Planning 101 Vacation Planner

Disney Vacation Planning For Beginners – Part 2

December 23, 2019

This the continuation our in-depth look at Disney Vacation Planning for Beginners.

If you are brand new to Disney Planning and have not checked out Part 1, I recommended reading that post before continuing with Part 2.

Part 1 focused on the basics. We helped you choose vacation dates, recommended Resorts, and the type of tickets that work best for you.

As promised, Part 2 is giving a more in-depth look at 2 Disney Package add-ons: Memory Maker and the Dining Plans.

Part 2: Memory Maker and the Disney Dining Plans

Disney Vacation Planning for Beginners - Part 2

Deciding To Purchase Memory Maker

Memory Maker is a photo package that can be added to your Walt Disney World Package. However, if you’re staying off property, you can also purchase it separately.

Either way, it comes with unlimited photos and videos from your trip.

Since you’re planning your first Disney trip, you’re probably searching the internet for answers to your questions. Sure, everyone has pictures of themselves with the Cinderella Castle and Spaceship Earth in the backround.

But, how did I get Sebastian to sit on my hand? And where do all of those ride photos and movies come from?

Well, the answer is Memory Maker.

Sebastian sitting on my hand in Magic Kingdom, thanks to Memory Maker

How Does Memory Maker work?

Thanks to MagicBands, some on-ride photos will link to your My Disney Experience account automatically.

But, most of the time, you will need to tap your MagicBand at the end of a ride.

PhotoPass photograhers are also scattered around the Parks, and sometimes the Resorts. Whatever photos they take with their camera will also be added to your My Disney Experience Account by tapping your MagicBand to a device attached to their camera.

If you opt to go without a MagicBand, you will received a card for Memory Maker. These photos can be added to your My Disney Experience account at a later time.

Photos, like the one above, that features Sebastian sitting in my hand is called a Magic Shot. To get one of these photos, a photographer will ask you to pose in a specific way. Because characters will need to be added to your photo, they do take a little longer to show up in your account.

But, they’re a cute way to add a little extra magic to your vacation. And they’re only available when you purchase photos on Memory Maker.

Meeting Mickey Mouse at Tusker House during Breakfast

PhotoPass Photographers will also take photos with your camera

Photographers can’t tell who has Memory Maker and who doesn’t. So, they capture the best photos they can with their own camera. If you haven’t purchased Memory Maker, the photos will still show up in your account, but they will have a watermark over them.

Although they will always take a photo with their camera, they will also take a picture with your camera, if you want them to.

They may be taken by another Cast Member (especially when the lines are really long). But, they NEVER refuse to take your photo with your cell phone or camera.

With cell phone cameras getting more and more sophisticated, you may not see much difference between photos taken with a professional camera and those taken your camera.

Is It Right For You?

When determining whether Memory Maker is right for you, the decision will most likly rely on the on-ride photos and Magic Shots. How much are those specific photos worth to you?

Memory Maker is currently $169. So, if these photos aren’t a priority, you could save some money by opting to take photos with your own camera.

But, if you would love to capture the first time your family rode Expedition Everest or you love Magic Shots, I do recommend Memory Maker.

Still unsure if whether Memory Maker is right for your family? We recommend reading the post: Is Memory Maker Worth The Cost? for more information.

The Italy Pavilion in World Showcase in Epcot

Deciding To Purchase a Dining Plan

Contrary to what some believe, it’s not impossible to save money. But, sometimes the convenience is worth more than pinching pennies. It just depends on what your priority is.

We’ve already laid out the basics of each Disney Dining Plan in another Post. This is a good place to start if you have absolutely no idea what Disney Dining Plan entails.

We’ve also laid out some of our favorite (and not so favorite) items to purchase with those meal and snack credits, using the Quick Service Credits, Disney Dining Plan credits, and Snack Credits in a few posts. So, it may be helpful to check those links out before continuing.

Empty dining area in Pizzafari in Animal Kingdom

Quick Service Dining Plan

If you’re looking for a quick and easy Dining Plan, it doesn’t get easier than the Quick Service Dining Plan.

This Meal Plan works best with families who prioritize the attractions.

While there are a few exceptions, like Be Our Guest during breakfast and lunch and Pizzafari Family-Style Dining, Quick Service restaurants don’t require reservations. This means that you have the flexibilty to eat what you want, when you want.

