Disneyland Paris – Top 5 Must Do’s

I’ve had a request (from my sister) to do a Disneyland Paris post with some advice as the runDisney DLP half-marathon weekend is coming up in about a month and she’ll be running and hasn’t visited for a while. I do really enjoy going to DLP, usually for a long weekend here and there as it helps me with my Disney fix between visits to Walt Disney World (and I’m hoping to book to go back soon)!

My sister will be doing a bit of a whirlwind trip so it’s more important for her to know what not to miss. On top of that, I’m trying to pick things that are more unique to DLP. So you won’t find Star Tours on this list, or Tower of Terror – you can do the exact same ride at other Disney parks.

So here we go! And I’m going to start at the top with the number ONE do-not-miss attraction:

Number 1

Mickey and the Magician (seasonal)

20160428_mickeymagician_01

And the kicker is what’s in the brackets: this show is officially billed to operate seasonally and at time of writing, is scheduled to stop on September 2nd, 2018 with no official word on when it’ll be back and I can’t find anything unofficial either. Personally, I think it’s silly to not have detailed public for dates for after Sept 2nd because this show is spectacular. I put it in the number one spot for a reason and I suspect others would put it high too. Hell, it’s one major draw for going to DLP and I’d be disappointed to visit and NOT get the chance to see it.

It’s a wonderful show. Sister to Mickey and the Magical Map (also amazing, I love it) at Disneyland in Anaheim and to Mickey and the Wondrous Book in Hong Kong, the show is split English and French (Mickey speaks French and the other characters speak in English). It follows apprentice Mickey while he’s cleaning up around the sorcerer’s… ‘work-space’? As the likes of the movie Fantasia proved, Mickey gets a little caught up in things, but it makes for great entertainment! It’s a magical show, quite literally, with performances of hit songs from different Disney movies.

It’s the kind of show I’ve always loved – original in storyline, but taking the opportunity to perform the greatest hits. It’s not just a 30 minute shortened version of a film (though I enjoy that style, too). It’s more unique and knowing you can only see it at this one theatre, makes it more of a draw. It has those sister shows, as you can tell in the costuming and set design, but it’s not a carbon copy from one park to another.

I also admit to having somewhat of a bias as Mickey is a friend of mine and during my last trip to DLP, he arranged for me to get VIP access for seating and to see him after the show and graciously pose for photos. Perks! My pal always makes things magical!2017-04-23_07-36-14_500

But if it is operating, make sure to plan part of your day around which showing you’re going to attend. And get there in plenty of time as it fills up quickly. The only downside is the size of the waiting area and how you can feel like a sardine before getting access into the auditorium, but it’s a small grumble. Always make sure to see this show, especially if you’re a theatre fan.

Number 2

Disney Illuminations

621af29360685f88fae4c26f96ed9d8c_XLThis isn’t the same as IllumiNations at EPCOT; the theme isn’t remotely similar! That capital N makes all the difference. In EPCOT it’s a firework, laser and fire evening show that celebrates the world, the nations that make it up and takes you on a journey from the big bang through a potential future. In EPCOT there isn’t an IP (intellectual property) in sight and the music was composed specifically for the performance.

DSC_0337In Paris, Illuminations replaced Disney Dreams for the 25th Anniversary. It uses projection mapping, fireworks, lasers, fire, water, mist and other effects on Sleeping Beauty castle and runs through the most famous and most loved music Disney has produced. I loved Dreams but I do think this is an improvement. Similar in style to the likes of Happily Ever After and somewhat based on Ignite The Dream in Shanghai, it takes on that style of evening show that Disney is favouring now. I’m one of those people who believes HEA is better than Wishes, so for me, it’s all heading in the right direction.

It’s uplifting, it’s a true celebration, and the perfect end to an evening.

