Posted in Cast Member Chronicles, Lights, Camera, Universal!, Out and About in Orlando, Overcoming Adversity

So you want to work at a theme park…

With the frigid tempatures, typical 9-5 nonsense, or lack of job getting you down, don’t you just wish you could throw all your stuff in a duffle bag, run away, and start a new life?

You’re not alone.

Each year, hundreds if not thousands of people apply for Florida’s theme parks in hopes of a better life, even if it means living paycheck to paycheck or bunking up with roommates in your late 20’s or 30’s. The perks are awesome and there is plenty of room for growth if you don’t let the pleasures of free park admission swallow you whole. 

Orlando FL is a booming economy where entry level attraction and theme park jobs are king. Universal, Disney, and  Busch (now Seaworld Parks and Entertainment) are just some of the many places one can apply to. A lot of these jobs cater to the out of state prospect in the form of web and phone interviews, and in some cases, the occasional Skype call. But eventually, you need to make the trip down to have a formal interview, in most cases, you’ll get an answer right away as to whether or not you made the cut. 

The whole process is daunting, but here is what I had to do in order to get down here. Keep in mind, the process I did was way different than one if you go for an internship or exchange program, where housing is offered. 

Apply today!

The best way to grab the attention of said job prospects is to apply directly from the source. Websites like Indeed or even the state run career sites are middlemen where your application you spent 3 hours on just sites in cyberspace withot a single click except from some random Kenyan call center. I have listed the sites below where one should apply to. These three companies I have worked in some form or another and I can attest to the often quick feedback I have received from them. 

Walt Disney World Resort

Universal Orlando Resort 

Seaworld and Busch Gardens

Other sites I highly recommend based on my friends’ experiences also include Loews HotelsFun Spot (a chain of small amusement parks,) and Legoland. There are plenty more places to apply for, but these places come to mind for a Floridian newbie in hopes of getting their feet in the door.

Each company has it’s own interviewing processes, some do group interviews, others multiple one-on-one interviews done in the same day, and others spread throughout many weeks. In my case with Disney, mine was going to be a one time interview given I was only going for a role in a retail position, but due to not following the “Disney Look” or grooming guidelines, I had to stretch out the process over the course of a month and a half, making two trips down to square everything away. Lucky for me, I had a good support system from my family and was able to hoard a bunch of paychecks from my then current job as a teaching assistant to make it happen, but at the expense, I lost my apartment and moved in with my dad. Which brings up my next point.

Look the Part

Most of the hospitslity industry runs on wardrobe and grooming standards,  affectionately called by the industry “The Disney Look.”  In plain simple English, the look requires no visible tattoos or piercings beyond one in each ear,  hair color to be of natural tone, finger nails to be clean and if desired, a natural tone nail polish,  and men’s beards to be trimmed and not longer than half an inch or even shorter.  In all the interviews I went to, you must inform them where your tattoos are,  as sometimes, they might interfere with the wardrobe provided to you upon hire.  In my case, regular shirts and long pants cover mine so it wasn’t an issue,  But say if I went with a role that involved a dress,  I would most likely be turned down for it given my ankle tattoo. 

My gages although small, resulted in me being sent home,  But luckily, going home for a month let me heal my ear lobes and prepare to do things the right way.

 If you run into a situation regarding the grooming guidelines and make a small faux paw,  Don’t stress out.  Usually a talk with the recruiter will help buy you time.  My recruiter at Disney was amazing and allowed me to send emails of my ears healing up each week  in order to keep the offer on the table. 

 When it comes to wardrobe, the basic rule of thumb is to not wear jeans and T-shirt to your interviews.  Dress as though you’re going to a business event or a fancy dinner out.  Black slacks or khakis with a collared shirt or button-down blouse will do the trick.  Dresses  and skirts are allowed,  Just don’t wear anything you might wear to a night club.  Keep it modest and professional. 

