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Top 5 Tips For Getting Reservations At Popular Disney Restaurants

Many people look upon their “ADR” or Dining Reservation Day with great anticipation, an equal number look upon it with dread.  And a number probably greater than those two put together have no idea what I am talking about because they don’t know about the magic number “180.”  In this quick guide to making your dining dreams come true you will find some tips and techniques for making your dining reservations.

5. Start Early! 

99% of Walt Disney World restaurants open their books to reservations 180 days in advance.  I find it hard to know what I am going to eat for dinner each night at home, but when planning my Disney vacations I somehow know exactly what I want six months out.  If you have booked your vacation package early enough, you should begin planning your park days and dining preferences the minute you have your package booked.  Be ready at 180 days out to make your reservations.  You can find several “ADR Calculators” online with a Google Search where you can enter your check-in date or desired date for your reservation and it will let you know the date you can start.  For those of you staying on property at a Walt Disney World resort you can make your reservations for up to 10 days after that 180 day mark of your check-in date—take advantage of this to secure those hard to get restaurants.  If you can’t get them at the beginning of your trip chances are there is availability toward the end of your trip.

4. Know when to call or log in, and be flexible  

Online reservations at www.Disneyworld.com open at 6:00am eastern time.  That is when the “day” rolls over.  You will want to make sure you are logged in to your account, that everyone in your travel party is included in your account, that you have your resort reservation linked (if applicable), and it might be helpful to expedite processing to have a credit card saved in your account.  Take a bit of time before your 180 day mark to try out the website to make sure you have everything above linked, and you know where to go to make your reservations.   I find it easiest to click on “Things to Do” then “Dining” “Make Reservations.”  Then I usually search for my specific restaurant at the top and click on it once it comes up in the results.  In the darker blue “Check Availability Box” I put in my desired date, and I select a specific time from the drop down menu rather than breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Once I put in my party size I click “Find a Table” and keep my fingers crossed.  Now, this would mean that the Disneyworld.com site is working properly when you log in to make your reservations.  Many times lately it has not, especially to do the 180+ 10 reservations.  So, be ready to call Disney Dining as well at 407-WDW-DINE.  The phone lines open at 7:00am eastern time.  You do lose an hour of booking time if you wait to call, but sometimes you have to call because the website just isn’t cooperating.  Keep in mind that if it is not working for you it probably isn’t working for others either.

3. Prioritize

When you call or go online to reserve your dining you should prioritize your restaurants in order of how hard they are to get and how important they are to you—don’t worry about going in chronological order through your vacation.  If you want to dine at Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Le Cellier you definitely need to ask for those first.  ‘Ohana, Chef Mickeys, and the prized 8:05am spot at Crystal Palace also go very quickly.  Once you secure the most popular eateries and those that are most important to your family you can move on to those that usually have easier availability.

2. Be Persistent  

If you are not able to get your preferred reservation at first, try, try again.  Often the restaurants do not release all of their tables at the 180 day mark.  With the new credit card guarantees and cancellation policy guests cancel reservations all the time.  I’ve been able to get an 8:10 reservation at Crystal Palace two weeks prior for a June vacation.  Keep checking the website for availability and call in every now and then to see if a table opens up for your party—chances are you will have some success.  There are also some places that I have encountered problems with using the website.  For instance, the Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian showed no availability for several dates, but when I called Disney Dining I was able to get my first choice of day and time right off the bat.  Just one of the glitches with the Disneyworld.com website.  Sometimes you can also find availability by contacting certain restaurants directly.  I had a client who wanted to dine at T-Rex in Downtown Disney.  Nothing was available through Disney except a 9:00pm time.  When I called the restaurant directly I was able to get the exact time she wanted.  T-Rex is not Disney owned and operated which may explain why Disney did not have all of the tables available, and that is why I felt that calling directly could make a difference.

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1. Hire an Itinerary Planner or Book through a Disney Travel Planner  

As I said in the intro, many people truly dread their reservation day.  The stress of calling in, the time spent on hold, not being sure how to navigate Disney’s website efficiently—all of it can make for an unpleasant start to your vacation experience.  Many Disney Travel Planners offer itinerary planning as part of the value of booking with them.  They will help you plan your park days with your dining choices, and then they take care of making your dining reservations for you.  Most of these agencies are fee free so it doesn’t cost you any more to book through them than to do it directly yourself.  Another option is to hire a custom itinerary planner.  These services charge a fee to help you plan and they too will take care of making your reservations for you.

There are many other strategies and tricks for securing your dining reservations, but these are the basics.  Be prepared well in advance, take Disneyworld.com on a test drive for making your dining reservations so you know what to expect, a little flexibility in time can help (12:15 instead of 12:00), be committed to being up early on the morning of your 180 day mark, and make sure you have your requests prioritized.  A little pre-planning can go a long way in making sure you get the dining destinations you want on your Walt Disney World Vacation.  If you find yourself unable to get the exact time or location you want keep trying—reservations open up due to cancellations all of the time.  If you aren’t able to get what you want, it doesn’t hurt to ask about walk-ups when you arrive at the park or resort, but I definitely wouldn’t count on being able to be seated.  Good luck and Happy ADR Days!

What are your tips for securing a tables at Walt Disney World?

About Sarah Chapman

I am a long time Disney fan since I was hooked on Walt Disney World with my first trip in 1987. Since that time I’ve tried experiencing everything I can in the parks, with a total of 30 visits and counting (I’m always planning my next trip) to Walt Disney World—not to mention Disney Cruise Line and even (shhh!) Universal Orlando and Sea World. I’ve turned my Disney obsession into a profession helping others plan their magical vacations as a Dream Vacation Maker at LBAC Travel. I am a work at home mom to three wonderful boys, and each one has been properly indoctrinated with all things Disney. Walt Disney World is definitely our “Laughing Place.” Look for me on Facebook at Facebook.com/SarahLBAC for updates, discount announcements, tips, tricks and planning advice for your next vacation. You can also find me on Instagram (sarahdreamvacationmaker) and Pinterest (sarahlbactravel).