To ADR or not ADR, That is the Question

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To ADR or not ADR, That is the Question

I was trying to explain to a non-Disney friend the other day, about why I had been up at 6 a.m. for 4 straight days trying to book our dining reservations for our Disney World vacation at the end of December. She kind of thought I was nuts. In fact I believe the comment was “Disney has made you lose your mind.” 🙂

I had to chuckle, as I completely understand why someone who is not Disney-obsessed would think it odd to be planning where our family was going to be eating on a vacation that would not be happening for over 6 months. But it got me to thinking too, that even among those who do visit Disney World regularly the question of whether to book Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) is a common discussion on many Disney message boards.

Should you or shouldn’t you? Many folks like to be “spontaneous” on vacation, and the idea of trying to decide what park you want to visit and where/when to eat at this park 6 months ahead of time just makes their head hurt. I do understand that, because really, how can you know what you are going to be in the mood to eat that far in advance? For many, planning dinners 6 months before takes the “fun” out of it.

However, since I am clearly in the “you should” camp, let me explain why I think it is important, in this case, for planning to take precedence over spontaneity.

  1. Booking your ADRs in advance will save you time…and time is money. If you start trying to decide where you want to eat dinner at World Showcase one night at 6, and walk up to your restaurant of choice, only to be turned away because they are full…and then repeat this process several times before you find an available spot, you may very well have spent several hours of valuable vacation time trying to find a place for dinner. Time that could have been spend on a ride or attraction.
  2. Booking ADRs may just flat out save you money. If you are traveling during a Free Dining period at Disney World, you will find that most places are booked well in advance, so you run the risk of not being able to eat dinner at any of the table service restaurants if you do not do the same. Free Dining is clearly not a good value if you can’t use it. This holds true, to be honest, for paying for the Dining Plan during any high traffic season: if you can’t find a place to eat dinner, then your Dining Plan table service credits are pretty worthless.
  3. While planning so far in advance seems to take the fun out it, in our experience, it is actually the opposite. Researching the restaurants and discussing our choices adds fun to Disney vacation planning and gives everyone something to look forward to. Even little ones get into the act, especially if there is a special meal (Princess meal anyone?) that they really want to attend.
  4. Which leads me to my last reason for booking ADRs: Who wants to deal with the disappointment of really wanting to do something and not being able to? Taking the time to make your reservation to dine with Cinderella…and then seeing your child’s face light up during the meal…is worth it. Really for any age though, we all have preferences and hopes of what we want to see, do…and yes eat at Disney World. For many dining experiences, and at many times of the year, the only way to insure that it happens is to reserve it far in advance.

So should you or shouldn’t you? You know where I stand.  What have been your experiences in booking ADRs? Have you visited without doing so? How did it work out?

Nancy, her husband and college-age daughter live in the Baltimore MD area, but consider Walt Disney World their second “home”. She started her site, The Affordable Mouse, as a way to share ideas about how to plan affordable Disney vacations.

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