How to Snag Those Popular Disney Dining Reservations (and Why it Matters)

How to Snag Those Popular Disney Dining Reservations (and Why it Matters)

Figuring out when, where, and why to book your Disney dining reservations (also called Advance Dining Reservations or ADRs) can be one of the most confusing parts of planning a Walt Disney World vacation.

If you’re staying on Disney property

You can begin booking dining reservations for the length of stay (up to 10 days) starting at 7:00 AM EST 180 days prior to your arrival. For example, if you’re arriving on August 1, 2018, and staying for a week, you’ll be able to book dining reservations for your entire visit at 7:00 AM on February 2, 2018.

To save a few minutes counting days on the calendar, use this handy date calculator, enter your arrival date, and then subtract 180 days. Boom! Save it in your calendar for extra credit.

If you’re not staying on Disney property

Off-property guests can also book dining reservations 180 days out, but only for one day at a time. For example, if you’re arriving on July 15, 2018, you can book ADRs for that date on January 16, 2018. Then, you’ll need to log back in on January 17 to make your reservations for July 16, and so forth for each day of your visit.

Why it matters

Walt Disney World’s most in-demand restaurants book up in literally minutes each day – seriously. If you’re longing to visit one of the more popular venues like Cinderella’s Royal Table or Be Our Guest, chances are high that you will not be able to get in if you don’t make a point to call at 7:00 AM, 180 days out. Heck, even some people who do get online at the crack of 7:00 AM aren’t able to get reservations. (Pro tip: be prepared for that possibility with a few ideas for backup restaurants.)

Even if you don’t have your heart set on an in-demand dining experience, the probability of being able to walk up to a table service restaurant and actually be seated is low. There’s really no “slow season” at Disney World anymore.

If you’re paying for a Disney Dining Plan that includes table service credits or signature dining credits, you’re letting a lot of money go to waste by not booking those reservations in advance. If no table service restaurants are available, quick service outlets are your only option.

And last but not least: walking from restaurant to restaurant is exhausting, especially when you’re already tired and hungry. (I know from experience! ;))

How to book

Disney offers several convenient ways to make your dining reservations:

  • Book online
  • Book using the My Disney Experience app
  • Call (407) WDW-DINE

Questions? Comments? Hints or tips you’d like to share with The Ear Collector community?

A Hidden Gem: Review of The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen

A Hidden Gem: Review of The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen

The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen is a pretty underrated Walt Disney World table service restaurant, you guys. So few people talk about it! I’ve heard mixed reviews, but we had a great experience this December.

The Details

Located in Adventureland, Skipper Canteen is where your beloved punny Jungle Cruise Skippers head for meals and relaxation. The restaurant is intricately detailed to correspond with the theme, but if you don’t look closely, you might not notice.

Your servers are, of course, Jungle Cruise Skippers who are every bit as silly as the ones on the boats. They’re definitely in-character, which is not usually my favorite (just be a normal human and be nice to me, please… fake accents make me uncomfortable and puh-lease don’t scold me about how much/how little I’ve eaten), but this experience was fun and no-pressure. Our server, Ray, was attentive and hilarious. He kept our drinks filled, made lots of wonderful puns, and warned us that the ice was made with piranha water.

We dined in the jungle room, which featured parrot stained glass light fixtures, a “great wall of china”, and my favorite “rhino and hyena chasing a man up a tree” art.

And I am here for the food…

If you only enjoy standard burgers-and-fries-type fare, Skipper Canteen probably won’t be your favorite. The menu contains a lot of Asian-fusion-type foods, though most have been adapted to appeal to the western palate. According to Disney, dishes are African, Asian, and South American in origin: inspired by the regions you visit on the cruise itself, of course! Take a look at the current menu here.

Baa Baa Berber Lamb Chops and Tastes Like Chicken from Skipper Canteen

Left: Baa Baa Berber Lamb Chops: Berber-spiced Lamb Chops, Roasted Carrot Purée, and Arugula-Cauliflower Salad tossed in a Citrus Vinaigrette
Right: Tastes Like Chicken – Because it is!: Crispy-fried Chicken with Citrus and Ginger-scented Rice, Chili Glaze, and Seasonal Vegetables

I ordered the It Tastes Like Chicken (Because it is!), which was really interesting for what could’ve just been a basic chicken dish. The chicken was juicy while the breading was unique – crisp yet light. Imagine a breading made from savory, blitzed Rice Krispies and you get the idea. The rice was sticky and fluffy, the ribboned vegetables fresh and tasty, and the sweet chili sauce was sweet (obvs 😉), spicy, and vinegary all at once. I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it all very much.

