Ah Disney. The only vacation where 180 days out is considered a milestone.
There are those of us that know what 180 days from a Disney World vacation means. Those of us that plan for weeks leading up to the 180 day mark. Those of us that are rethinking every decision on the 185 day mark. And the 184 day mark. And the 183 day mark. Those of us that cannot sleep the night before. And those of us that set our alarm for 5:45 AM on said day to properly prepare for what awaits us.
And then there are the normal people. For you “normies,” allow me to explain exactly what 180 days means. Us travelers travelling to Walt Disney World and staying at a Walt Disney World resort can make advanced dining reservations (or ADRs) 180 days out from the start date of a reservation.
And while this may seem like a long time away, remember you are dealing with people that plan Walt Disney World vacations. We are a different breed. Every day we are not in Walt Disney World, we are planning our next trip to Walt Disney World. And in fact, even some days we are in Walt Disney World, we are also planning our next trip to Walt Disney World. Soooooooo….we will snatch up the reservations you want. Believe that. You will respect the 180-day mark.
Annnnyways, I thought I would take you all through our most recent ADR experience to maybe provide some tips, some laughs, and you know, stress over our plan. So here we go…
OK so let’s start with some background information. Some things you need to know:
- This is for our upcoming November trip – We are traveling over Thanksgiving break, which presents a whole host of challenges. We are coming in on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and leaving the next Friday. So a total of 9 nights, 8 days. We did a similar trip last year and while the crowds start to die down after that Saturday, we had a really hard time getting the spots we wanted last year – especially earlier in the trip.
- We are doing a split stay – Based on how airfares were looking, we decided to extend our vacation to include Wednesday (we were originally planning on coming Thanksgiving Day.) As we were renting DVC points at the Beach Club for the trip we just figured to book the cheapest rack rate we could find. This ended up being All-Star Sports so we have one night there on Wednesday. More on this below.
- This is our first time in a looonnnnnnnng time not doing the Deluxe Dining Plan – This is kind of stepping outside our comfort zone here. But we have been thinking of abandoning the DDP for a while. It is just soooooo much food. Like, too much. And that’s saying something coming from me. On account of I love food. But I mean, we aren’t going with no dining plan. That’s way too cold turkey for us. We will be using the standard dining plan, which consists of 1 table service, 1 counter service, and 2 snacks per day. We are doing this for both our one night at All-Star Sports and the remainder of the trip at the Beach Club. I am kind of excited to use some counter service this trip – there are some great options at the resort plus with mobile ordering, counter service has def become a more attractive option. And I mean, we still get the alcoholic beverage with this plan. So that’s important. Since those are my favorite kinds of beverages.
The booking process
At the 180 day mark, reservations open up at 6AM. So at 180 days, we woke up to make all our dining reservations. At 5:45 AM. Only to find out we could only make them for Wednesday and Thursday. Because of the whole split-stay thing. Now, I have heard rumors that one can actually make them for your entire trip if you are booking rack for the whole trip OR you are booking DVC for the whole trip. However, since we are doing rack for one part and DVC for the other, we could not do this. I think maybe because we exploded their computers or something.
So this whole process ended up spanning two days for us. We made reservations for Wednesday and Thursday on the 180 day mark for our night at All-Star Sports and then made them for the rest of the trip on our 180 mark for our check-in day at the Beach Club. Good times.
As you can see in the pic above, we had our spreadsheet ready and laptop open. And coffee (in an obviously Disney mug). This was the setup for both me and Nickie so we could double our chances of getting what we want. We would essentially tell each other when we got one so the other could focus on another day. Not pictured here was an additional list with just the dining laid out and our smartphones.
Pro-tip – have both your laptop AND phone at the ready with your MyDisneyExperience app open. When we went to book on the second day, the website was not showing our dates at 6AM but the app was. So we ended up booking it all through there.
So what did we get reserved?
Of course I am going to go through every reservation in detail. Because that, my friends, is how I roll. You know that. This is, of course, not my official pre-trip report. That will be coming closer to the trip. This will focus ONLY on dining reservations.
Don’t think this is all we are doing. There is so much more.
Wednesday, November 21st – Arrival Day
Chef Mickey’s – 8:45 PM (1 Table Service Credit)
Both the boys really miss our old tradition of going to Chef Mickey’s on our first night. We have had a lukewarm relationship with the food here but of course we love the characters so we decided to give it a try. Also, this is a tough reservation to get usually. And I mean, as you can see we could only get a reservation for 8:45 PM. So by “usually” I mean “always.”
I am looking forward to it though. I mean, hanging out with Mickey, Pluto, and the gang is an awesome way to kick off the trip. And If we finish early enough, we will probably head up to the Observation deck to catch Happily Ever After from the Contemporary.
If we don’t finish early enough, I am sure we will just spend too much money in the gift shop. Either way, win-win.
