Six Christies

Make It Simple Mommy

Tag: #disneydiningplan (page 1 of 4)

As was rumored, the “Free Dining” promotion for travels in August – December 2017 has been released. This promotion is very limited and restricted to a handful of dates. If you are lucky enough to get one of these promotions, awesome! If you don’t, well perhaps it wasn’t meant to be – keep your eyes open for other promotions that may be released in the coming months; perhaps one of the others will be a better fit for your travel plans**. Regardless, if you are headed to Walt Disney World and plan to eat while you are at the resort, you will need a plan. The coveted castle dining reservation is like spotting an endangered species in just the right light of the day. Those who are well prepared snap an incredible photograph, and those who aren’t, scare the poor animal away while fumbling for the camera.

Golden brown and simply sweet. Mickey waffles do not disappoint.

The promotion released this morning offers the Quick Service Dining Plan for stays at Value and Moderate Resort Hotels and the “regular” Disney Dining Plan for stays at Deluxe Resort Hotels.  It is also worth mentioning that the dining plan has changed, and no longer includes desert with every meal, the offer is now 2 meals (either Quick Service or Full Service depending on your plan) and 2 snack credits per day.

There are a multitude of way to “do” Disney, but on the two extremes you have: 1. those who plan every moment of the day from attractions (order and timing), to dining, to resort downtime and 2. those who show up to “Disney World” (i.e. The Magic Kingdom), walk right up to Cinderella Castle, and expect to immediately be seated and dine with the princesses…with no advance planning…in July…over the 4th (if you are unfamiliar with the crowd calendars, this is one of the busiest times of the year).

The latter crowd tends to end up journeying right back down Main Street U.S.A., and into City Hall – (otherwise known as Guest Relations) demanding to know why they were blissfully unaware that the “castle” reservation is one of the most difficult to get, and absolutely must be made well in advance of your trip (read: 180 days ahead). This crowd generally has to step back, take a very deep breath, and change their entire vacation strategy – or get a strategy in the first place.

We fall somewhere in the middle of these two types.

180 days prior to the start of a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, guests can begin booking advance dining reservations (also known as ADR’s). We have just passed our 180 day window for our September trip, and I have painstakingly planned, and re-planned our days to fit the restaurants where we would like to dine. I will continue to tweak our plan right up until our trip, as our plans tend to change around based on what the kiddos would like to do. Please remember, all changes or cancellations need to be completed 24 hours before the reservation to avoid a “no-show” fee.

Planning Disney Dining is like a delicate dance, perfectly balanced between the right choices (character, casual, or fine dining to name a few), and right times (trust me, that 9 p.m. ADR might seem ok months away from your trip; in reality, you don’t want your toddler eating dinner at 9 pm cranky and tired) for your family, with whatever ADR’s are available. Obviously, the earlier you book, the better the availability of both times, and restaurants.

Our strategy is  pretty simple: lots of food options (buffet) and entertainment (because I like to eat rather than entertain/argue with my children at meal times). We largely book character buffet meals, and though you have to time your trips to the buffet just right, (in order to not miss the circulating characters) this kills two birds with one stone: the kiddos get autographs and pictures and your whole traveling party gets a full

Chef Mickey’s Breakfast

tummy and some down time. I’m not usually a huge buffet fan, but Disney makes it so easy, entertaining, and convenient.

So, how does your family “do” Disney dining? I’d love to hear about your favorite Walt Disney World Resort ADR’s.

*Let me caveat all of this by saying: yes, it is possible (but highly unlikely) to get lucky and totally rack up on last minute ADR’s.

** While Disney does tend to release many promotions throughout the year, planning on getting a discount or special deal is never a good idea – they are not guaranteed and often very limited. Booking your stay with the intention of adding a promotion later tends to lead to aggravation and disappointment.

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10 Walt Disney World Planning Tips for the Planner/Not Planner Personality Type

I have a confession. Our 180 day mark for our upcoming trip just hit and I cannot get into the planning vibe. I have crowd calendars, operating hours, and ideas floating around in my head, but I cannot seem to put it all together into a cohesive plan to set up our ADR’s (Disney planning slang for: Advance Dining Reservations). It’s not that I’m not excited, I’m chomping at the bit to get back to Walt Disney World, in fact, at the current moment it is well below what I would consider and acceptable temperature outside, I am freezing my toes off, and the thought of feeling the early fall summer heat of Florida is magnificent. So how do you plan when you are not a planner?

