How do you all plan 4 months ahead? Its drivin me nuts!

Discussion in 'Disney Restaurants' started by GoofyLo, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. GoofyLo

    GoofyLo Mouseketeer DVC Gold

    Dec 29, 2002
    I have to say - I really miss the days of planning when we were going to Disney ahead of time and then just going. I didn't have to decide 4-6 months ahead of time where we were going to eat. We made a list of our "must dos" and "would like to dos". After getting tonDisney we would check in and sit down with a times guide and map of the next day's chosen park. I would use a sharpie to write times on the map, circle the spots we wanted to hit, and decide where and about when we wanted to have dinner. I'd call and make reservations. Most of the time we would get our first choice, but occasionally would get our second. We go to the parks every other day and would sit down and do this each night before a park. I guess those days are long gone...
    How do you plan 4 months ahead of time and don't feel like your life revolves around a dinner reservation after you get there? I'm traveling with a 4 yr old and 10 month old. We have naps to take into consideration here. ;)
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  3. ses1230

    ses1230 DIS Veteran

    Aug 10, 2006
    I actually plan for 180 days out, that is when you can make ADRs. I look at the park schedule and Touring Plans and/or to plan park days first, then I pick what restaurants we would like to go to. We are RD people since the kids are up early anyway, so we either do TS for pre park opening or dinner.
  4. bennifer

    bennifer Mouseketeer

    Jan 20, 2013
    We make ADRs at 180 days and buy park hoppers. It's perfect for the young children because the monorail or the buses are a "ride" for them! It's also good for teens because they generally like to eat at different places if they can make a decision or two.
  5. goherdibg

    goherdibg Earning My Ears

    Sep 23, 2011
    This is exactly what we do and it really irks me. During our last trip in Dec 2011, I had everything planned out using published park hours and park recommendations using a combination of easywdw, TGM, and Touring Plans. Everything was pretty much set at the 180 day mark. Then it started happening....

    Park hours changed.....
    Park recommendations changed.....
    MVMCP dates came out......

    In some cases I had an ADR in a park with short hours or in a park that was "to be avoided in the evening".

    While it didn't ruin our trip by any means, it did frustrate me when my plans went awry.
  6. DEA

    DEA DIS Veteran

    Apr 17, 2009
    Well... our plans do tend to revolve around meals. Our first night has become a Chef Mickey's dinner (somewhat to my chagrin, but, hey, the kids love it), and then MK for some fireworks after dinner. Our first full day starts with a Princess Storybook Breakfast at Akershus, by tradition, and the day continues at Epcot. We work in the other parks to get a good mix of activities, and work out the meals based on the plan for park visits. We also have many dinners outside of the parks, so they are somewhat divorced from our park touring plans, although dinner at, say, Flying Fish, usually works better on an Epcot or DHS day. It's worked pretty well for us. We have made some changes, cancelled ADRs, and even managed to add some at the last minute. So, your method could work, certainly. It's just those specific restaurant/specific time combinations that I like to have pinned down pretty far in advance.

    The other side of this was arriving, on our first trip, and trying to get a sit-down dinner in MK without an ADR. Not a fun way to start, and although CS options abound, they seemed, at the time, to be less magical. It's less stressful to me when I know that we can have the dining experiences we want when we want them. Less stressed dad=happier vacation.
  7. GaBelle

    GaBelle DIS Veteran

    Jan 9, 2013
    I assuming here, but I would think with small kids, they are on some type of eating schedule, yes?
    So, work around that. Of course, there are CS restaurants available. You can opt to eat at one of those on a day(s) when you just don;t feel like being married to a ressie.
    ANd depending on time of year and size of your dining party, you may be able to get a ressie the night before at a resort restaurant such as Kona, the Wave or GF Cafe.
  8. Kristibo42

