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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Choose Your Cruise: Disney Cruise Planning 101

Next year I am going on my very first cruise! My husband and I will set sail on the Disney Magic next May. It is over 300 days away and I’m already giddy with excitement.

In making our final decisions and preparing to book the cruise I realized the process of planning and booking a cruise is so different than any other vacation. I often have people tell me they are interested in a cruise but don’t really know where to start. So, I thought I would pass on some tips for those of you contemplating a Disney Cruise. This is not really a blog about the cruise itself…this is all about the initial stages of planning.

Title Pic
Below are some things to consider though the order is not important. You may already know WHERE you want to go and need help figuring out the rest. Or you may live within driving distance from one of the ports so you have already narrowed down the port. These are just things to consider and talk to your travel agent about as you begin the process of planning and booking your cruise.

Narrow Down your Dates.
This can be the hardest part. Ships do not sail every day. So, unlike planning a Disneyland or Disney World Vacation, you can’t just pick up and go whenever you decide. If you have specific days you can use for vacation-you may or may not find a cruise that fits exactly with your schedule. That is why planning ahead and staying flexible will work to your advantage. You will need to narrow down a time frame and let your travel agent know some times you would be able to go. Then you can look at the itineraries and sail dates and see what might fit into your schedule.

Choose the Number of Nights.
If you have never cruised before, you might want to start with a 4 or 5 night sailing. Disney Cruises can range from 3 nights all the way up to 14+ depending on where you are sailing. Think about how many vacation days you have to use and factor in the transportation to and from the port (driving or flying).

cruise wordle

Choose the Port of Departure.
For some people, the port is not as important as the itinerary. For some, the port is the first consideration. For example, my husband and I live in Montgomery, AL. We can easily drive to Port Canaveral, FL. So when we started looking at cruise options we only looked at cruises out of Port Canaveral so that we would not have to drive or fly somewhere and add on to the cost and the days we were away from home. In the future, we may consider the itinerary before the port. But for this first cruise, proximity ruled our decision.

Choose your Itinerary/Destination.
Once you have narrowed down your time frame and/or port you will have a number of options for your itinerary. I would recommend looking at the itinerary as well as the activities available at each port of call (your travel agent can help you with this info and questions about each). Don’t forget to also consider how many days you will be at sea. The days at sea can be very relaxing and fun and give you time to really enjoy the ship and the on board entertainment. Again, you may decide to start with your destination(s) in mind and build your decisions around that. Bahamian, Eastern and Western Caribbean, Alaskan, and European cruises are available as well as some special cruise itineraries throughout the year.

Choose your Ship.
This may not be much of an option if you have already narrowed down some of the other options. However, this is worth mentioning because Disney Cruise Line has 4 ships in its fleet and they do have some difference. The Magic and the Wonder are sister ships and while they are the oldest in the fleet … don’t let that fool you into thinking they are any less grand, exciting, and fun! In fact, this fall (2013) the Disney Magic is undergoing a major renovation…this is actually one of the reasons we decided to sail on the Disney Magic once we narrowed down our Port and dates. The Dream and Fantasy are sister ships and both have the famous AquaDuck water slide. Your travel agent can help you determine the best fit for you if you cannot decide on the ship for your cruise.
Dream

Choose your Stateroom Category.
This was a hard decision for us. Your stateroom decision is based on personal preference as well as your budget. Other considerations are your sensitivity to motion sickness, proximity to certain conveniences on the ship, and possibly the view. So be sure to write down any concerns you have about choosing your stateroom and communicate those with your travel agent. You can see online exactly where each stateroom is located and that can be very helpful in making your final decision on stateroom category. Talk to other people you know who have been on a cruise-including your travel agent. I found this very helpful in gathering the info I needed to make my decision. And if you know anyone who has been on a cruise, you probably know they are happy to talk about their experience!

Veranda

As you can see you will need to consider different factors than planning a Disney Parks vacation. You don’t have to decide on all of these right away, I just think it will help you when you begin the conversations if you know at least what you need to consider.

So… I hope this helps you in the initial stages of planning your Disney Cruise. Your travel agent can help you with any and all of these decisions so be sure to keep them in the loop. Your travel agent will probably ask about all of these choices I mentioned…If you haven’t decided yet-that is OK. That would be a good time to mention it to your travel agent and let them help you.

Are you considering a Disney Cruise and need help? I would love to help you plan the perfect vacation for your family. Contact me at Aleshia@travelwiththemagic.com or give me a call (toll free) at 1-800-670-4312 ext 139.