How to snag hard-to-get dining reservations

by Shannon Albert · 15 comments · Like the Facebook page

How to snag hard to get dining reservations from WDWPrepSchool.com

How to snag hard to get dining reservations from WDWPrepSchool.comProbably 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 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.

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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.


How to snag hard to get dining reservations from WDWPrepSchool.comHow to snag hard to get dining reservations from WDWPrepSchool.comHow to snag hard to get dining reservations from WDWPrepSchool.comHow to snag hard to get dining reservations from WDWPrepSchool.com
How to snag hard to get dining reservations from WDWPrepSchool.com
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Amy May 20, 2014 at 10:30 am

Planning a Nov 10-17th trip. Our 180days was on May 14th. Attempted online right at 6am, but the system was down. Called and by 6:01am ET the wait time to get to someone was ridiculous. We were watching reservations disappear while we waited. Long story, by 8:30am we only ended up with 2 yes TWO of the desired table service meals. So disappointed. Any tips on how to get better reservations? Chef Mickey on a Monday for dinner and the only opening was 9:05pm! Not do able with a 6year old.

Laurie R April 27, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Love your site and your podcasts – I am taking lots of notes in preparation for our trip. We have booked a house offsite from Disney to accommodate our large family. My question is that our trip starts Nov 15 – so our day to book ADR’s is May 19. Since we are not on-site at WDW how does it work for us to book our reservations for our 10 day trip on May 19? Do I have to call everyday and book each day as they come up?

Thanks for your help!

Dan February 13, 2014 at 10:15 am

I was wondering if when booking T-Rex directly, does the 180 day + 10 policy still apply, or is it only 180? I thought if only 180, then the +10 might make using the disney reservation system better for those booking asap.

smokeylu99 January 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Is there a list somewhere, in order of difficult, of which restaurants to try for first?

Janet Mac Farlane November 15, 2013 at 8:47 pm

It was suggested to me to change your number of guests. I was trying to get Ohana for 2 and could not get a ressie so I changed it to 3 and ta-da got a ressie. You are not charged if some people don’t show. you will be charged if you are a total no-show.

Tammy November 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I am planning a WDW trip for Nov of 2014 with a 14 1/2 year old boy, 12 and 9 year old girls. Where would you recommend for us that would be age approiate?

Connie November 15, 2013 at 10:56 am

We also learned that party size counts. There must only be a certain amount of tables for two available. I have noticed that if I change our party size from two to three, a spot will be available.

Steve and Katie November 16, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I don’t think this is a very ethical option tho it kinda feels like your fudging the system to get your way just cause there is no penalty?? Put yourself in someone else shoes who doesn’t get a reservation with 3 people cause you lied about your party size.

Kim November 15, 2013 at 9:24 am

We always make our reservations 180 days out… we’ve never missed one yet. We even got lucky and was able to get another reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern since we enjoyed it so much last minute!!!! We plan our trip so far in advance, but I love your website and tips!! They are fantastic!!!!

Marie November 15, 2013 at 9:12 am

When I made my dining reservations a few weeks ago the first person told me the cancellation was 48 hours before that night I called to book the rest of my dining and was told 1 day before. Online it’s showing me 48 hours before I need to cancel to avoid fees.

Arline Erven November 15, 2013 at 8:38 am

We weren’t able to plan our trip 180 in advance, so we didn’t plan any character dining. However, a spot opened up last week for ‘Ohana and we snatched it up! Wouldn’t have known to do that if it hadn’t been for your podcasts!

Sara November 15, 2013 at 8:23 am

I am hoping for several reservations for our family’s first WDW trip this summer. I think I have them listed in order of difficulty and ready for January, when I can make reservations. Can you rearrange them if I’m off?
1. 1900 Park Fare – dinner
2. Hollywood & Vine – Fantasmic Dinner package
3. Tusker House – breakfast
4. Rainforest Cafe – (AK) dinner
5. Planet Hollywood – dinner

Does that sound about right? Thank you and I LOVE your site and emails!!!

Afton November 15, 2013 at 8:10 am

These are great tips. I’m hoping for a good seat for the dessert party – I booked it right when you posted it opened 180 out (even though it was that far out for our trip) I’m hoping I was one of the firsts! Have a great trip! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Gloria November 15, 2013 at 7:57 am

The only reservation I cared about getting was Cinderella Table for my girls when we go in may. I used all of your advice, got up to book them online at 6am, and even though the website wasn’t linking our reservations for the first 15 minutes of my attempt, I was able to land an 8:10 breakfast reservation for the first day in the parks!! I am having a hard time keeping it a secret for our surprise trip! Thanks so much for all the advice!

Elise November 15, 2013 at 9:57 am

Awesome!!!!!!!

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