Tips for Making Be Our Guest Restaurant Reservations

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With Advance Dining Reservations now available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, you might find yourself wanting to have a meal…or 3…there. After being shut out of getting ADRs there more times than I care to admit, I think I have some helpful tips to offer to ensure that you’re able to score those elusive reservations.

At first, I thought it was simply a matter of waiting for the initial hype of the restaurant to die down, as we were unable to get ADRs during our first couple of trips shortly after it opened. Fast forward almost 3 years later, and I still haven’t eaten dinner there. Some of this is because I simply don’t plan 180 days in advance anymore, which is when the window for booking ADRs opens for the restaurant. It’s a rarity for me to start planning 3 months in advance, and by that time, ADRs are long gone.

In fact, they’re often long gone by the 180 day mark. That may not make sense, but the first tip isn’t really a tip so much as it is a simple fact of life: if you’re staying on-site at a Walt Disney World hotel, there’s a good chance you’ll be shut out for dinner even at the 180 day mark. This is because on-site guests can start making ADRs 180 days before the start of their trip, not the day before they want to dine. In other words, if you’re staying on-site and have a 7-day vacation starting on September 26 (180 days from today), you could make ADRs starting today not just for September 26, but for the duration of your trip, whereas off-site guests could only make ADRs for September 26 or sooner.

Given that there are around 80,000+ guests staying on-site in Walt Disney World on any night, this is a lot of people who potentially can book reservations for Be Our Guest Restaurant before the window for off-site guests even opens. Granted, the vast majority of guests know nothing about ADRs and won’t try book reservations at the 180 window, but around 1% of those guests could book dinner and the restaurant would fill up.

If you’re staying on-site, it’s good practice to try booking Be Our Guest Restaurant as soon as your window opens, and for as far into your vacation as you can. Plan your park days around that. You might even make a couple of ADRs so that you can cancel one after park hours are released. If you’re not staying on-site, well, good luck. Try right when your 180 day window opens, and repeat as necessary for subsequent days of your trip.

Let’s just assume for a second that you’re unable to score one of those coveted ADRs far in advance of your trip. Fortunately, there are other options… (more…)

101 Great Disneyland Tips

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Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are generally considered “locals parks,” and there are a lot of things they do that you, too, can do to save time and money, or just improve the quality of your vacation. Here are 101 random tips based upon our visits to Disneyland as Annual Passholders, and based upon lessons we’ve learned while in the parks from locals we hang out with who have been visiting for years.

Our 101 Great Walt Disney World Tips list was so popular that we’ve decided to do this one for Disneyland! Not all of these tips will be applicable to everyone (not everyone is going to need to know about a Baby Care Center…even if the adults in your party can sometimes be big babies), but there should be something for everyone here. Whether you’re a first time planner or a weathered veteran who still has nightmare-flashbacks to Light Magic, there are tips for you here!

We have a lot of tips to cover (101, to be exact) that will help you experience Disneyland and Disney California Adventure like a “pro.” Some are simple hacks to save money, some will help you save time, and others are just random oddities that will enhance the experience. Make sure to read the comments at the end where some readers have shared additional tips.

Note that this post has been updated for 2015 with some new tips, plus some old tips that are no longer relevant removed. Let’s get started with our 101 favorite Disneyland tips! (more…)

Extra Magic Hours: Pros & Cons

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Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World are extended park hours available to Disney resort-hotel guests. On certain days of the week, guests can enter a Walt Disney World park one hour before it opens to the general public, or stay in a park two hours later than normal operating hours. This post covers the pros and con of Extra Magic Hours, and how to best take advantage of them if they work in your favor, or whether you should avoid them entirely.

I thought it would be worth addressing Extra Magic Hours (EMH) because there recently have been a few reader questions about them, and because my advice is a bit contrary to what I’ve commonly heard elsewhere. Before we get to that, let’s start with a little background. Extra Magic Hours are available, as mentioned, to all guests of Disney resort-hotels. If you’re staying at a hotel with “Disney’s…” as the first word in the title, you’re eligible. Additionally, there are some “official unofficial” hotels that also receive the perk, and those are: the Swan & Dolphin, Shades of Green, and the Hilton Orlando (in the Downtown Disney area). Guests at any of these hotels are eligible for Extra Magic Hours at no additional cost.

You can see which park has Extra Magic Hours on any given day by looking at the daily Walt Disney World Calendar, so you can plan to be in–or to avoid–parks having Extra Magic Hours while planning your itinerary.  Note that not every attraction is open during Extra Magic Hours. There are few options in the morning than the evening, but most headliners are open during both, with the notable exception being Magic Kingdom Morning EMH, where basically just Fantasyland and Tomorrowland are open.

