ADR’s — The Importance of Reservations

ADRs

ADR is a common Disney abbreviation used by the Disney online community. If you have started planning your Disney vacation for the first time and taken a look around the many blogs and forums you will find thousands of acronyms that will leave you scratching your head. All Ears has a great list that you may find helpful.

ADR = Advance Dining Reservations

In my opinion this is an essential part of every Disney vacation. It is not the first step but it is very high on the list, following length of stay selection and which park to visit on each day. Dining selection can actually happen before you even book your room.

We have our length of stay chosen and our Wilderness Lodge reservations are made. On Sunday our group of approximately 14 will be meeting to discuss our park choice and dining plans. One of the most debated topics when planning for a group is always where and what time to eat. My suggestion is to have everyone write down their “wish list” and then go about fulfilling at least one off of everyone’s list. This may sound difficult, but from my experience there will be many repeats. If you are new to the Disney vacation world, read up on the offerings and reviews. If you aren’t planning on buying a park hopper ticket, and even if you are, plan your meals according to which park you are visiting on that particular day.

There are two dates that every Disney vacation planner should abide by. 1st – the day you leave! But a very very close 2nd is at the 180 day mark. This is the day that you can make your ADRs. For us March 11th is the DAY. There are a couple things that dictate what makes this day so important.

  • The time of year. If it is the peak traveling season, ADR’s are going to be important. If you don’t have a reservation you will either not be able to dine at a table service restaurant or the wait time can be excruciating.
  • Is the free dining promotion being offered? If it is, ADR’s will be just as important in October as they would be in July. It is next to impossible to get a last minute reservation during free dining month. 
  • If you are traveling with a large group, making ADR’s on the 180th day out is crucial. Most of the table service restaurants are not set up to accommodate big groups. They will accommodate you, but you will need to work with them on the times you want to eat.
  • If you have a time of day that you would like to eat, then you should not wait to get your reservations set. If you want to eat dinner between 5:30 and 7:00 each night make sure you plan accordingly.
  • Finally, if you have a must have dining experience make sure you are prepared.

There are 2 very easy ways to book your ADR’s.

  • By phone 407-WDW-DINE: This is the old fashion way, and offers a personal touch. You will be able to speak to a human (although you could wait on hold for awhile) and they can help you navigate through the perils of ADRs with a professional touch. If you are booking for a large group (10+) I would suggest calling. They will be able to help book the reservations properly. 
  • disneyworld.com: I had my first ADR online experience last summer when we were planning our October 2012 trip. We had 7 people in our party. It was super easy and gave other time and place options if the one you picked was not available.

I will leave you with my “wish list” for this trip.

  • Cinderella’s Castle: Even though in my opinion is that this is not the best place for princesses my 3 year old already asking to go inside the castle.
  • San Angel Inn: I am obsessed with Mexican food, and I have never been here. If this does not make the cut for your group (as it probably won’t mine), we love the quick service located in the Mexico pavilion.
  • The Garden Grill: It has been years since I have eaten here, and I would like to try it out as a character meal.
  • Kona Cafe: I would love to try out the breakfast here. I have heard wonderful things.
  • Be Our Guest: I have heard mixed reviews, but I would like to eat in the newest Disney edition. My guess is we will probably do so as a quick service at lunch.

What is on your “wish list” for your next vacation?

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Our Biased Dining Opinions

Like any Disney fanatic, I have literally eaten my way around the World. I have also read countless of Disney’s best use of points, best ADR spots and best quick service posts. I am a huge fan of the Disney Food Blog and you can count on them for any detailed reviews. But today my list is simple; these are my favorite places to eat around the park.

Magic Kingdom

  • Liberty Tree Tavern: I love the down home quality of the meal. I like that it is served family style and I think hands down it is the best place for a Table Service meal in the Magic Kingdom.
  • Columbia Harbor House: The shrimp basket at Columbia Harbor House is amazing. It is such a nice change of pace from the Pecos Bill’s of the World.

