Reserving the Magic: Tips for Scheduling your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR’s)

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.

Morning People

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”.

Night Owls

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.

 

food!

 

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!”

Aleshia Sokoloski

1-800-670-4312 ext 139
Aleshia@travelwiththemagic.com
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Kidcot Fun Stops

KIDCOT FUNSTOP5

banks at kidcot fun stop UK

I will confess…I am a huge Epcot nerd. It’s my favorite theme park in Disney World! I work with clients planning their Disney vacations and I’m always surprised when someone says they don’t want to go to Epcot. What?! I sometimes hear “there’s not enough for my kids to do there”, “I remember being bored there when I went 25 years ago”, “isn’t that the educational park?”. Please say it isn’t so. Epcot is awesome! It is a theme park where there are so many things to do yet many guests walk right on by some of the best activities, in a hurry to get on a ride. Did you know in addition to some great rides, you can also taste beverages from around the World, create your own roller coaster and then ride it on a virtual simulator, play in jumping water fountains, conduct music with your hands, become a secret agent and go an interactive adventure, experience what it’s like to be in a hurricane, go on a piggy bank adventure, enjoy musical bands, I could go on and on. One of the activities my family enjoys doing is participating in Kidcot Fun Stops.

KIDCOT FUNSTOP3

KIDCOT FUNSTOP1

KIDCOT FUNSTOP2

Kidcot Fun Stops can be easy to overlook. They are simply a table that’s set up in each of the 11 showcased countries along Epcot’s World Showcase. The tables will have paper Duffy bear cutouts and sharpie markers. At each table children (or I suppose adults too if they want) can color in their Duffy bear cutout. While they are making their masterpieces, there are Cast Members located at each of the Kidcot Fun Stops from that particular country. The idea is to go from country to country and meet with different Cast Members who will tell you about their particular native land. Not only will your kids have fun doing a craft, they’ll get a free souvenir and they get to learn about each country. OK, so maybe Epcot is educational but it’s fun as well! Each Cast Member will stamp the Duffy paper cutout on a stick with that particular country’s stamp so you can collect them all. Kids will enjoy creating their works of art and you can get some downtime or perhaps even learn a thing or two yourself! Next time you’re in Epcot, slow down and give the Kidcot Fun Stops a try!

KIDCOT FUN STOP4

If you are thinking of traveling to Disney World, contact me at corby@travelwiththemagic.com. I’d love to help!

Why I love the Playgrounds at Disney World

Disney Playgrounds

We all know Disney has awesome rides, attractions and restaurants but did you know they also have some great playgrounds? I bet I know what you’re thinking…Why in the world would I want to pay money to go on a Disney vacation and have my kid play in a playground? I can do that at home, thank you very much. I completely understand and I’ll be honest, the playgrounds used to drive me nuts because I had to drag my children out of them kicking and screaming every single time. Well, I’ve since changed my ways and now I’ve come to embrace the playgrounds.

My 8 year old son particularly has A LOT of energy, as most young children do. I discovered while at the parks, most of the time, we were either walking to and from rides, standing in line or sitting down riding a ride. While this does allow movement (and certainly can be exhausting), my son thrives off running, jumping, sliding and spinning. I noticed whenever we would come across a playground, that’s where he would have the time of of his life. I’ve since learned to make time for active play with playgrounds (and swim time too). In case you aren’t sure where the playgrounds are located, here you go!

Playgrounds at the Resorts

You will find playgrounds at many of the Disney resorts. They are usually your standard playgrounds with swings, slides and tunnels. Some are more elaborate than others. A couple of our favorites are at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort and Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort. The kids can enjoy playing on the playgrounds which are located on the beaches of Bay Lake. If you time it right, you’ll also get a great view of the Electrical Water Pageant as it goes by each night. Disney’s Coronado Springs also has a pretty impressive playground near the Dig Site pool you won’t want to miss if staying there.

Honey I Shrunk the Kids

Playgrounds at the Parks

  • The Boneyard, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is amazing! A two story elaborate playground designed to look like a dinosaur dig site. It’s complete with slides, caves, an area to dig for “bones” and a water feature to cool off.
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure, located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is another elaborately themed, interactive playground which makes you feel like you’ve shrunk down to the size of a bug. You are surrounded by huge grass, ant tunnels, a sniffing dog and other oversized details you won’t want to miss. There are also a couple of water features you may want to hit (or dodge).
  •  Tom Sawyer Island, located at Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park. OK, so this one isn’t “technically” a playground like I’ve been discussing but it’s an island where kids are free to run around and burn some energy. It features caves, a barrel bridge, a rope bridge, mine, dirt paths and an old fort. Did I mention you’ll need to take a river raft to get to the island which is a unique experience in and of itself? Please note: Tom Sawyer Island is quite rugged and not wheelchair accessible.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Located at Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park. You’ll find this interactive playground inside the big top tent located at the Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction. Use the standby line and you will receive a pager upon arrival. Kids are then free to play in the air conditioned playground featuring a toddler play area, fun sound effects, flying nets and slides instead of standing in line (Best. Concept. Ever.). Your pager will let you know when it’s time to ride. If the kids are still having fun, you can stay and play and ride later.

Dumbo Playground

Seasonal Playgrounds

My personal favorite of the playgrounds are the ones you can find at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival each year. My kids LOVE these and I enjoy sitting on the “grass” taking in the beautiful atmosphere the festival brings each Spring.

Flower and Garden Festival Playground

Tips

  • Keep an eye on your child. It can be tricky so be prepared! If your child is older, you may be able to sit at the entrance if there is only one way in and out. Have them check in with you regularly. With younger children, parents may need to split up, one go with one child and another can keep an eye on the entrance. Be sure to set up a meeting place in case someone gets lost.
  • Make sure kids don’t get overheated! Florida weather can often be hot and humid which doesn’t usually go well with running around. I recommend bringing a mist fan and having a cold beverage near by.
  • Set time limits before entering a playground. This will help children not become over exhausted or over heated. It will also make it easier to get them out and on to other attractions if they know ahead of time they have X amount of time to play.
  • Bring a change of clothes. Some playgrounds have water features so kids may get wet.
  • Lots of little hands touch play equipment- bring sanitizer.

The Boneyard Playground

While I may prefer to ride leisurely on one of Disney’s rides, obviously my son prefers to be active. It took several vacations until I came to the conclusion…We are all different and it’s not just my vacation, it’s for the whole family. Each family member should be able to enjoy whatever it is that makes them happiest, even if it’s a playground. We used to have our fair share of arguments on vacation. We’d get to a park and my family (full of hard heads) would start fighting over what we wanted to do first, getting little accomplished in the process. Now we have conversations during our vacation planning about what is most important for each person to do for that particular trip before we even get in the car. Each person has a list and we make sure they get to scratch off their top picks so no one leaves unhappy. We all have to compromise at some point.

If you have an active child who enjoys getting lots of physical play, I would encourage you to take time out each day to allow them to get some energy out. They’ll be happy and you’ll get a kick out of watching them enjoy themselves.

If you are considering a trip to Disney World, feel free to contact me at corby@travelwiththemagic.com. I’d love to assist with your Disney vacation planning!