Mr. EC had the Baa Baa Berber Lamb Chops, which were plated beautifully. The seasoning was gorgeous, the lamb juicy, and the accompanying Arugula Cauliflower salad was absolutely delicious.

Dessert, Even.

We rarely order dessert at table service restaurants because there are just so many sweet options in the park, but we made an exception this time (and Ray tempted us).

The Coconut Bar with Pineapple-Basil Compote and Vanilla Cream was calling my name, and I was even more intrigued after Ray warned that it looks just like a stick of butter.

And indeed it did – a very fancy stick of butter – but it was delicious. Light, soft, and creamy with little pops of sweet, zesty citrus. If you enjoy coconut cake or pineapple cake, you’ll love this. While dainty and light, it’s still the perfect size to share.

Coconut Bar Dessert from Skipper Canteen

Coconut Bar with Pineapple-Basil Compote and Vanilla Cream: Vanilla Chiffon Cake with Coconut and Lime White Chocolate Ganache

The Kungaloosh!, their most popular dessert, also sounded divine:

An African-inspired Chocolate Cake with Caramelized Bananas and Cashew-Caramel Ice Cream topped with Coffee Dust. Mmm. I’ve had some weird sensitivities (?!?) to cashews in the past, though, so we skipped it. Verrrrrry tempted to have Mr. EC order it next time so I can steal a few bites. 😇

Our Verdict on the Skipper Canteen

Every aspect of our experience surpassed our expectations: service, theming, and food (variety, presentation, and taste).

If you’re looking for a quieter restaurant with a fairly unique menu, a casual environment, and detailed theming, give Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen a chance!

Where: Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen
Find it: Adventureland, Magic Kingdom
Open for: Lunch and dinner
Disney Dining Plan: Yes, Table Service
Pricing: entrees: $18-$35

As with any table service restaurant on Disney property, creating an Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) is advisable. Can table service restaurants sometimes accommodate walk-ups? Yes. Should you count on that? No. 

Have you dined here? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays: What I Want to Eat and Drink Edition

Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays: What I Want to Eat and Drink Edition

Gluhwein is amazing.

Experiencing the magic of Gluhwein.

You guys.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to start trying treats from the holiday kitchens at Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays (yes, I’m probably gonna slip up and call it Holidays Around the World a time or two!).

Yep – as we move toward All Festivals, All The Time at Epcot (I’m ok with this) Holidays Around the World has grown and officially become Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays. If you’ve never experienced it, imagine a winter holiday-themed Flower & Garden or Food & Wine. If you’ve never experienced either of those, imagine lots of little kiosks with internationally themed and inspired foods and drinks.

*festive squealing*

These items are at the top of my “must try” list:

Refreshment Port

Chocolate Peppermint Glazed Croissant Donut

Yukon Holiday Kitchen (Canada)

Ice Wine Flight. ICE WINES. Winessss. Plural. More than one. Yes please. Merry Christmas, Kevin.

Maple Buche de Noel. A kind of maple and gingerbread yule-roll-type thing. I need it. Canada has a special place in my heart; maybe it’s because I spent three years living between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Maybe it’s because of their delicious foods like nanaimo and poutine. Maybe it’s a little because of Justin Trudeau. I guess we can’t be sure.

Alsace Holiday Kitchen (France)

Spiced Rum Punch Slush. I haven’t yet met an Epcot slush I didn’t enjoy, and this one is delightfully red and contains spiced rum, orange, and cinnamon. It sounds SO endearingly Christmassy, I can practically hear sleigh bells and reindeer hooves. I’m just picturing drinkable holiday cheer. Side note: I wasn’t really even considering trying this (not much of a rum person) until Disney Food Blog tempted me with their photo and review. Now, it’s one of the items I’m MOST excited about.