Epcot

There are so many wonderful places to eat in Epcot that it is really hard to choose. We try to eat at 2 different Epcot restaurants every time we go down.

  • Akershus Royal Hall: The food here is absolutely amazing. The apps bar is a great addition and did I mention that they have PRINCESSES!
  • Cantina de San Angel’s: I am a sucker for Mexican food, and this counter service spot also offers a great view of World Showcase Lagoon. The Churros are the best snack ever!
From the patio of Cantina de San Angel's

From the patio of
Cantina de San Angel’s

Hollywood Studios

  • Sci-Fi Dine In: I love this place. The ambiance, the milk shakes, the food! Everything about the Sci-Fi is good. It is a shame it is not on the Fantasmic package, but I think this is a must dine.
Our "table" at the Sci-Fi Dine In

Our “table” at the Sci-Fi Dine In

  • I actually don’t have a favorite counter service in Hollywood Studios. And I will go as far as to say that I have had a couple rough experiences in the last 3 years at this park when it comes to counter service. Do you have a favorite?

Animal Kingdom

  • Tusker House: We really enjoy the breakfast buffet, Donald’s Safari, at Tusker House. The options are countless on the buffet and the Jungle Juice is a special treat.
  • Flame Tree Barbeque: We love the options that this counter service has. It’s a great place to split a meal, if you are not that hungry. The Ribs & Chicken Combo is our favorite.

Resort Dining

  • Hoop Dee Doo Revue: If I was to only eat in one more Disney restaurant it would be this one. While the show has not changed since I can remember, I still get a kick out of it. I never fail to leave here full and happy. Save room for the Strawberry Shortcake, it is best thing of the night.
This dinner is so interactive. It is always a good time.

This dinner is so interactive. It is always a good time.

  • California Grill: I can’t wait for the rehab to be done on this iconic spot. The dining is amazing and the view cannot be duplicated anywhere else. If you are up to the cost, or the 2 dining credits and want a beautiful meal, this is where I would choose.
Part of our group at the California Grill in 2011.

Part of our group at the California Grill in 2011.

As I said, this is just my personal favorites. We do not go to every one of them each time we travel to Disney. However, inevitably we have one or two staples on the list. Are there must do’s on your list every time you visit? Do you feel I missed the mark on some of my favorites?

If you have suggestions on what ADRs we should make for our trip in September leave a comment below.

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The Best Place for Princesses

As a mother of a 3 year old little girl, a Princess meal is something that is a must do every time we go to Disney. I am a huge fan of any character meal for a couple reasons. First, it allows us to meet the characters and get autographs without waiting in long lines. Second, it makes the meal fun for the kiddo, she is a happy camper and not complaining about sitting down for a meal. And third, in my experience the food is usually very good.

There are two restaurants on Disney property where little princesses and knights can meet royalty; they are Cinderella’s Royal Table and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. We visited Akershus in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion for the first time this trip. We loved it!

Cinderella’s Royal Table

Meals Served: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Type of Cuisine: American

Price Point: $36-$60

Dining Plan Points: 2 Table Service Points

Must Haves: Stuffed French toast, Prime Rib, kids’ Royal Crown sundae,  Blueberry Buckle

Overall Experience: Cinderella’s Table is the quintessential Disney dining experience. Who doesn’t want to eat in the Cinderella’s castle?  A picture of your party and Cinderella is included in the meal. The food is good; however your 2 points are paying for the experience not the quality of food.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Meals Served: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Type of Cuisine: Appetizer Buffet & Norwegian inspired food

Price Point: $36-$60

Dining Plan Points: 1 Table Service Point

Must Haves: traditional Rice Cream dessert, traditional Norwegian koldtbord buffet (selection of prepared salads, sliced meats and cheeses), smoked fish

Overall Experience: I have read that this is a real hidden gem, and I totally agree. Although you are not in Cinderella’s castle, you feel like you are stepping in to dine with royalty. A photo with Belle is included with dinner. The appetizer bar (koldtbord buffet) is to die for. If you have someone that must see a princess, this is the place to be. But if you want a great meal for one dining credit, this fits the bill.

