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As you may or may not have noticed so far on my blog, I really enjoy food. Like, really enjoy food. And if that food is at Disney World, even better! It is important to understand how to use Disney dining reservations to your advantage to guarantee a meal
The post on how to get started with planning your Disney trip lists booking your Advance Dining Reservations as an important step. So what is an Advance Dining Reservation? When can I make a reservation? Hopefully this post will help you to answer all of these questions and more.
Tip: Before you begin planning your dining, it is important to decide where you will be each day of the trip. You want to schedule your restaurants based on where you are each day.
Table of Contents
What is a Disney Dining Reservation?
Disney World Dining reservations are also known as Advance Dining Reservations. As Disney planning is full of acronyms, anytime you see ADR(s), it is referencing making Disney dining reservations.
All of this is Disney speak for simply making a reservation at a table service restaurant of your choice. I know, why can’t they just call them Disney dining reservations? Then it would be totally self explanatory.
What Disney World Restaurants Need Reservations?
Well, isn’t that a loaded question? The most straightforward answer is that any Table Service restaurant at Disney World takes Advance Dining Reservations. Every so often there is a quick service restaurant that also offers reservations, but for the most part, it’s only table service restaurants.
With that said, not all restaurants are created equal. There are some restaurants you can count on getting a reservation the day of, while others, you NEED to have a dining reservation made as early as possible. But more on that below!
When Can I Book Disney Dining?
All of the Disney restaurants open availability for making a reservation up to 60 days in advance. You have the option to book your Disney World dining reservations online through My Disney Experience or by calling Disney and booking through a Cast Member.
What Time Do Disney Dining Reservations Open?
The Disney dining reservations times for booking vary depending on the method you use.
If you choose to book online, the booking window officially opens at 6:00am EST. Disney now prefers that all Disney dining reservations are made online.
For those who want to call to make their reservations, you have to wait until the Cast Members start work that day. Trust me, with many of these restaurants you won’t stand a chance of getting them if you wait that long.
Please note that all booking times provided for Disney World are based on Eastern Standard Time. If you live in another time zone you need to plan accordingly.
People often assume that the Disney dining reservation booking window opens at midnight at the 60-day mark, but that is not the case. Then they are confused about why their dates aren’t open on the calendar.
Disney Dining Reservation Rules
The exact date and “rules” that apply to this 60 day booking window depends on the type of resort you have booked.
Your dining reservations are in no way beholden to your park tickets. This means you do not need to have your park tickets already purchased and linked to My Disney Experience in order to make Disney World dining reservations.
However, please note that if you plan to dine at a restaurant in a Disney park, you must have park tickets AND a park pass reservation in order to eat there.
While the type of resort you stay at determines part of your Disney dining booking window, your dining reservations themselves are not linked to your reservation. If you cancel your resort stay in favor of staying at a cheaper resort outside of Disney, you keep all of your existing dining reservations.
Remember, there are Orlando locals who make reservations at the Disney restaurants all the time without a resort stay booked. Having an on-site reservation will help out with making those original reservations, but changing anything about your resort stay will not touch your already made dining reservations.
Disney Dining Booking Window
So how does a Disney resort stay give you an advantage in booking your Disney World dining reservations? The booking window of 60+10 days is where this comes into play. What this means is with a Disney resort stay, you can book all of your Disney dining reservations for your entire trip at 60 days out from the date of resort check-in.
Disney resort guests only have to wake up at dawn on one day in order to book dining reservations for their entire trip, up to 10 days worth.
If a Disney guest is staying at an off-site resort, their Disney dining booking window will look a little different. In this case, their reservations can only be made one day at a time, exactly 60 days prior to each day of their vacation.
The advantage a Disney resort guest has goes beyond simply having to get up early once. The Disney resort guest essentially has a head start in booking Disney dining reservations that take place later in their trip.
People staying off-site should not panic! There are tons of restaurants that will still have availability even as late as the same day you are in the parks, but clearly your choices will be more limited at that point.
There is also a lot of movement in reservations over the two months between your dining reservation day and your trip, so there will be opportunities to try to snap up the reservations that you want.
As I mentioned in my post about planning a last minute trip to Disney, you can still book last minute reservations and have some truly awesome meals.
Disney Dining Booking Window Example
Let’s say that Daisy and her family are staying at Wilderness Lodge for a week long visit. Daisy diligently planned out which restaurants her family wants to eat at and is up with the early birds to book all the restaurants they want exactly 60 days before their check in date.
In that one sitting she books every single Disney dining reservation for their week long trip.
Now, Donald and his family are staying at Random Orlando Resort for that same week. Donald has also researched all the restaurants and is excited about the list they’ve come up with. At exactly 60 days prior to check in, Donald gets up with the sun to make his reservation for check in day.
Then the next day Donald gets up with the sun to make the reservations for day 2 of their trip. Then the next day…you get the point. Donald has to book dining each day of his trip separately, on the day that’s exactly 60 days before that calendar day.