Hokkaido Holiday Kitchen (Japan)

Cinnamon Mochi Cake: Cinnamon and Coconut Cake. I’m in love with cinnamon this time of year and I always love coconut, so what could go wrong?

Strawberry Nigori Sake Cocktail: Semi-sweet Unfiltered Sake with Puréed Strawberry. I’ve never had Sake because I’m afraid it’ll taste like gasoline, but this sounds so juicy and tempting.

American Holiday Table

Slow-Roasted Turkey with Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, and Cranberry Sauce. All the holiday foods in one boat. I’ll take it.

Chocolate Apple Shake featuring Twinings Winter Spice Herbal Tea and Bols Butterscotch Schnapps. Oh. Em. Goodness. Also available in a nonalcoholic version.

Cocoa Candy Cane: Nestlé Chocolate Delights Hot Cocoa with Peppermint Schnapps. Yuuuuup. Pretty sure this is the kind of thing you’re supposed to leave out for Santa.

Bavaria Holiday Kitchen (Germany area)

So basically, I’m gonna need this entire menu. It offers a bunch of my favorite holiday things: cheese, melted cheese, mulled wine, and cider. My heritage is Bavarian so I feel especially validated in my love for those foods, too.

Cheese Fondue in a Bread Bowl

Melty cheeeese.

German Artisan Cheese Plate: German ButterKase with Ham, Mushroom Brie with Pretzel Crostini, and Tillamook Cheddar. Had this last year. Having it again this year. The ButterKase is so creamy (imagine Gouda meets Munster, maybe?) and the Mushroom Brie gives a little something extra to one of my favorite everyday cheeses.

German Artisan Cheese Plate

German Artisan Cheese Plate

Cheese Fondue in a Bread Bowl with freshly steamed Baby Vegetables and Marble Potatoes. Also had this last year. It involves melted cheese, so I’m DEFINITELY having it again. You can’t go wrong with melted cheese at any time, but hot, melted cheese on a cold Florida evening, surrounded by evergreens and fairy lights? Heart eyes.

Hard Apple Cider and Hard Blackcurrant cider. Oh yeah. Mmm hmm.

And last but not least, my personal favorite: Glühwein! Imagine red wine mulled with clementine, cinnamon, and every delicious Christmas spice imaginable. HOLIDAY JUICE, if you will. You drink it warm, and it is perfection.

Gluhwein

Gluhwein makes me happy.

Tuscan Holiday Kitchen (Italy)

Panettone alla Milanese: Warm Italian Fruit Cake with Vanilla Sauce and Cherry Syrup 😳

(If the words “fruit cake” scare you, Panettone is not very similar to the heavy, sticky thing I bet you’re picturing. The versions I’ve had have been more akin to a light, fluffy raisin bread.)

Norway: Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe

Traditional Holiday Rice Cream. No idea if this is different from the rice cream served at Kringla Bakeri year-round, but I’m kind of hoping for something with apple, cardamom, and raisins – yummm.

The Cookie Nook (Odyssey Center)

Warm Apple Fritter with Cinnamon Ice Cream and Warm Caramel Sauce

Gingersnap Cookie with Cream Cheese Icing and Cranberry Jam

Florida Orange Groves Winery Sparkling Cranberry Wine

Someone please fetch me a paper bag to breathe into.

Las Posadas Holiday Kitchen (Mexico)

Tostada de Tinga: Crispy Corn Tortilla smothered with Black Beans, topped with Chipotle Chicken and garnished with Crema Mexicana, Queso Fresco, Avocado, and Tomatillo Sauce. “Oooohhhhh” is the only commentary I’ve got right now.

Okay, well, now I’m starving. Someone we know will probably be leaving Epcot quite a few dishes fuller bit also several dollars poorer.

Your turn! Are you visiting Epcot during International Festival of the Holidays? What are you most eager to try? Have you experienced any of the dishes I’m longing to get? If so, what did you think?

Want more like this? Follow @TheEarCollector on Instagram and come be part of our Facebook community!

Easing Post-Disney Depression

Easing Post-Disney Depression

The post-Disney depression is real, you guys. 

Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom
On the last day of our last visit to Walt Disney World, Dane and I sat next to the window near the water wheel at Port Orleans Riverside, eating a late breakfast/early lunch. I felt overwhelmingly and astonishingly hopeless over having to leave and return to normal life.