    Kristibo42 DIS Veteran

    Mar 28, 2005
    We are planning for our trip in Dec 2013. Ten months out. We know what days and were we want to eat. We have a great TA but can't say on the forum who it is.
  9. hooch11bear

    hooch11bear Mouseketeer

    Jan 17, 2008
    That's part of the fun for us. We love looking at all of the menus and picking where we would like to eat. The first thing I would suggest is to figure out when you would be leaving the parks for naps and plan your dining times around that. You would also want to pick the restaurants according to where you will be visiting that day. So if you are at MK for the day, plan on eating in the park or at a monorail resort close by. You don't want to spend a lot of time traveling between parks to eat unless you have Hoppers and plan on spending the evening in a different location. You can check out the menus on They update them pretty often on there too. Hopefully the planning isn't too stressful for you.
  10. JimmyV

    JimmyV Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas.

    Jun 4, 2008
    We do the reverse. I wouldn't go to DHS on a crowd level "10" day, just because that is the only day that I could get an ADR at 50's Prime Time. We use park hours and crowd prediction sites to make a rough guess as to what park we will go to each day, and then make ADRs 180 days out to fit that plan. If park hours change and crowd predictions change so much that we feel the need to adjust, then we try to make new ADRs if need be. We also always build in at least one non-park day during our trip to relax, hit the pool, resort hop, etc. If there are any restaurants that we feel we absolutely must go to, we schedule them for our arrival day and non-park day(s) as those never change. With this strategy, I can't think of a single trip where we got shut out of a "must do" reservation.
  11. jhryb

    jhryb DIS Veteran

    Jan 13, 2007
    I find it exciting to have everything pre-planned and to talk about the plans as a family. This gives us so much pleasure. I try to incorporate the suggestions from my DH and Kids. I do agree that it is frustrating when park hours change but everything seems to work out.
  12. OKW Lover

    OKW Lover Retired and living 2 miles from The Castle. DIS Lifetime Sponsor

    Apr 29, 2004
    Not sure where the four month timeframe came from.

    To answer the question though, some of us plan further ahead than that. Some of us only plan a few days in advance, or not at all.

    How people do that is simple. They sit down with a calendar and some knowledge of the time they spend in the parks. Decide which day(s) to hit each park and then make ADR's (and in the future FastPass+) at places in the parks. :surfweb:
  13. derricksonb

    derricksonb Mouseketeer

    Aug 17, 2010
    Like DEA our family has their traditional first night meal, which in our case we always book Cape May for Sunday dinner. I'm usually the one in our family who plans the vacations to WDW, which because of my attention to detail, overwhelming necessity to schedule the maximum time possible in the parks and borderline obsessive-compulsive need maximize value on the cost of the DDP usually means I do most of the planning on my own.... LOL!!!

    Like the others I plan ADRs 180 days out. Since we usually go to WDW for 5 nights (Sun-Thu) we try to have 6-7 options in case our first choice restaurants are not available. We usually know the park schedules (EMH's generally don't change too much from year to year) and on what days we plan to be in each park or taking a non-park day (usually Tue and Thur- with a special event like MNSSHP or MVMCP scheduled that evening) so we try to schedule our TS dining options around those variables.

    For our next trip DW and the kids have decided to avoid the parks altogether and use the Water Parks & More Options on our non-expiring Park Hoppers so all of our dining options will be at the resorts and DTD which narrows our options down considerably. This still has not stopped me from creating a MS Excel spreadsheet listing the best value meals/restaurants for CS, 1-TS and snacks and a MS Project schedule of our vacation....... with dependencies. :sad2:
  14. danceintherain

    danceintherain DIS Veteran

    Oct 2, 2007
    I really don't see how planning 4 months in advance is any different than planning a day in advance (other than actually getting reservations in advance). I have enough knowledge of our habits that I can reasonably expect to make it to a 6pm ADR.

    I can reasonably expect DS to be ready for his nap around noon. If we're out and about, he'll probably hold out a little longer, so I imagine he'll easily go down for a nap around 1pm. He tends to sleep 2-3 hours, so it will be around 4 when he wakes up, which will give us plenty of time to get to a park.

