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Trip Planning Part IV - Making Dining Reservations

In the earlier parts of this Trip Planning series, we talked about: Choosing When to Visit, How Long to Visit, Where to Stay, and now it is time to plan Where to Eat.

Believe it or not, there are many Walt Disney World restaurants that you need to make reservations nearly 6 months in advance in order to get to eat there. So, instead of complaining about that fact, let’s just incorporate deciding where we want to eat into our planning process.

Where to Start
The first decision to make is whether or not you will be purchasing the Disney Dining Plan. The Dining Plan has many features that make it great for some, but not worth while for others. The simple rule of thumb to determine if the Disney Dining Plan is right for you is this: Will you eat at one sit down restaurant each day of your trip? If the answer is yes, then it is in your best interest to investigate further. If not, then the Disney Dining Plan may not be for you.

Even if you are not using the Dining plan, I would strongly recommend eating at least a couple meals during your stay at one of the Disney sit-down restaurants. Why, you may ask? The reason is that these restaurants are part of the Disney experience and skipping them means that you will be passing up memorable opportunities.

So the first task is to choose how many sit down restaurants you will visit during your trip. If this is your first visit I would recommend not choosing more than one per day. The reason is that you can end up turning your trip into an over scheduled mess where you feel that you are always rushing to get to your next dining reservation. One per day gives you one definite time that you need to be somewhere, but doesn’t over do it.

Next, you need to determine your basic plan of which park you will visit on which day. If you do this before choosing your restaurants, it can help by narrowing down your restaurant selection for each day. It will also help minimize travel time and stress levels.

Then you can choose restaurants based upon where you will be spending the bulk of your day. These steps are very important, especially if you are trying to save money and purchase the tickets that only allow you to visit one park per day.

Where Should I Eat?
The list of choices, of where to eat, are plentiful, so choosing can be a difficult task. The ages of your group can help you decide which restaurants will work best.

If you have younger children, you will definitely want to choose at least one Character Dining Experience. Not only will the children be impressed with the characters, these restaurants are typically either buffets or limited menu family style places which keeps the waiting down to a minimum.

If your group is a little bit older, you can branch out to the more upscale sit down restaurants. Each of the parks have sit down restaurants, as well, as most of the resorts, Disney’s Boardwalk, and Downtown Disney. You can get to any of these locations using the free Disney Transportation system.

There are websites available, such as: http://www.allears.net/ where you can see the complete list of Disney World restaurants and up to date menus with prices for each one. I will often use one of these sites to determine a new restaurant to try for my next trip.

How Do I Make Reservations?
Once you have decided where you would like to eat each day, make your list with alternates and call Disney World at 1-407-WDW-DINE to make your reservations. You may make them up to 180 days in advance. The closer you make them to that 180 day mark, the more likely you will get your first choices. Remember to write the information along with your confirmation numbers down since they will not send you anything through the mail to confirm.

Planning your sit down restaurant dining well in advance is an important part of your Disney Vacation planning process. Remember to not to over do it. One per day is typically enough for most groups. Stick to that level until you have visited a few times and decide if you really want to schedule more than that. The ability to be flexible and spontaneous is part of the fun at Walt Disney World and if you are too fully scheduled that disappears.

The Disney World restaurants definitely add to the overall vacation experience and should not be missed. A goal should be to try at least one new restaurant per trip and revisit some old favorites.

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