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How to Get Every Advanced Dining Reservation ADR you want at Walt Disney World!
Guest post by Melissa from PrincessRants.com
When I share with my friends my strategy for making Advance Dining Reservations, they always look at me like I’m crazy. But inevitably when their own trips to Disney World come around they wind up lamenting to me about how when they called for reservations to Cinderella’s Castle or Hoop De Doo Review they were told that the restaurants were booked up.
If you’re wondering to yourself “who is this person and why should I listen to her about making dining reservations at Walt Disney World?” I don’t blame you. But on our 2013 trip we were able to book not one, but two reservations for Be Our Guest Restaurant (which is still really hard to book), Cinderella’s Castle, California Grill (in the first week post-refurbishment), and many, many more. In 2013 we had over 25 Table Service ADRs for our trip, and in 2015 we had the same success, booking over 30, including Cinderella’s Castle for the week it opens after refurbishment!
For those of you unfamiliar, ADRs are “Advanced Dining Reservations”. Disney World restaurants begin taking ADRs 180 days in advance. I wrote a bit about the different steps in trip planning earlier in my Trip Planning 101 post. The big disclaimer from that post that is worth repeating here is that I’m not saying this strategy is right for everyone— I’m definitely a type A over planner, and my level of obsessive pre-planning would probably drive some folks bananas. I know there are lots of families that like to be very flexible and un-scheduled on their vacations. I’m just not one of those people. I like to know what I’m doing, when I’m doing it, and ensure that everyone gets to do as much of their “wish list” as possible. Dining is a big part of our Disney experiences, I’m a big believer in family meal time and many of our favorite memories were made at a character or castle meal. Scheduled meals make a great break from the park, and an opportunity to relax in AC while still technically participating in the Disney experience (especially when we’re talking Character meals). I know that table-service restaurants aren’t as important to everyone, but if experiencing a particular venue is critical to you, I’ve got some tricks that might help you out.
So, with that caveat, I’d like to share with you my “secrets” for getting every dining reservations on our wish list:
STEP 1: HAVE A PLAN
You need to make your trip itinerary in advance. I start this months in advance and have the “ideal” schedule buttoned up at least a week in advance of the ADR date. Be sure to look through the Disney World Menus to get an idea what you might eat. Our plan goes through several revisions as I get feedback from the rest of the family going on the trip. Together, we try to imagine how the days will go, and what risks there are (i.e., the nuts and bolts of getting from place-to-place, meals timed too far apart or too close, etc.). We research travel options between parks to make sure that our expectations are reasonable when making reservations for the same day at two different locations.
Each trip has its own goals: is this your first or only trip to Disney World and you want to sample everything available? Is this a fifth or sixth trip and you want to experience new things? Build those goals right into your “ideal itinerary”. For our upcoming trip, one big goal is to spend more time at the hotel pool — we tend to “go commando”, that is spending all day every day in the parks. On our last two trips we spent precious little time in the pools and always regretted that after we’d left. On this trip we are staying at the Beach Club for the purpose of being able to swim at Stormalong Bay! while the kids are still little. So, I scheduled dining on several days that will “force” us to go back to the hotel for some meals, hoping that this will “make” us take time to swim, too. We also made the decision that we wanted to focus on exploring the hotel we are staying at more than hopping between hotels. So, for instance, though Narcosee’s was at the top of my husband’s wish list, we removed it and researched restaurants like of the Flying Fish and the Yachtsman Steakhouse that are at or near where we are staying. On a future trip when we have the opportunity to stay at the Grand Floridian we will be sure to focus on the Grand Floridian’s restaurants like Narcosee’s and 1900 Park Fare! Taking extra magic hours and expected crowd levels (thanks to Kenny’s crowd calendars!) into anticipation, I laid out the following trip plan:
Oh, by the way, here’s a little extra tip: Because you are able to make your ADRs ten days out from your check-in date, you have the greatest booking advantage on the days at the end of your trip. So, if it works into your plans, try to schedule the hardest to get meals/experiences for the end of your trip.
Continue to page 2 below!