How to snag hard-to-get dining reservations
Probably the hardest part of booking a Disney World trip is deciding on and getting all of the dining reservations you want.
The hardest dining reservations include Be Our Guest for dinner (currently the most difficult to book), pretty much all of the character meals, signature dining meals (like Victoria and Albert's, Le Cellier and California Grill) and dinner shows.
Here are my tips on getting the most difficult reservations...
1. The most surefire way: book 180 days in advance
The most foolproof, surefire way of getting any reservation is to book 180 days before your trip begins.
But even if you do that, there are some tricks that can improve your chances of getting everything you want.
Try online before phone
Online reservations open up at 6 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, while the phone lines open up at 7 a.m. Always try the website earlier but keep the phone number handy in case there are issues on the website - 407-WDW-DINE.
Chances are better toward the end of your trip
People staying on-site can book all of their reservations for their whole trip 180 days before the trip begins. That means that your chances are better toward the end of your trip since those dates aren't opened to everybody yet.
If there's a place you really want more than any other, stay flexible and have a couple of date options.
Here's a video that helps explain this a bit better...
Put your reservations in order of difficulty, not chronological order
If you book your reservations chronologically, you may miss out on some of the difficult ones.
Put them in order of difficulty so you can try the hardest ones first. Prioritize dinner shows and the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party since seating is often based on when the reservation was made.
2. Some restaurants should be called directly
The non-Disney restaurants don't release many seats to the Disney Dining system so you're better off calling them directly if you can't get reservations through the Disney Dining system.
Rainforest Cafe (Animal Kingdom location) - 407-938-9100
Rainforest Cafe (Downtown Disney location) - 407-827-8500
T-Rex Cafe - 407-828-8739
3. A couple of days beforehand, check again
Disney World has recently adopted a new cancellation policy that requires a credit card to secure any Table Service reservation. If you don't cancel by the day before your scheduled reservation, you'll automatically be charged $10/person.
The good thing about this policy is that it keeps people from stockpiling reservations that they aren't going to use and it means that openings come up the day or two beforehand that people can snag for their trip.
I'd recommend checking online and/or by using the My Disney Experience app a day or two before you're hoping to get in somewhere.
The same ideas could be applied to booking special events like boat cruises, although you almost always have to book those 180 days in advance. Since those have even fewer spots available than restaurants, you should put those high on your priority list.
Are there reservations you're hoping to get or other tips you'd like to share?
Please discuss in the comments.