11 Tips About Disney Dining Reservations

Planning your Disney vacation? Trying to figure out what you need to know about Disney dining reservations? You’ve come to the right place. Today we’re going to talk about 11 things you need to know when it comes to getting dining reservations for your visit!

We have all been in this situation: It is 6:00, you arrive at the restaurant you want to eat at, and there is an hour long wait. You forgot to make reservations and you weren’t expecting the wait to be quite this long.

The kids are whining and nobody is in any mood to wait, but no one wants to eat at McDonald’s either. Your fun evening out for dinner has turned chaotic and frustrating.

Truth be told, this exact situation can happen at Disney.

You are excited to eat at the Coral Reef Restaurant, but you show up and there isn’t space for you and your family. You didn’t bring enough snacks to satisfy everyone and nobody is in the mood for a quick counter service meal. The kids are disappointed that they don’t get to see the fish and the parents are disappointed that they aren’t getting waited on in air conditioning.

Here is the good news. This situation does not have to happen.

With a little planning you can eat where you want, when you want, for the prices you want. Before you start making reservations, figure out which park you will be enjoying each day of your trip. We have a helpful planning guide that will assist you in this process.

We also strongly suggest that you decide if you will be using the Disney Dining Plan. Knowing if you are using the dining plan will help you decide where you will be spending your credits. If you are not using the dining plan, be aware of the prices of each restaurant.

With your itinerary in hand and knowledge of how you will pay for dining, you are ready to make dining reservations! We have 11 tips that will help you avoid Disney Dining frustration.

11 Things You Need to Know About Disney Dining Reservations

1. Make Your Reservations Early

Just like when you’re planning a night out to a popular dinner spot in your hometown and you make reservations early, do that at Disney World! You can book your dining reservation 180 days in advance and for most of the more popular locations, depending on the size of your party, you really do need to book that early.

2. Set An Alarm

On exactly the 180th day before your trip, the reservations will open up at 6am EST on the website and the phones open at 7am. Have a credit card ready because you will need to guarantee the reservation with it. 

Dave Says:

If you’re using the website, practice a few days before. And then, the day of, log in by 5:45am.  (Yes, it will interrupt your sleep.  Just think of it as getting ready for the early morning rope drop at the Magic Kingdom!) If you are using a travel agent (which we strongly recommend) this is something he/she will be able to help you with.

3. Make Reservations Daily

If you are staying off-site you can make your dining reservations 180 days out. BUT you have to do each day separately! If you want reservations for dinner 4 nights in a row, you need to set the alarm for 4 mornings in a row (180 days before) to get the best chance at your reservations!  If you are staying on-site, you can make all your reservations the first day you are eligible to make them. You can find out more about pros and cons of staying on or off the Disney premises here.

4. Get Creative

Obviously, the bigger the group you have the harder it is to get peak time reservations at the most popular restaurants. You will need to be creative. Try to eat at off times – for example, dinner at 4:30 instead of 6:30. 

If you have a large group like we always do, sometimes it’s hard for the restaurant to seat everyone together (at least by reservation), so break it up into 2 sections. When you get to the restaurant you can ask to seat you together or next to each other.

5. Be Persistent

Missed the 180 days before for your reservation? Don’t give up! Cancelations are occurring constantly! If you are persistent, there is a good chance, depending on your size and time, that you can still secure a reservation.

6. Do not no-show!

There is a $10 – $25 no show fee at every sit down restaurant. 

2 quick tips: You have up to 24 hours before your reservation to cancel. If only 1 person dines, the reservation is considered fulfilled!

7. Double Up on Reservations

Sneaky Tip:  Make 2 or even 3 dinner reservations per day. WHAT?! As your trip gets closer and your plans gets clearer, you will see which reservation you want and cancel the other(s).

8. Magic Sometimes Happens…

Sneaky Tip:  People have been known to literally walk up to a restaurant the day of and get in!  Don’t count on it, but magic does happen at Disney World!  Again, it all goes back to the cancelations.  People cancel all the time…you just need to be at the right place at the right time!

9. Know the Dress Code

Dress Is informal at the theme park restaurants but there is a “business casual” dress code for Kiko-The Cooking Place, Flying Fish, California Grill, Monsieur Paul, Citricos and Narcoossees, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Todd English’s Bluezoo and Shula’s Steak House.  Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian requires men to wear a jacket to dinner.

10. Mobile Ordering for Counter Service

Counter-service dining doesn’t require a reservation but Disney has unveiled a “mobile Ordering” service on the My Disney Experience app.  You order, pay, let them know when you arrive and walla, your food is ready for you. There are some bugs with it, however, the biggest being at this writing, it’s not available with the dining plan.

11. Know Which Restaurants Fill up First

What are the hardest reservations to acquire? As you can imagine, the newer ones are going to be the most difficult to get reservations for!  In no particular order, go after these right away:

  • Any Character meals along with signature dining experience  go quick as well.

Now grab a calendar, figure out when 180 days is, and make those reservations! After you have booked your favorite restaurants for your family you can then start to focus on your FastPass+ Selections. You can start reserving these 60 days prior to your visit to Disney World. We want you to avoid as many lines as possible at Disney, so be sure to read up on how FastPass+ works! You are now on your way to a magical trip!

About disneywithdavesdaughters

Dave and his daughters have been going to Disney for 30+ years, all on a teacher's budget . They love helping families have the most magical Disney vacation ever by sharing all their expert family secrets. Feel free to send them a message or follow along on Instagram!

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