Reader Question: How to Plan Your Days and ADRs Before Park Hours are Released

Hey Pete!

We’re officially heading down to Disney for Christmas! We’re staying at Port Orleans Riverside, so maybe we’ll run into you!

With our ADR window rapidly approaching, we have started to look into potential restaurants and plan our schedule. The Disney website hasn’t posted any hours for Christmas week yet. From the tourist websites and blogs that I’ve found, it seems like the hours (or predicted hours) are much less than last December. For example, Magic Kingdom is closing at 11pm most nights, whereas it stayed open until at least 12am last year! Do you know anything about this? Can you offer up some tips for planning your ADRs around park hours?

Thanks,

Diane, Arkansas

Hey Diane!

How exciting! Definitely say hello if you see me wandering around the French Quarters or filling my plate at the Riverside Mill Food Court!

It’s not uncommon for the park hours to be available on Travel Agent sites a week or two prior to DisneyWorld.com. It’s still very early within the planning process. It’s pivotal to lock in your ADRs when your 180-day window opens, which often means that you have to plan your days and book meals blindly. Disney will usually release park hours around 6 months in advance. When Disney releases these park hours, they are usually the bare minimum. You’ll notice that the parks are scheduled to close earlier than you’d expect. I believe that Disney schedules the park hours, and then expands the park’s hours based on demand – something you do not have to worry about during Christmas week.

The park hours are ever changing. One year, Disney actually added Extra Magic Hours intra-week. I’ve never heard of Disney closing the parks earlier or subtracting hours (unless you count Phased Closures.) They typically only add hours of operation based on the demand and crowds.

As far as planning, try and stay within the common park hours. Of course you’d like to grab the coveted Crystal Palace Rope Drop reservation; and it could be incredibly irritating when you think you’ve secured it and then Disney adds a morning EMH or opens earlier. But when visiting Disney during such a crowded time, you should just aim to secure the reservation and go with the “beggers can’t be choosers” mentality. Stick within the common park hours. You know that Magic Kingdom will be open most days between 8am or 9am and 11pm. If you can secure a breakfast reservation at Crystal Palace for 9:30am, do it. You can always change the time later on. It’s best practice to lock down your reservation and then look to change the time later on.

As far as planning your days, always leave some wiggle room. We always leave the parks around 1 or 2pm and head back to the hotel to relax. Knowing that we’ll probably want to grab a shower before heading to dinner, and how Disney buses can sometimes run late, we always book our dinner reservations for 6pm or later.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting more and more tips and tricks for planning your Christmas ADRs. For the time being, stick to the core hours and work from there. Booking the “perfect ADR” really is a rat race. Take what you can get and work from there. As additional operation hours are offered and more information is released, you can always look to change your reservation. But never, ever cancel your reservation without booking another one first. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories of people losing out on a reservation . They log in; they see an earlier time; they drop their current reservation; and when they go to book the earlier reservation, it’s gone. Don’t be that person.

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