you would be paying if you didn’t have the plan.

Using the plan for Food Festivals

Something I struggled to find out about before I went was how these credits can be used during the food festivals at Epcot. (Flower and Garden, Food and Wine, Festival of the Arts)

I’d had conflicting answers on everything that I asked so having used it I can now safely say that having the dining plan during any of these makes it even more worthwhile!!

We were there for Food and Wine (which as you can imagine I LOVED) and being as we mostly had table service meals we had so many snack credits and quick service credits that we weren’t really planning on using so much. This was amazing for the days we visited Epcot.

All the items you can see with the dining plan logo next to it are items you can use 1 snack credit for.

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They aren’t the smallest of items either, this is America after all. We had both of the items on the chocolate menu (we’re a pudding family).

This was the torte…

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If, like us, you have quick service credits to use up you can also use these at the booths. This worked perfectly for us as 1 quick service credit transfers to 3 snack ones. With 3 in our party this was brilliant. We could all pick one thing from each of the menus and use one of our quick service credits to pay for it. We all then got to try so much. My only regret is booking table service meals at Epcot while this was on. In hindsight I shouldn’t have done this, there is so much you can eat during the festival you don’t need to have a meal that day!

These are just some of the things we tried.

Is it worth it?

This is the million dollar question and it’s impossible to answer for everybody.  For us yes, this was absolutely worth it and although we did book our trip when the plan was free we did pay to upgrade it and I don’t think I’ll visit Disney ever again without it.

I loved having the ability like I said to eat wherever and not have to worry about the cost, to try places I might not have gone to if I was paying out of pocket and also knowing it was paid for already I was a bit more adventurous with what I ate and tried a lot of new things. I didn’t eat one thing I didn’t love during this trip.

The beauty of this is that there is a plan for everybody. Not massive eaters? Go for the quick service, there’s still plenty of choice for you and you have all your snacks if you do feel a bit peckish.

Want to do the character dining and make sure you have a proper sit down meal and like being waited on? Go for the dining plan.

Want to eat in some of the signature restaurants and the dinner shows like Hoop De Do? Then go for the deluxe! (You can do these on the normal dining plan too but they do take up 2 of your table service credits)

Have a look at the menus on the My Disney, all the prices are listed there for you. That will really show you how much money having a plan will save you. Although I do warn you it will make you hungry and you will want to eat everywhere.

All the food places I mentioned in my daily blogs at Disney were covered by the plan and I’ll be doing full reviews of each of them as well so you’ll know a bit more about each of them.

Personally for me I would recommend it. Especially if you’re at the parks during any of the festivals at Epcot and if you’re booking at a time when it’s offered free take it! It adds to the magic of your trip, eating at Disney is an amazing experience.

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Last Day :( – Last visit to Epcot and lunch at Garden Grill

I’ve been dreading this day. I always find the first week of my holiday goes at a steady speed as soon as you get halfway the days just fly by 😦 There is still so much we want to see and do and I’m sad we don’t have time to do it this trip. There will be another one but that’s not the point!

We checked out and left our luggage with concierge so we had room for the ECV in the car and also got them to print out what we still had left on our Dining Plan. (Going to Epcot we knew we’d use snack credits…)

Epcot is my favourite park so it’s kind of fitting that this is where we spend our last day.

I was determined to do Journey into your Imagination. Paul hadn’t done it and I knew he’d find the song irritating so it had to be done. I do love this. Amelia liked the interactive bit when you come out but sadly we didn’t have a lot of time to take it all in.

We did a little bit of eating, knowing we had a late(ish) lunch booked and we found the chocolate stand that we’d looked for on the last visit. We loved everything. There was an amazing item which was hot inside but frozen with dry ice, when you smash it it’s all gooey inside. I have that on video. But the rest of it was amazing.  We are a pudding family!

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Food and wine is amazing! I know I’ve already said that but I loved it. It’s a shame we missed the live music stuff because of Irma but it’s a foodies dream. I think we’ll book for the same time of year for subsequent trips. When the dining plan is free it’s so worth booking at this time, you can really utilise it. Even if you’re paying for it, I think it’ll be worth more when this is on. (I’m going to do a new blog on the Dining now that I’ve used it)

We didn’t do many rides today because of time, Nemo was closed 😦 But we did go on Spaceship Earth again and Frozen cos we loved that.  And we tried on a lot of hats…

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Lunch was at Garden Grill with Chip and Dale. I’d read some really good things about this so was looking forward to it. Problem was we weren’t that hungry 😦 I need to make sure I ONLY book breakfasts in Epcot in future..