 But when it comes to the 3 parks I worked for,  Disney is the most strict when it comes to the grooming guidelines,  followed by Universal and SeaWorld.  But  when in doubt, dress to impress. 

Snag that job!

 Many of the interview questions remain the same no matter where you interview at.  Typical ones include how you handled negative feedback from guests or clients, what was a good guest experience you had, what kind of knowledge you have about the job or the park in general, and occasionly, a role play the test out such knowledge.  My advice for anyone trying to snag a job is to just be yourself.   Be polite, courteous, and professional.  Also be honest and truthful. 

 If you receive an offer for a job, usually the sign in process will be right away.  If you have any sort of criminal background or  if your job requires it, Universal and Disney will send you to do a drug test.  SeaWorld and it’s parks are very strict about drug testing, and will require you to do one that day,  including urine and hair samples, no matter who you are.  You will also need to complete your fingerprints and background checks for all 3 parks,  which unlike the drug test, are done on site.  Sometimes you’ll have a lot of paperwork to do, like in Disney’s case where it takes about 45 minutes to complete.  Case in point,  prepare for at least 3 hours at the career center of your choice on the day of your interview. 

Keep in mind upom completing the paper work, you will be offered work with in a 2 week time frame as well as your training.  If needed more time to complete a move, just ask the recruiter.  Just keep in mind, the location they give you in the beginning might not be the location you end up in.  I was originally supposed to be at the candy shop at Disney Springs but I wound up at the premium outlets offsite instead.  Just be flexible and patient.  You could always try for that dream location 6 months after you begin.  Transfers are always an option. 

Finding your home base

Florida over the last few years has gone through a housing boom, which although it sounds great on paper, it’s not as magical as it seems. A basic studio can set you back $900 A month in a decent neighborhood and a one bedroom about $1200. This does not include utilities typically. The closer you get to the parks, the higher the price for an apartment gets. Most apartments are run by big housing companies like McKinley or Camden, which require you to have excellent credit, a co-signer (usually a parent or guardian with a higher salary) or you go in with friends or roommates. Section 8 and assisted housing are hard to come by unless you are a domestic abuse survivor or homeless, and even that won’t guarantee you a place right away. Remember, these jobs require a Florida address, so try to get this squared away as soon as possible.

I was able to secure a co-signer in the form of my father and pay all of my social security money into the rent. At the time of me getting this apartment, this left me with some cash left over and my job had to pay the rest. But now, I have relied on moving my boyfriend in to help lessen the load. 

But what do you do if you don’t have a safety net?

Do what one of my friends refered to it as and “treat the theme park work experience like college and snag yourself a roommate.” Although not ideal, splitting the cost with people who will most likely be working in the same park as you will help you save money. There are many rooms for rent available via Facebook group pages like the “Disney World Cast Member Apartment/Roommate Finder” (a simple search will pull up many pages like this one) that will connect you with rooms for rent and some housing reviews. A good chunk of these rooms are located in the complexes closer to property. 

There are other not so perfect options availabnle for housing, some include motels that house long term and short term, many are in the Kissimmee area, and there is cheaper rent in places like Pine Hills and Washington Shores, which tend to have a higher crime rate. The good thing about those options is you will have the opportunity to live alone and if your credit isn’t so great, they can be a good place to start if roomating isn’t your thing. But always keep your safety top priority in these options. 

Getting around town

It is recommended highly that you own a car in order to make life easier. Orlando is HUGE, and the commute can be long and annoying. Having a car eliminates having to use the bus system, which although cheap in comparison to using your car, can lead you into travel nightmares.

The bus system for Orange County is called Lynx and there is a separate line run by a different company of streetcars called the I-RIDE that runs the length of International Drive. Both cost about $2 to ride one way and each offer multi day passes to suit your needs. Although the streetcars run more frequent than buses, they won’t get you everywhere in the city, but can be a good shorter option to travel International Drive if need be, as the Lynx bus 8 tends to be crowded and often runs late.