Thursday, November 22nd (Thanksgiving)- EPCOT day
Garden Grill, 7:00 PM (1 Table Service Credit)
Oh MAN, am I excited we got this one. And a little surprised. Garden Grill is a relatively popular Thanksgiving dinner destination. The place serves Thanksgiving like all year round – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, etc.(plus roast pork and pot roast) – and you get to eat it with Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale. Plus, the restaurant rotates, the food is served family-style (rather than buffet), a lot of it is grown downstairs in the greenhouse, AND you get to enjoy it all in the Land Pavillion at EPCOT. So Thanksgiving at EPCOT.
Ohai, today I am thankful for….
So yeah, those were the two reservations we made on DAY 1…
On Day 2….
Friday, November 23rd – Magic Kingdom AM/Disney Springs PM
Wine Bar George, 6:30 PM (out of pocket)
So yeah, while we are going to Magic Kingdom during the day on Friday, we aren’t doing any table service in the park so we will be relying on snacks and counter service to sustain us. I know. We are worried about us too.
For dinner, however, the plan was to hit Disney Springs and sort of do an app/drink tasting tour – hitting Jock Lindsay’s, the Polite Pig, the Edison, Amorette’s, etc. – but we kinda forgot this was Black Friday so we decided to make a reservation at Wine Bar George to have a sort of safety net. Like, even if it’s busy, we will still get to at least eat at Wine Bar George.
And that’s no consolation prize either. This place looks BOMB. We are super excited to try it. I mean, we love wine. Obvs squad. But we also love food. And this place? It has the food. I’m like, “oh I don’t think we will get the Big Board because we will be hopefully eating at so many places that night” but we all know I probably will. On account of the fatness.
Saturday, November 24th – Hollywood Studios Day
Minnie’s Holiday Dine Dinner at Hollywood & Vine – 6:05 PM
So yeah, once again, only 1 reservation at dinner time. But it’s a pretty good one. We have really never done Hollywood & Vine for dinner. And honestly, while I do like the breakfast here, I am not walking in to this one with super high expectations for the food.
But. BUT. We get to hang with Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, and Goofy all dressed in their Holiday best. Which is super cool since we are not doing Mickey’s Very Mery Christmas Party this year. Now, we can still see Santa Goofy. So I mean. Win.
Sunday, November 25th– Chill in the morning/EPCOT PM
Brunch at the top, California Grill – 11:00 AM (2 Table Service Credits)
Rose & Crown – 7:00 PM (1 Table Service Credit)
Yeah, 3 credits in one day.
But today is gonna sort of be the day that might feel like we are back on the Deluxe Dining Plan. In that all of our meals will be served with a side of shame.
While we have eaten at California Grill multiple times, we have never ever had the brunch. And this thing looks pretty awesome. The menu is part buffet, part table service. The buffet has all-you-can-eat charcuterie, sushi, deviled eggs, salads and all kinds of other awesomeness. They also serve pretty much bottomless French press coffee and mimosas. So. And they do have a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar available at an additional cost. Which looks incredible but I mean, bottomless mimosas. So I dunno.
They also bring a plate of pastries to your table and you get to choose an entrée along with all the buffet selections. And I really don’t know what to get, guys. I mean, they DO have lobster benedict. But they also have vanilla bean French toast. And carrot cake pancakes. I mean. Come on, Cali Grill. Why you gotta make things so hard?
But we are very excited about this brunch. Obviously, the food sounds amazing. But California Grill also offers a great view and inviting atmosphere. And there is live music during brunch. I just feel like this is one of those “finding luxury in Walt Disney World” experiences. It’s gonna be pretty bombsauce.
We are then going to be spending the afternoon in EPCOT so we made a dinner reservation at Rose & Crown. One of our favorites. Scotch eggs. Scotch flights. Scotch. Scotch. Scotch.
Plus, with it being at 7PM, we may be able to get an early seat on the patio and stretch the dinner into Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at 9:30PM. The patio at Rose & Crown is honestly my favorite place ever to watch the fireworks. And a 2 ½ hour meal here is definitely not unheard of. Wish me luck. With the eating.
Monday, November 26 (Nickie’s Birthday!) – Resort Hopping!
‘Ohana – 7:00 PM (1 Table Service Credit)
So yeah, for Nickie’s birthday, she wanted to skip the parks and have a relaxing day touring the resorts and having drinks and foodz along the way. There are a lot of fun things planned for the day (and probably some surprises maybe I don’t know shut up stop asking), but we are here to talk about the reservations.
She wanted ‘Ohana for her birthday to: (1) have a fun, celebratory dinner, (2) eat bread pudding, and (3) try to get me to change my feelings on the place. Which as of late have not been all that good. As you might recall from my Top 5 sit down restaurant post, ‘Ohana used to be a favorite of mine, but the last time we ate there, I really felt like the quality went downhill. I really do hope this was just an exception to the rule.