Number 3

Big Thunder Mountain / Phantom Manor

 

But wait! I hear you ask. You said no attractions that could be found elsewhere would make this list! Well, here’s the thing. As much as you can find A version of the rides elsewhere, they aren’t the same. The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Paris hands down beats the versions I’ve ridden at either of the USA parks. It’s longer, it’s more exciting, it goes under the water! It’s probably the most popular ride in the park.

You NEED to fastpass this and in order to get a fastpass you have to be in the park early (Paris is old school paper fastpass that you get on the day). At rope drop the line will head to Frontierland to either get straight on or to collect fastpasses. The last time I was there I walked with the crowd and we still had an hour long wait to get on the ride. So this is a ride to plan into your day specifically.

Phantom Manor in Paris concentrates more specifically on the Bride. It’s more similar to the Mansion in California than in Florida and also has a section geared towards a more ‘wild west’ feel. The French have a bit of an obsession with the wild west era and in Paris, the Phantom Manor is in Frontierland, so it has that aspect of it to link it into its location.

But at the end of the day, if you go to a Disney park and don’t ride any version of these rides, you’re missing out. They would be must-do’s anywhere.

Number 4

Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic

 

This is almost nostalgia based rather than anything else. The Studio Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios left us a good few years ago to make way for Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge. It was a classic that alas became smaller and smaller over the years, but I’ve got fond memories of the Earful Tower, the wardrobe area and the houses on the backlot! As far as I’m aware, Paris and the Walt Disney Studios is the last place to feature the Catastrophe Canyon set and I’ll always have a place in my heart for that!

The tour trams feature a voice over by Jeremy Irons, and you visit the boneyard, the Canyon and a London set based on the movie Reign of Fire. A backlot tour is what makes it feel more like an actual Studio and I enjoy that aspect!

Number 5

Ratatouille: the Adventure

n017734_2050jan01_ratatouille-laventure-completement-toquee_16-9Coming soon to EPCOT in an expansion of the France pavilion, the Ratatouille ride shrinks you down to the size of a rat. In fact, you ride in an actual rat and see everything from their POV as you make your way around Paris streets and get chased through the restaurant that Remy and Linguini work in (Gusteau’s). It’s a trackless dark ride that spins and is in 3D. It could be considered a thrill ride, but isn’t too strong on the thrill aspect.

It’s a really fun ride and it’ll be a good addition to EPCOT once built, but in the meantime, it’s exclusive to DLP so has to be a must-do!

Top 10? Top 20?

Need more to do? Of course you do! So let’s just take a quick look at both parks as a whole.

Disneyland Park

DSC_0370A lot of Disneyland Paris is walk through and exhibits. Aladdin’s passage, the Pirate Galeon, the Mysteries of the Nautilus. The vast majority of rides are in Fantasyland and can be pretty standard – Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Dumbo, Tea Cups etc.

If you do one walk through, well, it has to be under the castle to go to the Dragon’s Lair. Journeying under Sleeping Beauty Castle you can go see Maleficent as a dragon. But be careful, because she’s sleeping!

Despite there being rides you can find in any Disney park, I’d still make sure to hit Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and Star Tours etc. Space Mountain has been transformed in to the Star Wars themed Hyperspace Mountain. I like the ride, I like that it’s a launch coaster, but I still fine it a bit rickety here, so tend to try to avoid it so as not to get a headache from battering around in the restraints! But it’s still one to do, maybe later in the day!

And, of course, take the time to see the afternoon parade. I’ll admit that I’m not sure if they’ve reintroduced the Maleficent float to the parade. After the fire that destroyed the sister float in the Festival of Fantasy parade in Magic Kingdom, they took her out of action in Paris for safety. I’ve not seen if she’s back up and running – hopefully they found her to be safe – and I always love a parade. The music for Stars on Parade is really good… and catchy!

The one thing I would AVOID is the Indiana Jones ride. It’s theming is poor, certainly in contrast to the Indy ride in California and the roller coaster is old and rickety and just… not fun. Steer clear of that and don’t waste the time queuing for it!

