Saturday, July 24, 2010

Continuing our trip planning: The Early Bird Catches the ADR

ADRs have meaning when you can't get the table you want!

We’re getting deep into our planning for a fall trip to Walt Disney World during the 2010 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, but as I explained last week, this is not the only reason we’re going. Another is to build my photo collection to use in “A World View” and its related blogs which I have been building since we returned from our trip last December. And we love to visit Disney, so why wait.

This is Part II of our Trip Planning Series, bringing you along and getting your feedback in helping to prepare our visit choices and schedule. Our first article was on July 17 which you can click here to read.

We did decide to upgrade the trip by adding the Standard Dining Plan and its table service credits, since Disney announced that free dining was extended to the end of the year. We’re staying at Pop Century which only offered the free dining for Counter Service meals. This also affected our tickets, since we knew that Park Hoppers were likely going to be necessary. On the rental car however, we’re still on hold. Based on how we schedule, it’s very possible we can use Disney transportation or a taxi cab to get where we want to go in a timely manner. Even cabbing twice will be significantly less than renting a car, so the free Disney’s Magical Express does look like a viable option, limiting our additional budget need to $250 and not $350/$400 with the car. But it’s early in the planning, and even the schedule may change that would eliminate the need for Park Hopping. But there are sit-down places and off-site places we really would like to consider, so time becomes a factor.

Cover, Epcot Food & Wine Festival Booklet

Since the last article we conducted a little reading and research to prepare for the next steps.
  • We reviewed the Disney Food Blog. This has become an essential planning tool for us, as it is for many. Although Mary Ann and I have our favorite restaurants, we always like to hear what others have to say; and each trip we do add new places to eat. The articles, reviews, “best of” and columns AJ prepares and brings to us truly helps start the selection process. And, she has the most comprehensive postings and information on the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We needed to make our ADRs, but we’re actually pretty late in the game since it’s less than the 180 days from our trip. We know some of our first choices will be sold out already, as will our preference for times at those places we can book. But our list includes first and second choices anyway.
  • After combining our favorites with information from AJ, we then checked out guest opinions on places to eat as well as things to do out of the ordinary park visits. It’s a short trip, so five table-service meals are the max. That meant checking out AllEars.Net and DISBoards. These are great resources to learn what Disney guests think of different restaurants and attractions, and they include visit dates so the current feedback is first. Now there are a ton of places to get information and opinions about Walt Disney World, such as DisMarks and The Disney Blogger Collection – New Every Hour. That is why it is so important to start real early in your planning, since there are so many places to get real-time and great information to help you make your selections of what to do and when.
  • The Food and Wine Festival Booklet was released so we downloaded this 25-page document as well as the festival map. We would consider attending one paid event in addition to sampling the nations and a couple low/no-cost demonstrations.
We are new to Food & Wine so guest feedback on the best way to approach our visit was a hot research subject. FJ of The Disney Food Blog has many suggestions and one was right on the mark, use your Snack Credits to sample the “World”. This already saves us some money since we have 10 credits between us. But what actually changed our approach and our schedule plan was an article in Chip N Company by “Nancy” who wrote about Strategies for Saving Money at the Festival. Her strategy focused on afternoon visits rather than evenings, which fit in our table service meal plan preference. It’s a good read with smart ideas.



So we made some of our initial choices, successful in some but not in others. First the ADRs. We did try to book Canada’s LeCellier in Epcot. We knew this was a real shot in the dark booking so late and being Food & Wine; and as expected there were no meal slots available anytime during our trip. But two restaurants we hadn’t done before were very appealing to us: Flying Fish on the Boardwalk and ‘Ohana at the Polynesian Resort for dinner. We booked both, but ‘Ohana was a little later than we prefer, even though we are late eaters. And, Flying fish is two credits, so we only have two table service meals left.

Sanaa, Kidani Village, Animal Kingdom Villas. Photo (c) Disney.

Because of an eclectic list of day and evening events we were considering, table-service lunches were also planned. Sanaa in Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom was a wonderful visit our last trip so we booked lunch there again. This had to be during the day, since you really can’t fully appreciate the outdoor surroundings at nightfall; but the food is wonderful and there is much we didn’t try the last visit. Next we booked Nine Dragons for lunch on our last day, before we return to the airport. We did this our last trip and the meal was good, so perhaps this becomes a tradition for the future.

