Landscape of Flavors Review

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Landscape of Flavors is the counter service food court at Art of Animation Resort in Walt Disney World. This review covers the lunch/dinner menus, and includes photos from a few of our meals at the restaurant. Art of Animation participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 1-credit counter service meal, and unlike most counter service restaurants, it does accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount! It is an okay use of a counter service credit, but doesn’t make our List of the Best Counter Service Restaurants on the Disney Dining Plan since it doesn’t offer tremendous bang for your credit.

Landscape of Flavors is an interesting restaurant in the “landscape” of Walt Disney World dining. When it first opened a few years ago, it was lauded, with tremendous praise heaped on it for raising the bar of “food court” dining at Walt Disney World, particularly at the Value Resorts, where other food courts (particularly at the All Stars) served food so suspect that it might require an asterisk next to food. Landscape of Flavors not only offered variety and customizability, but also some unique options on par with things you might find at The Mara or Pepper Market.

At the time, and at a Value Resort, this was fairly unprecedented. Pop Century across the bridge had a decent food court, but Landscape of Flavors rivaled the best counter service options (or even exceeded) at Deluxe Resorts. Since its opening, the other Value Resorts have been in the process of re-doing their food courts and expanding the menus, thus closing the gap a bit between Landscape of Flavors and “the rest” of the Value Resorts. Last year, we actually had a good meal at the End Zone Food Court at All Star Sports. ALL STAR SPORTS! A few years ago, if dared to eat at All Star Sports or like a sidewalk in Tomorrowland, I might have chosen the latter.

Suffice to say, Value Resort food quality is improving across the board, with Landscape of Flavors being the first and best example of the improvement. Many of these food courts are still not on par with nicer resorts at Walt Disney World, but it’s good to see improvement rather than regression.

As for our meals at Landscape of Flavors? Let’s dig in… (more…)

10 Ways to Save Money on Your 2015 Disney World Vacation

As the year draws to a close, many of you are probably planning your 2015 Walt Disney World trips. Part of that trip planning likely involves figuring out a way to budget for the trip, and determining what you realistically will spend on the trip. To help you get the most out of your vacation dollars, we’re here with 10 money-saving tips for your next Walt Disney World vacation!

Regardless of your budget, it’s never a bad idea to consider ways to save more money. For some of you, cutting spending may be the only way you can afford a trip to Walt Disney World. For others, saving money might not be strictly necessary, but rather is a way to fund that second (or seventh!) Disney trip of the year. We have been in both positions (I still vividly remember the days or ordering an extra bun so we could “split” a double cheeseburger at Cosmic Ray’s!) and while we are able to splurge more now, we still pay careful attention to our spending and make every effort to get the most bang for our buck. After all, those wasted dollars could be the makings of another trip!

Here are some of our recommendations for saving money on your 2015 (or beyond!) Walt Disney World vacation. Not all of these things will be for everyone. We each value different aspects of our trips differently, and what is unnecessary for some might be make or break for someone else. These are just possible ideas, not across the board recommendations for everyone. Cost-cutting is not a good idea when it’s at the expense of the fundamental experience–if you cut things that are important to you, don’t be surprised if the amount of fun you have is negatively impacted.

With that, let’s dig into the list! (more…)

2015 Disney Dining Plan Costs, Info & Tips

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Disney World’s 2015 standard Disney Dining Plan costs $60.64/night. Disney’s cheapest meal plan (besides “Free Dining” which is available for these dates) is the Quick Service Plan, which includes 2 counter service meals per day and a snack for $41.99/night. The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan costs $109.53/night for significantly more. We’ll get to what each version of the Disney Dining Plan includes and whether the Disney Dining Plan is worth the money below. First, some basics.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Disney Dining Plan is a prepaid meal plan offered at Walt Disney World so guests can budget their dining costs in advance and (potentially) save money. The various plans provide guests with a set number of credits that may be redeemed for snacks, counter service (Disney-speak for fast food) meals, table service meals, or signature dining (Disney-speak for fine dining) meals. These credits are stored on the guest’s MagicBand or Key to the World room key, with the receipt provided after redeeming the credits indicating how many credits remain.

Walt Disney World guests purchasing a vacation package with a room and tickets through Disney are eligible to buy the 2015 Disney Dining Plan. This means that if you want the Disney Dining Plan, you cannot save money by staying off-site or by purchasing discount Walt Disney World tickets through a Disney-authorized ticket seller. Disney Vacation Club members staying on points are also eligible to add-on the Disney Dining Plan, without the purchase of park tickets through Disney (as many of them either have Annual Passes or prefer purchasing discounted tickets through authorized third parties).

The credits don’t have a set dollar value–for example, a table service credit may be redeemed at an inexpensive restaurant for a water, sandwich, and ice cream dessert that would normally cost $23 total, or it can be redeemed at a nicer restaurant for a smoothie, swordfish steak, and Copetta Sotto Bosco that would normally cost $51 total. (These are actual examples from Walt Disney World restaurants, demonstrating the big difference in value a credit may have depending upon at which restaurant and for which menu items it’s redeemed). A lot of information exists about the Disney Dining Plan, with most focusing on how to best utilize these credits so you get better value out of the credits. In fact, our most popular articles concerning the Disney Dining Plan are our Top 10 Restaurants for Maximizing Table Service Credit Value, Top 10 Restaurants for Maximizing Counter Service Credit Value, and Tips for Maximizing Snack Credit Value. Frequent users of the Disney Dining Plan become pretty adept at getting more bang for their buck on the Dining Plan, but some advance planning, first-time visitors to Walt Disney World can also make the most of the Dining Plan.

From time to time, the Disney Dining Plan is offered for free to Walt Disney World guests who purchase a vacation package (this is not offered to Disney Vacation Club members staying on points). This is known as the “Free Dining” promotion, and is incredibly popular with Disney fans. Remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If “Free Dining” is available, you forfeit another discount that might be available (for example, a percentage off discount on the hotel room and the ability to purchase discount Disney tickets). Compare the “Free” Dining Plan to other discounts. With “Free Dining,” you pay rack rate for the hotel room and full price for a minimum number of tickets. Whether Free Dining is the best Walt Disney World discount available (read our 2015 Walt Disney World Discount Comparison post for more details) for you depends upon party size and resort tier (it’s less likely to be a good deal for smaller parties staying in Deluxe Resorts), so do the math and compare the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion to other available discounts–if there are other available discounts. (more…)

Biergarten Review

Biergarten is a buffet restaurant in Epcot’s World Showcase Germany at Walt Disney World that is set in the middle of a Bavarian Village celebrating Oktoberfest year round. Biergarten serves authentic German cuisine for lunch and dinner (menu). At the center of the village is a stage where costumed musicians perform traditional Oktoberfest entertainment and where guests can get up and fun fun on the dance floor. Biergarten is a 1-credit restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan, and also accepts Tables in Wonderland. As a buffet, it’s priced slightly below average for a table service restaurant, making it a good option if you’re paying out of pocket, but a poor option for maximizing your value on the Disney Dining Plan.

Biergarten is an interesting restaurant. The exterior is somewhat understated, with only the painted name of the restaurant above a small archway at the back of Epcot’s Germany pavilion. However, once you step inside, you’re inundated by the sounds of the traditional oompah music, other entertainment, and a Bavarian Village setting (outside, no less!). The seating is communal, which may not appeal to all patrons, but was fine by us. The other guests at our table chatted with us throughout the meal and we had a good time. If you’re looking for a romantic meal or are shy, this may not be the best dining option for you.