Walt Disney Studios

DSC_0350The rides in the Toy Story Playland are pretty basic ‘fairground’ type rides. Think Dino-rama at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But they can still be pretty fun. I do quite like the RC Racers!

If you can get on Crush’s Coaster then go for it! It is the longest queue in the park and a bit of a slow load, but it’ll be fun. And you can’t go wrong with the Tower of Terror or Rock n Roller Coaster.

If you miss Lights, Motors, Action at Hollywood Studios then never fear! Originally sourced for Walt Disney World from Paris, it’s still going strong here! And something else that almost made my top 5 is Stitch Live! On a par with Turtle Talk with Crush (and far superior than Monsters Inc Laugh floor) in Florida, the animation does well while Stitch talks live with audience members. As with most of these, the audience plays a role so as a positive, you can really get a different show each time. Downside with that is some shows aren’t as good as others.

The Studios isn’t a huge park currently, so you can easily do everything in one day. I look forward to the three land expansions, but we’re still a good few years away from those opening!

Dining Options

My favourite places to eat are actually quick service while in Paris. Here’s the thing; they’re french. They make good food. Their quick service is far superior to what you’ll find in the American parks, because the expectations from European (and mostly French) guests is high.

In Disneyland, I happily head to Casey’s Corner for a quick bite to eat. I usually head to the rear of the arcade and get a seat there. It’s covered so is a good place to head in bad weather and there’s plenty of seating. In the Studios I LOVE the Café des Cascadeurs by Moteurs, Action. It’s just a small diner, mostly hidden away. It’s classed as quick service, yet you are served at your table and can watch as they make your burgers to order for you. Very good value for money and it’s so small that the atmosphere is great and you don’t feel crowded.

 

Beyond the parks, it’s just easier to head to the Disney Village and go to Earl of Sandwich or Five Guys. I’m sure a lot of the restaurant experiences are great, I’ve just not had a chance to do them personally as I’ve usually been doing DLP on more of a budget! Buffalo Bills is fun though, but you go for the show rather than the food!

Extra Advice

Now to state the obvious- don’t forget to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours. It’s usually just a handful of rides opened during these but getting in the park early is always a bonus, even if just to get great Main Street pictures when it’s practically empty! And you can head to the bakery for breakfast 😉

If it’s a busy period, then EMHs can really help get you through a lot of things before the rest of the punters arrive.

Have fun!dsc_0363.jpg

  • some attraction photos courtest of the official Disneyland Paris website. All others mine!
Advertisements

Summer 2018 – a round up

So that’s it. It’s done. 2(ish) weeks in the Florida sun in July with far too many days spent at Disney World. I pretty much drove myself to exhaustion but I’m the kind of passholder who doesn’t get out as often as they would like, so I was pushing to get my money’s worth!

I thought that I would do a round up post about this trip, and then I’ll to do a couple of follow up posts that explore specific things – my stay at the All-Star Sports Resort, an example day for how to maximise your time and fastpasses, a post solely about dining experiences, an exploration of the new Toy Story Land etc.

2018-07-06_17-53-53_671I tend to have a pattern I stick to when I spend my vacations in Orlando. The first day after arriving, I have breakfast at Denny’s and then we head to Disney Springs. This is usually the only time I head to Springs as I prioritise the parks, but it gives me that first Disney feeling. I’m not a huge ‘shopper’, so I stick to going places I know are favourites and make sure to have a good wander around World of Disney. I like the new look of the shop though there have certainly been mixed reviews. I found it a lot more spacious, easier to not get lost in, and more in keeping with the new theming for Disney Springs as a whole. Once the entire shop is reopened I think it’s going to be great!

After this, I had a day at Busch Gardens so that I could take advantage of my parent’s annual passholder benefits for there. We didn’t get much done as it was a busy day and the weather wasn’t on our side. My parents are going to be letting go of their Sea World/ Busch Gardens passes as we’re not as enamoured as we once were and they do seem to be going downhill when it comes to customer service. So I’m enjoying my last few visits for what could be quite a while!

