For the longest time, I have worried about making my first set of ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations). We are travelling at one of the busiest and warmest times of the year, and for weeks, if not months every time I looked at tips to book I was always told I would be lucky to get anything that I wanted. In preparation for this, I consulted with everyone going months (if not a year) ahead of time of the types of places they would like to eat at or if they had any specifics. I had my list, started looking at Extra Magic Hour days, came up with a rough plan and sat down to book.
I sat down at my computer, just before 11 am local time for here in Scotland and just kept hitting refresh. My list on one tab of the computer, the booking system on the other. I was nervous, panicked and stressing out as anyone who spoke to me that day can attest to. This was the first start to everything hopefully falling into place for a holiday two years in the making, and I couldn’t mess it up. Talk about putting a whole lot of pressure on yourself, right?
Well, the reason I am writing this is to try and allay some fears people out there may have. The whole process couldn’t be more straightforward, and even for the week after the 4th of July, I was able to get everything we wanted. Keep in mind though that guests staying on property get to book their first 10 days on the 180-day mark then need to schedule each other day individually after that. In my mind, it helps keep things fair and balanced for everyone.
Back to booking though. When the time first opened I had the pick of what I wanted and times, but as the day started to go on more popular times became less available for certain things, and eventually, some places just became unbookable for times that would suit. What did happen though, was that not everything disappeared as quickly as I had imaged or was made out to be. In my head, I had images of the booking process being like some kind of plague of hungry locusts descending on the system. It was far from this! I was even able to book things within my first 10 days even later to that night when I got some family members to sit down and finally get booking their own.
What I do have to share with everyone though, is some top tips I learned from the experience!
Do your prep work
This is vital. Get a list of where you would like to eat and when from all in your party ahead of time. This gives you a rough guide on where to book and when. Stress that nothing is a guarantee, this is how I stressed myself out thinking I had to get everything everyone wanted to make everything perfect. It will be regardless of what you get.
Look for a pattern in Magic Hours
On the run up to my booking window, I started looking at what parks had magic hours on what days and times, if it was morning or evening. This allows me to begin to think about where to eat best and when. For example, one night we are going to Teppan Edo for dinner on the night, Epcot has magic hours. We plan to start our evening with dinner and enjoy fireworks and a show. Also, we have planned Be Our Guest for lunch on a morning the Magic Kingdom has Magic hours and can leave and go somewhere else after.
Have a rough outline
Get a spreadsheet and start putting in the park days with magic hours before you start to book. This leaves space for you to add your reservations and make sure nothing clashes. If it does, you can easily see as you book.
Remember to add things to it as you go. I’ll share my template when I have it finished and am happy with it for others to see, use and/or copy. This will come in handy later as well for when you book Fast Passes and can clearly see times as well.
Link a card before booking
It will save time and panic! The number of times my card was rejected because I put in a wrong number, just because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to secure that first reservation. Take the pain away, do this ahead of time. Disney saves that information for you for the next one. For making reservations you don’t need to pay upfront, but for events, you can book through the system like Desert Parties or dinner shows like Hoop Dee Do, you will need to pay in full at the time you make the reservation.
Keep in mind this may just be my experience on this particular trip! As a first time ADR booker, I didn’t find the process to be near as stressful, or fear-inducing as many people out there would have you believe. Keep a little flexibility. It isn’t the be all and end all if you need to eat a bit earlier or later than you are used to. If there is something overly specific you are looking for, make sure you try and get on early. If you don’t get it, remember it isn’t the end of your tip before you have even started. Use it as a good excuse to book another trip in the future and try again.
I hope this helps. Do you have any tips and tricks for booking ADRs? Leave them in the comments below. Next up, Fast Pass booking!