Not only does Donald have to get up early each one of those days to book his Disney dining reservations, but he’s also at a disadvantage regarding availability.
If both Daisy and Donald want to make a reservation for Space 220 on day 5 of their trip, Daisy gets first dibs since she is able to book all of hers at once, essentially at 60+5 days.
Donald has to wait until 60 days before his day 5 to book Be Our Guest, and by that point all of the tables might already be taken.
Disney Dining Reservations Cancellation Policy
Don’t worry, the dining reservations you made 60 days ahead of time aren’t set it stone. It is possible to cancel your reservations at any time.
For most restaurants, you need to cancel by 11:59pm EST the day before your reservation. This will cancel the reservation free and clear without incurring a penalty. If you cancel after that cut off or simply don’t show up, you are charged a fee.
Each restaurant has its own individual cancellation policy, which will be disclosed when you make the reservation. That information can also be found in your confirmation email.
Any restaurants that require payment in full up front will refund your money if you cancel within the allotted time frame.
How Can I Cancel My Disney Dining Reservations?
The easiest way to cancel your Disney dining reservation is through My Disney Experience. This can be done either on the app or desktop version.
While on your My Disney Experience dashboard, you can see all of your reservations. Next to each reservation are two buttons. The top button allows you to change your reservation in any way, i.e. modify the time. The bottom button simply allows you to cancel the reservation.
The other option is to call Disney directly at (407) WDW-DINE.
Hard to Get Disney Dining Reservations
While 60 days might seem like way too far in advance to book a restaurant, there are some restaurants that will book up that far in advance almost immediately. So if you want to eat at these coveted restaurants it is in your best interest to book those as soon as the window opens.
As of fall 2021, booking ANY dining reservation has become challenging, and I expect this to get worse as the 50th anniversary kicks off October 1. This is due to the restaurants still not being filled to capacity due to staffing issues.
Less slots for a lot of people equal a tougher time getting reservations.
Hardest Disney Dining Reservations to Book
The following restaurants are generally acknowledged to be the hardest Disney dining reservations to book at 60 days.
- Akershus – especially breakfast
- Be Our Guest Restaurant
- Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast (at Trattoria al Forno)
- California Grill
- Chef Mickey’s
- Cinderella’s Royal Table
- Le Cellier
- Rose and Crown – especially as a great location to view Epcot fireworks. Reservations about an hour before showtime are harder to come by
- Space 220
- Storybook Dining at Artist Point
- Victoria & Albert’s – specifically if you want to do Chef’s Table, but the main dining room can also be challenging
Steps to Book Disney World Dining Reservations
Now after all of that information, how do you actually book Disney World dining reservations? It’s really quite simple, but can be intimidating at first.
Get Organized for Disney Dining Reservation Booking Day
You want to be organized with a list before you sit down at your computer or phone to make these reservations. If you are staying on Disney Property, you do not have to book your reservations in chronological order.
Put your harder to get reservations at the top of your list and rank them from hardest to easiest. When I booked our pre-park opening reservation at Be Our Guest, that was #1 on my list when my Disney Dining reservation booking window opened.
Next to each restaurant put the date and time that you want. Now you have all the information you need right at your fingertips for crunch time.
Login to My Disney Experience Before Your Booking Window Opens
On the morning(s) you are making your reservations, make a point to get up and be logged in to MDE several minutes before that booking window opens. From your MDE dashboard you will see an icon to click to make dining reservations.
Clicking this will take you to Disney’s lengthy list of restaurants. For the sake of efficiency, don’t scroll through that long list, simply type the restaurant you are looking for in the search bar and go directly to that restaurant’s page.
Choose Your Disney Dining Reservation Date and Time
Once you are on the information page for the restaurant you are making the reservation for, put in the date, time, and number of people in the reservation and click the “Search Times” button.
A frequent question that pops up is: Do I need to add my infant/toddler to the reservation even if they won’t eat anything? The answer is, yes. For the sake of fire code and what not, they need to know how many bodies will be at your table, not necessarily how many meals will be eaten.
If you want one of the times that is displayed, you simply click on that time bubble and they will move you through the process to confirm your reservation.
Choose Your Dining Party
At this point you are bounced back to your MDE account where you will pick the people in your reservation from your friends and family list. The next page will ask you to confirm the credit card you have on file that the reservation will be attached to.
With the exception of a few restaurants, you will not be charged at this time. This is mainly on file to be charged in the event that you don’t show up for your reservation. In that case, your card would be charged a fee for the missed reservation.
If you are going to Cinderella’s Royal Table, Hoop Dee Doo Revue, and some other higher demand restaurants, you need to pay the entire balance up front. Don’t sweat it though, you can still cancel these and get a complete refund as long as you do it within 24-48 hours in advance.