On the 4th July, I took it easy. This was the day my sister and her husband were arriving, so I spent some time by the pool and then went to the airport to pick up my rental car and errant family members. Because they do less Disney than I do, I make sure to have my own car so that I have the freedom to do as much as I like with early starts and late nights.

The next day I had an appointment for my hair and I go to a salon near the Prime Outlets on International Drive, so after lunch I hit up the Character Warehouse for some bargains (though it is a smaller store than the Premium Outlets that I also make a point of getting to at some point). After this I was off to the Magic Kingdom for my first ‘real’ Disney Day and though I didn’t arrive at MK until approx 3pm, I still managed to fit in 9 fastpasses and some walk on attractions during the six or so hours I was there. 2018-07-08_15-28-18_681

From then on, my holiday was a sea of of Disney days; blitzing rides and attractions, trying new food and drink and meeting characters. I spent two nights at the All-Star resort in the middle and really enjoyed it. Luckily for me, I was only once disturbed by the sound of Brazilian tour groups, so I know I did better than most!

As I neared my last few days, I found myself hitting a bit of a wall. I was exhausted from doing so many ‘rope drop to fire works’ days. I didn’t even realise I was doing them! I would be in the parks early and then keep going into the evening and just keep saying I would do one more thing, which then turned into another one more thing. If I was watching Fantasmic, well, I may as well just stay for the Star Wars fireworks, right?! I always told myself that I could sleep when I got home again and since I don’t get to experience all these things whenever I want, then I should make the most of it. But for the last 3 or 4 days, I had to sleep in and head to the parks for about noon as I just couldn’t handle anything more than that! But I did spend a total of 13 days in a Disney theme park so it was still a good innings!

For me it was the ideal holiday. I was on my own for a lot of it but I have no problem doing Disney alone. Besides, I don’t have to worry about tailoring the day to suit a lot of people. I can ride when I want, eat when I want etc. I did some things I hadn’t done in a long time or ever before and I interspersed that with other favourites.  And I was one of the lucky few to get my hands on the Annual Passholder backpack that got released, so all in all, a successful vacation!

 

A Day at Disney – What do you need in your bag?

DisneyPhotoImage45There’s a lot of internet articles out there about what to take with you on a day at Disney, so count me among the many! Here’s my advice on what to take with you when you know you’re going to be out of the hotel room for a good 12 hours. Personally, I tend to be the kind of person who has the ‘what if’ items with them, as well as half a pharmacy. When someone needs something, I do tend to have something in my bag, including the oft neglected emergency fork! But at the same time, having too full a bag leads to a day of misery having to carry it around, so it’s about being sensible and also knowing that there are certain things you can get INSIDE the parks (and possibly for free) that you don’t need to worry about taking with you.

So we’ll start with the obvious and simple and go from there:

  • Wallet/Purse
  • House/hotel keys
  • Car keys
  • Phone
  • External phone charger (and cable!)

Yes, we’d all hope not to forget these things but do the pat down of your pockets and double check the bag because, obviously, you’ll be lost without them! Hopefully within your wallet/purse you’ll have any key cards for entry into places, whether that be hotel rooms or the parks, but check inside to make sure they are there along with the all important credit cards and cash.

When it comes to your phone, remember you’ll be on it a LOT. In Disney you’ll use their app to control your day. Even if it’s a trip to a Universal Park, Busch Gardens, Sea World or Legoland, they’ll have apps that can help track your day in some form, so make sure you’ve got plenty of back up power. Depending on how reliable your external battery pack is, maybe chuck 2 or 3 in your bag along with the cable. Personally, I invested in an extra cable that lives in my bag so I don’t have to worry about it falling out and getting lost in a park and then leaving me screwed until I can get to a Wall Mart later on.