This review covers two visits to Biergarten, the most recent of which occurred in Fall 2014, after which this review was updated/basically re-written… (more…)

2015 Disney Dining Plan Guide

Disney Dining Plan Information & Planning Guide

If you’re using the 2015 Disney Dining Plan, or are wondering, “is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?” you’ll want to read these comprehensive articles we’ve written about the highly divisive Walt Disney World meal plan options. We have used the Dining Plan several times and also opted not to use it several other times (and instead pay out of pocket). We’re neither blind fans of the Disney Dining Plan nor are we opponents of it, and we bring this balanced perspective to our articles covering the Disney Dining Plan.

The Disney Dining Plan can be a great value or a poor value depending upon how you will use it, and these articles will give you an idea of the best and worst ways to use the Disney Dining Plan from a value perspective, so you’ll know whether it’s for you (if you’ve yet to pull the trigger), or how you should plan on using the Dining Plan if you’ve already booked your Walt Disney World vacation!

Click each link for comprehensive information you’ll want to know for each stage of planning your trip to Walt Disney World on the Disney Dining Plan!

Disney Dining Plan Information for planning your Walt Disney World trip!

Top Disney Dining Plan Resources

2015 Disney Dining Plan Overview and Pros & Cons – Here’s all the information you need to know about the various versions of the 2015 Disney Dining Plan, including prices and what the various plans include. Check this article out for current dates of the 2015 FREE Disney Dining Plan! We also share our review of the Disney Dining Plan, and whether we think it’s worth the money. (It certainly isn’t for everyone–not even when it’s “free.”)

Maximizing Table Service Credit Value on the Disney Dining Plan – The alternate name for this article is “Best Value=Order STEAK!” And really, that title would be all you need. Actually, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. This article ranks the top 10 table service restaurants at Walt Disney World in terms of objective value on the Disney Dining Plan. In other words, we examined the menus of all Walt Disney World table service restaurants and listed the 10 that are the most expensive (and thereby offer the most “bang for your buck” on the Disney Dining Plan, objectively speaking).

Maximizing Counter Service Credit Value on the Disney Dining Plan – Thanks to some high priced combos (like the chicken and ribs combo at Cosmic Ray’s or Fairfax Fare) and restaurants that serve expensive desserts, there are a lot of ways to maximize your counter service credit on the Disney Dining Plan, too. Some of these more expensive meals are even big enough to split, meaning that you can do breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the Disney Dining Plan if you use credits effectively!

Maximizing Snack Credit Value on the Disney Dining Plan – That bottle of water or that banana you might spontaneously want? Bad uses of snack credits if you care about bang for your buck. Find out what items are a good use of snack credits. (Most of them are not nearly as healthy as that water or the banana…but they sure do taste better!)

Disney Restaurant Reviews – Not all Disney restaurants were created equal. While none are so bad that they have rodents in the kitchen (well…as long as you don’t count Chef Mickey’s!), some Disney restaurants are surprisingly bad…and some are surprisingly good! Read our thoughts and opinions on each restaurant, as we give you some ideas as to our favorite restaurants and least favorite restaurants, and why we like or dislike particular restaurants. Just don’t read these on an empty stomach, as there are lots of mouth-watering photos in the reviews!

Disney Dining Plan v. Paying Out of Pocket – Here we breakdown our dining costs from one trip where we paid out of pocket and compared that to what we would have paid on the Disney Dining Plan. This post also includes a comparison of paying out of pocket to Free Dining, and explains why Free Dining isn’t really “free.”

“Free Dining” 2015 Dates – Free Dining hasn’t yet been announced for 2015, but rumors suggest it’ll be back in the spring. Keep tabs on this article for full details on when it’s available and which each tier of resorts gets on the promo.

Save Big With the Deluxe Dining Plan – The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is a huge splurge, and way more food than most people will be able to eat. Disney counts on this, and offers the Deluxe Dining Plan at a relatively reasonable price point given what you can get on it, because Disney assumes you’ll skip some meals and not be able to “maximize” the Deluxe plan. We “beat the system” with the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan, and ended up saving a ton of money. Here’s where we ate, how much we saved, and how you can do the same! (more…)