Everything You Need to Know About Disney Dining Reservations
Have you done much googling about Disney World dining reservations? If so, you’re probably confused.
Much of the information seemingly conflicts. There’s a good reason for that. Disney quietly changed the rules, apparently permanently.
Sure, the parks can modify their policies again at any point, but we’re operating under the assumption that status quo will remain for a while.
As such, much of what you’re reading has grown outdated. You need better info.
So, let’s talk about Disney Advanced Dining Reservations during the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World!
The New Window
Okay, until early 2020, guests could book Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) as early as 180 days prior to a Walt Disney World vacation.
Believe it or not, people did this! I was one of them, and I’ve been where you are on the subject.
When my brother warned me that Disney had changed, I thought he was being overly dramatic.
My traveling party booked dining reservations as a courtesy more than a belief that it was necessary.
You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that some of the restaurants had already booked 180 days out!
After that, I got smart about ADRs. My wife and I would have a plan for all our trips, booking our reservations as soon as possible.
At the time, guests could book beyond 180 days as long as they were staying onsite. Disney extended the window by another 10 days.
There were times when I knew where I’d be dining in 190 days but wasn’t sure what I’d have for lunch that very day. It was insane!
For this reason, I view the recent developments as a welcome policy shift at Walt Disney World.
During the pandemic, park officials chose to reduce the window, possibly because they knew what was coming next. I’ll get to that in a moment.
What’s important is how Disney dining reservations work now. You can book up to 60 days in advance of your trip.
However, the old rule still applies. When you’re staying at an official Walt Disney World resort – and you always should! – you get to book for up to 10 days.
Effectively, you can book ADRs for your arrival date and then the following nine days. That’s a fabulous bonus because many popular restaurants sell out!
How ADRs Work
What you’ll do is utilize My Disney Experience (MDE) to book your reservations. You also have the right to call 407-WDW-DINE, which is what usually do.
Disney wants you to book yourself. For this reason, the MDE booking window opens at 6 a.m. on the date of your visit.
Cast members start accepting phone calls at 7 a.m. So, you’re losing an hour by waiting for someone else to do it for you.
Does that matter? Believe it or not, yes. At least it can matter, depending on where you want to eat.
Popular restaurants like Be Our Guest, the Snow White meal at Artist Point, and ‘Ohana book almost immediately.
So, you should know when you’re at or near the opening of your 60-day window. Then, you should have a plan for where you want to eat.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that we plan all our meals a few days before the booking window opens.
We also add a list of contingencies in case some of our top targets aren’t available.
This aspect leads to a pro tip. When you’re staying for five days or more, try this approach.
Schedule your Disney dining reservations by targeting popular restaurants on the final days of your trip.
Anyone can book at the 60-day window for a restaurant. Only a small percentage of guests can book at 65 days or more.
Take advantage of this official Disney resort benefit to dine at the best restaurants!
Please understand when using MDE that you cannot book more than 60 days in advance unless you have a linked admission ticket on your account!
You’ll also need a valid official Disney hotel reservation to book 61 days and beyond since that’s an exclusive benefit.
Why This Policy Is Likely Permanent
Park officials just confirmed that Disney Genie will debut later this year.
One of the built-in features of this new virtual assistant is restaurant dining.
Theoretically, Disney Genie will know which restaurants have available and suggest one near you.
As such, the app can streamline the dining experience. If the system works well, you may not rely on Disney dining reservations as much from now on.
However, we have no way to know at this moment how effective it’ll be, particularly in the early days.
So, you should plan on making your own ADRs for at least the first year of Disney Genie’s existence. At least, that’s what my family will do.
Still, the mere existence of Disney Genie indicates that Disney has heard the most frequent complaints from park guests.
Many have lamented that Disney vacations require too much planning now.
This virtual assistant attempts to solve that problem by encouraging more free form visits.
For this reason, I think it’s safe to assume that the shorter 60-day dining reservation is here to stay.
At a minimum, I doubt that Walt Disney World changes anything until its 50th anniversary celebration ends. And it’ll last until March of 2023!
What Happens If You Don’t Get a Dining Reservation?
For starters, please remember that you only book dining at Table Service restaurants as a rule.
A few exceptions like ABC Commissary exist, but it’s an almost airtight rule.
For this reason, anytime that you cannot schedule an ADR, you’re still okay! Walt Disney World has switched its priorities to Mobile Ordering anyway.
You’ll find plenty of delicious Quick Service food available. Sometimes, you want a nice meal, though.
I understand this point of view and have a pair of suggestions. During the pandemic, Disney restaurants introduced two new options.
About the New Options
When you want to dine at a place that lacks availability, you still have two ways to eat there.
First, you can join the Walk-Up Waitlist on My Disney Experience. This system works similarly to local restaurants in your area.
When the place doesn’t have an open table, it takes down your name and adds you to the waiting list.
When a table finally opens, you’ll get to sit down and eat there. Of course, there are a few catches. For example, you may need to wait an hour or more.
That’s fine when you plan for it, though. Pick a place near an attraction. Then, you can join the Walk-Up Waitlist before standing in line for the ride.
You’ll maximize your park visit with this approach.
Then again, sometimes you’re ready to leave and would rather eat in your room. You still want a nice meal, though.
Thankfully, Disney added Table Service to Go, which is exactly what it sounds like you. You place a mobile order at a Table Service restaurant.
When you arrive at the restaurant, your food should be ready for you to carry back to your room!
This program currently includes only a handful of participants. Still, it’s a phenomenal option when you’re tired but hungry for high-quality food.
Overall, making Disney World dining reservations at the 60-day window represents the best way to eat at the best places at Walt Disney World, though.
So, take advantage of this amenity whenever you can!