Garden Grill is in the Lands Pavillion and it rotates, very slowly though so you won’t feel sick, so whilst you’re eating you can see parts of the ‘Living with the Land’ Exhibit which is cool. Chip and Dale are your hosts for this so you meet them, Mickey and Pluto. I thought they would all be in Farmer costumes but it was just Mickey.

 

Food here is served ‘family style’ which I’m still not a fan of but it was tasty and as much of it as possible is actually grown at Epcot which is pretty cool. The characters were great here we really enjoyed it.  I was just excited that the plates were set out in a hidden mickey when we sat down… simple things..

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We decided to head off after our food so we could use the last of our snack credits in the hotel shop and make our way to the airport. I’m actually not going to put the last pictures we took of the day up, I do NOT look happy in them. I really didn’t want to go home 😦

We had such a good time on this trip. Disney is great for a Honeymoon, I love it anyway but it makes it even more magical when you’re celebrating something.

I’ll be doing full blogs on all the character dines (and normal places) we ate on this trip, about the resorts we stayed in and of course the dining plan.  I have a tonne of video footage to edit together as well to give you some visuals on all of those things as well as hiring an ECV and what it’s like getting about in one – including how well they fit in the back of a car.

Writing these do keep the trip ‘alive’ a bit longer but they also make me want to book again. And for the first time in a while I don’t actually have a trip booked. But for now, that’s the end of this trip for us 😦 So off we head to get on the plane and head home to the dogs!

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Day 4 – Epcot Food and Wine, Akershaus and Biergarten

Today was a day for eating and the food and wine is something I’ve been so looking forward to. In hindsight booking 2 table service meals for a day when we’re essentially eating our way around the world was not a good move!

We started with breakfast with the princesses at Akershaus, we booked it for before the park opened and walking into Epcot with hardly any people about was amazing! It was so quiet I just wish we’d got there a little earlier (we got lost. again.) so I could soak it in a little more.

Akershaus is Norweigan food so lots of fish for breakfast and pastries. You meet princesses here and meet with Belle before you sit down. We had Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora visit us.

 

Food was ok, the restaurant was beautiful. It’s a nice (much cheaper) option than Cinderellas Royal Table. Amelia loved it although I don’t think eating a whole plate of salmon for breakfast was one of her best ideas.

We managed to meet Anna and Elsa after breakfast and get on Frozen all before 9:30! (Little tip, although the showcase doesn’t open until 10am, Frozen does open when the rest of the park does so you can go on that from 9am)

Frozen is wonderful, we ended up riding it 3 times! The technology they use is so good!

There is an awful lot going on during Food and Wine including having some artists around and we were lucky enough to meet the wonderful Larry Dotson and purchased a few of his prints which are beautiful. I always love looking in the Disney art shops when I’m in Disney, I always want so much stuff for the house but we just don’t have the space for everything.  It just goes to show that the Disney merchandise isn’t just for kids!

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We rode Soarin’ Around The World for the first time which is so much better than the original one, I always really liked Soarin so it’s nice to see it a little bit differently.

There was 2 new character meets at Epcot that we were all really looking forward to, well I say all of us, mostly me! And I was super excited as you can see….

Baymax is AWESOME! We were really lucky that there were literally no queues for anything, we were in and out of meeting Baymax and Joy and Sadness in about 30 minutes.

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Character meets out of the way and breakfast fully digested off to do what Epcot is made for and eat!!

I absolutely LOVED food and wine! Our plan was to try and eat something savoury and sweet from each of the booths as we walked round but it quickly became apparent that we are a pudding family (which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows us) and we mostly ate puddings!!

One thing that was really awesome is that if you are on the dining plan you can use your snack credits to purchase items at the booths. They don’t publicise it but that’s what we did. I knew you could use a quick service for 3 snacks from the same vendor but everywhere I looked said no to using snack credits.  It’s a great reason to get the dining plan I think it worked so well for us, we ate loads of stuff!!

The Creme Brulee in France was our favourite sweet and the meatball from New Zealand our savoury.

Epcot is definitely my favourite park, I just love walking around, there’s loads of cool places to take photos and the shops in all the pavilions are so much fun to look around – and great for kids to spend their holiday pennies in as they do have some really cool things at a fraction of the price you would pay to buy anything with Disney on it 🙂

We had dinner in Biergarten so we missed Illuminations. This was one of the places I was looking forward to eating in it looks really cool online but I have to say I don’t think I’d chose to eat there again. The entertainment was fabulous that part of it I really liked but we were not overly impressed with the food. There wasn’t a great deal of choice. It’s also incredibly loud in there so it is hard to have a conversation with whoever you’re with when you’re in there. It’s good for kids, they can have a dance to the band who play, Amelia really liked it but for us we weren’t blown away.