If you must rely on Lynx as your form of transportation, keep in mind they run three different schedules, Weekday, Saturday, and Sunday/Holiday (Holidays include New Years Day, Martin Luther king Jr Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Most of these jobs require full holiday availability so plan on taking an Uber or Lyft those days if need be.

The bus routes that go to Universal are the 21, 37, and the 40, with a twice a day stop from  the Disney Direct bus 303. The 21 and 37 run about every half hour with the 40 running every hour instead. 

The Disney Direct or the 300 buses drop off at the hotels and backstage areas of Disney World and are typically offered in a schedule similar to the housekeepers in the Pine Hills/Washington Shores area so people who need help getting to work can. They only rub about twice a day but offer the express option to get to work, ideal if you are on a housekeeping schedule.

Other buses that run to Disney include the 50 from downtown Orlando and the 56 from Kissimmee, each run aboout every half hour or so.

The bus 8 runs to SeaWorld as well as Downtown Orlando, although if you can swing it, snag yourself a streetcar ride on the I-RIDE instead. If you have a photo ID from any of the parks or hotels you work at, the one way ride is only 25 cents. Sweet!

 If you are planning on using the bus system, plan accordingly for delays.  Leave your house at least a couple hours before you’re supposed to be at work to guarantee a clean record card.  And don’t forget to pack your patience.  Not to mention in extra battery charger for your phone. 

The perks 

Although the struggle can be real at times, it is worth it being able to say you work for some of the best companies in the world with the best benefits.  Many of these companies offer free park admission for you and your friends,  deep discounts on merchandise and meals,  health benefits for full timers with the option for part timers who work a certain length of time, special backstage events and parties, access to credit unions, barber shops, pharmacies, doctors offices, gyms, and discount shopping no other guest can partake in, and so much more. These companies want you to stay and be happy and will do whatever it takes to brighten up your day and put your mind at ease. 

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and give it a go. 

Happy job hunting. Hope to see you in the parks!


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Posted in Cast Member Chronicles, Media Reviews, Out and About in Orlando

Raven About The Holidays

It’s that time of the year again, where Disney goes all out for the holidays. From Mickey’ s Very Merry Christmas Party, to Epcot’s Holidays Around The World, and the newest events at Hollywood Studios, there is no stopping the fun. 

One tradition the Disney Parks have each year is their yearly holiday special. Christmas Day on ABC was where they always showed the parade and the occasional concert, with some Make A Wish style moments thrown in to celebrate families who run non profits, reunite from deployment in the military, and have defeated the odds despite whatever life has thrown at them. It’s a well loved tradition that keeps families glued to the TV, and I got to experience it first hand. 

Spot the Amandas

Thanks to my bestie Amanda, who works for the company, I was able to score a chance to be at a taping for one of the many specials Disney has set out to present this year. She was given a time to show up and a comp ticket for me, with no other info on what we would see or do. Contrary to popular belief, Disney doesn’t film the special live, but a few weeks ahead of time. Usually, they only open the filmings to cast members,  which are people who work for the company, before they allow guests to join in too. 

The stage in front of the castle, all glitzed out and ready to go

Once we got to the stage, our M.C. Cam explaimed more about what we will see and do for the couple hours we would be there for. He went on about the directors cues, when we should applause, and just kept the crowd entertained in between takes. We were also told that we were there to see the Descendents perform holiday medleys of their hit songs from the movies, with Raven Symone and Isaac Brown from “Raven’s Home” stopping in to film transition segments for the special. It was also explained to us that our special will air on Disney Channel December 2, with multiple reruns throughout the month. 

Although I am not a fan of the Descendents, I did fall in love with Sofia Carson, her voice is incredible and her attitude brilliant, always smiling and having fun with what she does.  She sang two songs, multiple times. Her first song was “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and her second song featuring her fellow villian friends “Chillin’ Like A Snowman” a play on the song made famous from their movie “Chilln’ Like A Villain”

Even Olaf makes an appearance, because why the heck not?

