Disney Honeymoon Dreaming: Delicious Decisions

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
(I'm actually not all that fond of buffets, but I liked the rhyme) digital collage by Miss Road Trip

(I’m actually not all that fond of buffets, but I liked the rhyme) digital collage by Miss Road Trip

One of the great things about being on vacation–any vacation, but more so your honeymoon–is not having to cook. The downside is that you then have to decide where to eat for each meal. That can get to be a little much. After all, we’re the type to sit down and plan a menu each week so we never have to face the ‘what’s for dinner’ dilemma.

Disney offers a lot of dining options both in the parks as well as at each resort (you can hop over to a resort you’re not staying at just to have a meal in new surroundings). They basically break down into Carts & Kiosks for the snack and beverage carts strewn about; Counter or Quick Service places that are akin to fast food; and Table Service dining. Table Service includes both regular sit-down dining as well as various buffets and many of the character meals, too. There are also some dinner shows to choose from.

A few years ago Disney started offering Dining Plans that you could add to the Magic Your Way room & ticket packages. The definite upside is that you can pre-pay some or all of your meals (depends on the level of plan you choose) and not have to worry about it (much) once you’re on property. Some say that the most recent price increases have made the dining plans not as cost effective as they were when first introduced. I think it depends, though, on if you’re doing it for the savings or if you’re doing it so you don’t have to worry while in the parks.

In our case, it was a little bit of both. I haven’t discussed it much, yet (but I will, once we get around to menu tasting), but I’ve recently “discovered” a laundry list of food intolerances that, if not heeded, will make me anywhere to mildly uncomfortable to quite ill. Neither of which I want to feel on my honeymoon (or any given day, for that matter). Disney is amazing at dealing with special dietary requests, but it’s admittedly easier for the chefs at the table service places to accommodate than the managers of counter service shops. Hence, we’ll be doing a lot of table service dining for my safety as much as anything else.

So we decided not only to go with a dining plan, but actually select the Deluxe Dining Plan which includes (among other things) 3 dining credits per person per night that can be used at either counter service or table service meals and 2 snack credits per person per night. That sounds like a lot (especially for snacks) but the other reason this works well for us is that our honeymoon falls on the last week of the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT, and many of the items offered at each F&WF stand count as dining plan snack credits!

The downside to the popularity of the dining plans (and it’s only a slight downside at that) is that it’s had an (I’m sure) intended effect of packing the table service restaurants on a regular basis, so walk-up seating can mean a long wait.

Not that Disney is going to leave you hanging! At 180 days out (or about 6 months prior to your arrival) you can make ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) for any of the table service eateries on property. You don’t have to be on one of the Dining Plans to make an ADR (though they may require a credit card to hold certain reservations).

This is the main reason I started nudging Mr. Road Trip to make the final call on our honeymoon plans, because our  ADR window opened on May 7th, and since we wanted some Character and Signature dining reservations, I was up at 6am to get online before work and get everything sorted.

To decide where we want to eat, we’re using a combination of the reviews in the PassPorter guide and the menus posted on allears.net (a great resource in general, but definitely for the restaurant menus). And since we’ve already worked out which park(s) we’re doing each day, we can plan our meals to match our surroundings, therefore not having to criss-cross the entirety of Disney each day (unless we want to, of course).

Right now our plans are to have a nice dinner at Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge our first night on property. Tuesday will be spent eating/snacking our way around the World Showcase at EPCOT, using up a bunch of those snack credits, but will be back on Thursday for dinner in the World Showcase. Wednesday night we want to dine with the Hundred Acre Wood gang, so reserved our spots at the Crystal Palace and Friday will start with a late breakfast at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary. While some seasoned Disney travelers view a lot of sit-down dining as a time waster, I’m looking forward to those planned breaks in the day to keep us from running ourselves ragged. Plus, we’ve tried to space everything out (late suppers, especially) to still get plenty of park time in.

