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Throughout my last few blog posts I have talked about how I am planning a Disney vacation for a larger group. Total there are eight of us going and although it isn’t a huge group, it is larger than what I am used to planning for. On previous trips to Disney, it has just been my family (four of us) or just my husband and myself that I am planning for, making it fairly easy to plan our dining reservations and make other decisions.
I have shared in previous posts about my planning process for this upcoming trip and wanted to let you know how my big advance dining reservation booking went in December. First, for those that might have missed my previous posts on how I prepared for our ADRs, here is a quick rundown on how I prepared for this day.
Planning out our trip
Prior to making our ADRs, I first looked at where we will be each day. I use Disney’s Extra Magic Hours (extended hours for those staying on Disney property) as well as evening shows we might want to see and then how many days I feel we will spend at the different parks. Usually that means one at Animal Kingdom, one to two days at Epcot and Hollywood Studios and then the remaining days at Magic Kingdom. Once I know where we will be each day, I start to look at the table service options at each of park.
My second step when trying to figure out our ADRs is always narrowing down all of Disney’s restaurants to a few for my family to choose from. There is no way my dad is looking through all of the options and trying to make a decision, so instead I do this for him and the rest of the family. I look at the menus to the different restaurants, what characters might be there as well as the style of the restaurant (buffet, family style, or menu) they offer. This gives us a starting place as we jump into the next step which is family discussion time.
Listening to the group is the important third step. Knowing what they are wanting to get out of our ADRs is important. From the princesses wanting to eat with Cinderella to the little man wanting to see Mickey, it is important to chat about what everyone would like. Beyond knowing the basics it is also important to know things like inside or outside restaurants, lunch or dinner reservations, park hopping or staying put. Once I know this information it is game time.
Plugging in different food options
This is where I get down to work. Before my big 180 day mark, I start making a plan and getting myself organized. The first thing I like to make is a vacation chart that lays out the plans for the whole week. This allows me to quickly see a variety of information regarding our trip in one glance. You can put whatever you want on this chart, but I like to include information such as which parks have EMH, what the hours are for the parks, where we will be when, what night shows we might be at and anything else that I feel needs to be scheduled in (like sleep in days). This “vacation chart” (or fancy poster board) lays out our basic plans for the vacation allowing me to jump into the next part of the plan which is choosing restaurants and times.
After I have this laid out, it is time to tentatively plug in different restaurants. I like start with the “A” list first. The “A” list would be our number one restaurants and preferred times for eating at these restaurants. For example, I knew that we wanted Be Our Guest and we preferred supper to the lunch system here. After I have all of our “A” list down, I start looking at options B, C, and even D. This might be looking at different restaurant options all together or just looking at different days for the same restaurants or even different times of day for the same restaurants. I like to process ALL of our options as much as possible ahead of the 180 mark. I put these on the big vacation planning sheet before making my flow chart.
Flow Chart of Options
My flow chart is what I created so it takes the thinking out of the making of ADRs. This flow chart lays out all of our options for the different restaurants in order of priority and flexibility. It is my “if/then” thinking process set up ahead of time. For example, I start with our number one hard to get reservation. In this case it was Be Our Guest for dinner on Saturday evening. I then branched off all the different days and times we could eat there if Saturday didn’t work. From there I move onto the second restaurant we want. Cinderella’s Royal Table was next on the must do list. I knew we wanted Friday for lunch, but again I branched off all my options taking in consideration what I had already listed for Be Our Guest. I continue with my flow chart for each restaurant and day until I have all of my options written out. This might seem really over the top; however, I like it because like I said earlier I don’t have to think when I sit down to make our ADRs. This helps me think through think like IF we don’t get Saturday for Be Our Guest, THEN we could look at Friday or Thursday based on what our vacation planning sheet has set up for us.
So how did it go? Was I able to get all of our “A” list choices?
Posters ready to go
I believe my planning ahead helped with my success for us, but I do think other items greatly helped me get all of our top choices and times. So what else did I have set up to be successful? On the morning of our ADRs (180 days before check in), I had two computer, a tablet and my phone ready to go before 5:00 A.M. I started logging into Disney’s site and trying to make reservations starting around 4:55 A.M. just waiting for the site to go live.
Computers ready to go
Once it went live, I started with the top of my flow chart and worked my way down. Having two computers ready to go allowed me to book two restaurants at once just using different computers. This worked out really well as I did get stuck on Be Our Guest for a few minutes on one computer, but I was able to continue to book our other restaurants on the other computer. Another suggestion I can make is having your credit card ready or even in a word document so you can cut and paste quickly. I also make sure to have paper ready to write down my reservation number as well making sure I know those numbers right away just in case. All of these steps might see silly, over the top, and not necessary, but I truly feel they make it so much easier when it comes to making the reservations. Even though I was booking for eight people, I really didn’t see any difference between this time and the previous times booking for four and two people. We did have to split our group at Be Our Guest, but our time is the same so it should work out fine.
Here was our top list and time of day we were hoping for:
Tusker House for lunch
Liberty Tree Tavern for lunch
Be Our Guest for supper
Cinderella’s Royal Table for lunch
Chef Mickey’s for lunch
O’hana for supper
When making ADRs for a big group or a small group: 1. make sure to have a plan 2. be up early and ready to go 3. be a little flexible in your times 4. be willing to split your big group if need be
What tips do you have for making Advanced Dining Reservations? Let us know in the comments.