Making Reservations for dining at Walt Disney World can often feel like the hunger games. With Walt Disney World still not operating at full staff levels as they had prior to the pandemic, and pent-up demand from travelers who have had to postpone their vacations multiple times, it doesn’t appear to be getting any easier any time soon. Your best bet is to have a plan! Here are our top tips for making dining reservations at Walt Disney World.
Tips for making Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World
Dining reservations open up for Walt Disney World Resort guests 60 days prior to the start of your trip at 6am EST. The technical terms for these are Advanced Dining Reservations, or as often referred, ADRs. ADRs have been a highly competitive game for years amongst Disney goers. And it’s only gotten worse post-pandemic. So as silly as it might sound because we are literally just talking about food here, it’s important to have a strategy! Especially if you have your heart set on a specific restaurant.
Many Walt Disney World guests have an idea of some sort of special dining experience they’d like to have while on their trip. And for some people, this is the top experience on their Disney wish list. Even locals who frequent the Parks tend to plan special occasions at Disney Restaurants. So if you’re a total Disney newbie, just know that Disney guests don’t take dining at the happiest place on Earth lightly.
Plan your Walt Disney World Trip Early
One of the perks of staying onsite at a Walt Disney World hotel is that guests get to reserve dining selections for the length of their stay (up to 10 days) on the day their booking window opens. This is a huge perk because if you have a longer trip, you’ll have a slight advantage over those whose trips aren’t as long as yours. And in general, you’ll have an advantage over locals with no resort reservation and guests staying offsite.
We always recommend planning your Disney vacation as soon as you know you want to go. Promotions can always be applied later. Dates can be modified pretty easily. And the deposit is only $200 to secure your reservation if you’re booking a package. But by planning early, you not only have the best selection of rooms and resorts, but you also have time to plan for dining reservations and be ready at that 60-day dining reservation window. Planning a trip after that 60-day mark puts you behind. There’s nothing wrong with a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World. Sometimes they’re the best kind! But just know that, while not impossible, it can definitely make getting certain dining reservations more difficult.
Be Ready Early to make Disney Dining Reservations
Dining reservations open up 60 days prior to the start of your trip, at 6 am EST. The Disney website can be a bit fickle, and sometimes that means reservations may open up a little bit early. Use this to your advantage and be ready to make reservations by 5:45/5:50 am. I will note this is fairly rare, but you’ll want to be on the website early anyway so as soon as those reservations hit the website, you can book.
Make sure your friends and family are linked to your account
Make sure the party you’re traveling with is linked to your account beforehand. This will just make things a lot easier! If you’re planning on eating with friends who aren’t in your traveling party, you can invite them to share plans with you under “My Disney Experience”. Go to “My Family and Friends” and you can invite them via email. Have this ready before your dining reservation window opens and booking will be a breeze.
Have a Plan for making Disney dining reservations
…and a backup plan! Know which restaurants you’d like for which days, an estimated time, and preferably a backup if you don’t get your first selection. You can always make changes later if your first choice becomes available again. Disney recently changed its policy to allow for dining cancellations 2 hours before the reservation time. So, if something better comes up, you have plenty of time to switch.
Reserve your most difficult reservation first
I am very visual person. I like charts and graphs, and yea that might be a little bit nerdy. But in the case of making dining reservations at Walt Disney World, it’s actually extremely helpful. I make a chart that includes which reservation should be made first and which date, second and so on. That way if my first selection isn’t available, I can immediately move on to the next reservation without wasting any time to think about it. Whether or not you choose to make a chart, make sure you know the order in which you want to book. Wasting that first minute on a reservation you could easily get later on, like Liberty Tree Tavern or Whispering Canyon, could mean losing out on your first choice.
Plan your most difficult reservation for the end of your trip
Trying to get a hard-to-get reservation? Try to plan for that to be closest to the end of your trip if possible! This will increase your chances of getting it. Remember, you can schedule reservations for the entire length of your trip, so use that to your advantage! Especially if you have a longer trip, like 8-10 days, you’ll have the biggest advantage on those last 2 days.
Have your credit card ready to make Disney dining reservations
Making a dining reservation with Disney requires a credit card to secure it. With the exception of a few restaurants that require advance payment, like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Hoop De Doo Revue, nothing will get charged to your card unless you are a no show to dinner. Or decide to cancel at the last minute. Having a card on file will make the process faster so that you can secure your reservation. But, the Disney website has recently decided that every time you want to make a dining reservation for Walt Disney World, you need to re-enter your card information. Some people have said this doesn’t happen when using the app, but I personally haven’t found this to be true. Any time I want to make any kind of dining reservation, I have to put in new credit card info regardless of what device I am using.