It’s kinda like a jigsaw puzzle, in a way. A delicious jigsaw puzzle. But with the big pieces in place (the corners, if you will), we can now get back to wedding details, knowing that the broad strokes of the honeymoon are all taken care of.

Would you ever be able to decide where you wanted to eat 6 months in advance?

Disney Honeymoon Dreaming: Deciding Where to Stay

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
digital collage by Miss Road Trip

digital collage by Miss Road Trip

I’d managed not to pester Mr Road Trip for a honeymoon decision for a whole 8 months before reminding him that, if Disney was to be it, some decisions would need to be made soonish (this being back in March). While I know that plenty of people go to Disney World for short and long vacations both and only make minimal preparations, there’re so many things that you can miss if you just go with the flow.

I’m not really much of a go with the flow kinda girl (in case you hand’t noticed).

While I’ve been visiting  Disney World since I was a toddler, most of the more recent trips have been quickie weekends and nothing since 2006. Our honeymoon will be the first time I’ve spent a full week at the parks in over 20 years! For Mr. Trips it’ll be 20 years exactly, as he was there in 1993 with family, and that’s his last trip to The World period!

We’ve got some time to make up for, wouldn’t you agree?

Of course, the first thing you have to decide when planning a Disney honeymoon is where to stay, and the first decision is whether to stay on- or off-site.

In the interest of full disclosure I need to confess that I sleep on the side of on-site lodging: it puts you totally inside the Disney “bubble” and unless you really want to do otherwise, you can park your car and not even think about it until it’s time to (regrettably) head for home.

Still, there are options outside of staying at one of the numerous Disney-owned resorts, and they can offer some savings on your room as well as additional flexibility if you’re interested in hitting up other Orlando-area attractions. Everything from condos and vacation homes to hotel rooms of all sizes and prices exist out there and all of them will say the same thing: “minutes from Disney.”

And that might not necessarily be untrue, but minutes can be hours when you’re fighting the rest of the Orlando/Kissimmee area trying to drive to the parks, too. Then there’s parking (and the parking fees–$15/day, currently) and (ugh) the drive back. Like I said, I’m biased.

The other perk of truly nearby hotels and communities is that they run shuttles to save you some of the offsite hassle. Keep in mind, though, those shuttles tend to be hourly at best, whereas on-site shuttles are every 15-20 minutes. Just saying.

Not surprisingly, the Road Trips will be staying on-site, and we’ve picked the fun and cozy Port Orleans French Quarter–my absolute, hands-down favorite (and where the Jackrabbits will be honeymooning the month before–suddenly I’ve got “It’s a Small World” stuck in my head). I’ve stayed there once in the past, and just love the attention to detail (though that can be said of any of the resorts). It’s the smallest of the Disney resorts, and tends to be quieter, which makes it perfect for couples, I think!

Scenes from Port Orleans (circa 2004)

Scenes from Port Orleans (circa 2004)

Little details and an amazing river view.

Little details and an amazing river view.

I understand there was a recent renovation to the inside of the rooms and the lobby is being updated currently, so even though I’ve been there before, I’m looking forward to a new experience in the greater scheme of things.

If you’re heading to Disney (for a honeymoon, mini-moon, or just plain vacation). You probably want to avoid paying rack rates, and I can hardly blame you! Check out the resources at Passporter.com and TheMouseForLess.com to find out the best specials going on during your travel dates. If you have a Disney Visa or buy Annual Passes (more on this in the next post) you may qualify for additional discounts, as well as service members, Florida residents, nurses, teachers, and government employees (those last three for the Swan and Dolphin only). And if you book your hotel and a discount or special offer comes out later on, all it takes is a call to 407-WDW-MAGIC to see if those offers can be applied to your existing reservation.

Oh, and be sure to let them know if you’re making a honeymoon reservation or celebrating anything else–there’re no guarantees, of course, but letting them know it’s a special occasion can sometimes result in a little extra pixie dust thrown your way.