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We managed to get back to our resort without getting lost tonight – tomorrow we go to BE OUR GUEST and I am so excited!!

Things to do in Theme Parks without being in a queue – EPCOT

Epcot is probably my favourite park and it has more to do between fast passes than any of the other parks in my opinion.

All the pavilions in Future world have loads of things going on all the time that don’t require you to queue, there’s plenty of interactive exhibits and playgrounds for little ones that can keep you occupied for hours – there’s so much at Epcot that I doubt I’ll ever have seen all of it.

Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment is a cool little fun ride with Eric Idle and Figment the dragon, it rarely draws a crowd as it’s on the tame end of the ride scale but it’s fun and passes the time.  You’ll also find Imageworks here an interactive play area where you use movement and image to create cool things like music.

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In the Land pavilion you will find a little movie theatre with ‘The Circle of Life’ show featuring everyone’s favourite duo from the Lion King – Timon and Pumbaa. It teaches kids in a fun way all about the issues we’re currently facing with our eco system and how it can affect us all and what we can do to help. It’s only a 15 minute show but it’s a good way to wait out your Soarin’ or Living with the Land fastpass.

The Seas pavilion is where you find the Finding Nemo ride but it does also house a huge aquarium that you can easily spend an hour or so investigating, there’s Manatees, jellyfish and all manner of marine life with interactive learning throughout. You can see Stingrays in Mr Rays Lagoon and there’s a shark themed playhouse as well.

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There’s a lot of work going on in the Innoventions pavilion which I always remember as being like a hands on science type exhibit, currently it houses Colortopia which explains all about how colour affects our lives and how different colours can even affect our moods. There’s loads of interactive colouring things in here and there’s even an app exclusively for it.

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The Disney and Pixar short film festival is a great (and air conditioned) 18 minute 3D showcase of some of Pixars best short films.

Then of course you have the World Showcase where you can walk around 11 different countries with no queues (except for Frozen Ever After in Norway). You can take a leisurely stroll around the countries taking in the atmosphere and looking at the replicas of the iconic buildings like Eiffel Tower, Tower of Pisa and St Marks Square.  Each one of these countries has loads to explore, it’s own native entertainment and food stalls as well as large shopping areas that are so much fun to walk around. There’s characters dotted around too and although you may queue a little while for them they’re not always too long.

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Make the most of your Memory Maker if you have it – currently free on all 7, 14 and 21 day tickets purchased in the UK. There will be photographers in each of the countries so you can feel like you’ve been on a cruise around the world and visited everywhere. It’s a great place for photos, we loved the waterfall in Norway..

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Don’t forget to sign up for Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure and interactive game that takes you on missions in the pavilions to follow clues to defeat evil Dr Doofenschmirtz and free Perry the Platypus. It works a little like a scavenger hunt and is a fun way to see the showcase.

Don’t forget to stop by Club Cool as well where you can try all different flavours of Coca Cola from around the world, including the Beverly which is definitely an acquired taste.

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Epcot is a great place to just pass the time having a drink and enjoying the entertainment, although there are some great rides here Epcot is a park you can enjoy without going on any of them.

Free things to do at Disney – Surely that can’t be true?

We all know how expensive it is to go on a Disney holiday but did you know that there are some pretty cool things you can do at the parks that don’t cost you any extra and might give you some extra souvenirs as well.

We all know about the badges you can get if you’re celebrating literally ANYTHING!! (you can pick these up from Guest Services…) but did you know that there are in park games you can play as well that will come with collectable cards and maps among other things.

If you’re lucky enough to be a frequent visitor to Disney then you might already know about these but some of them I’ve only just found out about so chances are there will be some people who don’t know so for those of you who go a lot then maybe I’ve given you something new to try!!

I know I’ll be doing some of these when I go this year!

MAGIC KINGDOM has Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom which is an interactive scavenger hunt game you play around the park using cards to cast spells to defeat the villians around the park.

You sign up for this free at the Fire House as you come into the park and you’re given instructions, maps and some free spell cards as well as your portal key which activates the ‘portals’ around the park to help you on your mission. There are actually 70 cards to collect and each person can have 1 set per day so even if your whole family isn’t playing they can scan their tickets and get the extra cards for you.