Sofia Carson
Did somebody say snowman?
The Descendants perform “Chillin Like A Snowman”

But what got me hyped was Raven making an appearance. From her Cosby Show days to That’s So Raven, I feel as though I grew up with her, and with the success of Raven’s Home, it’s exciting to see her continue on entertaining a whole new generation. Along with her co-star Isaac, they kept the audience pumped, even for us 90’s/2000’s babies who could…and did… recite her That’s So Raven theme by heart. 

“You all are old. I love it!” She said as the crowd laughed.

Raven and Isaac scoping the sights as they make it to the stage
Practicing their lines for the next segment
Having fun with the audience

Be sure to look for me and Amanda amongst the crowd during the Disney Parks Holiday Celebration, starting December 2nd on the Disney Channel

Posted in Mandy Eats, Out and About in Orlando

Mandy Eats the Waturi Way, at Volcano Bay

View from the Tott Tiki Reef of the Volcano

Volcano Bay is Universal Orlando Resort’s third theme park, and what has said to be its best one yet. Themed after inspiration of tribal explorers (also known as Waturi) from the Pacific Islands and packed with the latest technology known as TapuTapu that holds your spot in the queue lines and unlock special surprises throughout the park, Volcano Bay has something for everyone. With 18 different attractions, including the Krakatau Aqua Coaster and the Kokiri Body Plunge that sends you 125 feet down a volcano via a trapped door, the park boasts it’s fair share of thrills, but what about the food? 

From the park’s inception, the food offered in the park was prided as some of the best quick service theme park food on property. And they weren’t kidding. During the summer, there was a brief moment when the menu was changed to a basic burger and hot dog menu, and everyone flipped out. Thankfully, most of the 60 or so menu items that opened the park to high reviews have come back, making this foodie one happy girl. 

A selfie from paradise

Using a Universal Quick Service dining plan, as mentioned in an earlier post, I was able to sample some of the park’s finest foods. Armed with a meal credit and a snack credit brought some tasty results.

Waturi Blend Ice Cream

Waturi Blend Ice Cream

Because in paradise, rules are meant to be broken, so why not opt for dessert first? The Waturi Blend Ice cream is a rainbow colored soft serve delight, packed with tropical fruity flavor that will get you in the tropical mood. Strawberry, Pineapple, Orange, and Blue Raspberry blend in such a way that reminds me of an everlasting gobstopper, where the flavor and color change each lick. Plus, it’s totally Insta-worthy. Not to mention delicious. You can find the ice cream stand in the front of the park closer to the Wave Village Concierge Hut. 

Jerk Shrimp Mac and Cheese

Jerk Shrimp Mac and Cheese

Although it is a bit of a hike to get to, I managed to make the trek to Whakawaiwai Eats to indulge in what I believe has to be the park’s finest culinary masterpiece. 

Amongst the menu of longboard pizzas and grab and go salads lies the Jerk Shrimp Mac and Cheese, a spicy shrimp Mac and Cheese made with real big chunks of shrimp and spicy seasonings. It’s very creamy, the white cheese strikes a balance between the hot and cheesey, I never thought I would rave over Mac and Cheese as much I have here at Volcano Bay. It’s a far cry from the typical burger and hot dog fare many waterparks opt for. A nice spicy surprise, and a fairly big portion to boot. 

Volcano Bay has slowly been reintroducing their menu items that have been taken away during the summer, and more surprises await. From burgers topped with tropical slaw, hot dogs nestled in pretzel buns topped with pineapples and bacon, and a long surfboard shaped BBQ chicken pizza, things are far from boring in the land of the Waturi. So grab yourself a dining plan and explore the bay. You’ll be glad you did. 

Posted in Lights, Camera, Universal!, Mandy Eats, Out and About in Orlando

Mandy Eats at the Monster’s Cafe

Every once in awhile, there’s that one place you always walk past that you pay no attention to. Whether it’s that little cafe in the shopping center in your hometown or at a theme park you visit frequently. That place for me up until recently just so happens to be the Monsters Cafe at Universal Orlando resort.

