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.

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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.

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Ryan

How long are the reservations for? If we reserve an 8pm supper reservation, do they hurry us along afrer 60/90 minutes, or if we Want to take 120+ minutes of appetizers, entrée, desert then drinks etc is that allowed?

Ken

Great stuff! Thank you!!

Shannon

We are booked for our next trip May 20 – May 26, 2017. We were able to get almost everything we wanted in terms of restaturants but cannot seem to find anything for breakfast at Hollywood & Vine. Is this restaurant really that popular now? Is is possible that they haven’t released the tables yet even thought the 180 day mark was last week?

Jeremy

We called today for June 1 because it was unavailable and they said it wasn’t released yet for March or June. They said keep checking daily.

Darren Carnall

So we have secured all our reservations for our trip. (WOOHOO!) but the STK Orlando restaurant would only let us book Lunch on the Disney Dining Plan. Do they not do Dinner on the plan or did we get in too late??

Arielle

Is there a WDW for Dummies or something? My husband and I are going to Disney at the end of next month. We planned this trip completely last minute a few weeks ago. We have had to cancel this trip twice already prior to this time because of extreme family circumstances. Needless to say we are totally excited and I have never been to Disney but reading your blog is making me terrified. Although, it is very helpful I didn’t know so much went into this planning process. Am I going to be able to even get anything reserved for us at such a late time? And where is everyone even getting the lists of all the restaurants for them to even know if they want to go there or not so that they can RSVP in the first place? I have no idea what all the options are to know where and what I want us to do. I thought I was doing well by just picking the park I wanted to visit.
PLEASE HELP

Amber

Do the reservations by phone for T-Rex and Rainforest open 180 days in advance as well? If so, what time do their phone lines open? Also, is there a chart or list somewhere listing the restaurants in order of difficulty of getting reservations?

Caytie

I was on at 6 am to book ANY Princess breakfast or BOG lunch for November 30th, with NO options on my phone app or desktop browser. I guess I’ll call in 30 minutes. I am so sad it is looking like we might not get into ANY of our restaurants we dreamed of.

Jen

I am having the same issue!! I even checked with less popular restaurants like Liberty Tree with NO AVAILABILITY for my release day today. Same thing happened yesterday for my Epcot reservations. Did you have any luck trying the phones or trying throughout the day?

Lisa

I was told to just keep trying so that’s what I’m doing every day! We are going the week of Nov 28th. Akershus is our main goal!!

Kimmy Dalton

I was finally able to get Akershus for breakfast on the 27th yesterday! I’ve been trying since 180 days as well. Don’t give up! I try every day at least once if not twice in hopes a reservation hoarder has made up their mind and canceled. Good luck to you!

Drew

I’m having the same trouble with several of our restaurants for early december too! so bummed that I got up this early on a saturday for nothing!

Jenni Deiderich

Is there a ranked list of how to prioritize which restaurants are harder to get into than others, so I know in which order to try to make my reservations?

Courtney

Our whole family has decided to go December 10-15 for an early Christmas Vacation. We want to experience Disney at Christmas without the large crowds. However, there are 12 of us. OF COURSE our list of restaurants are most of the hard to get ones as our group of 12 includes 6 young children. Any suggestions on scoring all of the restaurants with a party of 12? Should I just call the group dining line?

Rebecca

I just booked yesterday all of my reservations for a party of 17! Book all your hard to get restaurants towards the end of your trip. Also some restaurants don’t sit more then 8 to a table anyways. So split up if you have to. I was able to book all of the restaurants I wanted! ???

Amanda

I have a question about CRT. I know you have to pay in advance, but if I’m using the dining plan do I still need to do this? Thanks in advance.

Jim

No. But a credit card guarantee is required.

Nancy

We were able to snag a California Grill reservation for our upcoming December trip to celebrate out 25th wedding anniversary! What I am wondering is if we can go up early to watch fireworks (scheduled for 8:00) with a 9:15 resv? I know you can go up after with your receipt but cannot find any info on going up before. Thanks!

Heather Nugent

I was able to make ALL of my Spring Break 2016 ADR’s this morning thanks to you and your wonderful advice. I absolutely LOVE your website! It really makes the planning process so much fun! I also made a Disney planning binder, per your suggestion, and wrote down all my confirmation numbers. Come on, March!

Summer

Shannon,
I am planning my first Disney World trip and all my friends say I’m psycho with how much studying and planning I have done. I think I have read every tip, idea, you name it from you and other sources. We will be traveling with a 22 month old and 3 1/2 yr old. At 180 days I had 4 computers opened, logged in and ready to go at 5:30 going over scenarios with my husband (he was calling for BBB and Harmony Barbershop), if things got moved around. We got almost everything we wanted. 2 CRT, 2 BOG, the works. (For Christmas week). There were some times that we wanted better for our schedule so we signed up for the WDW Tablefinder that I read about in one of your articles. OMG! I LOVE IT! SOOOO worth the money. We only have 2 more reservations that we are waiting on for better times. But we have gotten improved times for 4 reservations already and it is so easy! You just have to be quick. As soon as it pops up… click the link. I’m waiting for my 60 days to do FastPass, but we have our strategy and are excited for our picks and our upcoming trip! Thanks so much for all the information!!!

Summer

Oh, one thing that I wanted to add was this. In my pecking order of restaurants I did not put Tusker House Breakfast at Animal Kingdom as a priority list. By the time I got to that reservation on my list it was gone. This really surprised me. Especially since I got every one I wanted, just not at my “perfect time”. So, I would suggest putting it higher on the list than you would think. Not before CRT or BOG, but close. I got the WDW Tablefinder and it got us a reservation in the morning for the Character Breakfast for 5 people Christmas week. I got the package of 10 for $50. Worth. Every. Penny!

Hi Shannon! We booked our dining reservations 180 days in advance, got all the places we wanted, however we didn’t add our baby since he wouldn’t be eating from the restaurant. So booked a table for 4 instead of five. We changed some but the others are booked, do you think they will turn us away if we show up with our baby. We really don’t want to cancel our reservations ??

Rebecca

I don’t know if they would turn you away, but I do know when I went with my son who was one at the time, they wanted him included in how many were going. I would just call Disney dining and ask.

megan

We were going to do that too, since it’ll be easier to book a table for 6 than 7. Did it work out for you?

Stephanie Biedenbender

Here’s something I discovered about T-Rex that you might want to add. We have a large group on 10. On disneys site you can’t book for a party that large at T-Rex. So you have to split the party into 2 groups and hope they’ll be able to sit you together. If you call the restaurant directly (using the number you so fabulously provided), they can book large groups. We were able to get all 10 of us, at 1 table, at the time and day we want this way! Thanks so much!

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