Sure, I’d miss the castles, characters, and amazing food, but what was I really upset about? Returning to a hectic, stressful job that left me attached to my phone and expected to answer work calls and emails and solve problems practically 24 hours a day. Not being able to take a day off without clients being angry. The same routine day after day with nothing new. No creativity and very little fun.

Meeting Mickey Mouse
While I couldn’t take the castle home with me, I could take the very best part of vacation: the way I felt at WDW. Constant wonder and awe. Laughter all day long. Great conversations. Lots of exercise. Amazing food. Taking beautiful photos. Feeling so physically tired and mentally fulfilled at the end of the day, then waking up refreshed and excited to do it all over again. No feelings of stress rising in my body like mercury in a thermometer whenever my phone would ring or the little red email indicator would pop up. No expectations to respond to non-urgent emails at 7:00 AM on a Sunday. No feeling growly, irritated, or stuck.

The problem wasn’t only that I needed more vacation… the problem was I didn’t really like my life

So, how could I (and how can you!?) incorporate the best parts of a Disney vacation in my (your) daily life?

Figure out what you love so much about Disney World and incorporate it into your life. Is it the sense of discovery? The hundreds of details? Leisure time, sweet moments, and laughter with your friends and family? Getting lots of exercise and spending time out in the sunshine? Cute characters and nostalgic music at every turn? The opportunity to try a huge variety of food and adult beverages?

Limoncello Mule
Think it over. Write it out. If you brought more “magic” into your life, what would it look like for you? For me, it meant accepting a position that didn’t demand every moment of my time (nor the use of my personal phone!), reclaiming my downtime, taking my dogs to the bluffs on the weekends (fun and exercise for all of us!), subscribing to a WDW-related podcast and a Disney Pandora station, and cooking a few adventurous things. Later, it meant moving to a new city for my husband’s dream job, getting really clear on what I wanted for my life and work, minimizing our possessions and living space, and spending weekends immersed in the magic of Disney. 

For you, it might look different! You might want to make some big changes like I did, or you may be able to make a few small changes and be totally pleased! It all depends on you and what you’re seeking.

But while you’re mulling it over – or even if you really love your life but just want to add more Disney to your days – Here are a few fun, actionable things to try:

Move more.

If you’re an American living in suburbia, chances are you got WAY more exercise at WDW than you get at home. Make time for some long walks outside. You’ll feel so much better!

Indulge in your favorites.

Did you fall in love with a particular dish or drink from one of the parks? Look for that soda or beer locally, or re-create that awesome steak or cupcake at home. Or, if your favorite treats are small and portable (hello, matcha KitKats from the Japan Pavilion), stock up to enjoy them in your “normal” life!

Discover your own city.

Instead of heading to your usual sushi place on Friday night, try the new one. You know that cute bistro downtown you’ve been longing to try? Go! How about that yoga studio you’ve been curious about, or that fundraiser 5k you’re working up the courage to sign up for? Try the things! Chances are, there’s a lot of cool stuff around you that you just haven’t experienced yet.

Add some Disney to your day.

Use your princess mug at the office. Make your desktop background the amaaaazing photo you took of Happily Ever After. Save your PhotoPass pictures on your phone so you can flip through them when your day needs a magical boost. Like I mentioned above, I subscribed to a podcast and and a Pandora station so I could get Disney news and sing along to songs from my childhood. It helped make my commute a lot more fun!

Share the joy.

There’s a big, lovely Disney community on Instagram, and we’d be thrilled to welcome you! Come say hi to me (@theearcollector) and check out the gems I follow.

One of my favorite tips comes from fellow Disneygrammer @wishesdishes_wdwdelights: Plan your next vacation! If you won’t be traveling anytime soon, you can always pretend plan. How fun is it to daydream about the parks you’ll visit, the rides you’ll experience, and the treats you’ll devour!?

