I was sitting here eating a piece of leftover homemade pizza today, and I began to take particular note of how I was eating it, picking and choosing each bite to be sure that my favorite part, with the pineapple, was in the last bite. Random, I know, but it got me thinking about how we book our Advanced Dining Reservations and the way my approach has changed over the years.
Years ago, I used to be someone who liked to work my way up to the best restaurants, saving my favorite Disney dining experiences until the end of the trip. You know, you start with the staples like Coral Reef or the Crystal Palace, okay, fine, and Rainforest Cafe. ( I can’t help it; I just love the place. ) Then, you start to work your way up to those special ones that you love, like Marrakesh in EPCOT and Tiffins, in Animal Kingdom. Maybe even a Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios, just for old times sake, but always leaving your absolute favorites till last.
There was nothing like ending a Disneyland vacation with a Blue Bayou Fantasmic! dining and show package. Or the last hurrah at California Grill in Walt Disney World. For many years, this plan worked perfectly until 2014, when everything changed.
It was that infamous late December trip I have told you about before. The one that notoriously wavered between colder-than-usual-Florida-cold temperatures and hot-as-fire-summer weather. That almost sounds like the title of a Friends episode, but really, it was 52 one day, 102 the next. Anyway, we got through the first few nights on the yumminess agenda — everything going to plan — and then it hit. The stomach flu.
This was the time that some of you might remember. I embarrassingly passed out in the middle of Fantasyland before figuring out that I was coming down with something. For me, that was it. My wheelchair and I were out for the count, and I never made it to my must-go dining reservations that trip, and forever I will be scarred.
That’s when my planning method started to change. It was my first experience with things going really wrong while in the parks. I mean, sure, we had some weather issues and different things that changed plans here and there, but nothing like this that simply wiped out a whole section of our trip.
I started to look at the experience differently and, the following year, went down a completely different path. I started locking in my non-negotiable selections in the first few nights, giving us a chance to perhaps have another shot later in the trip if the first one doesn’t work out. Basically, I was trying to get as many different experiences under my belt before any of us could catch anything from the other guests in the park. I wasn’t going to get caught out like that again!
Over the years, my obsessive grip on the restaurants that I never miss has loosened a little bit. I’ve started to find more enjoyment in casual dining and grabbing bits and pieces around the park as snacks rather than sitting for large meals, but I still live in fear of missing out on the one or two experiences that remain very special to me.
Now it is over to you. How do you rank your Disney dining reservations, and which do you prefer to start and end with? Do you like to start with a bang and celebrate the beginning of your vacation or end your time away with your favorite dinner? If you want to go a step further, let me know what your first and last dining preferences are as well. Perhaps you prefer to book a special breakfast or lunch instead of dinner? I’m open to all suggestions.
The ending to my pizza story from earlier was that I still haven’t learned my lesson. Before I got to the end of the slice, I was full and never got around to eating that last perfect bite that I had worked so hard for.
I’m a glutton for punishment, it would seem.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.