    If he doesn't sleep, or falls asleep in his stroller earlier, then we'll adjust. DH is the one that insists on a daily break anyways, so we'll still go back, and we can alternate resting and taking care of DS.

    I can still make adjustments as necessary during my trip. So if DS gets super cranky at 7pm every night early in the trip, I'll know to cancel the 9pm Be Our Guest ADR towards the end at least by the night before.
  15. GillianP1301

    GillianP1301 DIS Veteran

    Jun 22, 2012
    If you don't enjoy a lot of pre-planning and it stresses you out, then you don't have to do it and you will still have a very enjoyable vacation. OP, you can still take your old approach and "wing it" and have an idea of what you really want to see and make decisions the day of and everything else, including your dining. With the exception of a few of the really hard to get ADRs (i.e. BOG, Cellier), you'll be able to get a reservation same day for your dinners, if you want to do a TS.

    Personally, I really enjoy all the planning and figuring out itineraries and where/what I think is best for each day. It's what helps me get through the waiting period until my next vacation. That being said, I also have no issue what so ever in dropping my plan once I'm actually on vacation and if that ADR I made 6 months ago is no longer appealing to me that day, I just cancel and/or change it. The only caveat is the ADRs requiring either pre-payment or CC guarantee, those ones I know I have to finalize a day or two before. But honestly, even if I did miss a CC guarantee meal because we changed our mind last minute, the $10pp charge is a risk I'm okay with taking.
  16. gtpoohbear

    gtpoohbear DIS Veteran

    Apr 15, 2008
    LOL, I don't know how anyone could wait until they get there to make plans, I would be an absolute nervous wreck :goodvibes I like knowing everything is set long before we ever get on the plane. If I had to be making these decisions and arrangements once I was there, I would feel like I was wasting valuable vacation time.

    In some ways, I guess you could say our day revolves around ADRs (we do the DxDDP, w/ 2-3 TS each day), but it's more like our ADRs revolve around our park plans. I design our touring plans so that we always end up at the place we have an ADR at about the right time anyway, without going out of our way much if any.

    We eat at pretty predictable times at home, and I schedule our ADRs for those same times. So after a few hours of hard touring in the parks, and about the time we are getting hungry anyway, we look up and realize, "Oh, here we are at Crystal Palace, and our ADR is in 10 minutes." It may not always be THAT perfect, but that's what I go for anyway. And more often than not, it works out just fine. it takes the stress away knowing that everything is already taken care of.
  17. Ladcassidy

    Ladcassidy Mouseketeer

    Oct 16, 2012
    We planned our ADRs three months in advance, because we decided in November to take a February trip. I made the "must do" reservations then -- including breakfast at CRT on DD's 5th birthday. Everything else I made and changed over time. While we were on our trip last week, I canceled several ADRs the night before they were scheduled, and added different ones on the fly. As said above, even paying the cancellation fee for a last-minute change would not be the end of the world.
  18. LVSWL

    LVSWL <font color=teal>I may have to rethink whether or

    Mar 17, 2005
    All the planning is my favorite part :lmao:
    and YES..I'm a Disney nerd :rolleyes:
    Once we have our dates it's off to Touring Plans for me to see which parks are recommended. Then it's just a matter of plugging in our favorite restaurants based on where we will be. For instance, an Animal Kingdom day is a great day to do dinner at one of the resorts or Downtown Disney because the park closes fairly early. We just go back, get cleaned up if we need to and go have a relaxing meal, maybe take in late hours in a park after if we feel up to it. A Magic Kingdom day is a great day to hop the monorail for a mid-day lunch at Grand Floridian or the Contemporary. Enjoy! You will have a great time!
  19. ars0525

    ars0525 DIS Veteran

    Mar 2, 2011
    I don't have kids, but we still take nap breaks. ;)

    I only make an ADR if there is a must-do or some place we really want or for something special. Other than that we are happy to eat at CS places or just try a walk up at TS places at off times & see what is open. It works with our touring style & we aren't picky. Don't get me wrong--I like to plan! But planning meals at certain times each day is too much for my mom & she draws the line.

