spreadsheets and suitcases

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Disney Pre-trip Report: food, glorious food

on March 24, 2015

As we approach the 180-day mark to our Disney trip, I’m madly revising and updating my park itinerary. Why is 180 days out important? Because Disney has decided that yes, you can decide 6 months ahead of time where and when you will want to eat while on vacation. This is not mandatory- you don’t have to make Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) so far ahead, but since you can, I do.

This little guy always makes me laugh.

This little guy always makes me laugh.

But this doesn’t involve simply sketching out a general plan for each park day, and leisurely deciding when you might want to stop for food.  No- I’m afraid that you have to put some real work into this ADR thing.  Also, you need to know that Advanced Dining Reservations are not true reservations- an empty table is not waiting for you at your ADR time.  ADR means that you will be seated next, when a table appropriate for your party opens up.  There are NO tables reserved for walk-up guests at all, so unless you feel like taking a chance and having to wait until all park guests with ADRs have been seated….make an ADR.  It’s easy, on the WDW website, or through the My Disney Experience app.  You must have an account to make ADRs, so get on it tout de suite if you have a trip coming up.  Let our food journey begin!

Served with a side of MAGIC.  And Disney bacon, of course.

Served with a side of MAGIC. And Disney bacon, of course.

  1. First, we decide how many park days we’re going to have during our trip.  This time, we’re getting 6-day Park Hopper tickets (meaning we are not limited to 1 Park per day, thank goodness, since there are 4 magical Parks at WDW).  So we have 6 days when we can eat some meals in the Parks, a few times when we eat in the Art of Animation food court, at other Disney resort hotels, and at Downtown Disney (in the process of being renamed Disney Springs), plus a day when we will have most of our meals at Universal Islands of Adventure Park/CityWalk (we’ll be strictly Quick Service over there).
  2. Next, we check out the list of Table Service (sit-down, “TS”) restaurants in each Park or Resort hotel.  You don’t need ADRs for Quick Service (walk-up) places, the kind that serve mostly fast food options.  We start making a list of what sounds good.  For this part, while I love the Internet, I much prefer to have a written list that I can refer to.  The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2015 and PassPorter’s Walt Disney World 2015 are perfect for this kind of thing.  The restaurant listings are organized by Park/Resort, and include a description of the kind of food you might expect, plus ratings.  Note: the PassPorter 2015 has not started shipping their pre-orders yet, but when you buy the physical Guide from the PassPorter website, you receive the entire Guide contents as an updateable/savable PDF file at the time of purchase.
  3. Now, narrow down the list.  I always have too many meals in relation to available vacation days, and it’s painful to cut any of them out, but we must be realistic.  Too many TS meals cuts down on Park time and sure puts a dent in the wallet.  This is a great time to make a MUST-DO list (for me, that means a favorite restaurant that I absolutely can’t skip, read: Boma), and MUST-TRY list (usually the hottest new place, hello Be Our Guest!), and an assortment of MAYBEs.
  4. You sort your restaurants, and it’s time to research menus.  I love perusing the Disney Food Blog and AllEars for full menus, and the previously mentioned guidebooks for info on the restaurant opening/closing times and average cost per entrée.  This might also be when you wade into the DISboards Disney Restaurants section- warning: this may be an overwhelming amount of information, as the forum members really get into the minutiae of Disney food and debate the merits of each meal, restaurant, snack, and adult beverage at the World.  There are even Dining Reports, complete with pictures of each and every morsel consumed.
  5. OK, we rescued you from the rabbit hole that is Disney Dining comparisons.  You are left with your A-Team of restaurants, which includes a nice mix of Park restaurants, Resort eateries, and times when you will be in a rush and grab yourself a Kid’s Breakfast Platter from the food court (what?  it’s almost the same amount of food as the adult plate, and usually $2 less.  You are perfectly entitled to the cash and calorie savings in a food court situation).
  6. It’s time for a big decision.  Disney Dining Plan, or not?  The Dining Plan is essentially a (mostly) prepaid dining package.  Official Full Explanation from the Head Cheese here.  Bit more user-friendly version here.  Finally, to find out the exact cost of the different plans, use this Dining Package Calculator.  If you’re still not sure whether it’s a good value for you, use this FANTASTIC Dining Calculator to have somebody else do the math.  But only after you’ve done at least a rough estimate on your own <a math geek always double-checks her work><stern teacher look>.  Basically I have been dividing my time between this step and step 7 over the last month.  No matter what permutation I look at, it just doesn’t save us any money to use a Disney Dining Plan on this trip.  I have used it in the past to great effect, but the plan price has gone up, plus we have another Disney Adult with teen DD now, so it doesn’t wind up making sense.  It is very convenient though, and it’s great to have all that taken care of before you even go on your trip.
  7. It’s almost the moment you’ve been waiting for!  Plan your ideal dining situation.  Dream big!  Character breakfast in Cinderella castle? Done!  Romantic dinner at Le Cellier? Check!  Grab a turkey leg on the way to the Great Movie Ride? As you wish!  <– Gasp! a Non-Disney reference!  Set up your dining preferences on your handy trip spreadsheet (remember that for a Disney trip, you’ll have your dining info on your Itinerary Tab– to see how the food break fits into your overall plan for the day, and on a separate Dining tab- where you make note of the dates/times/confirmation #s of all your ADRs.  Since we’re not doing the Dining Plan on this trip, I also have approximate costs for our TS choices in my Dining tab:
If you look closely, you'll see that some cells have comments- this is where I've noted that a restaurant gives a discount for having the Disney Visa card or some other detail I want to remember.

If you look closely, you’ll see that some cells have comments- this is where I’ve noted that a restaurant gives a discount for having the Disney Visa card or some other detail I want to remember.

8. Wait the torturous amount of time between when you have your ideal plan ready and the date you are allowed to book. Review this helpful step-by-step on how to make an ADR UPDATE: forgot to mention that Disney requires a Credit Card Guarantee for most TS ADRs- make sure you have a linked CC in My Disney Experience before starting to make ADRs.  If you don’t cancel by midnight the night before your ADR, or don’t show up for your ADR, they will charge the CC $10 per person.  You don’t have to ultimately pay for your meal with that card though, it’s just a guarantee. 

9. Ack, it’s still not your ADR date: the 180-day mark. Begin having nightmares of having to survive on the leftovers from Goofy’s Candy Company.  Sugar twitches optional.  <This is my life right now>

10. The night before your ADR date, poise yourself at the computer/smartphone on the Disney site or My Disney Experience app, ready to pounce the moment the clock hits 6:00am EST.  You are fueled with adrenaline, pixie dust, and borderline-legal substances.  YOU CAN DO THIS.

11. And…..go!  Make those ADRs!  Screenshot every confirmation screen!  Record the details in your Dining tab!  Guests staying at a Disney Resort may make ADRs for up to 10 days after the check-in date, so don’t stop until the website’s wheels fall off!  Make sure your ADRs are linked to your resort reservation on My Disney Experience!  Call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) starting at 7:00am EST if all else fails!

12. You are now ready to eat, drink, and snack around the World, trusty ADRs in hand/app/spreadsheet.  Mickey Bar, here I come!

mickey bar

One response to “Disney Pre-trip Report: food, glorious food

  1. gina says:

    I am so hungry now. Well planned, enjoy!


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