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First DW Trip w/3 little kids - Why am I worrying about dining?

Discussion in 'WDW with Kids' started by rileydd, Mar 31, 2017.

  1. rileydd

    rileydd New Member

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    I grew up in SoFla so I've done the Disney thing quite a bit in my lifetime. I am ready to take that jump into a trip with the entire fam (hubs and 3 daughters - 5yo, 3yo, and 1yo). I'm about to hit the infamous (apparently?) 180 day window from when we know we want to go, and I'm confused about all this talk about getting Advanced Dining Reservations.

    My girls are all into Disney and princesses and such, but restaurants are not what I consider relaxing for any of us in this phase of our family's ages. So I need someone to tell me what the big deal is to dragging everyone to a restaurant instead of riding a fun ride, instead of nap time, instead of a normal bed time...What are parents of young children doing for booking these reservations? Is that actually happening, or am I misinterpreting all these recommendations for where to eat and my blog sources are instead actually adult couples with (understandable) Disney Fever? Can my 1yo nap in a stroller next to my lunch table or is that frowned upon? My kids are generally well-mannered in public, but with the sensory overload of all things Disney I am going to set the bar low and work from there.

    Any insight is appreciated!
     
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  2. DisneyBound2017

    DisneyBound2017 Well-Known Member

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    You don't have to make any ADRs unless you plan on having meals at Table Service restaurants or Character Dining experiences. If that's not what you think would work best for your family, then skip the ADRs and hit up the quick service places instead :)
     
  3. nickys

    nickys Well-Known Member

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    A character meal can be fun. You get to meet the characters without waiting in line, and they are either buffets or "family stable" where they bring food to you. Bear in mind though you will be charged for every one of 3 or over. And they are pricey, you pay for the character experience, not gourmet food.

    You could book for a suitable time for your family. Might be a bit early for you but you can always get something later on. Or book a late breakfast, or lunch.

    But no need to book any if you want to have the flexibility to do what feels right on the day.
     
  4. buseegal

    buseegal Active Member

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  5. Uncle Lupe

    Uncle Lupe Well-Known Member

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    Do the character meals. The other meals we had planned went as well as any other normal meal out with little kids.

    Had a meal at Coral Reef and thought the kids would be amazed. They did not care they just wanted to go ride Nemo.

    I would just use the quick service for everything else.
     
  6. Marc Levin

    Marc Levin Member

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    Well, you need to eat somewhere, and most of those restaurants are quite nicely themed to tie into the experience (kids that age will get a huge kick out of character meals). The non-themed restaurants are pretty much the same as you can get anywhere. Don't worry about anything your kids do being frowned upon (within reason), it's Disney and whatever your kids do, there will probably be way worse behaved families there. The fact that you even care enough about this to ask indicates that you have nothing to fear. And if anybody complains about your 1 yr old napping in the stroller next to the table, tell them to take a running jump off a high bridge, frankly.

    However I definitely wouldn't book more than one a day, they do eat up valuable park/pool/nap time, and towards the end of your trip you may decide that you've eaten at enough restaurants to last a month anyhow. Your best bet is to make all the ADR's you think you're going to want / need, and then once you're actually on the ground you can judge whether or not to keep them (they can be cancelled the day before without charge). Better to have the options than being stuck without any place to eat apart from unhealthy counter food places.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2017
  7. jaklgreen

    jaklgreen Well-Known Member

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    We went every year with our girls when they turned 1 1/2 and 2 1/2. Sleep and diet are key. We let everyone sleep in until they were ready to get up, no alarms. Then we made sure they ate a decent breakfast and never rushed. WDW is very overstimulating and the kids can go haywire from it so what we did was when we got to the parks, we went on a couple of rides/shows, then sat for a bit and had a potty break and a snack. Then a couple more, had lunch/break, then back to the rides and then sit and rest and potty/snack, rinse repeat. We did do sit down meals and buffets, all of it with little to no issues. We made sure that the girls never got over tired or over stimulated with all of our breaks. And the breaks were just stopping in the shade away from things. We also made sure we always had some water and were constantly giving them sips. Don't underestimate the power of the pool or even just the little splash areas in the parks. Kids need to burn off some of their energy and stimulation by running around. Kids nap in their strollers all the time so don't worry about that. If your child can sleep in the stroller consider yourself lucky. I think most meltdowns occur because parents are not watching for the signs. When the kids are getting antsy or cranky then something is going on. Are they tired and need a break, or thirsty or hungry. I am a watcher, I watch and take things in and I can't tell you how many times I have seen some kid about to meltdown and the parents are oblivious. The worst is when kids are saying they have to use the restroom and the parents are blowing them off. So just take it slow and easy, the parks are not going anywhere. And the most important advice is to just let it go, don't stress, everything is awesome. Keep saying that to yourself when you get frustrated. And have fun.:D
     
