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We’re working with Hi Ho Vacations and sharing our real-life experience using a Disney vacation planner. This article is part two in a series sponsored by Hi Ho Vacation. See my top five reasons I’m working with a planner.

So, we are six months out from our Disney trip and our dining reservations have opened. Earlier in our planning process we chose the Disney Dining Plan (see post #2 for more information on this decision), and now it’s time for us to make reservations. This is how it went for us, using our HiHo Vacations planner.

“If you didn’t have questions I wouldn’t have a job!” That’s what Jenn tells me when I apologize for asking her my one-millionth question about dining reservations. Hey, that’s amazing! I’m SUPPOSED to ask her all the things I want/need/care to know about Disney Dining. Why? IT’S LITERALLY HER JOB!

Dining at Disney is more complicated than one might think. There are three dining plan options, or you have the option to just pay for dining as you go. The Quick Service Dining Plan gives each guest 2 quick service meals and 2 snacks each day, and a refillable mug. Quick service meals are a grab-and-go style restaurant, no being served at the table. The Disney Dining Plan gives you 1 table service meal (a sit-down restaurant style meal), 1 quick service meal, and 2 snacks each day, plus the refillable mug. The Deluxe Dining Plan gives you 3 meals of your choice each day, sit-down or quick service or some of each, 2 snacks, and the refillable mug. Well that sounds simple enough, BUT THEN some of the sit-down meals take two credits. Once you know this, if you’re like me your head pops off or you run straight to your planner.

We decided pretty quickly to go with the Disney Dining Plan. It’s the most commonly booked option and it’s perfect for our family. There’s no way we are going to want to break for 2 or more sit-down meals each day, but we also wanted to have some character experiences and a built-in leisurely meal each day. I honestly don’t know how to tell if we will be saving money with the dining plan (although Jenn would calculate it for me if I wanted her to!) but I know that we will be less stressed by paying up front and just enjoying our meals without checking the price tag on every Mickey shaped pretzel our kids want. The dining plans also come with one alcoholic beverage per meal for adults 21+, and you can get Starbucks as one of your snack credits. I have a feeling that wine and caramel macchiatos are not bargain priced inside the parks, so I’d rather not calculate the damage to the check book there.

No matter what dining plan you go with reservations are important. Most of the popular restaurants book up six months in advance, right when you are able to book. The character meals can be especially difficult to secure, especially if you have a day or time in mind. My HiHo Vacations planner took care of all of this for me. I gave her our preferences – restaurants we really wanted to try, which days we were thinking of being at which park, and our preferred eating times (ex: no early breakfasts, but fairly early dinners because no one likes hangry toddlers) and she arranged it perfectly for us. For each day of our stay Jenn booked at least two dining options, giving us some choices of which day to do each restaurant, and which time to do it. This allowed me to look at the full reservation list and decide the best layout for our park days and dining reservations. After much deliberation on my part we changed a couple of items, cancelled the excess reservations, and ended up with a perfect plan!

Here is just one example of a very serious dining issue I discussed, in great length, with my HiHo Vacations planner: Cinderella’s Royal Table – is it a must-do? Will my daughter be forever scarred if we don’t do it? Do we go just because I have a daughter? Okay, we will go. Is it ok that my daughter might not know who Cinderella is? Is it worth two dining credits? OMG THERE’S A DINOSAUR RESTAURANT?!? Let’s go there/is it good?/my kids will love it/now we have an extra dining credit/where should we go?! (Answers: It’s a good experience, your kids won’t know they missed it if they’ve never been, two dining credits is a lot to use if you aren’t big into Cinderella, the T-Rex restaurant is fun, you can add on Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare for a fun character and princess meal that all the kids will love. WHEW!)

So, TLDR Recap: HiHo Vacation planners are the #1 Must Do when planning your Disney vacation. Get matched with your perfect planner here: http://hihovacations.com/