Plus, bread pudding. And Lapu Lapus.
Tuesday, November 27th – Animal Kingdom AM/Disney Springs PM
Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ – 7:00 PM (1 Table Service Credit)
At Animal Kingdom, we have some fun snacks and counter services planned during the day, but our only reservation that night is for Homecomin’. Which is very exciting. Honestly, while I am looking forward to trying Wine Bar George and the California Grill brunch a lot, this may be the meal I am looking forward to most. I know the standard dining plan doesn’t include an appetizer, but we will most likely order some here. Those deviled eggs and thigh high chicken biscuits sound amazepantz.
And for an entrée, how can one NOT get the fried chicken and doughnuts? It’s fried chicken. And doughnuts. It’s like someone crawled into my dreams, ignored all the Kim Kardashian parts and grabbed ALL the food.
And the desserts even look great here. I actually don’t know if I will get the Shine Cake or the Hummingbird Cake. So I will probably get both. Crisis averted.
Wednesday, November 28th – Magic Kingdom Day
Crystal Palace – 8:00 AM (paying out of pocket)
Liberty Tree Tavern – 6:30 PM OR Be Our Guest– 7:00 PM (1 Table Service Credit)
Crystal Palace is pretty much a must-do breakfast for us every trip. Not only is the food good (Pooh’s puffed French Toast for the win). Not only do we get to eat with Pooh and his friends. Not only is it so pretty in there. But also, an 8:00 AM reservation gets us in before park opening which allows for early morning castle shots with no crowds and a head start on the rest of the crowd heading to big-name attractions like Space Mountain or the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
For dinner, yes, we have two different reservations. I know, we are the worst. But we are really struggling on where to eat. We love Liberty Tree Tavern. The whole family-style-ness of it is fun and the food is very good. Plus the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake dessert is worth the trip alone. IT’S. THAT. GOOD.
And honestly, I prefer Be Our Guest for lunch more than dinner. But it is still a great place in terms of atmosphere and we get to see the Beast. Plus, pretty soon this place is going 2 credits so it will be good to get one more dinner in before that happens. Also, with us eating at Garden Grill on Thanksgiving, we will be pretty much eating the same thing at Liberty Tree. I mean, except the Ooey Gooey Cake. Which again, is not a small consideration.
So we will have to see which we drop. I have a feeling we will be sticking with Be Our Guest.
Thursday, November 29th – EPCOT allll day
Chefs de France – 5:00 PM (paying out of pocket)
Yeah, all day EPCOT. Sounds amazing. The day will be filled with counter services and snacks, probably a lot of sampling around the world at all the Holiday Booths and…wait, wait. I can’t talk about that yet.
Focus Wayne. Focus.
For dinner, we booked a 5:00 meal at Chefs de France. The plan is to switch this over to a Candlelight Processional package once they are released so that we can get priority seating with our meal. However, this seems a good use of an out-of-pocket based on value, rather than using up a dining credit.
The food at Chefs though is not secondary here. I have said time and time again how much I love it here. The escargot is probably the biggest standout but it’s all really good. And I don’t know. Every time we eat here, it’s an experience. The meal is always long and drawn out, but in a good way. We enjoy the food, the wine, and the company. It’s a really great place.
Friday, November 30th – Departure Day
Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast, Trattoria Al Forno – 7:30 AM (paying out-of-pocket)
While we are planning to hit a park on departure day before we head out, we are going to sort of leave which park up in the air and decide that day. We may want to hit a park we didn’t see enough of or one that we may want to revisit. Who knows?
Since that will be something we are deciding on-the-fly, we didn’t want to reserve anything at a park and instead reserved a breakfast we tried last trip on the boardwalk. You get to eat with Rapunzel, Flynn Rider (or Eugene if you prefer), Ariel, and Prince Eric. Which is definitely a cool experience. And the theme of Bon Voyage is a good one for our last day. Saying goodbye to all our friends will be hard, but it always helps knowing we will be back soon.
And the food is pretty good here too. I really liked the Shipwreck Al Forno, which was like this breakfast calzone thing. Which I guess isn’t the most inspired description but still. A breakfast calzone thing? Don’t even pretend you don’t wanna eat such a thing.
So there you have it. All of our reservations for our upcoming trip. I am not going to pretend even a little bit that this is all set in stone. This could all change, but I assume the bulk of it will be sticking around.
Like I said, the 180 day mark is a big day for Disney vacation planners. Make sure when you plan your next trip, it’s a big day for you too. Eating at Disney World is such a big part of a trip. So getting online early at the 180 day mark can help ensure you get at least most of the reservations you want. We pretty much got everything we were looking for.
Food is great. Jussayin.