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Old 04-22-2010, 02:20 PM   #1
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From DLR to WDW and Back Again: My Challenge With WDW Dining Philosophy at DLR

Some Background

I am a DLR vet who has been influenced towards the WDW dining philosophy. I want to describe what this means for me on our upcoming visit to DLR...with the hope that it can help others - especially WDW vets - have a better, less frustrating visit to DLR.

It will come as no secret to most of you that DLR vets and WDW vets often have a different philosophy on dining at the resorts. This can be seen in many ways including the near paranoia WDW vets have when creating ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations) six months before their trips.

DLR does not use the term ADR. They simply call them "reservations". And DLR only takes them two months in advance. Even then, it is usually pretty easy to get a dining reservation at DLR a few weeks or even days before your visit.


In a nutshell and by way of generalization, WDW vets tend to make dining an integral part of their trip. In order to make ADRs six months out, they need to know which parks they will be at on those days. WDW provides park hours, entertainment and Extra Magic Hours (similar to MM at DL) six months in advance to support this.

I think WDW vets do this for a few reasons including:

o most WDW visitors are on vacation and need somewhere to eat

o WDW has lots of cool themed restaurants both inside the parks and at the various hotels

o WDW is larger and visits there tend to be longer - so WDW visitors tend to slow down a little more

o WDW has a couple cool dinner shows that do require reservations far in advance


DLR is different. DLR vets do not tend to see dining as integral to their experience but rather as a distraction away from the parks. They tend to want to eat in a hurry and/or save money by going outside the parks to non-Disney locations like Mimi's. They do not covet the immersive feel of dining within the Disney resort.

I think DLR vets do this for a few reasons including:

o DLR visitors are primarily locals, many on day trips

o When on a day trip your time is "of the essence" and one does not want to waste it dining (this makes counter service options more popular than table service at DLR - because it is faster)

o DLR has fewer creative dining options than WDW and is smaller


When we made our first visit to WDW in 2006 I had no idea that WDW vets placed so much emphasis on dining. I spent time online beforehand and took them at their word that I should make ADRs. And I did make perhaps six ADRs over a 10 day trip.

While on that first trip I gained a better understanding of why WDW vets pay more attention to dining and how it can become part of the trip. So on our second trip to WDW I made 15-20 ADRs over ten days. We took our time and enjoyed the dining options there. And I really came to appreciate how dining can be a part of the overall Disney visit and enhance it.

Our WDW dining philosophy now is:

o Do not sit down for breakfast - morning hours are precious and it is better to get to the parks early - so no ADRs for breakfast. We eat breakfast "on the go" with bagels and fruit. And then we have an early lunch by 11:30.

o Make ADRs for lunch and dinner. One is usually for a faster, lighter meal and one for a slower, heavier meal.


My Challenge

In past DLR trips I have made one or sometimes two reservations - usually for places like Blue Bayou and/or Rainforest Cafe. On our trip coming up this July we will have about four days and will be staying at the GCH for the first time. So like many WDW vets who come to DLR, I decided to bring the WDW dining philosophy to DLR and make a bunch of reservations.

Since we are three months out now I cannot actually make the reservations, but I have a list of 6-7 reservations I want to make. So I have a list and am trying to figure out which places on which days. After working on this here and there over the last week, I realized I am feeling pretty frustrated about it. And that made me realize something - something that I hope I can convey to multi-day visitors and WDW vets in particular.

Here is what I realized: The dining philosophy we and many others use at WDW does not work very well at DLR - and if you are not careful it can be more of a negative than a positive on your DLR visit.

Now why would I say that? Well, given that I feel frustrated it is helpful to try to get at why I feel frustrated. And the best answer I can come up with when I ask myself this is that DLR lends itself much more to a dynamic, non-planned visiting experience. Why do I think that? Here is why:

o Park hopping is easy - It takes one minute gate-to-gate on foot. So based on what is happening that day one might easily decide to park hop.

o Afternoon breaks are easy - if you have a nearby walking distance hotel and are visiting during high season (especially summer) then taking an afternoon break is so convenient and effective we do it every day. Further, if one takes afternoon breaks anyways - like we do - then one must pass out the park gates anyways and it is even more convenient to park hop - either on the way back to the hotel for the afternoon break or on the way back after the break.

o Park hours are staggered - DL opens at 8AM high season and 7AM on Magic Morning days, while DCA historically opens at 10AM and possibly 9AM this year after World of Color opens. Further DL stays open until midnight while DCA usually closes at 9PM or 10PM. This further encourages park hopping because it is so easy to head to DL after an evening at DCA. It also means that if you are tired from last night's midnight ride on Space Mtn you may decide, at the last minute, to skip DL the next morning and let the tired kids (and parents) sleep in a little - and start the morning at DCA at 10AM.

