7 Things Walt Disney World Insiders Know About Dining Reservations

Disney dining plan
Credit: Disney

Dining is an essential part of your Walt Disney World vacation. The resort offers more options than anyone could try in one vacation. However, to get the most of these magical places, you’ll need an Advanced Dining Reservation. Here are seven things that insiders keep in mind about dining reservations.

7. Opens 180 Days Out

Mark your calendar for 180 days before you check in for your vacation. This is the day to make all of your dining reservations! And yes, you should make them this far in advance, especially if you have your heart set on dining in one of the castles, with a firework view, or with the main mouse himself! It may sound crazy, but dining reservations for the most in demand restaurants do fill up this quickly. Reservation windows become available at 6:00 am Eastern time. You can make reservations by phone or online. Either way, it helps to have a rough outline of where you’d like to eat each day of your vacation, and what park you’d like to visit. You don’t want to plan on being in Magic Kingdom, only to make reservations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (it’s doable, it just means some travel time).

6. Reserve Up To 10 Days At A Time

If you’re staying in a Disney resort hotel, you can make dining reservations for you entire trip, up to 10 days at a time, starting 180 days before check in. So really, you can make reservations for 190 days in advance. Doing so will give you the best chance of scoring a reservation for the most popular restaurants at your ideal dining time.

5. There’s An App For That

Download the free My Disney Experience app for you smart phone to look for dining reservations on the go: while waiting to pick up the kids from school, in line at Starbucks, or even in the airport! On my last trip, when we realized we would make it to Florida in time for dinner, we made a last minute dinner reservation using the app from the car! The app also stores the reservation number for you, so there’s no need to write it down or store it elsewhere in your phone. Link all the members of your traveling party so everyone can have the information at their fingertips

4. Yes. You Need Them

There is always guests who try to walk up to popular restaurants expecting to be seated. These folks usually get turned away disappointed. That’s because the popular restaurants are full of reservations and don’t often have extra tables for walk-ups. If you or someone in your family really wants to experience a certain restaurant, don’t leave it up to chance. Make a reservation as soon as you can.

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3. But Not Always

It’s totally possible to score a last minute dining reservation. You just need to be flexible with your cuisine tastes. On my last vacation, we got day-of reservations for Sanaa, an Indian-African fusion restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (it’s actually my favorite restaurant on property!). We also walked up and got a table at Spice Road Table (Morocco pavilion in Epcot) right before Illuminations. These restaurants still had openings because most guests don’t want to try new flavors or cooking techniques, which leads me to my next tip.

2. Try New Things

This is a mantra for me at Walt Disney World. My family makes an effort to try at least one new thing every of our trip. It could be an attraction, experience, or restaurant that we’ve never done before. Keep this in mind when making your dining reservations. By all means keep a few tried-and-true family favorites on your list. But why not try a new restaurant? It may become a new must-do! Step outside the parks and venture to a nearby resort. You’ll find dozens of delicious choices just outside the parks, that most guests never think of!

1. Check In Early

It helps to check in early to your reservation. Often, my family has been seated, and placed our order, before our official reservation time. You’re hungry, you’re tired. So why wait around just to check-in to your restaurant? Plus, if you have any other requests, like a table with a view (think a table nearest the aquarium at Coral Reef or a window table at California Grill), the staff will be more likely to accommodate your request if you’re early for your scheduled time.

About Robin Swanson

Robin’s Disney journey began with Beauty and the Beast bedsheets, a Jasmine dress up set, and a purring Nala plush. As a child in the 1990s, the renaissance and classic animations alike captivated her imagination. In 2008, Robin visited Walt Disney World for the first time, and the obsession really took hold. Since then, Robin has enjoyed visiting the Happiest Place on Earth many more times. She lives in the Chicago suburbs where she is wrapping up a Masters in writing. When not at Disney World, Robin enjoys researching fairytales, eating ice cream, Netflix binging, reading and, of course, planning the next Walt Disney World vacation!