Making Disney Reservations for Dining at Walt Disney World can often feel like the Hunger Games. With Walt Disney World struggling with staff levels 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 how to make Disney dining reservations at Walt Disney World.
How to Make Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World
With over 200 restaurants at Disney World, there are many to choose from! From Disney Character Dining to Signature and Fine Dining Experiences, if you’re on the search for great food we’re here to help! For us, Disney is as much about food as it is about theme parks, and choosing the restaurants for each vacation is by far one of our favorite parts of the Disney Planning Experience. 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 Disney World Newbie, or haven’t traveled there in a couple of years, don’t take dining at the happiest place on Earth lightly.
When Can I Make Disney Dining Reservations?
Disney Dining Reservations open up for Walt Disney World Resort guests 60 days prior to the start of your trip at 6 a.m. 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.
What Time Do Disney Dining Reservations Open?
You can make a Disney Restaurant Reservation 60 days prior to the start of your trip at 6 a.m. EST. While some hard-to-get Disney dining reservations, like Chef Mickey’s and Cinderella’s Royal Table, will require you to wake up that early to book, other Disney restaurants have regular availability. And while many Disney Restaurants Need to be Reserved, the 6 a.m. wake-up may not be necessary for the Disney Restaurants you choose.
Why You Should Plan Your Walt Disney World Trip Early
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. Of course, if this is the case, be sure to check out our post on Last Minute Disney Restaurant Reservations, so you can see which restaurants may be your best bet if you’re booking Disney World Dining Reservations at the last minute.
Stay at a Disney Resort for the Best Disney Dining Reservations
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. In general, you’ll have an advantage over locals with no resort reservation and guests staying offsite.
How far out can you make Disney Dining Reservations?
Walt Disney World guests can make Disney Dining Reservations at 60 days out. This means 60 days before the first day of your trip. This is currently the rule for ALL Disney guests, including Disney Resort guests, pass holders, general guests, and everyone. Since Disney Dining Reservations open up for Walt Disney World Resort guests 60 days prior, the competition can sometimes be fierce. Be prepared by deciding which restaurants you want ahead of time, and what times you’d like to book each.
Be Ready Early to Make Disney Dining Reservations
6 a.m. is EARLY! And frankly, you should be up even earlier. Dining reservations open up 60 days prior to the start of your trip, at 6 am EST. And since the Disney website can be a bit fickle, 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 a.m. 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 on the Disney Friends and Family List 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. You’ll also want to double-check that each person in your travel party can “see your plans,” so they too know when the reservations are booked.
Take Time to Plan Your Disney Restaurant Reservations
Have a Disney Dining Reservation plan…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 Disney Dining Reservation FIRST
Make a list of the Disney Restaurants you want to book. From your list, what’s the Hardest Disney Dining Reservation to Get? If you’re looking for reservations to Be Our Guest, Akershus, Chef Mickey’s, Storybook Dining, Cinderella’s Royal Table, or California Grill, then those should be at the top of your list to book AS SOON AS 6 a.m. hits. Make a list to include which reservations should be made first for which date, second, and so on. That way if your first selection isn’t available, you can immediately move on to the next reservation without wasting any time to think about it.
Keep in mind too, that sometimes just changing the date of your reservation could get you the booking. Whether or not you choose to make a list, 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 Disney Dining Reservations 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, over everyone else who had shorter trips or weren’t staying at a Disney Resort.
How to Book Disney Dining Reservations
Disney Dining reservations can be booked on your phone in the My Disney Experience App or on the Disney Website. The new Disney reservation system now shows you all times available at given restaurants, depending on your party size and dates chosen. If these are flexible, you have a better chance of getting those more difficult-to-get Disney Restaurant Reservations.
Open up more than one device
Do you have multiple devices? Use them! Open up your phone, laptop, iPad, or 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.
Have your Credit Card Ready
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.
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 we personally haven’t found this to be true. So, if you want to make any kind of dining reservation, you have to put in new credit card info regardless of what device you’re 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.
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 6 a.m. 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 3:30 p.m. and go well past 10 at night. Many of the prime meal spots get taken very quickly. So, if you’re looking for that sweet spot of 6-7 p.m. for a dinner reservation, or even an 8:30-9:30 a.m. reservation for breakfast, you may be disappointed.
Keep in mind that there is food pretty much everywhere at Walt Disney World! Making a 4 p.m. 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.
Book Reservations Outside of Regular Mealtimes
We recommend being flexible with your dining times when possible. This may not always be the easiest task when traveling with large groups at Disney, 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. Plus, when you book dining reservations outside of regular mealtimes, you have a better chance of getting on your favorite rides while everyone else is eating. Heading to popular rides during mealtimes is one of our best Ride Strategies at Walt Disney World, and it’s a win-win.
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 become open longer, and it’s easier to get one of those reservations.
Use an Alert Service for Disney Dining 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 for a Walk-Up List at the Disney Restaurant You Missed
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. 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 Disney Dining Reservations. In truth, many of our favorite Disney Restaurants even have a Disney Table Service To Go option.
Remember too, that while certain hard-to-get dining reservations, like Ohana and Space 220, are completely worth it, and live up to the hype, many do not. Some of the best restaurants at Disney World typically have reservations open, if you book near that 60-day mark. Toledo at Coronado Springs, Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian Cafe at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, and Trattoria al Forno on Disney’s Boardwalk, are all amazing restaurants to try.
Tips for Making Disney Dining Reservations
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:)
Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .