How to Book ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations)!
Did you know that some restaurants at Walt Disney World have longer waits than many theme park attractions? It’s true. Getting a table at Be Our Guest isn’t even something that you can do on many occasions unless you book a reservation many months in advance. The same is true at Cinderella’s Royal Table, Sci-Fi Dine-In, and many Epcot locations in the World Showcase in the hours leading up to Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.
No matter how sad you look, cast members can’t make this kind of magic for you. There are simply too many guests ahead of you in the line queue. In fact, we once tried to modify plans on a rainy night when we were staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. We attempted to eat at Chef Mickey’s since the weather precluded us from getting to our Fantasmic! dinner reservations. The exasperated cast member at Chef Mickey’s said and I quote, “Let me ask the kitchen yet again.” Two minutes later, she returned and firmly stated, “Yes, we’re still booked.” Did I mention it was my wife and my anniversary?
Disney’s in the business of satisfying customers. Still, they can only do so much when 100,000 people are on the Orlando campus each day. That’s why you need to do a bit of planning for your meals. When you want to eat at one of the most popular Walt Disney World restaurants, you must plan ahead. Here’s a quick guide on how to book Advance Dinner Reservations for the hardest tables at Disney.
Advance Dining Reservations Explained
Yes, eating at a restaurant such as Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table is a challenge. The entire restaurant is booked most of the time. We are talking about more than 90 percent occupancy and even 100 percent on many dates.
Don’t worry! Since you’re staying onsite at Walt Disney World, you should be able to get a reservation. You’ll just need to do some planning to eat at a place like Be Our Guest. The only requirement is that you plan some meals far in advance. I understand that not everyone is a planner. Unfortunately, it’s the only way to assure a table at Disney’s most popular establishments.
Understanding the Advantage of Staying at a Disney Resort
How does the process work? The Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) system lets people book a table at a Disney restaurant 180 days in advance. By staying at a Disney property, however, you can add a few more days. These extra days are integral to your booking one of the toughest reservations at Walt Disney World.
Here’s how the process works. If you’re staying six nights, you can start booking 180 days ahead of your arrival date. As a bonus, you can book for the other five nights as well, giving you an effective booking window of 185 days. By planning ahead, you’ll get a jump on the competition and acquire ADRs at the places that sell out the fastest.
What does all of this mean in practical terms? You shouldn’t even bother to try to book a popular establishment such as Be Our Guest on the first night of your stay. You’ll waste precious time on the phone while the cast member checks for availability. If that day is booked, a distinct possibility, you’ve gained nothing while other people have scheduled meals on later dates.
You should use a different strategy instead. Book a table on one of the final nights of your trip. In doing so, your meal will feel like more of a special event, a going away present for your entire traveling party.
Even when my family stays 10 or 11 nights, we always pick Be Our Guest as our final dinner. This practice elevates the meaning of the meal for us. It’s a celebration of another wonderful trip to Walt Disney World. By booking ahead of time, we never have trouble getting a table.
From a practical standpoint, this strategy also makes an ADR at Be Our Guest easier to get. You’ll face less competition for the later dates of your stay. EVERYONE can book a table 180 days in advance, whether they’re staying onsite, using a competing hotel chain, holing up in a condo, or living in Orlando.
On night six of your trip, the only other people who can book a table are other guests spending a week at a Walt Disney World resort. You’re facing less competition as a benefit of staying onsite. With those odds, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a table.
The strategy listed here has enabled us to eat at Be Our Guest on five consecutive trips to Walt Disney World. Meanwhile, a lot of people are still awaiting their first visit. Several years after its introduction, Be Our Guest maintains its status as the most difficult reservation at Walt Disney World. So, I can say from experience that this practice works.
The Advance Dining Reservation Booking Process
In booking ADRs, the early bird gets the worm. The booking window opens at 7 a.m. EST each morning. You have two options for booking. You can either call Disney customer service at 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) or use the MDE app. I’m going to offer guidelines for both. I will note that for us, cast members are usually better at finding availability, even though the system is the same for you searching MDE as it is for the Disney employee.
When you call, your strategy should be to prioritize the most popular restaurants. You should have a good idea of where you want to eat. Pick the places that you know are likely to sell out. I’ve listed several here, but a few others are ‘Ohana, Victoria & Albert’s, and California Grill.
The three Disney shows, Spirit of Aloha, Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, also book fully at times, particularly during the busy parts of the schedule. If you’re not sure how busy the parks will be, I suggest using Len Testa’s TouringPlans as a guide. Len’s by all accounts a good guy who owns a Space Mountain kitchen.
Once you’ve identified the most difficult tables to book, prioritize them on the phone call. Ask to book them first. Also, use the suggestion above and stack them toward the tail end of your trip. Using this strategy, you’re likely to get all of your reservations at the times that you want.
To book online, you pull up the My Disney Experience app. Look for the tab that says Things to Do. Under this is a section entitled Make Reservations. You’ll book your tables here. It’s fairly self-explanatory. The one pro tip I can offer is that when you want a reservation at a popular establishment, you can increase your odds by choosing “breakfast,” “lunch,” or “dinner” rather than a specific time. The system will display all available times, and you can select the one you want from this list.
This tactic is a time-saver AND catch-all compared to targeting a specific reservation such as 6:00. When you check a specific time that’s booked, you don’t know if anything else is available other than reservations within two hours of that time. So, an 8:05 might be open. You just won’t see it unless you check a different time.
When you’re ready to book, remember to have a credit card ready. You’ll need one for all ADRs. Conveniently, Disney will store your credit card information. You won’t have to keep typing it in for each reservation.
Last-Minute Booking Strategies
Should you embark on a sudden trip to Walt Disney World, something I whole-heartedly recommend, you still have a chance to eat at these great restaurants. It’s a longshot, for sure, but here’s your best hope. The My Disney Experience (MDE) app updates in real-time. Should a different party cancel a table at a popular restaurant, this booking window will show in the app. If you check regularly, there’s always a chance that you’ll notice an available window.
A strange way to improve your odds is by joining some Disney Facebook groups. Many of them have 20,000 members or more. Sometimes, a thoughtful person will post that they’re about to cancel a reservation at a booked restaurant. You can pull out your phone and try to grab the table the instant that it becomes available. Again, the odds aren’t great, but it’s worth a shot.
These strategies work with all ADRs. So, even if you’re not interested in a popular restaurant like Be Our Guest – some Disney fan you are! – the ideas work for hundreds of other Disney restaurants. In fact, it leads to a fun game for last minute travelers. When you arrive on a busy park day, you won’t have any ADRs. Pull up your MDE app on your phone. Pick a certain time and search to see what’s available. You might try something that you’ve never had before and instantly find a new favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World. This is how my family fell in love with Coral Reef.
Advance Dining Reservations are critical to booking the best and most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World. By following the steps listed here, you should get to eat at all the finest eateries onsite. If you have any ADR pro tips that you’d like to add, please leave them in the comments.
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