IMO the preceding realities do not lend themselves as well to making dining reservations. Dining reservations tie you down to specific locations at specific times. What if your afternoon break goes long after a long swim and nap and you cannot make it to that dining reservation at DCA? What if you hop to DCA and decide to stay there awhile and cannot get back to DL in time?


My Plan and Advice

After musing on this issue over the last week I have decided to do the following:

I will make the reservations like I originally planned (the WDW dining influence (spell?) I am now under). But, I will not stress about actually going to them. If I know we will not make the reservation when there I will cancel them on the spot. I will identify two or three reservations as more important ones to shoot for and try to make it to those. But I am not going to stress about it or pull my kids away from something otherwise fun at DLR in order to make it to the reservations. I will try and balance some fun dining opportunities (Big Thunder Ranch BBQ - never done it) with the more seats-of-the-pants approach (the DLR influence in me). In short, I will de-emphasize the WDW dining philosophy but still have it there in case it works out. With that conclusion I am now feeling much less frustrated.
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Old 04-22-2010, 02:49 PM   #2
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I love this. I can totally relate as we are also DLR vets who made our first pilgrimage to WDW in 2007 and the next in 2009. Dining is a huge factor when planning a WDW vacation. Great insights.
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Old 04-22-2010, 03:16 PM   #3
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I love this as well but I am a WDW Vet that is on the phone at 7am on the 180 day prior to our trip! I am having a very hard time not being able to this with our upcoming DL trip. I know I will end up making ADRS ... errr.... reservations for most of the places we want to eat at exactly the 60 day mark because that is in my trip planning! But I am also coming to realize that it may not be necessary. I guess I look at it like 'no harm, no foul' by doing it and it will give me some peace of mind.

From our many trips to WDW, we have learned that if you don't have an ADR, you often cannot eat at the popular places. Dining is a HUGE part of our WDW trips. Again, I am trying to relax a bit more this trip and not make it such a concern but it is a struggle!
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Old 04-22-2010, 03:24 PM   #4
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Nicely said!

As a DLR Veteran, and after going to WDW about 13 times in the past 12 years, I agree with what you are saying.

Dining (for us anyway) is not a big part of our DLR experience. We have AP and rarely go from opening to closing. We will either try to get there at opening and stay until early evening, or go later in the day and stay til closing. Where we are going to eat is never a big part of our day. If we are going later in the day we will typically drive thru Del Taco and grab something to eat on the road. That way we only have one meal, at the most, to do in the parks. If we are leaving around dinner time, we will hit Del Taco (on Katella) on the way home. (Can you tell we like the Del?)

The times when we do eat at a TS restaurant it's usually very last minute. I have been in line for GRR at about 11 a.m. and called Disney Dining to make a reservation for lunch that day. Only stipulation is you must call at least 1 hour before you want to eat. Even this short term ressie saves time. We are usually the first ones seated after we check in with other guest over heard saying "Why are they being seated already? They just got here" The answer, which I love hearing "They made reservations." Hah!

We mostly do CS when we eat at DLR. Our favs are:

White Water Snacks-GC
Pizza Port-TL
Jazz Express-DTD and
Plaza Inn-Main St.

When we go to WDW (on free DDP) I usually make an ADR for each day, just in case. But I know going in that we will not keep all the ones I make and will be cancelling/changing a few while there. This works well for us and we have never gone hungry! We don't spend every day of our WDW vacation in one of the main parks. I tend to make more resort and DTD ADRS (we always have a rental).