If you are using the dining plan to pay for your meals, the choice is obvious. Akershus is hands down the winner, with better food, more princesses and only one dining credit there isn’t even a contest. However, if dining in the Magic Kingdom iconic castle is a must, I would suggest is going at breakfast and paying cash. The menu is very good and the prices are much more reasonable. I would NOT use two dining credits at the castle ever. It is not a good investment of your table service credits.  That being said if you aren’t stuck on the castle experience, head over to Akershus. Don’t be scared of the Norwegian inspired food, there is stuff on the menu for everyone. If you have a picky eater, go for breakfast OR take a look at the kids menu, they will make an adult size portion. Check out this hidden gem, you will be happy you do.

PS: If you don’t know how to pronounce Akershus, don’t worry we don’t either!

Can DDP Save You Money?

Can You Save Money on the Dining Plan?

The Disney dining plan (DDP) is a great way to save money. However, in order to save money the plan must be implemented properly. Disney banks on people not using all of their points, and thus reaps greater profits.  The last blog post detailed the three different options for the dining plan. In this blog I will break down the price and savings potential of the dining plans. To start, the price of the dining plans are as follows: the quick service plan is $34.99 for adults 10 and older and $11.99 for children 3-9; the standard dining plan is $45.99 adults 10 and over and $11.99 for children 3-9; and the deluxe dining plan is $78.99 for adults 10 and over and $21.99 for children 3-9. All prices are per person per night and none of the plans include gratuity.** All of the points that you get for purchasing the dining plan are placed into your account upon check in and do not expire until 11:59 pm on the day you check out. Meaning if you are staying for seven nights you will have seven snacks, seven quick service meals, and seven table service meals, available immediately. There is no rule stating how you must use your points. If you chose you can use three table services on the first day, and then use three quick services on the following day and then the third day use none. The beauty of the plans is that they are flexible and can be used however and whenver you like.

Standard Dinning Plan

This is by far the most popular plan offered. For every Quick Service point you will be able to pick one entree, one side, one dessert, and one drink; also for every Table Service point you will be able to pick one entree, one side, one dessert, and one drink. The best way to show the potential the plan has is to give you an example detailing the math.

Let’s say you are spending the day at the Animal Kingdom.  You decide that you want to eat a Pizzafari for lunch. You pick the pepperoni pizza served with a side Caesar salad priced at $8.69; you also choose the bottled water at $2.50. For dessert you go with the chocolate mousse priced at $3.59. During the long day at the park you decide that you want use your snack to get an additional bottled water for $2.50. For dinner you make your way back to your hotel, the Wilderness Lodge, to eat at the Whispering Canyon Cafe.  You then decide to go for the Canyon Skillet (an all you can eat master piece, in my humble opinion) priced at $26.99 and to drink you decide to partake in the delightful bottomless milkshake for $5.99. For dessert you go with the S’mores cheesecake priced at $6.99. Now to total out the day you get $57.99 plus 6.5% tax gives you a grand total of $61.71. That gives you a savings of $15.72 per day per person. Two adults could potentially save $220.00 on a seven night vacation. Not a bad deal!

**Something new that is coming to the Standard Dining Plan is refillable mugs! As for the quick service dining plan it does not offer much in the way of money saving opportunities. The only real reason to get it is if you are the type of person that wants to prepay for everything. It did not fair well last season thus Disney is making changes to the plan for 2012. Read all about the changes here http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2011/06/13/2012-disney-dining-plan-changes/.