To summarize, my top tips for easing post-Disney depression:

    • Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and water.
    • Think about the small things you can do to make your life happier. Implement them. How about big things? Start working on those.
    • What did you love about Disney World? Add more of that to your life: great exercise, dinners with friends, time in the sun, white space to daydream, and so forth.
    • Look for new ways to explore and enjoy your hometown.
    • Bring plenty of Disney home with you: snacks, mugs, souvenirs – anything you’d like! Make a point to enjoy these things regularly.
    • Add some magic to your day! Plan a weekly Disney-related family movie or game night. Display a figurine of your favorite character. Listen to a Disney podcast. Hop into the Disney community on your favorite social media outlet.
    • Start planning your next visit!

                What are your favorite ways to soothe post-Disney depression? Let us know in the comments below!

                Disclaimer: this post does obviously not use the term “depression” in a clinical sense. If you’re struggling, please check out the resources available to you. ❤️

                Surviving Summer in Florida

                Surviving Summer in Florida


                Summertime, like many parts of the year in Florida, can be hot. Like, miserably, sweating-from-places-you-didn’t-even-know-could-sweat hot. And humid. Oh man, it’s humid. If you’re not used to it, you might feel like you’re walking around in a sauna. In hell. A really pretty, fun version of hell.
                But guess what? Even though it’s hot, you can still have a totally amazing vacation by being prepared and taking care of yourself.

                1. Get used to walking before you go.

                I know this is not an option for some, but it’ll help. Promise. You’re gonna be dang tired if you go from 2,000 steps a day at home to 20,000 steps a day at Disney World. Going from 10,000 or more steps a day to 20,000 steps is less of a punch in the face. You’ll be less tired, less cranky, and able to get more done.

                2. Hydrate.

                You probably already don’t drink enough water, and you’re going to be sweating like mad in the Florida heat. There’s no need to bring in heavy bottled water or spend $4 per bottle of Dasani, either. Any quick service restaurant or counter that has fountain drinks will give you a cup of water at no charge. (Note: if the outlet/cart only has bottled beverages, they won’t be able to give you water.) My favorite method? Packing an empty water bottle to keep the weight of your park bag reasonable. I use a Bobble bottle with a filter and fill it at water fountains throughout the park.

                3. Protect yourself from the sun.

                The last thing you want on your vacation is a fierce sunburn, and I’m guessing you’d like to avoid damage to your skin and premature signs of aging, too. You need SPF on any exposed skin: face, lips, ears, arms, legs, even the tops of your feet. I use a tinted moisturizer with SPF 50 for my face, an SPF 15 lip balm, then a Coola spray sunscreen for the rest of my body. Also essential? A breathable hat! I have a wide-brimmed, packable, squishable safari-type hat. It helps shade from the sun and keep me a little cooler, plus I can just smoosh it up and throw it in my backpack when it gets dark. Sunglasses are another big one – I literally never make a daytime park trip without mine. And I know you know this, but… you still need to protect yourself from rays even when it’s cloudy.

                4. Seek shade.

                There are a bunch of good ways to do this! Meals are an awesome opportunity to get into the air conditioning. You can make Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) for a number of table service meals, or you can visit some of the larger quickservice outlets that offer ample indoor seating. Dark rides are another good one: the dim lighting and chilled air on Haunted Mansion feels pret-ty dang good on a sweltering day! Or pop into pretty much any shop for some shade. Cool off and browse the cute stuff at the same time!

                5. Rest when you need to.

                Seriously. Listen to your body. You don’t even have to miss out on the fun. Attractions like Philharmagic and the People Mover are perfect for getting off your feet while still enjoying the magic.

                6. It’s probably gonna rain.

                Acceptance helps. Daily afternoon thunderstorms are simply a part of Florida summers! Get a rain poncho. You can either bring one of these with you or purchase in-park for around $10 (they’re not on display, so you’ll have to ask at the counter). Five years on, our Disney ponchos are still going strong! It’s money well-spent if you’re able to continue throughout the park instead of hover under an overhang, too. Most park operations continue as normal during the rain, but outdoor attractions will temporarily close if there’s lightning in the area. Keep in mind: parades and outdoor shows may also be adjusted, delayed, or canceled.

                7. Get plenty of sleep.

                When you’re tired, it’s easier to get cranky and forget to hydrate and rest.
                There you have it: hydrate, rest, and take time to cool off. It’s gonna be hot, but taking good care of yourself will go a long way in helping you have a great time.
                *obviously I’m not a medical professional, so seek guidance from yours should you have any concerns