Hard-to-get dining reservations: some tips

While Disney World is certainly known best for its world-class theme parks, return vacationers also cite the food as a major highlight of their experience. There is an incredibly wide variety of choices available, from budget friendly counter service locations to signature dining experiences. Many Disney restaurants have a popular following, and are a featured aspect of many families’ vacations year after year.

However, like most things at Disney these days, if it’s popular, it’s going to be hard to get reservations. Not only has the increase in the number of park visitors made Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) harder and harder to get, the Disney Dining plan is often offered for free or at a steep discount, encouraging more and more travelers to take advantage of their Table Service meal credits. Walk-up reservations at certain locations are a thing of the past, so Disney recommends making ADRs well ahead of time – the window opens as early as 180+10 days before the vacationer checks into their hotel.

So what happens when thousands of other travelers are doing the same thing? Some dinner reservations can be awfully difficult to get – Cinderella’s Royal Table, ‘Ohana, and Be Our Guest dinner reservations are highly coveted but hard to get.

Fortunately, the dining search tool on this site makes it easier to find what you need. Gina wrote a great article about why the Dining Search tool is an advantage over Disney’s website, and all of what she says is especially true for difficult to get reservations. Here are a few tips to make the most of the tool for your next vacation.

Use Flexible Dates

Unlike Disney’s site, you can search a whole range of dates at once. If there is a particular restaurant you want to experience, try entering your entire vacation dates into the search tool, then select the restaurant. You’ll see all the availability over your trip. This strategy works best when you have one particular restaurant in mind, and don’t care which day you eat there.

*Tip: Remember to give yourself plenty of travel time to and from a reservation, especially if using Disney Transportation and Park Hopping.

Search by Location 

You can also search by general location as well as by restaurant. So if you know you’ll be in the Epcot/Hollywood Studios area on Thursday, but aren’t picky about where you eat, you can run a few searches for the Beach Club, the Yacht Club, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. It’s easy to see what’s available, and jump on any places that catch your attention.

*Tip: Remember to search both for the Villas portion of the resort and the regular hotel portion, as restaurants are sometimes located specifically at one or the other. For example, at the Animal Kingdom lodge, The Mara, Jiko, and Boma are located at Jambo House, the hotel portion of the resort, while Kidani Village is host to Sanaa.

Keep Trying!

The main advantage of the dining search tool is the ability to search every day for that coveted reservation without using Disney’s slow site. People are always changing their plans. Sometimes people will make two reservations for the same meal, and then decide later which one to keep. Although the reservation you wanted might not be available at 180 days, more slots may open up or people will drop out of the system. Checking even a few hours later might give completely different availability. Don’t give up yet.

Also remember that you can make reservations beginning 180 days plus 10 days before the first day of your vacation. Just make sure your reservation number is linked in your MDE account. It pays to plan ahead!

*Tip: If you don’t see the reservations you want when you first start to plan your trip, also try looking around 45 days before your trip. This is the cancellation deadline for Disney World packages, so it is possible that a few slots will open up.

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