Deluxe Dining Plan

With the deluxe dining plan you also get an appetizer with lunch and dinner. You start your day at the contemporary resort with a buffet character breakfast at Chef Mickey’s priced at $26.62. You then make your way to the Magic Kingdom, when you arrive you grab a bottle of water at a street stand for $2.50. At lunch you decide to go to Liberty Tree Tavern. For appetizer you get the New England clam chowder for $6.99 you also get a soda for $2.00. For an entree you get the William Penn Chicken Pasta for $15.99 and the Caramel Apple Tart for $6.49 for dessert. You then park hop over to Epcot where you stop by the Germany pavilion and get the Peanut Butter Caramel Crunch Cookie for $4.00. To finish out the day you go to the Coral Reef.  There you get the Steamed Mussels for appetizer priced at $11.99. Then for dinner you get the Herb Crusted Halibut for $27.99 and then the Butterscotch Crème Brule for $7.99.  You wash it all down with a soda for $2.00.  Now if you can even move after eating that much in one day we find that this totals up to $114.56 plus 6.5% tax gives you a grand total $122.00. This gives us a grand total of $43.00 saved per adult per day or $602.00 for two adults for 7 nights.  As you can imagine eating this much takes a lot of time and for most of us it is not easy to eat this much in one day. I strongly recommend against this plan for your first time at Disney, you hardly have time to see all of the parks without spending half of you day in a restaurant.  

Clearly there are significant saving to be had when purchasing and using the DDP. When it is a free promotion the savings are huge! Here are the dates for the promotion in 2011 http://www.onlywdworld.com/2010/08/disney-vacation-package-free-dining.html. This has been something they have been running fairly regularly. It could be worth the package for the dining savings alont.

**Pricing will be changing shortly. They are also detailed on the Disney Food Blog post.

Dining 101

Dining 101

Disney has probably the widest variety of dining options in one location. Looking at all of their options can be a bit overwhelming. Not only do you have quick service and snack locations, but you also have table service, traditional buffet, family style buffet, and character meals. You also have signature restaurants vs. standard restaurants. To make matters more complicated you can make your advanced dining reservation, or as they are commonly called ADRs, up to 180 days prior to the date requested. This means that in order to guarantee your dining experience of choice you need to think ahead. If you are staying on Disney property you can make your ADR’s all at one time exactly 180 days prior to your arrival date (with a maximum of 10 days before your dining reservation date). However, if you are trying to make an ADR for an extremely popular restaurant, for example Cindarella’s Royal Table, and if they tell you that there is no availability call back on the actual 180 day mark because not all of the tables are allowed to be filled with the 180 + 10 days perk.   

Disney has implemented the Dining Plan (DDP) for all guests staying on property. There are options that allow for a personalized experience for all types of Disney visitors.  There are 3 dinning plans, that can suite different price ranges.

**Be aware that prices do not include gratuity.

  1. Quick Service Dining Plan: This plan is the cheapest and includes 2 quick-service meals and 2 snacks per person per night of your stay. You’ll also receive a mug you can refill with the beverage of your choice, as often as you like at any quick-service restaurant at your Disney Resort hotel.  
  2. Standard Dining Plan: This plan is the most popular and includes one Quick-Service Meal, one Snack, and one Table-Service Meal per person, per night of your stay.  
  3. Deluxe Dining Plan: Being the most expensive it includes three Meals and two Snacks per person, per night of your stay. The three meals in the deluxe dinning package can be used at quick service or table service locations.  

A future blog will go over the math involved with saving money on the dinning plan.

I cannot stress the importance of advanced dinning reservations (ADRs).  If you want to be able to enjoy the better restaurants at prime meal times you MUST have ADRs. If you are traveling during the summer or around the holidays you will need to be on the phone at exactly 7:00 am 180 days out if there is a restaurant experience you cannot live without.

In our family it is always fun to make the dining decisions. There are places that are musts on everyone’s list. You can never please everyone but planning and deciding is half the fun. So browse your options, read reviews and plan ahead. When Disney implemented the dining plan, ADR’s quickly became a must have, so do not be left with quick service or a 9pm dinner reservation as your only option if you purchased the Standard Plan. As a quick side note, there are specials running for this summer and into the fall with a free dining plan option. Keep your eyes peeled for these promos. It is a great way to save a bundle of money!