Guests gain entry to the park during Morning Extra Magic Hours an hour before the general public by scanning their MagicBand (which shows the resort identification) or showing a valid room key. Since Evening Extra Magic Hours begin immediately after the end of the normal operating day with no “hard” closure and reopening in between, to gain access to attractions, guests scan MagicBands or show room keys. If you’re the clever type who wants more park time to enjoy the ambiance but you aren’t eligible for Evening Extra Magic Hours, you can just wander around. No one will stop you unless you try to go on an attraction.

If you’re not staying on-site, you can’t take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, and your best bet will probably just be to skip the park with Extra Magic Hours, and instead choose the park that stays open latest for the general public.

Alright, now let’s take a look at some Extra Magic Hours strategy for those who are staying on-site… (more…)

Coolest Summer Ever 24-Hour Party Planning Tips

Dreamy Sunrise Over Cinderella CastleBefore we traveled to Walt Disney World the week between Christmas and New Year's, which is notoriously the busiest week of the year, a lot of people asked us whether we were crazy. Yes, of course we are, but that had nothing to do with our decision to visit during that week. The decision to bear those brutal crowds was made easy for us thanks to the extended operating hours and impressive New Year's Eve fireworks shows. And although we're not fans of large crowds (I'm betting not many of you have

During the Coolest Summer Ever 24-Hour Party, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Disneyland & Disney California Adventure will be open for 24 consecutive hours beginning on May 22, 2015 at 6 am until 6 am on May 23, 2015. Despite being a holiday weekend, Memorial Day is not too busy. This 24-Hour Party falls on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, making it the perfect time to take a long weekend trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland.

We are biased. I’ve made trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World for every one of these parties. I love them. Not everyone does. Several readers have written to us sharing their negative experiences, so your mileage may vary. This is not a hard ticket event, so a normal, single day ticket will entitle you to visit the parks for the full 24-hour party!

Based upon our experiences at the parties, here are some tips for enjoying these special events if you’re going to be Walt Disney World or Disneyland, and also some tips for those of you watching the fun from home! While this planning guide is a great primer, if you want a better idea of what to expect during the 24 hour event, I strongly encourage you to read our trip report from the “One More Disney Day” 24 hour event or last year’s Memorial Day Walt Disney World Trip Report. Even if you’re not going, there are some pretty photos from the events! This post was originally written for the first party, and it has been updated for each of the parties since.

Also, check out our general Disneyland Trip Planning Guide and Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide if you’re not a “regular” at either park for more general planning tips. With that said, here are our Coolest Summer Ever 24-Hour Party tips! (more…)

Tips for Buying Discount Disney World Tickets

Money-saving Tips for Buying Discount Walt Disney World Tickets (from authorized sellers!)

Walt Disney World offers a wide array of tickets. These tickets are expensive, but luckily, if you shop right, you can find good discounts on Disney tickets to save money. When it comes to a Disney vacation, the tickets are likely going to be your second-most expensive expenditure after your hotel room and perhaps airfare. For some people, they might actually be the most costly portion of the trip! Disney raises its ticket prices about once or twice per year, so it’s best to buy your tickets as early as possible, before your trip.

If all you want to know is where to safely buy cheap, legitimate Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller and don’t want to read this entire article covering the best tickets to purchase and other tips, click here.

Walt Disney World ticket prices last increased in price on February 22, 2015. It was about a 5% price increase per, with one day tickets for the Magic Kingdom raising to $105 and other parks going to $97, plus across the board increases for all multi-day tickets. We have heard rumors that prices on some tickets may increase again around Memorial Day weekend, or possibly in July, but this is just unverified rumor at this point. Keep in mind that you can buy tickets now for vacations you’re taking anytime in the future, so buying before prices increase again is a good way to lock in current prices.

With this information about the latest Walt Disney World ticket price increase in mind, you might be wondering which type of Walt Disney World tickets you should purchase? We present all of the options here along with their pros and cons, so you can make an informed decision. Given their cost, and the myriad of different ticket options, it’s important to know as much as you can about the different types of tickets, and what your family will probably need. Purchasing Walt Disney World tickets can be overwhelming, as there are many different choices and add-ons. It’s intimidating at first, but all of the options are a good thing, as you can buy exactly what you need and not waste money on unnecessary extras.

In this article we sort through the different options and give you recommendations on what types of tickets are best for you, plus where you can save money on Walt Disney World tickets. (If you’ve come looking for info on discount Disneyland tickets, you’ve come to the wrong place–but we do have an article with Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets, too.)

Ready to get started? Here are our tips and tricks for saving money on 2015 Walt Disney World tickets! (more…)