(Article last updated: May 15, 2018)
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 at Disney World 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 our tips on how to snag the hard-to-get dining reservations at Disney World...
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The most surefire way to snag hard-to-get dining reservations at Disney World: 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.
Note: make sure you have your credit card handy. All reservations now require a credit card guarantee so you'll need to enter the number in when you make your reservation.
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.
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.
Note: do not be surprised if no availability shows at the 180 day mark for the dessert parties and dining packages such as the Rivers of Light or Fantasmic! dining packages. Those frequently don't show up in the system as available until later; however, it is best to check at the 180 day mark just in case.
Use a computer
Using a computer can make the process of booking reservations easier. Before your 180 day window opens, open a tab for each restaurant you plan on booking and arrange the tabs in order of difficulty.
Make sure you are logged out of My Disney Experience before your window opens and then right at 6 a.m. EST, log in, and click through each tab to make your reservations.
Using multiple tabs this way saves you time the morning your Advanced Dining Reservations open since you wont be searching for each restaurant one at a time - they'll already be open and ready to go.
Use multiple devices, but only if necessary
In most all instances, 1 person working on 1 computer is plenty but if you are booking for a large group, during an extra busy time of the year (such as the holidays) or trying for lots of hard-to-get reservations - all things that can make it more challenging to snag the reservations you want - you might want to consider using multiple people on multiple devices.
For example, put 1 person in charge of snagging that pre-park opening Advanced Dining Reservation for Be Our Guest while you work on everything else.
If you weren't able to get what you wanted at the 180 day mark, don't give up
People often feel like if they got up early at exactly 180 days and weren't successful snagging what they wanted that all hope is lost - but it isn't! If you're past the 180 day mark, give these tips below a try.
Some restaurants should be called directly
Non-Disney owned 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.
Here are some numbers to keep handy:
- Bongos - 407-828-0999
- Frontera Cocina - 407-560-9197
- House of Blues - 407-934-2583
- Morimoto Asia - 407-939-6686
- Paradiso 37 - 407-934-3700
- Planet Hollywood - 407-827-7827
- Portobello - 407-934-8888
- Raglan Road - 407-938-0300
- Rainforest Cafe (Animal Kingdom location) - 407-938-9100
- Rainforest Cafe (Downtown Disney location) - 407-827-8500
- Splitsville - 407-938-7467
- STK Steakhouse - 407-917-7440
- Rex Cafe - 407-828-8739
Restaurants throughout Disney World are now appearing in the OpenTable app and website. Be sure to check there for availability as well.
Try a reservation finding service
MouseDining is a popular service that constantly checks for openings at restaurants you choose to track and then sends you text alerts when something becomes available.
If you are looking for just a couple openings, their free version would probably work for you but even if you need to upgrade to one of their paid options, the small cost is well worth the time it would save you from having to do all the checking on your own.
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.
Use this to your advantage and try checking again, even up until the day before, to see if you can get what you want.
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 for snagging hard-to-get dining reservations at Disney World you'd like to share?
Please discuss in the comments.