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  8. buseegal

    buseegal Active Member

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    I have had the restaurant tell me I could not bring stroller in even with sleeping toddler, it was not a guest. with it being a table serve with a party of 10 that would be a big no show charge. and yes I was told if we did not eat we would be charged if we decided to skip because we could not bring stroller in. so I would be careful who I told to h*** with not being able to bring stroller in. plus it has been years but I bumped a stroller parked by a table with an ECV as there was not enough room to turn around it. woke baby up and parents complained as they had to carry stroller up the few steps and I was brought in a side door where they had parked baby out of way and now they could not enjoy their meal with only their older child
     
  9. jaklgreen

    jaklgreen Well-Known Member

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    It depends on the restaurant. Some just do not have the space between the tables making it a fire hazard. I would not depend on taking a stroller into the restaurant with you.
     
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  10. DiSnEyF@n

    DiSnEyF@n Well-Known Member

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    You are not allowed to bring strollers into most Table Service restaurants. Quick service, yes, but not table service.
     
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  11. Weather_Lady

    Weather_Lady Well-Known Member

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    Just my two cents (keeping in mind that I've never been to WDW with a baby - my kids were 4 and 6 at the time of our first WDW visit):

    Depending on how you structure your day, a TS meal can be a relaxing and welcome break from the hectic pace, heat and crowds in the parks, even if you've been stopping for regular breaks along the way. (We generally tour from rope drop to noon with a potty/snack break in the middle, have a CS lunch and go back to the resort for a 3-hour nap break. We get back to the parks around 4pm, all rested and refreshed, and by 6pm are ready for another break - and what better break than a nice, TS dinner?) ;)

    You just have to keep the kids as well-rested as possible at all times (as others suggested, preserving their usual wake-up/bedtimes is key), and choose the restaurant wisely (e.g., something with lots of variety so everybody can be satisfied, a place with something to entertain the kids besides the food - either characters or performances - and with small children, a "loud" restaurant, so that if the baby starts to fuss you don't feel like you are ruining the ambiance for those around you - and believe me, wherever you dine, you'll be surrounded by families with kids of all ages who are all in the same boat).

    Some of my suggestions for your family (trying to balance food quality, entertainment value, and atmosphere appeal for both kids and adults) would be:
    1 - 'Ohana dinner (Polynesian Resort, family-style Polynesian-inspired, live entertainment in the form of a circulating ukulele player, monorail access from MK)
    2 - Akershus (Epcot Norway Pavilion, all-you-care-to-enjoy appetizer buffet + entrée choice + dessert sampler, several Disney princesses in attendance, less crowded and less expensive than Cinderella's Royal Table for a very similar experience
    3 - Biergarten (Epcot Germany Pavilion, extensive buffet with live "oom-pah" band playing - does have communal seating at tables for 8 or so, so keep that in mind)
    4 - Crystal Palace (MK, great buffet with Winnie the Pooh characters, although service and character rotation can be agonizingly slow)
    5 - Tusker House (AK, extensive buffet with Donald Duck and other "classic" characters)
    6 - 50's PrimeTime Café (HS, fun 50's atmosphere, kid-pleasing menu)
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2017
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  12. carriebeth

    carriebeth Active Member

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    we go to DIsney every year and we eat at Table service meals everyday. I have 8 children so there are babies and toddlers and preschoolers and etc etc. Just plan your meals at times that work well for your family. When we are home we eat pretty much at the same time everyday and we do the same while at DIsney. But if you think your kids would do better at a sit down meal for breakfast, book table service breakfast. If you think a break from the park in the middle of the day when the heat is the worst, do lunches. If you think it would be better to do it at the end of the day when they are all parked out...do dinner. We have found picking times that are slightly "off" are a great way to have a less crowded experience...and to pretty much always get in on time. So lunch at 11:15 instead of noon is great. or a late lunch before the dinner rush.