With very few exceptions, we don't do a sit-down breakfast. We grab something quick in the room and are on our way. On our last day we do a TS. On this day we don't go in the parks, just spend time at resorts and maybe DTD. Last Sept. we also did Breakfast at CP in MK on DD's 10th Birthday. It was a special occasion and I loved getting in the park early.
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Old 04-22-2010, 04:21 PM   #5
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Great post!

We will be going to DLR our first time the end of next month. Dining at WDW has been a HUGE part of our past trips. Planning around ADR's, park hours, parades, fireworks, etc. makes for some serious planning (if you choose to tour that way!).

I was astonished that reservations at DLR are made 60 days out, there is no confirmation number, and as of tomorrow, I will FINALLY have the park hours for the last day of our trip.

There has been nothing relaxing about our trips to WDW, but I have loved them. I am sure I will love our trip to DLR. I am looking forward to being able to park hop without having to make a plan on which park I'm going to and which will be the best way to get there. At WDW, that can be part of the experience also. We've arrived at different parks via bus, boat, monorail, and car.

In a sense, I feel unprepared for our trip to DLR. But, I have some reservations (Goofy's and Surf's Up breakfast), I know the majority of the schedule, I've poured over the menus and know where I want to eat, and I'm studying up on what rides are in what parks.

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Old 04-22-2010, 04:32 PM   #6
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I think the dining differences between DLR and WDW also extend to the dining plan at WDW, or lack thereof at DLR. In WDW if you buy the plan (or get it for free at times of the year), you are then obligating yourself to eat that many meals in the parks or at a resort. So reservations become a necessity if you are fighting thousands of others for a coveted Chef Mickey or Le Cellier reservation you've already paid in advance for.

At DLR with no meal plan (just the uniformly-panned vouchers), you can decide as you go how many meals to eat onsite, in DTD, or offsite within easy walking distance. Add in that a much larger percentage of the multi-day visitors stay offsite nearby (opening up the potential choices), and it drops the percentage of guests needing a table even more. I can't think of the last time I read about anyone not getting into a desired character meal at all during a multi-day DLR stay, but you hear it all the time on the WDW side of the boards.

I agree that this may be one of the things WDW vets find the most difficult about planning a trip to DLR.

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Old 04-22-2010, 06:45 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HydroGuy View Post
Some Background


Our WDW dining philosophy now is:

o Do not sit down for breakfast - morning hours are precious and it is better to get to the parks early - so no ADRs for breakfast. We eat breakfast "on the go" with bagels and fruit. And then we have an early lunch by 11:30.

o Make ADRs for lunch and dinner. One is usually for a faster, lighter meal and one for a slower, heavier meal.
As a WDW vet, all I can say is "BINGO!" This is exactly what we do at WDW - exactly! (Not sure if it's Hydroguy's similar philosophy or families of either 3 or 4 boys that create these patterns!!) So these are great thoughts as I contemplate our non-ADRs for DL this summer.

You have all helped us to understand DL dining better - thank you!! I'm going in with reasonable expectations, and I'll just have to look forward to our post-DL dinner at the Crab Cooker in Newport Beach (one of the best restaurants anywhere EVER!)
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Old 04-22-2010, 06:59 PM   #8
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One trip we made 5 reservations and we made it to them all. We did some careful planning of which park we'd be in on which day but they all worked. I loved that we had a time and a place picked.

Many times it turns into where do you want to eat? Then dh wants to eat somewhere where they dont offer kids meals my kids will eat and then it's hard to make everyone happy. Kids and/or dh are sullen and upset by the choice of restaurant so planning ahead keeps everyone happy.

Speaking of which, I need to get on my meal planning for June. I've got 1 ressie already but I need 1 or 2 more. The rest of the time we eat counter service or corndogs and Mickey pretzels with cheese.
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Old 04-22-2010, 07:03 PM   #9
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When we travel to WDW we have an ADR for every day of the trip, sometimes more than one. We'll be at the DLR for 7 nights and have 4 PS and it could easily go to 3.
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Old 04-23-2010, 03:24 PM   #10
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At DLR, the 2 restaurants in the parks that usually require reservations are Ariel's Grotto at DCA and Blue Bayou at Disneyland. I don't have detailed knowledge of Ariel's Grotto, but Blue Bayou usually needs to be booked a week in advance for the most popular dining hours (4:30 to 8:00), otherwise you can usually get something a day or two ahead of time. For large parties (more than 4) book early. Restaurants other than Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue don't have a lot of tables that seat more than 4, so they need advance warning.
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Old 04-23-2010, 04:01 PM   #11
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I agree with the never do sit down breakfasts! Unless you are at WDW and can throw away a morning.