As to why I always skipped it is beyond me. I love horror movies, but this place was just never on my radar amongst my obsession for all the Harry Potter stuff.

In my last Mandy Eats post, I talked about the food that I purchased here and it was delightful. But unlike my usual Mandy Eats posts where I talk about the food, this time around, I will talk about the atmosphere.

Because wow….

As you’re waiting in the queue line, you are greeted with the massive light bulb straight out of Dr. Frankenstein Laboratory. Although the menu is typical theme park food, the setting just get you into a mood of nostalgia. Everywhere you look, there’s memorabilia and movie posters of sci-fi and horror movies past.

The restaurant is divided into four areas, each has its own special theme. The windows are wrapped in decals that help set the mood for each room. Certain items are taken straight from the movies and hung on the walls for all to see. Yes, that really is the Bride of Frankenstein’s head.

On the back of the menu lies brief descriptions of each room and the themes that surround it. Although I had my dinner in the room considered the mansion, one of my favorite areas had to have been the Sci-Fi room.

With my best friend and Trekkie Amanda in tow, we have stumbled upon an epic nerdy paradise.

The overall attention to detail is stunning and the service is spectacular. And the food, is to die for. Needless to say, I’m kicking myself in the butt I haven’t discovered this gem sooner.

The Monsters Cafe is Quick Service dining plan Friendly restaurant located across from the Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon ride in Universal Studios. it is also the home to the Scareacter dining experience during the Park’s Halloween Horror Nights event.

Grab a plate and be prepared to be scared.

Posted in News and Opinions, Out and About in Orlando, Overcoming Adversity

Aftermath

Hurricane Irma had to have been the craziest storm I have ever wittnessed ever since Hurricane Sandy hit almost five years ago. The overall energy and magnitude of the storm was enough to stop a city that revolves around theme parks and attractions for two whole days, often unheard of in recent memory.

So how did I do?

Well after RJ and I ventured into the feeding frenzy that was Walmart and stocked up on mostly dry goods in the event out power would be lost for weeks on end, we braved it out with junk food and scary movies, waiting for the moment when power would go out.

Oddly enough it never did.

Seems like we had it easy, right?

Take a look at this. Yes, that pole/tree/whatever the heck it is has impaled the roof of my building.

Which resulted in some flooding. 

Which resulted in the loss of several blankets, as well as my stove and toaster, which became waterlogged after a kitchen cabinet of all things sprung a leak. 

Compared to most, we made it out easy. But the clean up process has been insane. Workers have been on my roof since about 9pm last night non-stop, drilling and chizzlimg away at the cracks and placing new files. Once the big work ends outside, the inside work begins. From killing off the water damage to replacing my stove, the whole process could take a few weeks.

Despite my constant griping due to lack of sleep or nutritious food, I am thankful to live in an apartment complex that has treated me good thus far.

But I am still longing for a sense of normalcy. 

Hopefully soon.

Posted in News and Opinions, Out and About in Orlando, Uncategorized

Oh Irma…..

Unless you have been living under a rock, Florida has been placed into a state of emergency due to a category 5 hurricane making a B-line through the center of the state. 

After the events of Hurricane Harvey that hit Texas with a vengence, the typical laid back partying type have turned into the preparers of impending doom, stocking up food and water and just about everything else you could imagine. Stores are empty and there have been bum rushes of people grabbing cases of water like crazy parents buying the latest Christmas toy. 

I spent the last 3 days trying to track down water with the only success being out at Walgreens across from work, my two hands only managing to snag one since I have no access to a vehicle (luckily, a good friend I was meeting up with managed to get me a ride home.)

All this disaster stuff has made me numb. This isn’t my first go-around with a hurricane. My first major one from memory was Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which became the catalyst for my move here to Orlando when the schools I worked at got shut down for a few weeks. I have also dealt with Hurricane Matthew, which became a dud of a storm, which results in mad trust issues. 

