I don’t think it’s hard to see that I am kind of an obsessive planner. Approximately 220 days prior to our vacation I know where we are staying, what parks we will be visiting each day, how we will be touring each park and where we are going to eat. Therefore, at exactly 5:55am on the 180th day I have every computer in the house and my cellphone logged into My Disney Experience to start making my Advanced Dining Reservations. If that method doesn’t work I start calling the Disney Dining phone line at 6:55am. I have ALWAYS been able to get every reservation I wanted… until now.
We have been to Walt Disney World many times. Therefore, we have been lucky enough to experience a great number of the dining options at Walt Disney World. This means the method for choosing our dining plans have changed slightly. Instead of booking two or more table service meals a day, we have old favorites we like return to and we add in 1-2 new locations each trip. Therefore, we are only planning on one table service meal each day.
This was my plan going into the 180th morning:
Monday – Rose & Crown, 8:00pm – This is an old favorite for us and holds a special place in our Disney memories. When our daughter was 5-years-old we were dining at R&C and she was picked to start Illuminations. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime magical moments. Besides the memories we come back vacation after vacation because of the great food and the amazing view of Illuminations. If you are lucky enough to get one of the coveted verandah seat you will have a front row seat for the show. And even if you aren’t selected to sit on the verandah, they have a super-secret location reserved for their guests only to watch the show. Results: Nothing available
Tuesday – Whispering Canyon Café, 6:00pm – We are planning on spending at least part of this day at Downtown Disney with lunch planned at Earl of Sandwich. (The Holiday sandwich is calling my name… can you hear it?) We thought this would be a great day to have an early evening meal in the resort. After the meal we can either hit the pool (Of course, after the required 30 minutes waiting period, Mom), maybe go to the Polynesian and watch Wishes from the beach or just simply call it a night. Results: Nothing available
Wednesday – Hollywood & Vine Fantasmic! Dinner Package – If you ask my daughter we picked the restaurant because of the pictures of the chocolate fountain on their website. We have seen Fantasmic! before but we always seem to be in the extreme stage right area even with a FastPass+. With the dinner package we will get guarantee seats in one of the center sections. RESULTS: Dinner packages not available yet.
Thursday – California Grill, 9:00pm – How can you beat the view of Wishes from that vantage point… not to mention the wine list. RESULTS: SUCCESS! We got a 9:05pm ADR.
Friday – Be Our Guest, Lunch – We will be attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this day. My daughter and I have been to this restaurant while DH has not. He has to try the Grey Stuff… It’s delicious. RESULTS: NO LUCK!
I came out of the 180th day with ONE Advanced Dining Reservation. How can this be? Dejected, with my Ultimate Disney Planner title on the line, I headed to work with my head hanging low. Several of my Disney friends did their best to console me when I complained. “Don’t worry, just keep checking.” “It must be a glitch in the system.” “It’s the week BEFORE Thanksgiving, there’s no way everything can be gone?” “Try calling again?”
Here we are two month later and the bleak outcome of what I now call the ‘180th Day Massacre’ has turned into a not-so-bad plan.
Since Monday is the last day of the annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival we have decided to ‘eat our way around the world’. Recently the menus for F&W were released and there is no way I would be able to eat a sit-down dinner after eating all the tasty treats which caught my eye. As far as the view of Illuminations: We can always grab something from one of the outdoor kitchens and pull up a bench along the World Showcase Lagoon.
After checking multiple times for a Tuesday ADR at Whispering Canyon Cafe an 8:30pm reservation showed up. This wasn’t ideal but at least we would be able to eat there without a long wait. Using my friend Amy M’s advice I kept checking just in case something more suitable to our plans showed up. Lo and behold a week or so ago a 6:00pm reservation opened up. SCORE! As an added bonus the Garden Grill announced a special character breakfast featuring Chip & Dale. We were going to use Tuesday as a ‘catch up on some sleep day’ so we made a 10:00am ADR. I have been by the Garden Grill many times while making our way to Living With the Land and loved the idea of the rotating restaurant.
With the addition of this ADR and the fact that we are still planning on heading to Downtown Disney that day, we are considering cancelling our Whispering Canyon Café ADR. We have been there several times before so it’s not like we will be missing a new experience and we will probably still be full from the Holiday Sandwich from Earl of Sandwich.
Our Wednesday plans brightened as well. I guess I was always under the impression that the Fantasmic! Dinner Package reservations opened at 180 days like the rest of the reservations. Turns out that isn’t the case. In early July the Disney Parks Blog reported the dinner package was now open for booking. I immediately went over and booked the package at Hollywood & Vine for a late lunch.
There was a little twist to this when the brand new Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine opened up for reservations. Not only is this a character meal which features the characters in their holiday best including Santa Goofy, it also offers special seating for Fantasmic!. Again, I was on my computer bright and early… NOTHING. I started calling Disney Dining line at 6:55 a.m… NOTHING! Oh well, I guess we will keep our lunch reservation and keep checking to see if this opens up.
I am still hoping for some pixie-dust to get a lunch reservation at Be Our Guest on Friday but I did learned a few things from this misadventure: (1) Free dining really does have quite an impact of the availability of Advanced Dining Reservations, (2) Just keep swimming – by continuing to check we were able to get a couple of the ADRs we weren’t able to get on the 180th day, and (3) Disney really needs to get their act together BEFORE the 180th day on special dining experiences such as Candlelight Processional and Fantasmic! Dinner Package.
In the next post I will talk about a slight change we made to our Disney Cruise, how we got 8.9% off our Disney vacation and our first foray into the Fish Extender gift exchange.
Sue Nowicki splits her time between planning her next Walt Disney World vacation and being team mom to ten high-energy volleyball players where she fills the roles of secretary, navigator, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist. You can follow her on Twitter @JazzinDisneyMom.
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