Top Four Ways to Score A Walt Disney World Dining Reservation
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Rides, Characters, Parades, Resorts, Cinderella’s Castle – All things I look forward to on every Walt Disney World trip, but one other experience is a must : Dining! Scheduling your Walt Disney World Dining Reservation is as much a part of your trip as your FastPasses and, just like FastPasses, some dining options are gone in a matter of minutes as soon as they open up. You don’t have to get discouraged though! There are 4 fool-proof ways to snag that important Walt Disney World Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) option and meet the Princess of your dreams (or enjoy that amazing steak!).
Types of Dining
Before you schedule, it’s important to know WHAT you are scheduling for. Walt Disney World Dining comes in two varieties:
- Quick Service – Counter-Service meal that doesn’t require a reservation. Mostly walk-up to order and then pick a table in the dining area.
- Table Service – Restaurant-Style Service that almost always requires a reservation. All Character Meals at Table Service. They include wait staff and usually a more themed-experience.
For a full break-down of all of your dining options, you can check out : The Ins and Outs of the Disney Dining Plan
180 Days In Advance
A Walt Disney World Dining Reservation opens up 180 days in advance. Like FastPasses, you get a slight edge if you are staying on-property. You can book reservations for your entire trips started 180 days out from the FIRST DAY of your reservation. Everyone else gets to start booking at the 180 day mark for each individual day. This means you can book a few days ahead of others for the latter part of your trip if you are staying on-property. For all other days, you are competing with everyone for those spots, including people staying off-site, people staying on-site, local pass holders who just want a celebratory meal one night. If you are looking for a more affordable way to enjoy on-property in a Deluxe experience, consider renting DVC points. David’s Vacation Club Rentals has amazing deals and can get you to the front of that ADR list!
The reservations that you will likely need 180 days notice are:
- Cinderella’s Royal Table
- Be Our Guest – especially for dinner
- Victoria and Albert’s
- Chef Mickey’s
- California Grill
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
- Le Cellier
- Rose and Crown – For Dinner and Fireworks
24 Hours in Advance
The cancellation window to not be charged is 24 hours in advance. This is important, because if you miss scheduling a reservation, you know a lot of people will start cancelling theirs around 48-24 hours so they don’t get charged. This makes it a good time for you to check on that reservation that you want.
How to Score that Walt Disney World Dining Reservation
From Easy to Hard, these are the four fool-proof ways to score that dining reservation that you want.
Set an Alarm
The easiest way is to snag your dining reservation is to set an alarm and get up on the 180 day mark. Walt Disney World Dining reservations open up at 6 am eastern time. Literally setting an alarm to wake up and get ready can make the difference in snagging those important. You will want to have your plan down and know which reservations you are hunting for.
Ok, you missed the 180 day mark or all of the reservations were already taken. There are some dining experiences, like Cinderella’s Royal Table, that go in a matter of minutes it seems like. Another great tool for snagging that reservation is to use Touring Plans Reservation Finder. Normally Touring Plans is a $14.95 per year registration, but it’s a little-known fact that you can actually create a free account and get access to the reservation finder. It will search for two reservations at a time and text you when it is available. I have had great success with this option, getting a Be Our Guest Dinner reservation at 30 days out and Thanksgiving Dinner at Rose and Crown at 5 months out.
Start with your free account. You get it by signing up for basic access:
Next, select the Reservation Finder:
Enter in the Reservation, Date, and Time that you are looking for. You are limited to one at at time.
Sit back and wait!
Your search will go active and Touring Plans will randomly search for the reservation for you.
You have a reservation!
Open the text or email and make your official reservation through the Walt Disney World Dining Reservation site.
Search for Yourself – Every Day
It may sound like a lot of work, but you can search for that Walt Disney World Dining Reservation every day to try to snag a cancellation. I have actually gotten an ‘Ohana reservation for 6 people at 6 pm same-day. While the Touring Plans Reservation Finder is great if you have some time before your registration, I’ve found it doesn’t search often enough to snag a same-day or next-day reservation.
People move their reservations and cancel all the time, so you have a shot! Knowing that most restaurants require 24 hour notice for a cancellation, you can really get lucky between the 48 and 24 hour mark.
There are entire groups on Facebook dedicated to Disney Planning. One big piece of these is to help each other with a Walt Disney World Dining Reservation. People will post that they are going to “drop” a reservation, including how many people are in the party. You can coordinate with them to be able to “pick it up” right away. So much about reservations is the timing. You can also post if you are looking for a specific reservation and someone may have one they are ready to let go. Some of the most active groups I have seen are:
- Smart Moms Plan Disney
- This group even branches out into smaller groups by the month you are visiting
- Disney Planning for Disney Friends
While you are over there, check out the Moment Mom page for more tips and tricks. If you’d like updates, you can like the page and follow along!
What If You Can’t Get the Reservation
If all else fails and you have to make some adjustments, these are some quality restaurants that almost always have availability and can substitute for other, busier dining:
- Character Dining
- Chef Mickey’s –
- Garden Grill in Epcot with Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale;
- Tusker House in Animal Kingdom with Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Pluto, and Minnie
- Dinner at Hollywood and Vine with Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Goofy, and Donald.
- Cinderella’s Royal Table –
- 1900 Park Fare Dinner – Dine with Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella
- Akershus is slightly less busy than Cinderella’s Royal Table and also features 5 Princesses. Akershus actually comes out on top in Battle of the Princesses : Cinderella’s Royal Table Vs Princess Storybook at Akershus Royal Banquet.
- Cinderella’s Royal Table – Also a hard reservation to get, but a good alternative is the Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria Al Forno with Rapunzel, Flynn Ryder, Prince Eric, and Ariel
- Chef Mickey’s –
- Fireworks Viewing
- Rose and Crown – La Hacienda de San Angel also has great fireworks viewing.
- Great Steak
- Le Cellier – Yachtsmans Steakhouse at Yacht Club or Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge also also have amazing steaks if you can’t get into Le Cellier.
Scoring that must-have Walt Disney World Dining Reservation can come with a lot of pressure. Using these four methods can help increase your odds of dining with your favorite Princess or enjoying a perfect view of fireworks with your meal:
- Know Your Timelines – Set an alarm for 6 am EST 180 days out from your reservation. If you are staying on-site, you can book all of your dining for your whole trip on this day. If you aren’t staying on-property, you can book one day at a time.
- Using the Touring Plans Reservation Finder – If you miss the 180 day mark, use this tool to automatically search for up to 2 reservations at a time for you. Just click the text and complete the booking process when it finds a spot.
- Check for Yourself Every Day – People cancel reservations all the time. Continually checking for a reservation can pay off big time!
- Join some Disney-Planning Facebook Groups – These groups often trade reservations and notify each other when they are going to drop a reservation.
- Find an alternative – Walt Disney World has so many amazing restaurants that you can find a good alternative for most experiences.