The number one rule for DLR is to be ready at any moment to shift/scrap plans and go with the flow because on-the-ground lots can change from what you planned to happen. I still love to plan and for every trip I map out our first several rides for the morning of our first couple of days (and leave anything after that un-planned to pick up what we decide to add/change to the plan). I also try to decide on a general slate of options for meals & pick what shows & entertainment we want to see. Then everything else in between I choose on the-ground and any more detailed plans I make are more of a checklist rather than a step by step. When I get in super planning mode, I’ll make up different sets of plans that have options to start with Must-Do’s, Want to Do’s, and Would be Nice (If there’s time) to Do’s and that way based on what we’ve accomplished, I can pick up where we need to on those (again mostly using as a checklist).
With advanced park reservations, it’s hard to gauge these days what park is “better” in terms of crowds so I’ve just picked whatever park I want to do (if I have a choice by the time I get around to making the reservations). I also work to alternate days & because of my own personal preferences will lean towards choosing more DL starting days than DCA. There are a lot of e-ticket attractions that multiple starts in DCA can help you stagger to divide & conquer, but DL just has a sheer volume of stuff that I love more so I tend to like starting there more often. But it’s definitely a preference (for me Main + Castle are far & away more of a draw). I have family that really, truly love and adore the DCA ambiance tho & DCA has a stellar line-up of e-tickets that are widely loved: Radiator Springs Racers, Incredi-coaster, Guardians, so you really cannot go wrong.
I usually pick at least 2 mornings to start in DL though to do one morning that starts with a mix of Tomorrowland/Fantasyland and a 2nd start for the West Side (Frontier/Adventurelands/New Orleans Sq). Then in DCA we almost always start out at the Pier, move up towards Grizzly Peak & make sure then in the evening focus on Carsland and Avengers Campus for nighttime ambiance.
For food, we like to use mobile order as much as possible and we try to eat at off-peak times. We do also mix in our resort food with some of our favorite off-site places (Pizza Press at The Anaheim Hotel, and we usually stop at least once at the Harbor McD’s and there is also a Panera next to the McD’s if you love that). We don’t often plan sit-down meals, but when we do Storyteller’s and Carnation Cafe are 2 favorites. We also love Goofy’s Kitchen and the Plaza breakfast with Minnie and Cafe Orleans has always been excellent the couple of times we’ve eaten there. Blue Bayou is beautiful ambiance but I feel is slightly overrated. It is well worth it through for the dining package for F! as you’re killing two birds with one stone. And as of late we are suckers for any dining packages that are worth it (Hungry Bear’s F! package is well worth it). Carthay is also one we tried more recently-ish that we want to have a good excuse to go back to.
If you’re having a hard time finding sit-down meals and you want the sit-down meal there is the walk-up feature on the app that they tend to leave availability open so that it’s fairly flexible the day of, especially if you look for availability earlier in the day.
Any other planning questions, let me know! We’ve started to get back to our frequency of trips that we had going pre-pandemic so I’m starting to feel like I have a hang of DLR again. Sorta.