  • Magic bands (or park passes)

Whether it’s the classic wrist worn magic band or whether you’ve popped your MagicBand 2 into a key fob, make sure you’ve got it. Sure, your credit card style pass will still get you in everywhere, but who wants to go fumbling around for it when you can just tap something as handy as a Band that’s on your wrist or attached somewhere else.

  • Poncho (or umbrella)
  • spare socks
  • Ziplock bag
  • hat

When it rains, it pours! Best be ready for these things, since in Florida you can have blue skies one minute and a thunder storm the next. But these things also are handy when going on water rides. A poncho or umbrella will keep you dry enough while walking around. Ponchos can be picked up in the parks, but you might want to consider a quick trip to Wall*Mart or a dollar/pound store at some point and invest in a bunch of cheap throw away ones as it can be a frustrating getting your ponchos folded up and back in your bags. however, you might also want to think about the environment by throwing out all those plastics. Another alternative is a very big bin back with a head hole cut out. Don’t know it, we used to do that when working there! Spare socks are always in my bag. Unless you wear flip flops or easy to dry shoes, then you’re more likely to have sneakers on so the squelch gets annoying after a while. I like to give them some time to dry but then give in and put the spare socks on. A ziplock bag is handy to keep your phone in while on water rides or if you’re worried about one of the torrential downpours and a hat will always be handy, rain or shine!

  • Sunscreen / lip balm
  • sunglasses
  • Bug spray
  • Wet wipes / tissues / hand sanitizer
  • Pain medication

Sunscreen seems like a given. I like to use a small sport stick one that fits easily in the bag and isn’t heavy. Bug spray for those worried about bites is also handy in a small spray. Sunglasses, again, a given. If you have lost yours, you can pick up a new pair in the parks… so long as they aren’t prescription!

Wet wipes can be picked up within the parks, (The Land in EPCOT is a good spot to grab some) so don’t invest in them but when you can, grab some! Hand sanitizer is sold within the parks as well and will come in handy while snacking as well as considering just how much stuff you’ll be touching in a day.

I like to make sure I’ve got a few basic medications with me. Something for headaches or minor aches and pains as well as some Imodium. Just in case! Bear in mind that should you feel unwell or if you have a reaction to something within the parks, each has a First Aid area and they are all very good and will take good care of you.

  • Autograph book / sharpie
  • Camera

Autographs aren’t just for kids! I’ve spent nice days at the parks collectinh autographs in the meet and greets, so make sure to have your book ready and with a handy sharpie. Nice thick sharpies are easier for certain characters to hold onto, especially if they wear gloves!

These days, plenty of people forego the camera for a mobile phone. I always have my good camera with me. It’s heavy and takes up the bulk of the weight in my bag, but I’m a bit of a photo hound. I also like to get the more close up photos of shows and parades and I’ve yet to find a phone that can do justice to those pics!

  • Water bottle

There are various schools of thought when it comes to bringing your water into the park. Personally, when it comes to the hot summer months, I make a point of freezing a bottle overnight and then wrapping it in a plastic bag. It lasts longer than you realise! Other people like to use a thermos and keep filling it throughout the day. Others use the backpacks with the inbuilt water system. But don’t forget that ice water is available for free from any quick service location throughout the parks. Each Starbucks also has water (and it has a better filter) though they now only allow you to get some in the small paper cups provided rather than grabbing a whole bottle full to take with you.

If your bag is already feeling full, don’t worry about forgetting or not wanting to take a heavy bottle. Just grab what you can in the parks.

  • Pins and lanyard

And for those of you who already collect or are tempted, don’t forget your trading pins and the lanyard for them. I actually use a hip pin patch that I got at Cast Connections years ago so that I don’t have to have anything around my neck. Pin trading can be a lot of fun. I just like to concentrate on certain characters as well as dated pins for events I was at; to do too many sets would make me crazy… and broke! It’s a good way to interact with cast members as you check out what they have, and some will have the hidden mickey pins that can’t be bought in stores and can only be collected by trading with them.

  • Ears!

And finally, a day at Disney isn’t complete without your ears!