Enter Any Special Dietary Needs
As you continue to move through the pages, you will see an option to record any food allergies and dietary restrictions you may have within your dining party. Disney is an absolutely amazing place to eat when you have food allergies!
Since I must eat gluten free, I always add that into all of my reservations. In the ideal world, this will notify the restaurant in advance that they will need to discuss this with me once we arrive and our reservation ticket should be stamped with an allergy notification.
Confirm Your Reservation
At the end of all of this, you will get to the confirmation page congratulating you on your reservation. You will also get an email from Disney with the confirmation number.
All of the reservations you made should be linked directly into My Disney Experience and you should be able to see them to confirm that all is how you want it to be.
So there you have it! Once you have your Disney World dining reservations, you can cancel them or modify them as needed and as availability for restaurants and times open up.
Remember, this reservation system is fluid and people are constantly making changes to their reservations, which will in turn allow you to make changes as well.
Tips to Get ALL the Disney World Dining Reservations You Want
Want to maximize your chances of getting all the Disney World dining reservations on your list? Follow these suggestions to give yourself the best chance.
1. Prioritize Your Booking Order by Difficulty, not Chronologically
Whether you are booking all the restaurants for a week long trip, or 2 meals on a single day, it’s important to book the most challenging restaurants first.
Many people think you have to book your restaurants chronologically, but this just isn’t true. You can book those restaurants in any order you choose.
By booking the restaurants which are either harder to get into, or are simply important to your family first, you essentially beat everyone else to it.
Keep in mind, this tip only works for people staying at Disney resorts.
2. Book Online, Not Over the Phone
This one is pretty self explanatory. The online booking window opens at 6:00am EST and the phone booking window opens at 7:00am EST. That is an important hour where everyone else is booking the restaurants you want.
And that’s not even factoring in how long you have to wait on hold before you even talk with a Cast Member. The bottom line is: booking online is always better.
3. Be Flexible with the Times and Possibly Even Days
The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to succeed. Sure, there are certain restaurants that are going to be locked into certain days. However, that doesn’t mean you absolutely must have your dinner at 5:30pm.
If you are open to eating during less popular times, you have a better chance of nabbing a coveted reservation.
4. Take What You Can Get and Modify Later
This piggy backs on top of #3 above. Even if the time available is less than ideal, just take it. At the worst you are eating at a less than ideal time. At the best, you can modify the reservation at a later date to a time that works better for you.
5. Split Large Groups in Two
It can be harder to get one large table than it is to find an opening for 2 smaller tables. This will particularly be true for groups of 6 or more.
If you aren’t finding an opening for your group size, try finding 2 tables for your group instead with a similar start time. Very often, if you show up as your big party of two tables and request to all sit together, they will accommodate this request.
6. Put all Your Hardest to Get Restaurants Later in Your Trip
The further into your trip you go, the more availability there should be. Because only Disney resort guests can book all their restaurants at once, you aren’t competing with as many people for those spots.
What to Do if You Don’t Get a Disney World Dining Reservation
It is very possible that the restaurant of your dreams has no availability when you book 60 days in advance. However, there is still a very good chance that something will open up.
If you think about it, there are thousands of people looking to move around their own reservations. Once they move theirs, you can then scoop up their old reservation.
There are a few things you can do to have the best chance of grabbing the Disney dining reservation of your dreams.
Keep Checking for Open Disney Dining Reservations
Like I mentioned above, there’s a good chance that the Disney reservation you want will show up at some point. But who wants to check every day? There are a few times to focus your energy because of an increased likelihood of time slots opening up.
- 7 Days or Less Before: At this point, people are working on finalizing all of their plans. This could include releasing dining reservations they don’t plan to use.
- 1-2 Days Before: If people don’t want to pay the cancellation or no show fee, the will start offloading their unwanted reservations.
- Same Morning: Because you just never know what will be available.
Use a Disney Dining Reservation Finding Service
There are two different companies who offer dining alerts for Disney restaurants. With these services, they do all the work and notify you if they find an open reservation.
Mouse Dining – offers various levels of plans depending on how many alerts you want to set up. If you have 6 or less that you want to set up, that plan is FREE! From there, plans start as low as $5 a month and give various perks and flexibility.
Touring Plans – this company offers reservation finders for anyone who has an annual membership with them. There are so many useful services provided by Touring Plans in addition to the reservation finder. I highly recommend them.
Look Through Open Table
Some of Disney’s restaurants, particularly those found at Disney Springs, also have openings through Open Table. The openings offered through Disney and Open Table are different, giving you double the chance to snag a reservation.
Don’t Give Up
You really just never know what might pop up. I did a search of open reservations for a 4:00pm dinner today to see what would appear. By choosing an early time I know I’m increasing my chances.
There were 164 restaurants with open reservations, including Be Our Guest, Le Cellier, Akershus, and California Grill.
Did I forget an important step or tip that you find to be essential? Let me know in the comments below!