We have been coming to Walt Disney World for many years…
initially as a couple and now as a family of four: two adults and two children. Over this time the way we approach our holidays has really changed. At first we would come for a couple of weeks, then as finances allowed we extended this to 3 weeks. Now we can stay for even longer using the studio rooms with our DVC contracts and money we save on eating.
One of the biggest advantages and savings that DVC rooms allow, are facilities to prepare food. This is one of the main reasons that as a Brit coming to WDW we can stay for longer, as being able to shop and prepare food easily in our own room and not having to pay park and restaurant prices means that our budget goes much further. Don’t get me wrong, we do occasionally allow ourselves the luxury of a meal out; however, there is now a real feeling of value (or lack of) that my family feel (including the children) when we go to a counter service restaurant and pay around $60 for a chicken strips or burger meal for the four of us.
Before our time with DVC, we would package up a three week hotel, park pass and use the included (Disney call it “free”!) dining offer with Disney Travel UK used to entice us Brits over the pond. This used to seem like a really good value with the need to not think about what we were eating and what it would have cost us but as our family grew and the children became older, our food habits changed- we found that the dining plan just had too much food for us! Coming from the UK we found that we were eating less in Florida than at home, I think that is a combination of the heat and what was offered on the dining plan- we don’t need a spongy chocolate pot or cheesecake dessert with every meal we have. One trip we had that many counter service and snack credits, we bought a suitcase full of bags of Goofy Candy, Mickey crispy treats, Werther’s Originals and Ghirardelli chocolate bars… not that we minded too much about that one! But if we were bringing that much back it made us question if we would ever actually pay for the dining plan.
Now we are DVC members and have our allocation of points…
which having bought resale through the lovely Bee Thaxton, I feel we have almost recouped our initial investment in the points after only a few trips. At this point the cost of the dues that we pay each year and the price of our current annual passes together are less than the equivalent cost of a moderate hotel for the 3 week stay with our old packages that included the free dining, this would be approximately £6000, with current conversions that’s around $7500. Now obviously we have to pay for food in Florida and with the dining plan that was included; however, our dues this year were just under $3000 and annual passes cost, we had around $2000 worth of budget left over to spend.
Many people would say, why do you want to spend your time cooking when you could be out in the parks? With being at Disney for so long each summer, DVC has changed the way we go about things. We tend to get up early to have breakfast in the room before heading to whichever park we fancy, spending all morning there, often having a snack and some ice-water mid morning. We usually stay until around 1 or 2pm and then head back to the resort.
Back at the resort either the kids or Vikki head to get some drink in our refill mugs (we do still get those- 4 weeks you will definitely get the value back many times over) while I make wraps or sandwiches for lunch. During the afternoon, we visit the pools or the community rooms (see Ava’s blog) and relax to get our energy back, sometimes we nap or just sit on the balcony and watch the inevitable summer light show that is a passing storm. Early evening, I prepare our dinner/ tea (depending on how posh you are!) and then one, two or all of us head out for an evening in the parks. We do occasionally have a meal out in the parks or we might use the hire car and venture beyond bubble and purple signs offsite to eat but we don’t feel we need to.
We had a steep learning curve last year…
especially as we only stayed in studios so we used last year to experiment. I cook all the meals at home but we hadn’t had a microwave for several years so that was a test. We’ve found many things that I can prepare easily and that are tasty for our main meals in the microwave: omelets & poached eggs, bacon, chicken, chicken tenders, jacket potatoes, wedges, microwave lasagna (much better quality than the microwave ones we have in the UK), pasta & sauce, veg, baked beans. Of course we can have salad too and I’ve learned how to make a great simple coleslaw using Ranch dressing. We have also found a group of staples that we can use to add to help put meals together such as the packets of flavoured rice, pasta and couscous; hot pockets (good substitution for pizza for our kids). It can be a challenge at first to juggle cooking in a microwave to get things cooked for the same time but I’ve learned how to do it quite quickly. I like to think the quality of the food I produce here is almost comparable to those I produce at home, it can never be the same but we eat a good, healthy balanced diet while we are away on holiday.
Having a larger fridge than regular hotel rooms also mean we can keep different desserts such as yoghurts, pies (we found a great Key Lime pie), cheesecakes.
The range of things I am able to produce in even the studios is superb just from having the larger fridge (sometimes with small freezer space), a work space (albeit small), toaster, microwave and proper sink for washing up. We still enjoy eating out and the few meals we had were lovely for a treat but regularly spending $70-100 on one meal just doesn’t sit right when I could be doing other more exciting things or buying toys / souvenirs with the money.
As we went through this year’s holiday, we kept track of what we were spending on food, our total food bill for four weeks (including 2 restaurant meals, 2 quick service meals, a couple of off site meals and many snacks in the park) was just under $1000.
So what have been the big changes for us as a family?:
- We save money so we can afford to stay for longer.
- Our holiday time is more flexible, we don’t plan our day around restaurant meals and reservations.
- We have been able to go to resorts we wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise (we used to mainly stay in moderates).
- We don’t waste food that we don’t want or need when eating out.
- We eat in a much healthier and balanced way than on past holidays.
I know not everyone goes to Florida as long as we do; however, the DVC rooms allow you to save money for different things rather than food. If the money saved allows you to stay even a day longer in the magic, we believe it is worth it! I’m sure at some point in the future as our children get older we will try the dining plan again or want to eat out in restaurants or in the parks. But for now (for us anyway) having a way to save money, prepare our own food and spend longer in Florida is definitely the best way for us to do Disney.