On more than once occassion, I’ve seen families wait for a ride, just to hop out of line halfway through the line, to rush off to their Dining Reservation. Since Table Service Restaurants charge a no-show fee, their instinct to run off is understandable.

Since Walt Disney World is so large, you’re not going to be able to do and see everything. That’s why it’s important to know where your priorities are.

Unless there are many Table Service Restaurants on your “must do” list, Quick Service ends up being the best option for many families.

The Best And Worse Quick Service Restaurants To Use Your Dining Plan Credits On

Meeing Stitch at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

Disney Dining Plan

If many Character Dining and other Table Service Restaurants are a priority, I recommend the Disney Dining Plan.

Because this Meal Plan does give you a mix of Table Service and Quick Service meals, this Dining Plan works well for many families. They schedule one meal and then have the rest of the day free to eat when they feel they need to.

Knowing where and when you will be eating takes a lot of stress away from some families. And since Table Service Restaurants recommend making a reservation ahead of time, you don’t have to worry that you’ll be standing in the middle of a crowded restaurant with no empty tables in sight.

Just remember that gratuities are not included in the cost of your dining plan. So, make sure to calculate that into your budget.

The Best and Worst Restaurants To Use Your Disney Dining Plan Credits On

Sign for Tusker House Restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney Dining Plan Plus

New in 2020, this brand new Dining Plan gives you more flexibility than the rest of the Dining Plans.

Want to eat at 2 Table Service Meals each day for the entirety of your trip? This Dining Plan allows you to do that.

Since this is a brand new Dining Plan, there are more questions about this Plan than the others. So, I do recommend reading the following post for more information.

Everything You Need To Know About The Disney Dining Plan

View into Magic Kingdom from Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Resort

Deluxe Dining Plan

Unless you’re prioritizing the restaurants, I usually don’t recommend the Deluxe Dining Plan for one reason. Having this much food at your disposal may be way too much.

Unlike the other plans, the Deluxe Dining Plan gives you 3 meals. This is attractive to Guests who normally eats 3 meals per day anyway.

But, remember that this plan also comes with snack credits. And many of them can easily keep you full for many hours.

Unless you can eat most or all of your meals and snacks, going to a reservation when you’re not hungry, or leaving Walt Disney World without using all of your credits is not a good value for what you paid for this plan.

And, worst of all, you may end up feeling like you spend your entire vacation jumping from one dining reservation to another.

Dole Whip Float at the Polynesian Village Resort

Why Guests Choose Not To Get A Meal Plan

There are many reasons why Guests choose not to get one of the Dining Plans. But, most of these reasons are financial.

Dining Plans aren’t cheap. So, if you’re not eating a good portion of your meals, purchasing a Meal Plan may not be the best use of your money.

As convenient it is to have your meals paid for before you even leave your home, there are many ways you can save money on meals at Disney.

Did you get a Cabin at Fort Wilderness? You can prepare food in your Cabin and bring it into the Parks with you.

Do you have family members with small appetites? Purchase one meal and split it between two or more people.

6 Easy Ways To Maximize Your Food Budget At Walt Disney World

Is It Right For You?

Dining Plans should be thought through before determining whether it’s right for your family.

Speaking from experience, I am far more relaxed when I have a Meal Plan. With a family of 4 (including 2 very hungry teenage boys), I get a slight panic attack just thinking about spending $40+ per person on one buffet breakfast.

Knowing everything is already paid ahead of time takes a lot of stress off of me and allows me to enjoy my meals more.

Do we get our money’s worth when we purchase the Meal Plan? Maybe not. We’re not really sure.

But, since Disney allows everyone to pay down their trips on your own schedule, I like knowing that by the time we leave for our trip, our food is already paid for.

The sign for Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom

What to Expect in Part 3

If you already booked your trip after reading Part 1, you can modify your reservation to add Memory Maker or a Dining Plan to your Package. No additional deposits are required.

If you’ve been waiting to book your trip until you made a decision on these add-ons, hopefully this post helped you make that decision.

Interested in learning all about Fastpasses and Advanced Dining Reservations? Continue onto Part 3.

Ready to book your magical vacation?

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Hawaii Destination Specialist

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