Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be quite an undertaking. Not only do you need to pick dates that work and a resort that suits you just right (our next reservation is at The Art of Animation), but you’ll also likely need to spend a decent amount of time deciding on and making Disney World dining reservations and FastPass selections. It’s a process!
Today, however, I’m just going to talk about finding and making Disney World dining reservations. These do not include Quick Service meals, since you don’t make reservations for those, although I do have some recommendations of our favorite Quick Service Meals at Disney World.
I’ve been in the situation where I had plenty of time to make dining reservations because we booked our trip early enough, but I’ve also been in a situation of planning our trip after my first possible ADR day. (ADR stands for advanced dining reservation.) It’s never quite as easy to make Disney World dining reservations after that!
Getting the Disney World Dining Reservations You Want in the Ideal Situation
The ideal situation for making Disney World dining reservations is that you have booked your vacation more than 180 days ahead of time. If that’s the case, go you! You are on the ball and you will likely have a better chance at getting the ADR’s that you really want.
As long as you’ve made that vacation reservation that far ahead of time, you’ll be able to book your dining reservations (ADR) on a set day that is 180 days before your check-in date. Disney will likely have already sent you a booklet about your trip before that point, and it will handily list the date that you can start making dining reservations.
I had never tried to figure out exactly when I was able to start making reservations before, so I missed out on some of the prime restaurants or dining times, because I often checked right after midnight on my ADR date. When I couldn’t get in at that time, I usually waited until much later in the day to try again. My mistake!
On the day that you can start making your Disney World dining reservations, you’ll want to set an alarm, get your computer by your bedside, and be ready a little before 6 am to start making those reservations.
Yes, I know. If you like to sleep like I like to sleep, this is not a fun prospect. However, the very best reservations I’ve ever had were ones I got by setting my alarm for 5:45 am and being ready as soon as the clock struck 6 am.
If you prefer to make your dining reservations by phone, you can start making them at 7 am when the phone lines open. I recommend, however, to start by getting the reservations that you most want a 6 am online.
It’s important to note that as long as another adult on your vacation reservation has a Disney account (and links it up to yours), they could be making reservations at the same time you are at 6 am. This can help you to be even more assured of getting those sought after restaurants and times.
Getting the Disney World Dining Reservations You Want When There Seem to be None Left
If you find yourself booking your Disney vacation after that 180 day mark, you might find that your dining reservations are much more limited. It’s frustrating, and might make you feel like dropping a Disney Dining Plan, if you signed up for one. (We love the Disney Dining Plan, by the way.)
As a matter of fact, I was just in that situation of feeling frustrated. I had a tripped planned and had planned it well in advance of that 180 day mark. I got up way earlier than I wanted to on the 180 days before check-in day, and I got every reservation I wanted at very reasonable meal times. It was beautiful! But, then, I had to switch the dates of our trip.
Not only did I have to cancel all of those amazing restaurant reservations (including both a lunch and dinner at Be Our Guest), but I was now faced with making new reservations well after that 180 day mark. I was crushed. I made a bunch of reservations for restaurants that felt more like settling.
This is, of course, where our story could have ended. My kids were disappointed that we would be missing all of our favorites, and we could have just settled with that.
Instead, I started doing something that began to feel like a treasure hunt about three or four times a day. It only takes a few minutes each time, and I would recommend it for anyone who couldn’t manage to get the reservations they really wanted.
My Daily Treasure Hunt for the Disney World Dining Reservations We Really Wanted
Three to four times each day, I started going through the online dining reservations. I first looked for dinners for each day we were going to be there and scrolled through the lists. Then I would look for lunches, and then breakfasts. This was just my preference of what we wanted. You could look in any order, of course.
By doing this several times each day, which only took maybe five minutes each time, I managed to get reservations to all by one of the restaurants that we wanted within the first two weeks that I was looking.
What a change those two weeks made in my attitude about our upcoming trip! It was exciting when I would do one of my normal search times and have a Chef Mickey’s reservation pop up, for example. Persistence paid off!
Of course, some of those times I found were not ideal times. There were very late or very early dinners, for example. My best recommendation is to take less than ideal reservations at first, if you think you could possibly use them. If your family is like mine, you might want to take less than ideal times over not getting to the restaurants you want.
With our Crystal Palace reservation, for example, I took the first very late dinner reservation I found. Over that two weeks, I was able to keep moving the time up and up. I didn’t cancel an existing reservation until I was sure I wanted to get rid of it, however.
We went from only having the possibility of a 9:40 pm dinner reservation at The Crystal Palace to ending those two weeks with our choice of a 5:40 pm dinner or an 11:50 am lunch. Not too shabby!
Although it took more than those two weeks (and then I stopped checking quite as often), we even managed to get a reservation at Be Our Guest again!
Important Note: Just remember as you are grabbing up reservations that you want to cancel the ones that you are sure you won’t use. Hold on to those you are still considering, but then make absolutely sure to cancel anything you won’t use 24 hours ahead of time, or else you will be charge $10/person on the reservation if you don’t show up for it.
This is the reason, of course, that it’s good to keep checking at least once a day for new Disney World dining reservation options. People are canceling reservations all the time! Think of the lucky people who happened to check for reservations right when I had to cancel our dining reservations for the original dates for our trip.
What Happens If I’m at Disney and Still Don’t Have the Disney World Dining Reservations I Want?
Remember what I said about dining reservations needing to be canceled at least 24 hours ahead of time?
There will be a lot of people who cancel reservations right during the time they are at the parks. So, this makes it an even better time for watching for dining reservations. Don’t give up hope just because you are already there. It might mean that you have an even greater chance to find what you want!
During one of our trips a few years ago, I had a 9:30 pm reservation for Be Our Guest. I kept checking, and two days before that reservation, a 6:40 pm time popped up. That was a much more reasonable time for us to eat dinner. I was thankful that I had been checking a couple of times a day for better dining times.
Quick Summary of Tips for What to Do to Get the Disney Dining Reservations You Want
1. If you can book prior to 180 days before check-in, do it. Be prepared on the first day you can start making advanced dining reservations (ADR). Be online prior to 6 am to start making those reservations.
2. If you book after the 180 days before check-in date, try to check the Disney dining reservations page daily (or multiple times a day) to watch for reservations. Grab what looks good, but be sure to cancel ones you won’t use.
3. Don’t stop looking for a reservation you want. Be extra mindful to check for dining reservations while you’re on your Disney World vacation. Don’t let it become a distraction, but be sure to check a couple of times a day, if possible.
4. Make sure to have a Disney autograph book handy, in case you end up having a character meal! (I also have a great tip for why you should have Sharpie markers with you for meeting Disney characters.)