If you are anything like our family then one of the main concerns for you when planning your trip to Disneyworld is where, what and when to eat!
Luckily Disney make this a relatively easy thing to organise using their Advance Dining Reservations (ADR). You can actually start making meal reservations 180 days before your trip which, for people as into planning as we are, is great!
Yes, it can get stressful and needs some prior planning (like with Fast Passes) but once it’s done it is very reassuring.
How does ADR work
If you are staying on-site at a Disney hotel then you can book restaurants up to 180 days in advance for up to 10 consecutive days. This means that you can actually book up to 190 days in advance (for restaurants you are visiting later in your stay). For example on 1st January you can book restaurants for 30th June to 9th July.
If your stay is longer than 10 nights, your window will open for each day after day 10 on each subsequent day. So on January 2nd, you can book your dining reservations for 10th July (day 11), then on January 3rd you can book for 11th July (day 12) and so on. This actually means you can book before 180 days which is a real benefit to staying on-site.
If you are staying off-site then you can book restaurants up to 180 days in advance, one per day. For example on 1st January you can book a restaurant for 30th June then on 2nd January you can book one for 1st July and so on.
How to plan your ADRs
You have probably realised now that if you are set on making ADR’s and want to ensure you get specific restaurants then you do need some careful planning before your 180 day window opens.
The main piece of advice we can give is to put your reservations in order of difficulty to book, NOT in chronological order. There are certain restaurants (Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table in particular) that are extremely hard to get reservations for. If you book your restaurants chronologically, you may miss out on these elusive ones. If you put them in order of difficulty you can then try the hardest ones first and as long as you are flexible what days you want to book you hopefully should be able to get a reservation.
Another tip is to be be flexible in your dining time. The most popular times are 12pm-2pm for lunch and 6pm-8pm for dinner. These times will definitely get booked up first so if you can be flexible with your timings then you will have more chance of getting a reservation at the more popular restaurants.
You can book ADRs from 11am online or on the My Disney Experience (MDE) app or from 12pm by phone (0800 1690 730 from the UK).
A good tip here is to have the app open on your phone and the website on your laptop / PC. This will ensure if the app crashes (which it did for us on numerous occasions) you can still continue with your booking via the website. Many people also find calling is easier as the app and website can sometimes have glitches but if you do this remember you can’t call until 12pm.
Another tip is to have the app or website open just before 11am and keep pressing refresh as at exactly 11am your dining availability will open – either for your first 10 days if staying on site or your first day if staying off-site.
Remember that the really popular restaurants may not be available at all or will go within the first few minutes of the app and website being open so if you are set on dining at one and see an opening then book it immediately as it wont be around for long!
To speed things up when booking make sure you have already added your credit card details to your account on MDE (either through the app or the website).
Once your ADRs are available to you choose how many people you want to book for and what date and time and it will give you all available options. Select the restaurant and time you want and go through the questions and click book.
Pre-payment for ADRs
When you are booking an ADR at a table service restaurant you have to provide credit card details because if you don’t turn up to the restaurant and you haven’t cancelled one day in advance you will be charged $10 per person.
Please note that there are a few restaurants where you have to pay the full amount to secure the booking (you will be refunded if you cancel with 48 hours notice). If you are making a reservation at one of these restaurants and are on the Disney Dining Plan then when you book online or by phone (not on the app) it will give you the option of using dining plan credits or paying full amount by card. You will still need to have a credit card registered to it so they can charge you if you don’t turn up.
Cancelling an ADR
You can cancel your dining reservation online, via the MDE app or by calling (407) 939-3463.
Most restaurants in Disney charge a $10 cancellation fee per person if you cancel within 24 hours of the booking but there are some restaurants that charge more and have a different time scale (some require 48 hours notice) so make sure you look at the cancellation policy for each restaurant you have booked just to be sure.
Things to remember
If you are staying on-site you have to link your hotel reservation to your MDE account so that you’ll qualify to book ADRs at the 180 + 10 days point.
Special events around the parks or in hotels may have an impact on the availability of tables so try to do some research beforehand so you are aware of anything going on. Also remember that certain times of the year (eg Christmas and New Year) will be very crowded in the parks and restaurants so this will have an obvious impact on your ability to make reservations.
If you are a large party then you may have more luck splitting your group up into smaller numbers to get tables at some restaurants. For example if you are a party of 8 then it may be easier to book two tables of 4 rather than one of 8. If you let the Cast Member greeting you know that you are all together they hopefully will do their best to seat you at the same table or at least very close to one another.
If you can’t get a table at a restaurant through the Disney system then try other booking sites like OpenTable or Zomato. We couldn’t get a table at Boathouse through Disney but could through OpenTable as a lot of restaurants in the parks and in Disney Springs are available to book through OpenTable when Disney say they are full (or don’t use Disney for bookings).
There is a strange glitch in the Disney reservation system that some people have found when trying to book a table. They haven’t been able to find a table for 2 but have then found one for 3 and when they have arrived at the restaurant have been allowed to sit as a 2. So it may be worth trying for a slightly bigger table if you cant get one for your exact party size. Obviously don’t book a table for 6 if you are only a party of 2!
If it has been raining many people leave the parks and don’t turn up for their ADR so this could be a good opportunity for you to get a table without a reservation so this could be worth trying if you don’t want to leave once it starts raining.
Remember to include babies and children under 3 on your reservation otherwise you may find your table isn’t big enough to seat everyone.
Don’t give up trying for a table at a restaurant that you really really want. Keep trying and checking back regularly as there are always cancellations and you may just get lucky. We couldn’t get Cinderella’s Royal Table at all but a week before our trip we somehow managed to get a reservation! You can also try just going to the restaurant as soon as they open and seeing if they have any space – you may get lucky.
And finally remember, as with Fast Passes, just because you don’t get to eat with Cinderella or Mickey we promise you it wont ruin your holiday!!