Character Dining Budget Buster

I’m pretty good about sticking to a plan and resisting impulse buys. The kids know that if it’s not on the weekly shopping list, they’re not getting that package of cookies we don’t need. Well, truth be told, I have a hard time saying no if my kindergartener points out that it’s on sale and we have a coupon but I digress.

When we visit Walt Disney World, our budget is not unlimited so we make choices to spend money in some areas but not others. Yes to Park Hoppers, no to Signature Dining. Yes to one table service meal a day, no to the Dining Plan (it just doesn’t work for my family).

But just like that coupon for a sale item that nets my son his coveted cookies, I seem to have the inability to say, “No” to that character dining budget buster – the family photograph.

At some character dining experiences, your group is invited to take a photo before you are seated. The first time it happened, I assumed I would hand the photographer my PhotoPass card as I would in the theme parks. Then, in the comfort of my home, I could decide if I wanted to purchase a print or I could view the photograph on my computer courtesy of the PhotoCD I purchased. Not so.

At the end of our meal, a Cast Member came to our table and, with a flourish, presented the group photograph. However, that is not the end of the story. The imaging package, containing a large photograph and several smaller prints, was available for an extra $30. In a seemingly endless pressure-filled moment, I had to decide if I should effectively tack another $8 per person on to an already costly meal for a group photograph or regret not-purchasing one for the rest of my days. I caved and purchased it. This was not the last character dining imaging package I purchased either. Before every meal, I tell myself I will not buy the photographs, I will not buy the photographys and inevitably I do.

So, if you find yourself in the same predicament as I do, here are a couple of tips.

1. Ask the photographer to take a picture of the group with your personal camera. You can refuse the printed photograph and feel comfortable knowing you have captured the group moment on film.

2. If you purchase the imaging package, take your receipt to a PhotoPass center in one of the theme parks and ask them to add the photograph to your PhotoPass. When you get home, you can add the photo to your Photo CD or order prints for family members.

Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers and a columnist for WDW Fan Zone. When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.

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