You have chosen your resort, tickets, and booked your package. Now you are ready to relax and daydream about your upcoming vacation to Walt Disney World. But then your travel agent says “It’s time to make your advanced Dining Reservations” and you have a mini freak-out. Sound familiar? Don’t worry -It happens all the time. I am the first to admit I dislike making decisions. So when there are hundreds of amazing options and all sound wonderful I tend to get overwhelmed. But let’s focus on the positive; Walt Disney World offers TONS of amazing dining options- a foodie’s dream come true! So, whether you have planned multiple Disney vacations or are in the midst of planning your first trip, think about these tips for scheduling your dining and enjoy the bountiful options.
Are you a Morning Person? If you wake up before the sun and enjoy being out and about in the morning consider breakfasts and lunches.
· BREAKFAST: Consider making some breakfast reservations for restaurants inside your favorite parks. Some take reservations before the park even opens. This will get you in before the majority of vacationers are stirring. Eat, enjoy some characters (character breakfasts are FUN, and be ready to experience many of the best attractions with low wait times.)
· LUNCH: Another option for early risers is to eat a quick breakfast in your hotel room (or while waiting for the bus) and get to the park before it opens. Being there for the opening is always fun and again, you will probably have the shortest waits and lowest crowds of the day. Just as you are getting hungry for an early lunch, the crowds will be coming in and you can sit and relax at a lunch reservation. You might even hop to another resort for your meal and enjoy walking around in a quiet area away from the parks.
Night Owls-Have no fear! Walt Disney World is even more magical at night!
· I recommend making at least one dinner reservation at Epcot during Illuminations or at Magic Kingdom during Wishes. Many restaurants with viewing areas of these nighttime shows will dim the lights and pipe in the music during the show. Some of my favorites are California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and La Hacienda de San Angel at Epcot. Other options are available-tell your travel agent if you want to book during the fireworks or other nighttime shows.
· Restaurants are open pretty late at most locations so if you like to linger over dinner and relax in the evening there are plenty of great options in each park. I especially enjoy being in one of the pavilions at World Showcase in Epcot for dinner. The light, sounds, smells all take you right into the culture and atmosphere of the country you are “visiting”.
Families with Children
· I have 2 words for you: Character. Meals. These are a hit with kids and give you some forced downtime. Plus you get personal one on one interaction with characters and some really great photo opportunities. If you are on the dining plan they are a great deal! Many character meals only require one table service credit!
· If your kids are on a schedule think about keeping them on that schedule. There is nothing worse than a tired, hungry child on vacation. So try to schedule your meal times for times they are used to. And remember you can bring snacks into the park! Aim for scheduled meal times but always have some back up.
· One of the best tips I have is to get to the parks early in the morning, take a long afternoon break (when the parks are the most crowded and the weather is usually the hottest) and then go back to the parks in the evening. With this schedule a long lunch or an early dinner could fit right in without taking away from your time in the parks.
For the Spontaneous . In my daily life I appreciate (need) routine and structure. But when I am on vacation I do not want to have any plans. I don’t personally like the idea of being tied down to specific meal times each day. If that sounds familiar-read on!
· Schedule your Advanced Dining Reservations for breakfast every day. That way it forces you to get up (for you sleepy heads) , you get a good hearty breakfast, and then the rest of the day can be spontaneous! Try it-you might like it!
· If you are on the dining plan, consider trying some of the Signature restaurants. They take 2 table service credits and are top notch dining experiences. This will give you some very special meals to look forward to. I would recommend scheduling them for the beginning and or end of your trip-think of them as a celebration of the start or end of an amazing vacation.
· Look at the days you arrive and depart. If you do not plan on going to the parks one both of those days these can be great times to plan meals that won’t take time away from the parks.
General Tips for All
Where to eat?
· Ask your friends who have been where they like to eat. You should get good, honest feedback that you will trust (you really have to take some on-line reviews with a grain of salt). Pose the question on your Facebook or twitter-you should get plenty of responses/opinions
· Talk to your travel agent. If you have a good one, they can recommend some dining experiences based on personal experience. Tell your travel agent about your family, dietary restrictions likes and dislikes. We will give you as much info as you need to make the best decision.
· Ask your travel agent for descriptions and sample menus of the dining locations you are interested in.
Consider the Park Hopper
· Your travel agent can give you info about park hours and crowd levels for each day of your vacation. Look at the info and try to anticipate where you might like to be on a certain day. But remember, things can change (especially if you like to be spontaneous on your vacation). So a park hopper can save the day when your plans change! You may find yourself at one park in the morning and another in the evening, but oh no!-your dining reservation is in a different park! If you have a park hopper just hop on over to the right place and enjoy your meal.
Plan Early and Be Flexible
· Advanced Dining Reservations can be made 180 days before check in. Do not wait till the last minute to decide what you want-plan ahead so you or your travel agent can make your reservations on the first day they are available.
· You may not always get the exact time you want for each restaurant. List some alternate times/locations for your travel agent in case your top choices are not available.
So, maybe you are still overwhelmed at all this info. Don’t worry! “Keep Calm and Call your Travel Agent!” That is why we are here. Thinking about these tips and what some of your preferences are will help your travel agent to help YOU have the best dining experiences for your family.
Do you need help planning your next Disney trip? Contact me today-I would love to help you.
“See Ya Real Soon!”