 Would you consider staying on-property at Disney for your honeymoon?
Why or why not?

Honeymoon Dreaming

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

About a year and a bit out from the wedding many of the big to-dos had been taken care of (venue/catering/lodging/DoC and my dress), my DIYs were coming along, but a lot of the fiddly details couldn’t really be started on yet. So I started dreaming about the honeymoon.

Yup, I’m totally obsessed about where we’re going and what we’ll be doing on the day after the wedding, and the day after that, and the day after that… You get the idea.

And the worst part of it? It’s not even my decision.

We decided from the beginning that Mr. Road Trip would be in charge of the honeymoon–budget, decisions, etc.–and I would happily take a back seat. That lasted about a year, apparently, when suddenly a switch flipped in my brain and I started stalking cruise schedules.

Because that’s what we figured we’d be doing: floating in the middle of the ocean, somewhere, with nothing to do or no where to go that we didn’t want to. We’ve done one cruise together, just before we started cohabitating, and to say it was bliss would be an understatement. So a cruise seemed the logical, wonderful choice.

Only thing is, we’re getting married on a Saturday morning and when do the best cruises leave? Riiiiight, on Saturday mornings. So that was out. There were a handful of Sunday embarkations, but that would mean driving all night or getting up REALLY early our first married morning and, well, that wasn’t ticking too many boxes on the appealing chart.

In fact, the best cruising options–aside from waiting a week to honeymoon, something neither of us were too keen on–hit on the Thursday after the wedding, out of the Tampa port. On the up side, we could take our time on Sunday getting up and getting going, but oh what would we ever do in Central Florida for 3 or 4 days.

That’s when I realized it’s been an awfully long time since I’d been to Disney World–and even longer for T.

So the wheels began to turn, 3 days in the parks, then off to a cruise for 4 or 5 days. Then I wandered over to the Disney Cruise site, just for kicks, to see if there was a similar cruise on the Disney Dream we could take instead of the Carnival option. And there was. And it seemed comparable.

But was it really?

Yes and no–the Disney cruise was 1 night shorter than the Carnival cruise, but gave us 2 ports instead of 1 (not that I give 2 pins about the ports, though Castaway Cay does sound like fun). There seem to be more activities on Carnival, but we didn’t do many of those anyway. Disney is a heavily-kid-oriented brand, but we’re kids at heart. We’ve cruised Carnival before, so there might be additional discounts available.

Oh, the decisions!

And then, when we started pricing out the Disney World side of things, the original wish-list was pushing things out of the budget comfort zone. Not good! Next thing you know we’re back to looking at Carnival, or maybe skipping the cruise and just doing a longer WDW stay as Mr. RT made an excellent point: we’ve done a cruise together, we haven’t done Walt Disney World.

So the obsession continued. I’ve renewed all my old Disney forum accounts (as many as I could remember) and pulled out my old guidebooks–most of which are from 2004 (my last trip was 2006). So much has changed, though, that there are tons of options to consider: Fl Resident’s Pass, 3  or 4 day passes, Weekday Pass? Value or Moderate? ADRs or go with the flow? Dining Plan or not? It’s enough to make your head spin, but to tell the truth I love it!

Still,  it was super-early and I managed to restrain myself from investing in current guidebooks until the 2013 Passporter was published because we could decide to do something completely different. As much as I’m dreaming of a relaxed, Disney-fied honeymoon complete with bride and groom mouse ears, the decision is still T’s. And I’m going to hold to that.

Bride Ears complete with tiara and veil | image via DisneyStore.com

Bride Ears complete with tiara and veil | image via DisneyStore.com

groomears

Tuxedo’d grooms ears | image via DisneyStore.com

All I ask is that he not “surprise” me with our destination at the last minute. A girls gotta know what to pack!

Did you leave the honeymoon decision to the groom?
How would you feel about a surprise destination?