    I will say this last trip as a surprise for my parent's I had a lunch ADR at LTT. It really was a pain trying to keep them on that side of the park as the ADR approached & then trying to not get in lines where we would miss it. I finally gave up & said "here's your birthday surprise...we are eating there (pointing at LTT) in 30 minutes so quit whining, quit trying to eat snacks & quit trying to go in a complete opposite direction". Daughter of the year I am not. :sad2:

    For us at least dinner ADRs are easier to plan around than lunch. We like to tour around the park & trying to be at a certain place at a certain time for lunch was harder than going somewhere for dinner.

    SHOREDAD Mouseketeer

    Mar 4, 2010
    On our first family trip our two youngest were under 3. our oldest was 8. We went over Easter Break. THe youngest was just a year. We did not plan the park we were going to based on crowd calendars. I did not know they existed. We did make ADR's due to the fact that we bought the Dining Plan and the travel agent at AAA told us the date we needed to call and make reservations. It wasn't that difficult. We just looked at the restaurants online and looked at the menu for each online on the WDW website. I picked 2 to 3 for each day and hoped for the best. Pretty much got 1st and 2nd choices. Again we did not know there was so much other information out there. So in a sense we had a "plan" We knew what park we were going to each day because we based it on the ADR. That was it however. We did not know whether it was a "park to avoid" and such. We would sit in the room the night before with a pen and paper and the map and talk about the rides we would like to get on the next day. I have to say it was "much" less stressful and confusing then being "in the know" about how to plan around the crowds.:rotfl2:

    ON our second trip about a year later, we went in August during the 3rd and 4th weeks, I discovered DIS boards had a lot more information and advice then I initially realized, and then the stress and confusion began.:scratchin I found myself trying to plan just about every minute of the trip. I was knitpicking every single detail about the trip and spending way too much time on DISboards. It got me stressed out. I was actually nervous on the flight down as I read over my "plans" in my phone and on the sheets of paper I had printied out for each day. Now the time we went was not supposed to be a highly crowded time and it certainly wasn't compared to the first time we went. My plans started off great however went downhill as the vacation went on. Having to have ADR's due to the dining plan wasn't good for our family. We realized that our kids and how much they could handle dictated how the day would go not the "plan" or the ADR's. So having an ADR in a park at a certain time was a little bit difficult when our kids were worn out and needed a longer break at the pool or in the room.

    We are going again in August this year and we are staying 10 nights. We have 3 ADR's the entire trip at places we really enjoyed the first two times. THe rest of the time we will wing it with food. NO dining plan. As for parks and when to visit, we ARE using the crowd calendars and we are using the advice of people on this board, because it is awesome. We will also use the touring plans. So we will have a plan for which days we visit each park for the first 5 days. The rest of the days we are going to pick out of the ones that are not "parks to avoid" and then get a touring plan for it. DW and I have decided to give this a try. If it doesn't work then we will go back to super planning for next trip.

    I guess the point of my long post is you have to do what is best for you. I think as long as you have a "plan" whether it be a minute-by-minute or even just day to day, you are ahead of others. I feel a lot less stressed this time about our trip. I find myself starting to feel like I should plan more, but I resist and breathe. I hope I make it to AUgust without trying to plan more.

  21. mggeary

    mggeary DIS Veteran

    Aug 28, 2011
    FP+ will make for even more planning. Planners will love it, others hate it. Seems to require us at the 60 day mark to pretty much know roughtly what part of the park we will be in for the time periods of our FP+s. We usually plan out are early morning rides and after that just follow general strategy without a touring plan. I can imagine FP+ making it very difficult for a large group that is diverse in age and interest to stay together without some serious planning. Hope I'm wrong.

    Also, no shame in booking a TS ADR even if you aren't 100% sure you will make it. Just make sure it is one without a 24hr cancellation policy and be polite and call to cancel same day as soon as you know you won't make it. After all, you are spending thousands on this vacation. This is more than fare game in my opinion.

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