 

Helpful links to get you excited for your trip

With a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort getting closer, I always get excited, no matter how often I’ve been in the past Which mens I dive into random youtube videos, search articles online, and obsessively refresh the a app for fastpasses and dining reservations. They certainly help get you in the mood for your vacation. And can even teach wisened Disney park veterenssome new tricks.

And if you’re a newbie to a Disney vacation then it’s important to RESEARCH.

All opinions, even my own (!) are subjective, and advice can vary depending on circumstances or favorites, so it’s wise to shop around on these things, maybe look for a consensus.

I have a few favourite sources for information and I recommend giving some of these videos/channels a watch as well as some other websites There’s no point in me rehashing everything right now when others have already done these kinds of guides. So here’s my top go-to’s for WDW advice and pre-holiday enthusiasm while you count down the days to your visit.

TPM Vids:

Theme Parks and More is a cool channel on youtube and is one of those ones that you just keep hitting to watch the next video and before you know it, 3 hours has passed. I especially like this video with tips on Fastpass selections, and it’s companion video with tips on skipping the lines in the parks. Head into their list of videos and watch their countdowns of the top shows, dark rides and more. I don’t necessarily agree with their estimations since ordered lists of what are the ‘best’ is certainly subjective, but it still shows a good selection regardless.

DFBGuide:

This one is the Disney Food Blog and they do have a few videos up that aren’t food related, too! But the reviews of restaurants and quick service locations are good guides. I mean, beyond their ranking of Pizzarizzo as the worst pizza because I’m kind of obsessed with Disney pizza in that style and I don’t even know why I love it so much!

Inside the Magic:

These guys have a lot of videos, even weeding through them in the playlists section going for just specific parks will still give you a lot to look at. But they do have a lot of full show and ride videos which can be a handy part of research – especially if you have young kids and you’re unsure in advance if something might be too scary or too advanced for them.

Websites/news sources:

The Dis

WDW News Today

The Main Street Mouse

And let’s not forget the official Disney Parks Blog! And their youtube channel.

Summer 2018 – Advance Dining Reservations

So you’ve booked your trip. Maybe you’ve even thought about your fastpasses because you intend to plan your days around where the best fastpass times are; but you also want to plan where you might be eating on those days, too! This kind of thing is especially important if you are staying at a WDW Resort and you have a Disney Dining Plan that incorporates sit down meals.

2016-03-01 20.22.22
Teppan Edo – you can’t beat your food made right in front of you!

ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) open 180 days in advance and some of those restaurants are extremely popular so those will start to fill up around that kind of time, especially character dining like Chef Mickey’s or (possible) prime firework viewing like the Rose and Crown after 7pm.

I always pay my rent to my parents for allowing me to stay in their house by taking them to Cape May at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. It’s a seafood buffet at dinner and serves my mother’s favourite (snow crab) so she’s at her happiest there! (Also, I asked my parents if they had any other tips and tricks they could think of to share, and my mother immediately answered with – don’t book Cape May on a night I’ll be there, so I get all the snow crabs!)

For this summer I wanted to make sure I had dinner planned at the Rose and Crown. I only booked about 4 months out but got the last post-7pm reservation I could find during my stay. With IllumiNations likely to be ending soon for a new nighttime show I wanted to make sure I was booked for what could be my last time viewing. Or, if they announce and make the change quickly, my first time viewing the replacement. After working there for 2 different years on the International Program, I think of the Rose and Crown as home, even after a huge amount of cast turnover. I still get to go see my friends who work there permanently and see the building itself and the secrets it hides from the general Disney guests. I always like to go in and see the place again and enjoy a nice meal. It’s always fun to talk to the current cast members about their time and how things might have changed. And if I secretly give them an extra service test at the same time, then it’s more fun for me! (iced tea spoon!!)

