So, the Captain has food allergies. Plus, eating fast food for a week is not our idea of a good time. So we were not interested in the Disney meal plan.
Although, let me interrupt myself here to say that Disney does try very hard to accomodate different diets. If you do have allergies or sensitivities or issues with gluten, you can just call their allergy line for help. They’ll send you a list of the different foods they carry for special diets, and where to buy them. In general, you can buy allergy-safe products at one place in each park — so it’s a little inconvenient in that you have to get to that one place in the park, and also, you probably only have one or two choices at most for every single meal, but still, it’s nice to know that if you are out in the park and need food, there will be something, at least, to eat.
First of all, we got ourselves a suite at Disney — a two bedroom apartment with a full kitchen. Ours was at Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom, and I think this whole idea of having a kitchen to cook in is becoming more popular, because Disney has a bunch of new towers and “villas” and such where you can get your own full kitchen. It’s expensive — we would only be able to afford a suite like this in the off season, and only if they have a good sale on, which they did.
But SO WORTH IT.
First, let’s talk cost. I have no idea what the Disney meal plans cost, but our family of five ate for around $300 – total – for the whole week. Actually, I didn’t think of that before, but maybe it helps justify the extra cost of the suite given the savings in food. Hm.
Second, let’s talk about where it came from. One of the big benefits to us of staying on the Disney site was that we did not have to rent a car, and we didn’t have to take three car seats with us on the plane. Our original plan was to take a taxi from the hotel, once we got there, to a grocery store in nearby Lake Buena Vista to shop, but we heard that the resort was actually quite a ways out. Even from the Animal Kingdom, which is the closest to civilization, it’d be a 20 minute plus cab ride — out and then back again — and that would be pretty pricey, not to mention annoying and inconvenient.
So we decided to have our groceries delivered, and it worked out great!
We used NetGrocer,com for all of our non-perishables. (Disclosure: NetGrocer is giving me BUBKIS to mention them.) NetGrocer has a huge inventory of products and we were able to find the critical items — Sunbutter and Rice Dream rice milk — right there on the site. We ordered stuff like cereal, crackers, raisins, pretzels, bread, and bagels from them — basically everything we could, because we liked being able to pick out exactly what we wanted by brand name and size.
We placed the order about a month ahead of time and I emailed them directly to let them know that we were coming from Canada and needed the food to be delivered to the park on a specific date. Also, I should mention that NetGrocer will not accept Canadian credit cards on their website, but you can pay with PayPal, which is what we did.
I also called our Disney resort directly (not the main line, but the hotel’s specific line) to tell them to expect the delivery, and they said they’d have no problem accepting it and holding it for us until we arrived. Disney = awesome.
NetGrocer filled the order about a week before our arrival date. They emailed me with a couple of things that they were out of, suggesting substitutions, which were quite acceptable. Then they sent the groceries (three boxes’ worth) by FedEx to Disney and they actually arrived several days before we did. Yay! Total NetGrocer stuff was about $130 in groceries, $30 delivery fee, $160 total.
I also made an online order from Divvies.com. (Disclosure: Divvies is giving me NADA to mention them.) Divvies is a company that makes sweets — cupcakes, cookies, and candy — that is all egg-free, milk-free, and nut-free. Don’t you want some, NOW? Unfortunately, Divvies does not deliver to Canada and does not sell anywhere in Canada. But if you are going to DisneyWorld, they DO deliver there. OH YEAH, BABY.
So we made an order there of treats for the Captain — some to eat the week we were there, but most just to bring home to freeze for him to have on special occasions. I emailed them after placing my order to let them know it was for Disney and it should be delivered on such-and-such a date, and they were totally cool with that. And again, our order arrived for us at the hotel a few days before we did. Yay! I forget how much the Divvies stuff was, but most of it came home with us, so say we spent $10 or so for the cookies that the Captain actually ate during the week there.
Oh, and I should mention that you’ll need the address of your hotel to fill out these orders, but you can get it from the Disney site.
Lastly, we still needed milk, produce, and meats for the week. We got these from WeGoShop.com. (Disclosure: WeGoShop is giving me ZIP for mentioning them.) WeGoShop is really just an umbrella organization for a bunch of local franchisees. In the Orlando/Disney area, the franchisee is Marge Peck, and when you place your order on their site, it goes to her (also, she asks that you call her after placing your order to confirm your delivery time — her number is there on the order page).