 My family back up north has been worried about me, so much so to the point where they’re calling me every other hour. Part of me doesn’t know if I should give into the hype and panic or just wait it out and treat it like a normal rain storm. 

 I will tell you now, my anxiety is through the roof trying to prepare for this. With RJ’s help, I have managed to obtain enough supplies to last me for a few days and then some. I have had a few anxiety attacks the last few days and he has been there with me the whole time. 

But when it comes to evacuating, forget it. Without a car and up to date medical records for the cats that are required by shelters, that leaves us staring at the belly of the beast. My friend offered to come get us, but I want to stay in my own home, which is as far inland as you can get here in Florida. They don’t call my neighborhood Florida Center for nothing. 

As I sit here awaiting the storm, I am reminded that life is something one must never take for granted. The storm is just one thing life throws at you to make sure you’re paying attention. I’m ready for the best as well as the worst. Whatever happens happens, but we won’t know for sure until Monday afternoon when she finally blows over. 

To my family, friends, and followers, please know that whatever comes out of this, I wanted to express my gratitude for all of you. I will do my best to keep you posted on what’s going on…the best way I’ll be doing this will be on the Facebook page. For now, I’m ready to ride this thing out.

Okay Irma, show me whatcha got…just please play nice. 

Posted in Lights, Camera, Universal!, Mandy Eats, Out and About in Orlando, Uncategorized

Mandy Eats- Off the Universal Dining Plan

Universal Orlando Resort consists of three theme parks, a shopping district, and five hotels chock full of foodie possibilities. I’m always on the hunt for the craziest of what theme park food has to offer. But it comes at a price, as any venture to a theme park would. In a world of $11 hot dogs and $4 sodas, where can you turn to if you want to experience the best of the best when you’re on a tight budget? Why Universal, of course. 

That’s where the Universal Dining Plan comes to play.

For a flat fee, you are issued one meal of your choice from any quick service restaurants and one snack from any snack cart, candy shop, or ice cream parlor. In addition, you also get beverage options, and this is where the different price plans come to play. 

The $28.99 plan includes one meal, one snack, and a Coca-Cola Freestyle Souvenir Mug with Unlimited Refills for the day.  You can also bring back the cup on your next visit and pay a fee of about $8 to get unlimited refills again.

The $22.99 plan, which includes the meal and snack, replaces the cup with two beverage credits. That means you get a drink with your meal and a spare drink you can use for your snack. Today, I took this plan out for a spin and took it upon myself to find the most interesting things you can get with a dining plan.

The Meal

Usually when I get the dining plan, I find myself in the Three Broomsticks or Mel’s and I wanted to try something new. Both places are awesome, and I plan on doing reviews of them later on, but this place always struck me as one I should pass. Little did I know I was missing out on awesomeness. I will be doing a full on review of this place in my next post because the detail and theming is something I could write forever about. But if you’re big into classic sci-fi and horror movies, and love to dine amongst real life props from said movies, Monster’s Cafe is your geeky haven for curing the hangries.

It’s alive…IT’S ALIVE!

The Speciality Smokehouse Burger (valued at about $19 after taxes) is a burger topped with pepper jack cheese, pulled pork, cole slaw and pickles, served with fries and a small chocolate or vanilla milkshake (which I didn’t get since I was afraid it would kill off a snack or drink credit, which I found out later it doesn’t.) It also includes your first beverage credit, which I got a Coke Zero. 

The burger was sloppy goodness that brings you back to those days at a family BBQ, the monster mash up of a pulled pork snadwhich and a burger made way for a sweet and smokey meal. 

Cross dissection of tasty experiemtnal burger.

My only complaint was that the bun disintegrated underneath, which involved the aide of crispy crinkle fries and a fork to get the job done. Oh the humanity! All in all, this was a tasty meal worth getting again on a future visit.

The (Second) Beverage

My “basic white girl” senses are tingling.

