Disney’s Advanced Dining Reservation Strategy: Why An Itinerary Is A Must!

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Walt Disney World is a BIG PLACE – with a lot to do, a lot to see, and a lot to EAT! The dining choices are plentiful – and you will want to take advantage of making Advance Dining Reservations before your trip so that you can take advantage of all that the world of Disney Dining has to offer!

You’ll want to be smart about your dining choices – one way you can do this is by creating a trip itinerary – which helps ensure that you are planning meals that are in/near the Parks you’re visiting on any given day (why is this important? Well, it can be a BIG time and headache saver – both things I want while on vacation!). Now I’m not saying you need to plan out every minute of every day, but having a general idea of what you want to do and see each day will help you make the most of your WDW vacation.

Ok, so let’s get started:

Step One: Pick Your Restaurants – Do some research, and find out which places you and your family might want to dine at while at WDW. There are TONS of options – like character meals, buffets, fine dining, casual dining, and everything in between! Make a list of your top picks (with backups, in case you can’t get ADR’s for them!), and then you’re ready for the next step

Step Two: Make Your ADR’s – Once your restaurant list is done, you’re prepared for ADR day – that magical day 180 days before your WDW vacation when you are able to log on to the Disney dining website and make your restaurant picks official! And since you already have backups for all your sit down meals, this should be a fast, easy, and relatively painless process for you (Still not totally sure what an ADR even is? Click here for more info)

Step Three: Match Your Restaurant Picks With Parks – Now that dining reservations have been made, you’ll want to make sure you are close to the restaurant near meal time, so you should plan to visit the Park closest to where you will be dining. Here’s a rundown of which Resort Restaurants are near which Parks:

  • Animal Kingdom Resort Area – Boma, Jiko, Sanaa, Maya Grill
  • Epcot/Hollywood Studios Resort area – Cape May Café, Beaches and Cream, Captains Grill, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Big River Grille & Brewing Works, Flying Fish Café, Kouzzina, Shutters at Old Port Royale
  • Magic Kingdom Resort Area – California Grill, Chef Mickey’s, The Wave, 1900 Park Fare, Citricos, Grand Floridian Café, Narcoossee’s, Kona Café, ‘Ohana, Artist Point, Whispering Canyon Café, Trail’s End

Step Four: Put It Together! – Now that you know where you are going to eat, and what Parks are close by, you can make your itinerary! Create your itinerary around where you have your ADR’s, and you will save yourself a LOT of travel time! I personally like to limit myself to one Park a day, but it’s definitely possible to do two a day if you are utilizing Extra Magic Hours. Here’s an example of how this would look:

Day 1

Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom – AM

ADR 10:00 am – 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian

Downtown Disney – PM

ADR 7:00 pm – Raglan Road Irish Pub in Downtown Disney

Day 2

ADR 9:00 am – Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom – late morning/early afternoon

Hollywood Studios – PM

ADR 6:00 PM – Hollywood Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios

As for non-table service meals, I don’t generally plan those out in advance – however I do like to do some pre-trip Counter Service/Snack location research so I know what is available at each Park for when that hunger hits

Step Five: Enjoy! You did a lot of planning and preparation for your vacation, but once the time comes to actually go to Disney – make sure you take the time to enjoy it as much as possible! The atmosphere, rides, characters, music, and shows are all amazing, but personally, my favorite part always was, and always will be – the FOOD!

What is your Disney Advanced Dining Reservation Strategy? Let us know in the comment box below.


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Catie Hiltz is an avid Walt Disney World lover who has been vacationing there since she was tall enough to ride Space Mountain. She believes there is something for everyone at WDW-and especially writing about the benefits of vacationing there as an adult
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3 thoughts on “Disney’s Advanced Dining Reservation Strategy: Why An Itinerary Is A Must!

  1. I used to think it was weird to try to decide months in advance where I’d want to eat a certain day, but we made ADRs on our last trip (free dining plan promo, so we pretty much ‘had’ to) and I was so glad we did!

    My husband and I are vegetarian and had never been to Disney with that ‘restriction’ so that forced me to look at all the menus in advance and find the places that I thought would have the most variety / best options for us. We were never disappointed with our meals and had tons of variety instead of ending up eating veggie burgers every day due to poor planning and not knowing what is out there.

  2. Did this for my honeymoon 11 years ago. My husband thought I was insane calling six months ahead, but it worked out great and we got to eat at so many places. We went a couple of years ago and I didn’t have a chance to plan ahead and it was terrible trying to find places to eat.

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