Or not? Via Napoli, the new Italian Restaurant at Epcot will be open when we are there, and reservations will be accepted beginning August 6. We’re reading a lot about the proposed menu and the restaurant operator The Patina Group who operates Naples at Disneyland. It’s possible we’ll try to replace Nine Dragons with Via Napoli. But that will require a very early phone call on the first day of ADRs.

Disney Artist Rendering, Via Napoli, Epcot

Forgot about the early bird...
I always have said to friends that the earliest calls are important, for example, our attempt to book the 3D Disney Dessert Discovery the only day during our trip that it’s offered. We called at 7:20 am on the first day of reservations. I should have known better, but I did think since so many events were available in that 25 page booklet, we should be OK. We weren’t. Less than a half hour after the first opportunity to book events, we were shut out. Let that be a lesson for everyone whoever wants to book something they really want to do at Disney.

Remember planning begins well before your trip. And on the very first day you can call for an ADR, be on the phone at least 15 minutes before it opens and keep dialing till you get through. I also tried to book the Wishes Dessert Party at the Magic Kingdom which was extended through the fall/early winter, but nothing was available for us anytime during our trip. I’ll call a few times before our trip, since you never know who cancels. But these are pre-paid activities, and the likelihood of getting one is slim or none.


Finally we made the list of Counter Service Meals that will serve as preferred options during our trip, and that usually (but not always) occurs in the parks. We obviously won’t eat at all of these locations, but they do serve as a reminder of where we like to go. Of these, five will be selected that will depend on where we are on any particular day when we’re ready to eat.
  • Magic Kingdom: Main Street Bakery, Pecos Bill, Columbia House, Casey’s Corner
  • Epcot: Sunshine Seasons in The Land, Morocco’s Tangerine Café
  • Animal Kingdom: Flame Tree , Yak & Yeti
  • Downtown Disney: Wolfgang Puck Express, Earl of Sandwich
By the way, your feedback would be welcome. If you have a thought we’re not considering or an idea that would add to the magic, let us know via facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aworldview.

The Airline Decision on Hold
I haven’t yet booked our airlines, although it will likely be Jet Blue. I actually missed the day that I think would have been the best price. I should learn that when my gut tells me to buy, it’s usually correct; and I didn’t. I waited a week until the next Tuesday and Wednesday which are usually good purchase days for airlines, and the price I first saw was now $70 more. I will wait one more week, but then not a take chance anymore. There is an option that will save us the money but bring us in a couple hours later, which I hope will still be there if the best option price doesn’t get lowered early next week.

Pop Century Resort. We're staying here.

Response to Feedback
There are 13 people so far who participated in the survey on Characters in Flight we posted on the top right column. The positive results and other online reviews have resulted in tentatively posting this activity on the spreadsheet for Day 1, depending on the weather. This coincides with having lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express, one of the places on our list. Thank you.

Janet B sent me a note with suggestions such as the low cost of upgrading the meal plan which helped support our decision. She suggested breakfast at ‘Ohana, which was an option although we picked dinner there. However, her idea does align with our thoughts that some counter-service meals occur at resorts other than ours. This supports a wider photo opportunity, and honestly, breakfast is one of my favorite meals. We’re going to toss this around. Thank you.

What next to decide?
  • Will I be able to get the price I want for airfare, even it means choosing another airline other than Jet Blue whose prices are a little better right now?
  • Should we try to book Via Napoli in place of Sanaa or Nine Dragons?
  • What events or activities, inside or outside the parks should we tentatively schedule or attend? With so many choices of entertainment, bouncing around the property to get the full experience is always part of our plans.
  • But this could mean adding the car rental and again raising our budget. However, if we do choose a wider spectrum of visit places, when do we rent? At the airport or at the “World”.
I’m not sure if the next article will be in a week, but no later than two. And remember, if you have an idea for us to consider and share, write us via facebook.

A World View is now on Twitter (http://twitter.com/wdwview); and facebook (www.facebook.com/aworldview) to provide comments and feedback on stories. Check out the right side column on A World View for a wealth of links. Then, don't forget Disney Contests and Sweepstakes (http://disneycontests.blogspot.com/) where you might win a free trip to WDW; and the Disney Bloggers Collection – New Every HOUR! (http://disneybloggers.blogspot.com/) where current posts of at least 187 Disney-related fan blogs are located.



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