I pretty much carry my DL dining habits with me when I go to WDW. I usually only make one reservation in advance. I really don't like sitting and waiting to eat overpriced food. Would rather be riding or doing something. I have not tried the dining plan.

Right now am saving my pennies and hoping for a WoC dessert package as we have dined at Blue Bayou already, and done Ariel's Princess lunch several times. Time for something new.

I agree: DL is much more flexible about planning where to be, because you can change your mind on the spot and in 5 minutes be somewhere else. Not so easy to do at WDW -- and I don't even pay for the hopper option any more since hopping is so time consuming.
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Old 04-23-2010, 05:49 PM   #12
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I am a WDW vet and my trip planning does largely revolve around my ADRs there. I did find it refreshing that when planning my DLR trip, I didn't really worry about that. Partly because there's nothing that calls out to me, and partly because we'll mainly focus on counter service, I only made one reservation for our 4 day trip. It is a breakfast, but I wanted one character meal and I'm not losing any park time as I'm taking advantage of the time difference and scheduling it early on our first day there. We'll be awake anyway. The rest we'll play it by ear and I'm not worried about it.

I'm also liking that for many of the DTD restaurants I was interested have counter service counterparts so we could get a taste of them without having to commit to the time of a full service meal.

I did find "trip planning" overall for DLR very easy. After I booked the hotel, that was pretty much it! My kids keep asking me "So what are we doing first?" because they're used to, "If it's Tuesday it's Epcot," or whatever our rigid WDW plans are. They can't fathom me saying, "Whatever we feel like."
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Old 04-23-2010, 07:38 PM   #13
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I agree that my WDW schedule revolves around evening shows (and night extra magic hours). Typically we make an early (4:30) dinner reservation in the park where we know we will spend the pm.It fuels us up to go all the rest of the night, plus we avoid crowds.
Besides that we mainly hit our fave CS at 11:30 am for brunch since we sleep in and are usually just hitting the parks!
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Old 04-23-2010, 07:49 PM   #14
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At WDW, with World Showcase and the resort hotels, its fun to pick a different special dinner each night and then plan the evening around it.

At DL, the Dobies tend to make reservations for dinner at the same places (Carnation Cafe, Cafe Orleans, Ariel's, and Storytellers) because we like to eat dinner after our afternoon break and then head to the parks, and because we like a nice, relaxed dinner. We are going to try the Big Thunder Barbeque this time!
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Old 04-23-2010, 08:09 PM   #15
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I'm a WDW vet who learned the hard way about dining. Our very first trip to WDW was 5 days over the 4th of July holiday. My extended family was of the belief that there's a bunch of restaurants, so you just walk up and they'll seat you. WRONG. And then, we had a few different rooms at different resorts. So while our family was there at rope drop, others were strolling in around 11, when we were starting to look for lunch. And being parks were at maximum capacity, even calling on the first night, our earliest times to eat dinner for the other 5 days was like 7-8 at night. To me, I like to eat at 5-6. This was horrible. And all the cool restaurants that sounded like fun we're all full. Yuck,

We usually go to WDW on the dreaded Thanksgiving weekend. To me, I may not have the holiday spirit move me, but for dinner, I think you need to have turkey/stuffing/etc. Well, we've done the research and always had a meal. But on the busses, monorail, etc, there will be people like we were on our first vacation-- no place to eat on Thanksgiving. At times, they'll put up little signs saying the sit down restaurants are full, so your only option is counter service.

We plan meals in hotels a good bit of the time. That way, no matter which park you're in, you can take their transportation back to go eat.

For our DL trip next month, we have a sit down meal every day. I guess we'll see how it turns out. And you're right- we hardly EVER sit down for breakfast. I've already filled my cart at Safeway dot com for grocery delivery....

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