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There are several missions to complete and once you have completed one you’ll be told how to move onto the next and if you complete all you get to defeat Hades and then you can collect an extra set of cards so make sure you do that if you do get to do them all.

It’s a different way to see the park and it will give you some free keepsakes with the cards so it’s definitely worth a go. If you meet other gamers on your way round you may be able to trade cards with them as well 🙂

TOP TIP – Your portal key has a chip in which will save your progress so you don’t have to complete all the tasks in one day if you have more than one day in the park, this also allows you to get more cards to help on your mission. Each mission can take up to 30 minutes and it can take 5 hours to do all of them so it might be wise to spread them across a few days.

ANIMAL KINGDOM has Wilderness Explorers which is based on UP, this one we’ve done and it’s so much fun. We didn’t get to finish it so we’ll do the whole one this time.

It’s really good fun, you sign up at HQ near the entrance of the park – you can’t miss it – and are given a Wilderness Explorers handbook – bit like what you used to get at guides and brownies – and it shows you what badges you can get and gives you tasks to complete and questions you need to find the answers to.

You get given stickers – there are 30 to collect – and you get a special one at the end if you complete it all.

All the locations are shown on the park maps but you can spot them easily around the park by looking for these:

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I really enjoyed doing this and it’s educational for kids as well, you learn all sorts of things about the animals and nature at Animal Kingdom. I’m intrigued to see what we can learn in Pandora!

EPCOT has 2 things you can do for free!! 2!!

You have the Kidcot fun stops all around the world showcase for the younger ones in the family. You’re given a free cardboard Duffy the Bear that you can colour in a section of at each of the stops around the world showcase. The cast member in each country will tell stories of where they’re from and give Duffy a stamp from that country.

We also did this last trip and the kids really enjoyed it. It’s a good way to have a little break as well walking round Epcot can be quite exhausting all the kidcot areas are air conditioned.

The areas are again all on the maps and are really easy to find.

For older children and those you can’t get away from their phones you have Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure based on Agent P from Phineas and Ferb. It’s a similar idea to Sorcerers in that it’s a scavenger hunt but with this one you’re given a FONE (Field Operative Notification Equipment) or you can connect with your own smart phone. You get clues via text that direct you to places in the world showcase to solve clues. There are several different missions in the showcase and each one can take up to 40 minutes to complete. Like Sorcerers it’s a really good way to see the park and being that the showcase is so big it will no doubt direct you to places you may not have seen if you were walking around on your own.

Sadly Hollywood Studios doesn’t have anything like this currently but what with Disney adding new things all the time who knows what may be there when Star Wars Land opens in a few years.

I love these little extra things that add to the magic, not only do they allow you to have a new experience when you’ve been to the parks before they also give you some really cool keepsakes you can take home with you.  And lets face it any souvenirs that are free are a good thing!!

4 Parks in One Day – The Disney Challenge

Since this holiday was booked – and more so in the last few months – I’ve been watching loads of videos on YouTube about Disney, Universal and Orlando in general. Paul thinks it’s weird but watching other people enjoying their holiday and wandering around the places that are all so familiar to me just gets me even more excited. I know exactly how they’re feeling when they get that first glimpse of the Castle in Magic Kingdom, the amazement at the size of Spaceship Earth and the emotions when you walk into Hogsmeade and see the actual Hogwarts!! It just puts me straight back there and keeps the holiday memories alive for a little big longer until the next visit. Plus when you’re watching people who’ve visited on numerous occasions you always see something new that you may not know was there so gives you idea for future trips and an excuse to book them…. ‘but I HAVE to go again, I didn’t see that last time….’

One of the videos I watched last week was about doing 4 Disney parks in 1 day. Now, I’ve quite easily done 2 – Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios you can easily do in 1 day if you have fastpasses etc for the rides you want to do – but 4? Now that’s a challenge I want to try.

I actually didn’t know before watching that video that you can get a boat from Epcot to Hollywood Studios I just knew about the buses! So I’ve been travelling the long way for years!

Having the benefit of extra magic hours will make it a lot easier to do this I think and it’s a cool way to see things by using the monorail and the boats. Maybe stopping by Beaches and Cream between Hollywood Studios and Epcot for one of the world famous ‘Kitchen Sinks’

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Having that much sugar should clearly give us energy for walking round 2 other parks surely!! I’ve just got to convince Paul it’s a good idea 🙂

I shall let you how we get on 🙂