Deciding on (and then actually getting!) the Disney World dining reservations you want is one of the toughest parts about planning your trip.
With hundreds of restaurants and dining options available it seems like it should be easy, right?
But, the truth is there are some restaurants (like any that have character meals) where finding a reservation at your preferred time can be downright tricky.
But, don't despair; there are some things you can do to maximize your chances of getting exactly what you want.
Here are our best tips on how to snag the hard-to-get Disney World dining reservations...
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The most surefire way to snag hard-to-get Disney World dining reservations: book 180 days in advance
Reservations for all the restaurants at Disney World open up exactly 180 days in advance.
The most foolproof, surefire way of getting any reservation is to book 180 days before your trip begins.
If this is your first trip to Disney World you may think that sounds crazy. How are you supposed to know where you want to eat 6 months from now?!
That is why we recommend you decide on your daily plan before you start picking where you want to eat.
Lots of people want to skip that step and go right to choosing their dining options but trust us, you do not want to do that.
Disney World is HUGE so unless you want to spend a large chunk of your vacation on Disney transportation (and trust us, you don't) you'll want to choose to dine in places close to where you'll be that day.
So - make a daily plan first, then select your dining options so you can be ready right at 180 days out to make your reservations.
But even if you try to book right at 180 days out, there are some tricks that can improve your chances of getting everything you want:
Try booking 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
This tip is especially useful for guests staying on site because on-site guests can make dining reservations for the entire length of their vacation (up to 10 days worth!).
That is different from how it works for people staying off site.
Off-site guests that want to maximize their chances of getting everything they want will book 1 day at a time, exactly 180 days out from each day they want to make a dining reservation.
If you are staying off site, there is no option to book for the entire length of your vacation at exactly 180 days out. That is a perk reserved for guests staying on site only.
You could wait until you are 180 days out from the last day of your vacation and then book all of your dining reservations at once but we do not recommend that.
You'll likely find if you wait to book that your dining options and times will be limited and some of the most popular meals will have no availability at all.
So, if you are staying off site and you have your heart set on on specific times or restaurants, you'll need to plan on waking up and making reservations at 6 a.m. EST in the morning exactly 180 days out from each day you need a reservation.
On-site guests have it a lot easier. Unless your vacation is longer than 10 days you will only have to set aside 1 day to make your Disney World dining reservations.
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 to snag reservations for the hardest ones first.
These restaurants are historically some of the most difficult to get. Make these reservations first:
- Be Our Guest dinner (most difficult reservation to snag)
- Victoria & Albert's (especially the Chef's Table here)
- Cinderella's Royal Table (although not as difficult as it once was)
- California Grill (especially during the dinner service when you can watch the fireworks while you dine, however, if you keep your receipt you can come back to watch the fireworks from the observation deck if you have a reservation earlier that same day)
- Chef Mickey's
- Bon Voyage Breakfast
- Any other character meal
- Any other signature dining experience
- The Plaza Restaurant (the small size of the interior means there simply aren't a lot of reservations available here each day)
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.
Think outside the box
Sometimes you may have to compromise a bit to get what you want. This is especially true if your group is on the larger size (anything more than 6).
These tips are especially helpful for dining with large groups, however, the same concepts can be applied to smaller groups, too:
- Try for reservations during unpopular times of day. Dinner and pre-park opening breakfasts are 2 of the most popular times of day to dine, which means they'll be the first slots to book up. Instead, try dining during less popular times of the day to maximize your chances of finding an opening.
- If you can't get 1 reservation for your entire group, try splitting up into 2 smaller ones. When you check in you'll be able to ask the hostess to sit you together (or at least near one another, although this isn't a guarantee. And, depending on your group size, even if you booked under 1 reservation, the table configurations at some restaurants simply don't allow for large groups to be seated all together so there is always the chance your group might be split up.
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
- Terralina Crafted Italian - 407-934-8888
- Raglan Road - 407-938-0300
- Rainforest Cafe (Animal Kingdom location) - 407-938-9100
- Rainforest Cafe (Disney Springs location) - 407-827-8500
- Splitsville - 407-938-7467
- STK Steakhouse - 407-917-7440
- T-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.
This is a handy feature (and a huge time saver!) since it isn't uncommon for available reservations to be released in batches.
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.
Consider booking with a travel agent
If thinking about trying to snag hard-to-get dining reservations feels more scary than fun, you should think about booking your vacation with a travel agent.
Perfect Story Travel agents can book your resort, dining, and FastPass+ reservations, and they can even keep an eye out for discounts on your trip. This is all done at no extra charge to you.
If you're interested in booking your next vacation with one of the travel professionals there, fill out the quote request form and one of the hand-picked team will get in contact with you shortly.
The same ideas above 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 Disney World dining reservations you'd like to share?
Please discuss in the comments.