Walt Disney World Resort vacations are of course super fun, and many people even enjoy the trip-planning process. That said, even if you enjoy planning trips, trying to snag the Disney World dining reservations you want most is pretty stressful.
This is always true if you’re looking to get the most popular restaurants. That said, because dining reservations are more limited right now, this fact is more true than ever before. In fact, those who wait too long to make reservations might be stuck with no table dining at all.
While skipping the dining reservations and sticking with quick service eateries isn’t the end of the world (some quick service places are actually quite magical), it may not be your idea of an ideal Disney vacation. Therefore, we’re going to take a few minutes to lay out all of our top tips for getting those coveted character dining and other table service restaurant reservations, so you can stop worrying and start getting ready to have some Disney dining fun.
Know When You Can Book
First and foremost, figure out when your booking window opens up and set reminders in your calendar so you don’t forget it. You will want to book as soon as you are allowed in order to have the best chance of getting what you want.
The advance dining reservation window for guests staying off Disney property begins 60 days out from the day they wish to dine. Guests staying onsite can book for their entire trip beginning 60 days from their arrival date.
Obviously, since onsite guests can book for their entire trip beginning 60 days out from their check-in date, they have the upper hand. For this reason, we highly recommend staying in a Disney resort hotel if at all possible (even the Value Resorts have this privilege). If you do stay in a Disney hotel, plan to book the most popular dining options (like Oga’s Cantina, Space 220, and character dining at Topolino’s Terrace, Artist Point, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and Chef Mickey’s) later in your trip in order to have the best chance of getting in.
Get Up Early
Not only do you want to book the day your window opens, you’ll actually want to be online and ready to book the minute it opens. In most cases, this is 6:00 AM eastern time. However, Walt Disney World restaurants have been known to open windows a few minutes early.
Therefore, we recommend being logged into the app and refreshing your most wanted search beginning at 5:45 AM eastern.
This makes for some pretty early mornings for those on the west coast, but it is what it is, and if you want a Walt Disney World dining experience bad enough, you’ll need to set an alarm, chug that coffee, and get it done.
Change the Number in Your Party
If you’re trying to dine with a very large party, you will likely have a hard time finding reservations for everyone at once. Instead, try booking half of your group on one account and getting a separate reservation at the same Walt Disney World restaurant on another person’s Disney account. This will give you a better chance of getting your preferred advanced dining reservations.
Another strange thing some people have observed? Sometimes it’s hard to find reservations for odd numbers of people. If you have a party of three and can’t find much, try searching for seating for a party of four instead. You might just have better luck.
Set Up a Reservation Scouting Service
Say you get up at 5:45 AM and still don’t score what you want-then what? In this case, we recommend setting up accounts with Disney dining reservation scouting services such as MouseDining, the Touring Plans reservation finding tool, and MouseWatcher.
Once you have accounts with these services, you can put in what day and time you’re looking to dine at any given restaurant, and bots will watch the Disney site for reservations to become available. When what you want shows up, you will be sent an alert. Just be aware that you do have to jump on those alerts very quickly, as reservations tend to disappear fast.
Ask on Facebook Groups
Sometimes people who are planning Disney park trips will grab extra reservations before they have their plans hammered out. Other times, people have to cancel or reschedule their trips. These individuals will often post in Disney planning Facebook groups before they drop their reservations, so people like you can grab them. Additionally, those who post what they are looking for will sometimes have someone offer them an extra park dining reservation.
Obviously, it doesn’t hurt to join Facebook groups such as Disney World Dining Reservations to see if you can get anything that way.
Check Closer to the Day Of
Those people who claim extra reservations? The folks who have to cancel trips? They have to drop their reservations at least a day in advance if they don’t want to be charged a fee. Because of this, a number of last minute Disney dining reservations will pop up on the app throughout the day and especially at night. Keep a close eye on availability the day before your theme park visit to see if anything you want shows up.
Join the Walk-Up List
Finally, if you can’t find an advanced dining reservation that you want, there is the option of the walk-up lists at Disney restaurants. While these lists do fill up, and it isn’t always possible to get in as a walk-up customer, it is definitely worth trying to get into the restaurant of your choice by using the walk-up list. You will need to be at the restaurant to join the waitlist, but it can be done via the app. Expect to wait a bit for an open table, and know that smaller parties are more likely to find seating this way.