I found myself at Islands of Adventure, wandering around Hogsmeade while looking for my next beverage to try. Some of the drinks that we would classify as beverages actually count as snack credits on the Dining Plan, like the Fishy Green Ale and the Butterbeer, as well as the bottled versions of the pumpkin juice and gillywater. But, you can easily get some of the bottled  drinks with the proper drink credit from the tap at Hog’s Head which is attached to The Leaky Cauldrun.

The Pumpkin Juice (valued at about $5 after taxes) is a sweet non-alcoholic beverage fit for any autumn loving, pumpkin spice consuming wizard or muggle alike. It’s consistency is that of apple cider with a pumpkin spice kick to it, and the best part is that it’s offered year round. Both sides of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter offer this drink, so no matter if you find yourself at Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley, rest assured you can satisfy your pumpkin craving.

The Snack

Decisions decisions…

After taking a ride on the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley, I had a hankering for some ice cream. I originally wanted to go to some of the Ben & Jerry’s places on property so I could go and grab some Jimmy Fallon ice cream “The Tonight Dough”. But to my dismay, I found out most of those places were closed since it was almost the end of the day. I decided to venture back to Diagon Alley to check out Florean Fortescue’s. I heard they had some pretty fun flavors there that would be perfect for a fun foodie experience. Florean’s is usually open late while some of the shops and restaurants within Universal close an hour before the park does. If you have a last minute craving, it never hurts to check Diagon Alley.

Sweet Gringrots, this ice cream is tasty.

Upon entering Florean’s, you are bombarded with a variety of ice cream flavors and consistencies, from soft serve to hard packed, and even potted cream. Flavors range from your basic vanilla and chocolate to some crazy flavors like Apple Pie, Earl Grey and Lavender, and the one I chose, Chocolate Chili. Yep, you read that right. And it tasted exactly how you think it did, very chocolatey and pretty spicy. The combination of the two reminded me of Mexican hot chocolate. 

For the Dining Plan, a waffle cone and ice cream or a cup of ice cream (valued at about $7.50 after taxes) is considered a snack credit, any toppings are considered extra. I wound up getting my sprinkles for free because they ran out of my flavor ice cream and had to pull some from the back, which was too frozen for them to scoop out right away. Needless to say, it was well worth the wait, and the sprinkles were an awesome touch to an already magical day.  (Thanks Kristen.)

So…is it worth it?

Let’s look at the breakdown from today by the numbers, shall we?

Meal and Beverage- $19

Second Beverage- $5

Snack- $7.50

———————————-

TOTAL- $31.50

DINING PLAN+TAX -$24.49

Savings of $7.01

Keep in mind these prices are approximate, as I didn’t get the final prices for some of my items and was only going by the prices on the menu without the taxes. But when you look at the numbers that I used,  it’s pretty obvious that you can save quite a bit of money by using the Dining Plan, so much so that you could almost count it as snagging some free ice cream. The savings do add up the more expensive your meal is, for instance, a Chicken & Ribs platter over at The Three Broomsticks can go for almost as much as the Dining Plan itself. Also keep in mind that some items within the menus at the restaurants don’t count as part of Dining Plan for some reason or another, usually ice cream sundaes or large family size meals fall into this category. Easiest way you could know for sure is the check the menus for the universal Dining Plan logo or ask a team member for assistance. 

 All in all, this plan is definitely worth it if you know you’re going to eat something more than just a hot dog and chips. The plan won’t do so well if you stick to the lesser expensive items, because in some cases you actually make out better buying a la carte.  the Dining Plan gives you the freedom to try what you want and eat what you want without worrying about shedding out more money than you have to. This little card is a foodie’s right of passage.

You could get the Universal Dining Plans in child and adult forms at any vacation planning window, guest services, quick service restaurant, and several kiosks located through property. I got mine at the dining kiosk near the entrance of Universal Studios next to On-Location (the photo shop.) 

There’s a whole new world to explore. Hope you brought your appetite.