It was a beautiful night in late summer at Epcot. As most folks were settling in to watch Illuminations, my husband Ray, our daughter Kira, and I made our way down a charming path through a breathtaking recreation of Canada’s Butchart Gardens towards Le Cellier, the steakhouse where we had dinner reservations for 9:00, some of the most coveted and difficult reservations to come by in all of Walt Disney World.
Along the path, we encountered another family; I’d say the parents were in their early 40’s, and they had two small children – a girl of perhaps six, and a boy around four. Long before we saw this family however, we heard them.
Father: I told you we would need reservations! I knew we would. But noooo, you’re sooo smart; you know everything. And now it’s late, everyone’s hungry, there’s nothing to eat, and it’s all your fault!
Mother (in a voice any banshee would envy): Fine! Just fine! Everything that goes wrong is my fault! Nothing I do is ever right! I guess we can all just eat popcorn for dinner!
Little Boy (sounding very chipper and hopeful): I like popcorn!
All of this in the Happiest Place on Earth.
My point? As I’ve mentioned before, Walt Disney World is big. To navigate it successfully, you need to plan. Dinner reservations (particularly during peak times or when Free Dining is offered) go fast, often right at Disney’s 180 day mark. Yes, I’m saying that for some spots, you need to decide where you want to eat six months in advance. Or you can eat popcorn for dinner. Fortunately, the internet offers you many tools to help you decide where to book your ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations, Disney’s redundant term for dining reservations). My personal favorites are the menus at allears.net and wdwinfo.com. These are a great way to see what each restaurant offers, and how much you can expect to pay.
A quick note here: don’t you dare make ADRs at multiple restaurants for the same time because you aren’t sure where you’ll be. This is extremely rude, and Karma will get you for it; I just know it.
There’s another important lesson to be learned from this story. For some reason, a trip to WDW seems to put a lot of pressure on people. They adopt an attitude of “I’m paying a lot of money for this trip, so you are all going to enjoy yourselves, or else!” Don’t do this to yourself. You are on vacation. Have fun. So you didn’t get to eat at the restaurant everyone raves about. So what? Go have ice cream for dinner. When do you ever get to do that at home? Are your kids (or you) tired? Take a break. Go back to your hotel and hang by the pool. Disney has some fabulous pools; utilize them. Yes, you’re missing out on park time, but are you there to enjoy yourself or to cross every possible attraction you can off of your “to do” list? I have news for you: you are never going to see everything WDW has to offer in one trip, so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself and your family!
Here’s another news flash: not everyone in your party is going to want to do everything. Even if your four-year-old daughter is tall enough to ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, understand that it can be a little intimidating. On the same token, is it really fair to make your 15-year-old son sit and watch while his little sister gets dolled up at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique? (Unless of course, he wants to get “boutiqued” too, in which case please send pictures!) You aren’t the Borg. You don’t have to operate as a collective. Accept the fact that different people in your party are going to have different interests, and factor that into your game plan. Walt Disney World isn’t going anywhere. Enjoy what you can on this trip, and just make note of what you want to experience the next time. As Disney says, “It’s never too early to start planning your next Disney Vacation”!