I classify myself as a planner/not planner. I make lists, update both a paper calendar AND a virtual calendar, and set goals I am just too willing to throw it all to the wind and have a pajama day.  I like schedules, but don’t like sticking to them – I would rather stop and small the roses. I don’t like to make decisions because all options seem to have positives. Even in the most black and white decisions I can find a grey area.  (If you are asking yourself how I have survived with this mentality, Hubs is a totally type A who keeps us all on task, and presents a solid argument as to why one choice is better than another.)

The first time I was planning an actual Walt Disney World Vacation for our family I was completely overwhelmed. Everything I read said I need to plan out each day of our trip, and not only did I need to plan, I needed to do it MONTHS in advance. It was all too much for my non-planning self. What was worse, is I was completely stressed to go to a place I had been hundreds of times before, and had been a Cast Member in a variety of roles. I know all four Disney Parks like the back of my hand, I can tell you the easiest way to get from point A to point B in my sleep. I couldn’t imagine how a non-planner who didn’t know the parks as well as I did would handle this task. With an overwhelming feeling of doom, I knew I had to get to a better place and mindset or we were doomed to have less of a vacation and more of a “stresscation”. So I took a break, our trip was booked and I had a little time to wrap my brain around what else needed to be planned. Fast forward a handful of years and trips later and planning/not planning Walt Disney World Resort vacations has become on of my favorite past times. I love to plan for my family as well as friends and acquaintances. I have said tis many times, and I stand by this statement: There is no right or wrong way to do Disney, there is only the way YOU do Disney.

In the not so distant past, a family could pick dates and show up at Walt Disney World without any sort of a plan. These families would pull the family station wagon  into a hotel parking lot, walk in get a room for a couple of days, then head to the park (or parks after 1982) buy tickets at the front and head in to enjoy the day. No plans, no advance dining reservations, no Fastpass+, and no Magic Bands. Be it good or bad, those days are gone, and you need to plan your visit. Even in the “off season” (otherwise known as Value Season) you need to know before you go.

10 Walt Disney World Trip Planning Tips for the Planner/Not Planner:

  1. Consider using a travel agent. Not just any agent, you are specifically looking for an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. This little stamp is super important, it means your travel agent has Disney experience AND education from the Disney company. You can play around on the website and come up with the trip you want, but leave it up to the pros to handle the booking. FYI: these folks should not charge you for their services, if a Travel Agent wants to charge you for their services, find someone else.
  2. Add the Park Hopper option to your tickets.
  3. Make your Advance Dining Reservations for breakfast. Many will argue that this is not a great value (especially if you are on the Disney Dining Plan) but it frees up your day for more leisurely touring.
  4. Try to build in days where theme parks are not planned. This allows you to explore the resorts, and Disney Springs. It also helps quell the feeling of vacation to do list.
  5. Go during the off/Value season. The crowds are smaller and it is easier to change plans.
  6. Install the My Disney Experience app on your phone and spend some time familiarizing yourself wit it prior to leaving. **A word of warning, don’t do this too far in advance, some updates have been known to change how the app functions and you will have to relearn the app.
  7. Pick your “must do” attractions and experiences before you go. There are TONS of YouTube videos and websites devoted to describing various experiences so you can get a good idea of what to expect. Keep in mind that just because your kiddo is tall enough, it doesn’t mean you SHOULD go on a particular attraction. You can lose a good bit of your day if you need to spend 30 or more minutes soothing your child because Tower of Terror has lived up to its name.
  8. Set up your Fastpass+ experiences to start with your #1 must do attraction in each park, try to arrange the other experiences as close to the first one as possible. If they are spread out keep your mind open to cancelling them day of and tweaking plans as needed. A lot of bloggers will recommend booking Fastpass+ later in the day when the parks are more crowded, but I have found the earlier times help keep us on task and get to the parks earlier.  This is especially important if you are not traveling with early morning/park opening/rope drop people.
  9. Avoid the mindset that A Walt Disney World vacation is a one time thing. Returning every year or every few years takes of the “must do everything” stress. Disney is always adding new attractions and experiences so if you plan a trip every few years, you are guaranteed to have new things to see and do.
  10. Don’t feel you need to have a bunch of 180 days out dining reservations, many Quick Service restaurants have awesome offerings and do not need to be booked ahead of time. This is especially true in the World Showcase at EPCOT

Finally, breathe. Go with the flow and relax. It’s ok, you are on vacation after all.

 

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