Marge is a total doll, and I love her. She is a woman who cares, let me tell you. We asked for delivery at 7:30 on the evening we arrived — we hoped to be at the hotel by 5, but just in case of bad weather/delayed flights/whatever, we decided to build in a bit of a cushion. But we actually got to the hotel around 4:30, and while we were waiting for Marge, she called us like, four times to ask us questions. Which brand would be best? Would it be okay if she swapped x for y? Did we mean cheese block or cheese slices? You could tell that she wanted us to have exactly what we asked for, and she totally shopped for us as if buying her own groceries. She was just so awesome! Total cost of our fresh groceries was around $83, plus $22 delivery charge, plus a tip (tip of 10-15% is expected). We ended up giving her $120 in cash (we weren’t sure if she would take a Canadian credit card, so I just estimated the cost of our order using Canadian equivalents — I was within $5 — and brought enough cash).
Sooooo much could have gone wrong with this plan, but it all worked out pretty well. The only glitch was with the NetGrocer order, but it was not their fault — the problem was FedEx. FedEx delivered the order to the wrong address — instead of sending it to Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village, they dropped it at Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House, which is the hotel next door. We had a very stressful hour after arrival when we were there, but our groceries were not there, until a very nice man named Earl (LOVE YOU, EARL) found them over at Jambo and had them brought directly to our room. I should add that I prepared extensively for this possibility by having a list in my carry all of all relevant information — phone numbers for NetGrocer and FedEx, confirmation and tracking numbers for both, and Marge’s contact info should I have to call her and add more to our order before she came out to deliver to us. It was a phone call to FedEx that revealed that the boxes were actually delivered to the wrong address. But in the end we got our boxes and it was all good.
And on top of all this, we also brought about a half-suitcase worth of food — three dozen muffins I had made at home and some bread that was safe for the Captain; the pre-mixed dry half of things like pancakes and biscuits, to be used for some of our dinners; small amounts of things like sugar, tea bags, and rice vinegar that I’d need for cooking that I didn’t want to order a great big package of.
And voila! We had groceries for the entire week, and never had to leave the resort.
Every morning we’d have breakfast in our suite, and then we’d pack lunch (sandwiches or cheese and bagels) and snacks for the park. We quickly learned to pack a LOT of food for the park — we’d leave the hotel by 8 a.m,, the kids would want a snack by 9:30, lunch by 11 at the latest, and then another snack around 1. We’d pack lots of fruit and veggies because it’s so easy to get dehydrated from all the walking in the sun, the kids ate way more produce than usual (awesomesauce!). We also brought juice boxes for the kids every day (thanks, NetGrocer!) and Sir Monkeypants and I drank water from the refillable bottles we carried around with us. We’d usually be back at the hotel around 2 p.m. so the Little Miss could rest or nap; some days we’d swim then make dinner and have an early bedtime, and other days we’d eat “dinner” at 4 p.m. then go back to the park for two or three hours (bringing along more snacks and water) until 7 or so.
I think that families with older kids would not find that this plan works for them as well. They’d probably be able to go for longer at the park — I know that when Sir Monkeypants’ sister takes her kids, they usually head over to the park around 11 a.m. and then stay right through until close. So I’m not sure that making dinner at your suite every night makes sense for families on that schedule, but it sure did work for us. We were so happy to be able to feed the Captain his usual food, and Sir Monkeypants and I really appreciated both the savings and not having to eat the same fried foods every day for the duration of our stay. It didn’t really take much time out of our day to go back to the suite and eat, then return — we were going to do it anyway, so the kids could have a break. I really can’t recommend this solution enough.
I also wanted to mention that we did eat out for dinner one night. We wanted to try it, to see how it would go if we came back to Disney and didn’t get a suite. We chose the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom, because it was close and because it had a lot of kid-friendly items on the menu. They were great there — the chef himself came out to talk to us and ended up making a special dish just for the Captain that wasn’t on the menu. But despite the great service, it was not a great experience and we wouldn’t go back. It’s very loud in there, with the animals and the water and the storms and whatnot, and the Little Miss spent the whole time whining and whining and covering her ears. Meanwhile, Gal Smiley and the Captain declared their food to be gross, and in the end all three of them basically had french fries for dinner. Sir Monkeypants and I took turns gobbling down our food while trying to comfort the Little Miss and cajole the bigger two into eating something meaningful, and in the end, we paid close to $100 for what was a very stressful experience full of very hard work.
When we go back again, we’ll definitely be eating all our meals in our suite. At the most, I think we’d maybe try to get pizza from room service (there’s one hotel with an in-house pizzaria — I think it is Fort Wilderness?) or maybe try eating at the fast food/take out style restaurants in our hotel. Having a special dinner off site just is not worth it to us.
So the fact that all our food arrived on schedule, and we ate well, and (amazingly!!!) we had almost exactly the right amount of food to eat it all up by the last day, made Disney all the more awesome. Awesome!