by Daisy Diva
Getting an early morning advanced dining reservation (or ADR) is a great way to get into one of the theme parks before they open, and feel that, for a brief moment, you have the park almost to yourself. Here are a few tips for making the most of an early ADR.
Tip #1: Try to get your breakfast reservations for as early as possible. If you are like me, you LOVE to eat, but you don’t want to waste valuable park time waiting for your party to be called or eating an hour long meal. Claiming that 8:00 or 8:15 a.m. reservation means that you could potentially eat a yummy meal, have a really amazing character encounter, and be ready to hop on Space Mountain or Toy Story Mania by rope drop at 9:00 or a little after.
Tip #2: Book your reservation 180 days in advance. If you have read much at all about making dining reservations, then you have probably read this phrase, oh, a bazillion times, but it is good advice that bears repeating. This is especially useful if you are wanting that 8:00 a.m. spot that I mentioned (more like advised you to make) earlier. In the past, I made my reservations on the 180 day mark, checked online a week later and there were NO early reservations left. Take my word for it, people, and just do it. There are tons of websites out there that will calculate what date marks your “180 days before” square on your calendar, and they are way easier than getting out a calendar and counting back 180 times. (Just trust me on that, ok?) The website I used was the Planning Strategy Calculator at http://pscalculator.net/pscalc.php, but you can find several just by searching online. The good news for anyone staying on property is that you can book your ADRs for the first 10 days of your vacation 180 days prior to your arrival date. Which means that if you want to eat breakfast at Cinderella’s Castle on the tenth day of your stay, you can actually book the reservation 190 days in advance! So circle that 180 day mark on your calendar, set your alarm to get up early that day, and have your thoughts together for making all of your reservations.
Tip #3: Get your transportation figured out. This can be kind of tricky depending on where you are staying. If you are staying on-property, I would advise taking advantage of the bus system. The first buses of the day will run at 7:00 a.m. during the busy season. (Always call the front desk and double check this. You can request a bus to leave early if there is not already one scheduled.) A word of caution: on our last visit, we stayed at Pop Century. We had the whole family ready to go at 10 minutes until 7:00a.m. and were walking up to the bus stop at 6:56—just in time to watch our bus pull off early! I couldn’t believe it. So, be at the bus stop early—like 10 minutes early, just in case. Driving is still an option for those staying on-property, and you get to park for free. I have done both, and the bus is easier and way more convenient. I mean, they drop you off right at the front door, and you don’t have to remember where you parked. For those staying off-property, I am assuming you have a car—either your own or a rental—and will drive. You will need to keep travel time in mind. Depending on where your hotel is, you may need to leave your room by 6:30 a.m. in order to be in the park on time. Also keep in mind that Magic Kingdom parking is not actually at the Magic Kingdom, so you will be leaving your car to board the monorail. The Resort Monorail usually starts running prior to the Express Monorail which takes you straight to the Magic Kingdom with no stops, but there usually aren’t too many people boarding at the Polynesian or Grand Floridian, and I kind of enjoy the resort stops.
Tip #4: Get there early. Typically, the parks will start letting people through security and through the turnstyles around 7:30 a.m. (maybe a little earlier at the Magic Kingdom) and will hold everyone until around 7:45 or 7:50. At that point they will start actually letting people into the park. Being there in time to be in line by 7:35 or so means you will have time to get checked in with your restaurant and maybe even snap some really amazing pictures in an almost empty park before sitting down to eat. I mean, check out this fabulous picture of my family (and only my family—no random people milling around in the background!!) in front of Cinderella’s Castle. We were right outside of the Crystal Palace. Our name was called about 30 seconds after this picture was taken, and we were whisked in to dine with Pooh and friends.
Getting there early also means that you can be one of the first people checked in at the restaurant, one of the first parties seated, and one of the first people to hit the rides. (And if you are eating at a buffet, you know the food is super fresh.) Our family had 8:15 reservations at the Crystal Palace. We were checked in by 7:55, seated by 8:05, walking out the door with full bellies, four shiny, new autographs in our signature books, and two very happy toddlers by 9:00, and sitting in a pirate ship on Peter Pan’s Flight by 9:15. As you can see from this picture, we were about the third family seated that morning, and the tables behind my kids and Eeyore are empty—which means the characters start making their rounds before all the tables are filled. It pays to be early.
Tip #5: Space out your ADRs. Confession time—when planning our first Disney World vacation, I made a big mistake. I made two 8:10/8:15 breakfast reservations for two consecutive days. Here’s how things went down. We had an amazing breakfast with Pooh and friends during the aforementioned Crystal Palace experience. We had a fun day at the Magic Kingdom, went back to the room for a nap (because we listened to the Disney Diva!!), went back in the afternoon, and stayed until Wishes was over. We left with the masses, got our exhausted children into their pj’s and in the bed, and then got ourselves in bed and asleep around 11:30 or midnight. I was up and at ‘em a short 5 and half hours later getting ready to get my family out the door and on the bus to Animal Kingdom for our 8:10 reservation at the Tusker House for Donald’s Safari Breakfast. Needless to say, we were completely exhausted. Now, don’t get me wrong. Our experience at Tusker House was magical, but by noon, we were completely beat and headed back to the room. Hind sight being 20/20 and all, I would not have booked early ADRs two days in a row. I think planning two early breakfasts in one trip can be done, but you may want to put a rest day or sleep-in day between them.
Tip #6: Have fun! Odds are, if you have early morning ADRs, that means you are eating with characters. In my experience, character meals are a MUST DO at Disney—especially if you have little ones. There is nothing like seeing the looks on their faces when they lay eyes on their favorite character for the first (or second or third) time. And you really can’t beat meeting characters, getting pictures and autographs, and eating a delicious breakfast without having to stand in line. For your next Disney vacation, you should consider snagging that early ADR. It requires some planning ahead, but is definitely worth it.
To book your magical vacation, contact Patricia at All For Dreams Travel.