    The character meals generally not only do not expect children to sit still and quiet in their seats, but actually encourage them to get up, make some noise etc. They get to get up for the characters as they come around but also they all pretty much have some sort of parade or little dance party type of thing. I actually find them to be the most relaxing dining I could possibly have! I don't have to worry about my children making noise, getting up etc. Its expected! Even the non character meals are filled with children all day every day. Even if your child is having a bad day or bad moment, they won't be the only one there, for sure!

    If you don't want to do table service meals because of cost or whatever, you can still have a great time!
     
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  13. helenabear

    helenabear Well-Known Member

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    Over scheduling meals can be stressful. We are not the type to go every day to a sit down and we never will. Maybe one scheduled ADR or two if something super special. It's not worth it to us both in cost and time it takes. We'd rather spend our down time at the resort or pool instead of a restaurant. Some people are very into doing the dining at Disney, but there is absolutely nothing wrong if you are not.

    As an FYI our last two trips had one ADR scheduled and none were scheduled at the 180 mark.
     
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  14. Raegansmommy

    Raegansmommy Member

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    I like buffet style Character meals for this reason. Children are impatient and there is Disney to see! We usually just have breakfast in our room, then I try to plan lunch when we would normally eat, which is probably early for most at 11 or 11:30 if we are doing dining reservations. Then we usually get a snack or 2 in the afternoon and stretch dinner a bit later. You really have to know what works for your family and children though. We always keep snacks in the bag and they will often snack while waiting in line. I also find that my children will often just share a meal, as the portions are quite large.
     
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  15. keirin

    keirin New Member

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    My family is at Disney World a lot. I have twin 5 year olds and a 2 year old. We've been taking the twins since they were 18 months old and the 2 year old started going around 10 months. We RARELY eat at the parks. If I can manage it we get there when the park opens, leave by lunch time and eat off site. Food is expensive at Disney, and you are NOT going to enjoy the table service the same way that you would without the kids. I've done it but I avoid it now. When the kids are old enough we'll probably do it more, but right now - no you absolutely do not need to book a bunch of sit down meals. If there is something that you think might be especially interesting to the kids (or to you), book a meal. But don't feel bad about skipping it - you live in Florida, there will be plenty of opportunities in the future.
     
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  16. CaptainAmerica

    CaptainAmerica Well-Known Member

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    This isn't something to take the Internet's advice in my opinion. Like bedtime and whether you're going to take mid-day breaks, it comes down entirely to knowing YOUR family. For us, we do about four table-service meals over an eight night trip and that's just the right amount for our daughter (past trips at 6 months, one year, one and a half, and two). She behaves well but we value the speed and flexibility of counter service dining. If we're in a cabin or villa, we cook our own breakfast, then quick service lunch before an early afternoon break, then either quick service or full service dinner. A common misconception is that you can only get burgers and fries at counter service locations, but that's not the case. Our favorite counter service meals include rotisserie chicken with green beans, barbecue pork with beans, shawarma platter, and lobster roll. If you're dreading making dining reservations so much, don't worry about doing it every day.
     
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  17. jaklgreen

    jaklgreen Well-Known Member

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    This. The chicken shawarma is delicious! My kids are teens now and we get it every trip.
     
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  18. helenabear

    helenabear Well-Known Member

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    Well said!

    We do less TS than you, but we are happy with the QS options. We also are always in villas and usually do breakfast and another small meal in the room.

    Our favorite QS location is the bakery in France (Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie) for its sandwiches. My husband does like the rotisserie chicken a lot though.
     
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  19. Jared Augustine

    Jared Augustine New Member

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    I would do QS, and do 1-2 character meals. We found it difficult sometimes to manage ADR with young kids. Getting kids to point A to B can be overwhelming and opening your schedule with QS meals made our life easier.
     
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  20. Osh Popham

    Osh Popham Active Member

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    If it's available, try to get Be Our Guest for breakfast or lunch (quick service). This will be one meal you won't have to fret over because you can order online ahead of your trip. The day you get there, you are seated and the food you ordered is brought to your table - it's an enchanted castle after all!

    While I love to enjoy a nice long meal with my wife, the ordering part with small kids can be challenging and this option is brilliant IMO. I think it will be industry standard within a few years.

    And the theming at BOG is fantastic. Plenty for the kids to marvel at. There is a reason it's so popular and it's not just hype.
     
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