Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Planning your Disney World trip - Research the Parks/Book Dining/Buy Tickets

Hi Friends! I'm back with another installment of Planning your Disney World trip - Today I'm talking about researching the parks, booking your dining reservations. and purchasing your park tickets. Yep, it's a lot!

For the 1st and 2nd installment of this series, go here and here.

Hopefully by now in your planning process you have already picked where you're staying.  If you are staying on Disney property or not, you really should set up an account with My Disney Experience. This is a great tool to help plan and once your reservations are made, you can link them right to your account.  My Disney Experience, (you will often see it as MDE when looking up stuff about Disney) is basically your entire trip itinerary in one place.

*Researching the parks*


6-8 months out

At this time I would start looking at each park and what they have to offer.  Disney World's website will be your lifeline for this.

Under Parks and Tickets you will see a list of the different theme parks.  Start with one and then choose a category.  I focused on attractions/entertainment/dining when looking at each park.  I knew the ages my kids were going to be and wanted to do things geared around that.

Surprisingly there is SO much to do even for small children.  Avery (our youngest) was only 9 months when we went and she was able to do so much.

After researching each park, decide what parks are right for you to visit and then make a list of the things you want to do.  We visited Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and did Magic Kingdom twice because we knew there was TONS there for the kids and we got an extra park ticket free so why not!?

*Booking Dining Reservations*


Up to 180 days out

When starting to plan, you will see the acronym ADR - for Advance Dining Reservations. There are SO many acronyms with the Disney planning.

Did you know that in order to eat at some of the most popular places at Disney World, you need to book your reservations 180 days in advance!?! Yeah, I had no clue about that either until I started the planning process.

Here's a tip - it's 180 days from your first day of your trip so keep that date marked down to remember to log on and book your reservations (and yes, people are online at the 180 day out mark at midnight ready to book reservations.)

There are really only 2 categories for Disney dining - Table Service or Quick Service - Table service is the only one you need to book reservations for.  Quick service means you can walk right up, order, and sit down and eat your food.

As you look under each park on the Disney website you will see a list of all Table Service options. Some are character meals, some are not, but all need reservations.

Here are some of the hottest places you will definitely need to book 180 days in advance:

  • Chef Mickeys (character dining inside the Contemporary hotel which is across the street from Magic Kingdom. We booked first thing in the morning then walked right over to MK, it was perfect!)
  • Ohana at the Polynesian resort (also a character dining)
  • T-Rex at Downtown Disney
  • Cinderellas Royal Table inside Magic Kingdom (character dining)
  • Be Our Guest inside Magic Kingdom
  • 50's Prime Time Cafe inside Hollywood Studios
When I was planning, I booked us 1 sit down restaurant meal per day for dinner (table service) and lunch we ate quick service (I also researched the quick service options to know what we would like ahead of time and where it was located) and breakfast was going to be eaten in our room since we were staying in a villa with a full kitchen.

After the first 2 sit down meals, we actually cancelled the rest we had booked (aside from character dining) because let me tell you, sitting down to eat and actually enjoy it did not happen for us because our kids were crazy, LOL. We decided to stop throwing money away and just eat quick service the rest of the time and it worked out so much better!

*Purchasing Park Tickets*


3 months out

When you're ready to purchase, I recommend ordering them from here.  You save a few bucks and saving any money while booking your trip is worth it to me.

Once your tickets are purchased, you will need to link them to your My Disney Experience account. That way you can go ahead and book your fastpasses later on (we'll get to that next post)

If you buy the 4 park tickets and get the 5th free, it's a great deal but beware, you cannot park hop with these.  We did not park hop and I'm so glad we didn't.  There was barely enough time to do what we wanted in 1 park each day!

Phew that was alot, wasn't it!? If anyone has any questions, don't ever hesitate to ask! I love talking all things Disney! (if you couldn't tell)

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