*Before making dining plans check out the park operating hours. A quick google or pinterest search will pull it up.
Disney Dining Plans:
You have 3 options when it comes to the Disney Dining Plan.
Quick Service Plan (this is the plan included during Free Dining for the value resorts)
- 2 quick service meals, 1 refillable mug and 1 snack per person per day
- 1 Table service meal, 1 quick service meal, 1 refillable mug and 1 snack per person per day
- This is my preferred plan. We like having the sit down meals (especially the character meals). It's just enough advanced planning to feel organized but not overwhelming.
- 3 table service/quick service meals to be used however you want, 1 refillable mug, 2 snacks per person per day
If you are trying to decide whether or not the dining plan is worth it for your family, check out this nifty little program! Disney Dining Plan Calculator You enter in your plans and it gives you a price breakdown.
180 Days from check in:
At exactly 180 days from the day you check in (if staying on property) you can book your advanced dining reservations (ADR). I would suggest to start making these plans WEEKS before you go! Have a first, second and third choice lined up because some reservations are hard to get (ex: Cinderella's Royal Table at breakfast, Chef Mickey's, Le Cellier).
Not sure where to eat? Have picky eaters? Check out All Ears for a great list of what each restaurant serves. It really helps you get a feel of what to expect.
So you have your list in hand. Sit down in front of the computer at Midnight (Eastern time zone!), so 11 pm central time, log into the Disney website and start making reservations. Aim for those hard to get reservations first! Most people work from day 1 to their last day. I suggest working in reverse AFTER making those hard to get reservations. Lots of times you'll find the end of the trip dates open. PRINT OUT YOUR CONFIRMATIONS! I can't encourage that enough! With the recent move to My Disney Experience app and the website having hiccups, sometimes reservations get lost or just disappear. You'll need to call Disney Help Desk 407-939-7765 to straighten it all out.
The exception to the 180 day rule is the Be Our Guest Lunch Fastpass. On the 27th day from the day you want to EAT (not the day you check in) you can go to the Be Our Guest site and get a lunch fastpass. As of right now the ONLY way to get in for lunch is with a fastpass. Once you get your FP you have two choices, pick your meals now or when you arrive.
Money Saving Tip: You are free to share meals at counter service restaurants (even on the dining plan)! Some great sharing options are the chicken and rib plate at Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom (also available at Cosmic Ray's in Magic Kingdom), Yak & Yeti also in Animal Kingdom, Fairfax Fare in Hollywood Studios (large servings), Sunshine Seasons in Epcot (again large servings). You can add some another small side for a small out of pocket fee and FREE ice water!
Also, eat at "off times". Have a big brunch instead of breakfast and lunch. Eat an early dinner and skip lunch, then have a snack later in the night.
FREE ICE WATER is available at ALL quick service counter restaurants and most kiosks. Don't weigh down a bag or haul an ice chest bringing in water bottles.
60 Days before check in:
60 days before your first day of check in you can make your fast pass reservations. I'm not even going to go into all these details because why should I reinvent the wheel when WDW Prep already has such a great break down!
Also at this point you can do your online check in for your hotel and make any requests for rooms, etc. Keep in mind those requests are not always met.
40 Days before check in:
Make sure your My Disney Experience account is set up and you've selected all your magic bands. They'll be shipped out 30 days before your check in date.
If you plan to rent a stroller now is the time to book it! I would still suggest bringing a stroller for the 5-6 year old crowd. My youngest is 5 and tires quickly. We went with Magic Strollers. They are a preferred Disney company. I've heard great things! This will be the first time we've rented a stroller because I didn't want to try to pack ours. Magic Strollers drops the stroller off at your resort and picks it back up too!
30 Days before check in:
If you are planning to use the Memory Maker/photopass plans now is the time to book them. You'll save money by ordering in advance. We do not use these (remember I'm a penny pincher!) All of the photopass photographers will take pictures for you with your camera for free!
That's everything I can think of right now!