Chapter 3: I need to make my Disney dining reservations . . . NOW?

Why do we need to make our dining reservations so far ahead of our trip? How are we supposed to know what we want eat four months from now?

That was our reaction to our travel agent’s recommendation to begin making advanced dining reservations as soon as we booked our trip. We found it difficult to believe that we needed to make these plans so far in advance. Our vacations usually required dinner reservations the day of, or maybe the day before, never months ahead. This is just a unique part of planning a Walt Disney vacation that can be challenging for some vacationers, many of whom, my wife and I included, do not want to over-plan their vacation. Where is the spontaneity and adventure in this type of planning?

We lived in denial for a few weeks after booking our vacation, thinking that we had plenty of time to figure out our dining plans. However, during that time, we did some research on the numerous dining experiences available throughout Disney World. We made a list of those restaurants that appealed to our taste for a fine dining and a unique theming experience. At the top of our list was Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom. Who does not want to dine with the beast and “try the gray stuff?” The images of the restaurant on the Disney website looked as though they were taken directly from the movie. We were also very interested in getting a reservation at the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort. It has an amazing view of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. If we timed our reservations well, we would be able to see the Wishes fireworks display.

On a whim, four months prior to our trip, we used My Disney Experience to check on the dining availability at Be Our Guest during the week of our vacation. Our travel agent had stressed this restaurant booked very quickly. We were shocked to find that there was only one reservation available for that entire week, and it was at 4:00 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. We booked it, and then quickly made all of our reservations at the other restaurants on our “must do” list. Crisis averted, but now our week would be planned around our ADRs.

We had included the standard dining plan in our vacation package, which gave us six table service credits. Besides our dinner plans for Be Our Guest, we decided on very different restaurants. We were able to get a 7:30 reservation at the California Grill, which would be our first fine dining experience at Disney World. This meal would ‘cost’ us two table service credits. We also booked an afternoon meal at the Sci-Fi Drive-in Diner in Hollywood Studios. My wife and I are science fiction fans (geeks) and the Sci-Fi not only shows clips from old B-movies on a huge drive-in movie screen while you eat your meal, as if you were sitting outside under the stars in a classic convertible. Two of our ADRs were for restaurants in the World Showcase; the Rose & Crown Pub because I am a fan of all things British, and, Tutto Italia Ristorante because of our love of “authentic Italian cooking.”

These are just some of the dining options that make me love going on a Disney vacation. Where else but at Disney World could you dine with a beast, enjoy fireworks over dessert, taste bangers and mash, speak Italian to your waiter, and watch old sci-fi movies?

So, where have you dined while at a Disney Resort? How did you make your choices? Do you find it difficult to plan your dining reservations so far in advance of your trip? Do you prefer using a dining plan, or do you budget separately for your meals?

In the next chapter of The Mature Mouse™ I’ll discuss our process in planning our park visits, as well as learning about and using FastPass+.

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6 thoughts on “Chapter 3: I need to make my Disney dining reservations . . . NOW?

  1. When we make ADRs, first thing I do is go to a crowd calendar either Easy Disney web site (free) or Touringplans.com (small subscription fee) and look at what parks have the lower crowd each day and make my plans of what park I’ll be in each day of our visit. Then I fill in dining, slotting the restaurants in according to when I’ll be in that park or near resort restaurant.

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    1. Sue M: This is great advice and I’ll talk about using Touringplans.com in my next post. Although I did not mention my research on the Touringplans.com site here, I did try to consider the best days for each park while making our ADRs. However, we were also a little late in booking the trip, so we did not have as much flexibility.

      Please keep the comments coming.
      David Brassard
      The Mature Mouse

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  2. We find easywdw a great website to help with all kinds of Disney planning issues. Since dining at table service restaurants including Fine and Signature dining is an important part of our day, we avidly are on the website making ADRs 180 days in advance. Each trip we try to eat at two to three new places. Our favorites include Narcoossee’s, Yachtsman’s Steakhouse, LeCellier, Captain’s Grille, Cape May but we have had great meals at just about every restaurant we have chosen at any if the parks or resorts. We read lots of reviews at easywdw.com, disboards.com, and the Disney food blog but always know for just about any restaurant you will have reviews that say it’s great and others say it’s terrible.

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    1. Rodney: I found the easywdw site after our return, and the DISboards were instrumental in getting my planning started. I look forward to trying those resturants your mentioned, especially LeCellier. Thank you for your comments.

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      1. So many great planning sites. Also all ears.net which has all WDW menus and loads of resort photos/video. And Passporter. Did someone mention touring plans too?

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