While having to enter your credit card info might not necessarily take away the reservation you’re currently booking, fumbling around in your wallet looking for a credit card can waste precious time to get on to the next reservation. Having your credit card out and ready just makes things faster and easier.
Open up more than one device
Do you have multiple devices? Use them! Open up your phone, your laptop, iPad, whatever device you have that can access the Disney website. Even using multiple browsers can be helpful. Basically, just having more than one page with the Disney website open can increase your chances of getting that hard-to-get reservation.
Enlist the help of another person
For those of you trying to get a lot of highly sought after reservations, like Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chef Mickey’s, or ‘Ohana all in one trip, try getting someone else to help. If you’re working with a travel agent, they will likely be planning to help make your dining reservations anyway. If you’re not, see if you can get your spouse, partner or even an older child to be up at 6am with you to help get them. Some of these reservations are gone in less than a minute. And having another person trying for one difficult to get reservation, while you try to get another, will greatly increase your chances.
Many people are used to having meals at a certain time at home. But what they don’t realize when traveling to Walt Disney World, is that mealtimes can be all over the place. The dinner period can start as early as 3:30pm and go well past 10 at night. Many of the prime meal spots get taken very quicky. So, if you’re looking for that sweet spot of 6-7pm for a dinner reservation, or even a 8:30-9:30am reservation for breakfast, you may be disappointed. We recommend being flexible with your dining times when possible. This may not always be the easiest task when traveling with larger groups, or especially when traveling with smaller travelers. But keeping some flexibility can help you get those harder to get dining reservations at Walt Disney World.
Keep in mind that there is food pretty much everywhere at Walt Disney World! Making a 4pm dinner reservation doesn’t mean you have to starve for the rest of the night. You can enjoy your large meal earlier in the day and grab a quick snack as the evening goes on. Portions at Walt Disney World tend to be quite generous, so it’s not completely unreasonable to have dinner a little earlier, especially if you’re used to smaller portions at home.
We also are big fans of lunch reservations at Walt Disney for this very reason. Lunch prices generally tend to be a little cheaper at some restaurants, there is usually more availability, and if you eat a little later in the afternoon, you can grab something from a quick service restaurant for a light dinner.
Keep Trying and Consider using an alert service for Disney Dining Reservations
Didn’t get everything you wanted? Keep trying! Reservations open up all the time due to cancellations, and when they do, you may be able to snag a reservation you originally missed out on. Sometimes Walt Disney World parks actually extend their hours after the 60-day mark has passed, which means some restaurants end up having a whole slew of times open up that weren’t previously available. We’ve seen this most in the case of restaurants at Animal Kingdom, like the sometimes difficult to score Yak and Yeti. When Animal Kingdom extends their hours, Yak and Yeti instantly becomes open longer, and it’s easier to get one of those reservations.
If you really have your heart set on a specific restaurant and feel your trip won’t be complete without it, consider using an alert service like Mouse Dining. They have free and paid accounts. And will alert you as soon as there are any times available for your preferred date and restaurant. We highly recommend the paid version of this which alerts you via text. You have to be quick to get some of these! So as soon as you get that link, open it up and snag that reservation before someone else does! (Yes, I know this sounds dramatic- but I’m completely serious!)
Check to see if the restaurant has a walk-up list
This is not really a surefire way to get into one of the restaurants you missed out on. But it is a great backup plan. Since Walt Disney World opened up after the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen more and more restaurants utilize this option. The Walk-Up list option isn’t really a reservation, but more of a waitlist. Steakhouse 71 uses this often, as does Crystal Palace and Tusker House. And for some places like Nomad Lounge, it may be the only way to get in. Disney uses it as a way to allow guests who don’t have a reservation to get on the waitlist, and when a table opens up that meets your party’s needs, you’ll get a notification that it’s time to be seated.
Now, this isn’t for those who want to come back in 2 hours. If you get on the walk-up list, you generally need to be back to the host stand within a certain time frame in order to claim your spot. They’ll give you a heads up on an estimated wait time. So, it’s not like you have to stand around and wait. But you don’t want to get yourself in a long line for a ride while waiting to be called back.
You generally won’t find this option at the most popular restaurants. But if you missed out on snagging a dining reservation to meet Pooh and Friends at Crystal Palace, then this may work for you. We recommend checking out the restaurant’s page in the My Disney Experience app a couple of weeks before your trip to see if that’s something they offer.
Making Last Minute Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World
Maybe you’re planning a last-minute trip. Maybe you forgot to make reservations. Or maybe for some reason you weren’t aware that you needed to. That’s ok! There are usually a good number of restaurants at Walt Disney World that often have last minute dining reservations available, and you can find that list here!
Hopefully this post has helped you navigate the sometimes-wild world of Walt Disney World dining reservations. And just remember, you don’t need a hard-to-get reservation to have a wonderful trip! Sometimes the simplest things are the most magical:)