Beyond that, I wanted to get a little creative. Sure, I love different quick service locations, but sometimes when in the parks on my own it can be difficult to eat at busy times as there’s no way to know if a table will be available and no one to hold my seat while I’m in the queue getting food. So I decided to book into Be Our Guest for a QSR lunch. And as an added bonus on another day, I recently noticed that Cinderella’s Royal Table had availability for breakfasts. Deciding to snap it up while I could, I’m ready to enjoy character dining even while as a solo guest. It’s always something I’ve wondered about and thought it would be difficult – what to do with cameras/phones in order to take pictures and if it’s a buffet, I’m loathe to leaves bags at the table on their own. The good thing about Cinderella’s Royal

SANY0990_0385_385
The view of Fantasyland from Cinderella’s Royal Table

Table is that it’s that weird middle ground of buffet and table service. And with it being face characters rather than fur, communication for pictures will likely be easier, so it seemed like a good test. I have early fastpasses that day so my plan is to head to the park for rope drop, watch the forecourt show then head into the restaurant for my 9.25am breakfast before going out to enjoy my day in the park, energised and with a full stomach!

Restaurant tips, tricks and reminders:

  • Remember the booking period opens well before fastpasses and some restaurants are extremely popular. If it’s character dining or firework viewing, get in there quick and work your fastpasses around your dining reservations.
  • Disney Resort guests open for reservations at that 180 days, just like everyone else. EXCEPT resort guests only need to be 180 days from their first night and can then book into restaurants for further into their vacation. Disney do this so you don’t have to go into the app or call every day to make reservations. However, ‘regular’ guests are stuck having to wait for each day to open up.
  • If you are worried about restaurants booking up fast and you don’t want to miss out, for most you can just go ahead and book and cancel if need be. So long as you do so in plenty of time you won’t be penalised with the $10 per person cancellation fee.
  • Before the 24-hour cancelation fee was introduced, Disney experienced a 30-50% drop of with guests just not showing up for meals. This is why they introduced the fee as it really screwed up the capacities and made it difficult for servers to earn their money when promised tables just didn’t show up. That’s not to say the fee has stopped that from happening: there is still a drop off, it’s just not as extreme as it once was. So walk ups are still possible, especially during the slightly ‘off peak’ times (e.g. not between 12-2pm and 5-7pm) and if you check around 24-48 hours before, you might be able to sneak in and grab a reservation after a late cancelation.
  • Character dining is a great way to make sure your family get the chance to meet the characters without a whole load of queuing and can free up fastpasses for rides rather than character meet & greets. Additionally, since so many of them are buffet, all the family can be easily catered for. It may feel like the cost is a little higher than other restaurants, but when you work out a three course meal with soft drink, it’s not that different. (And you can always wrap up some cookies in a napkin to take home for later. shhhhh.)
  • Don’t forget that the resorts have some great restaurants and you don’t have to be staying there to enjoy them. They can also be quieter since the majority of day guests don’t want to sacrifice time in the parks or just don’t know they exist. Grab Disney transport or hop in the car and go enjoy some more hidden treats like Beaches and Cream Soda Shop for a kitchen sink, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto for snacks and cocktails, or head for Afternoon Tea at the Garden View at the Grand Floridian. And both the Boardwalk and Disney Springs have a huge selection of restaurants to choose from, too.
  • If you are on the dining plan you’re probably already saving a little bit of money, but having so many credits can seem daunting when you plan to have days that aren’t at Disney. In that case, book into some of the more expensive restaurants that take double the credits. It uses them up and it’ll still be cheaper than people dining a la carte. It also means you can make the most of the dining plan without feeling like you’re on disney restaruant overload.
  • Disney are now moving away from the pager system and sending text messages when your table is ready, however, I found the system a little unreliable so would recommend just asking for a pager. It is currently only available to US cell phone numbers, but even then, we’ve had times when the messages haven’t come through. The only downside with the pagers is that you are limited in how far you can go, which is why they want to be able to just text you. But with the aim of seating you within 15 minutes of your reservations, there shouldn’t be too far for you to wander to anyway!