Walt Disney World offers a variety of different dining options for guests: you can pick up something quick from a food cart, opt for a quick sit-down meal at a counter service restaurant, or dine regally at a table service restaurant. If your touring style is more “hurry up and go,” this article won’t provide much insight for your next Disney trip. However, if you enjoy relaxing and taking your time when eating, these 8 essential tips to dining reservations will definitely help you out!
8 – You Need Them – Disney World is a popular place for families. While there are a panopoly of places to eat, the number is finite. Advanced dining reservations (ADRs) are a necessity when you are planning a sit-down meal for your family. Regardless of whether you are eating breakfast or dinner, in the parks or at a resort, ADRs make the entire process much easier and much less of a hassle than if you went without them. You can still get a table at a restaurant without an ADR, but you will have to wait a while (and what fun is that while you’re on vacation?).
7 – Getting Them Can Be Easy – Disney allows you to make dining reservations 180 days in advance. While it may seem a little insane to plan out your vacation that far in advance, if there is a restaurant you want to eat at or one that is popular, you will have to bite the bullet and schedule it in advance. You do not need to be staying on property to be able to make reservations and you can make them in both the parks and the resorts.
6 – Booking Process – the ADR system does require that you put a credit card down to confirm the reservation. This was a necessary by-product of some more selfish vacationers who were making multiple dining reservations across the resort and not canceling them to allow others to enjoy. Disney will not charge your card, but will hold the number in case you do not show for your reservation. If you fail to show up or cancel 24 hours in advance, Disney will charge you $10/person in your party. If your plans change, you can easily cancel your reservations through the MyDisneyExperience app or by calling the Disney Dining Reservation line.
5 – Advance Payment – some premiere Disney Dining experiences do require that you pay in advance of your meal. I recently discovered this to be true when making reservations for the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue. The Disney website provides information on what experiences do and do not require you to pay upfront when making the reservation.
4 – Special Experiences – Disney does offer a variety of special dining experiences that offer more than just food! At Hollywood Studios, Disney offers the Fantasmic! Dinner Package – this package allows guests to enjoy dinner at certain restaurants and receive a pass for specialty seating at Fantasmic! (think an even more exclusive FastPass viewing area). Currently, the dining experience is available at the Hollywood Brown Derby, Mama Melrose’s Italian Ristorante, and Hollywood and Vine.
Disney also offers another experience where you can dine with an Imagineer. I have not had the opportunity to enjoy this experience, but it is only offered at the Hollywood Brown Derby. If there is a curious Disney fan in your group, this experience should be on your list!
3 – Quick ADRs – so even though I recommend making ADRs as much in advance as you can, you may also be able to snag up a good one at the last minute! Check back on the night before or day of that you are looking for a reservation. Since Disney now requires the credit card to confirm your reservation and the $10/person charge for not showing up, some reservations are being freed up when touring plans change. I have a friend who has been very successful as snatching up some popular dining reservations less than an hour before the reservation time.
2 – When in Doubt, Call – even though Disney has made it very easy for you to plan your entire vacation from your smartphone or tablet, if you have questions or concerns, ALWAYS call the Disney Dining Reservation line. The representatives are very knowledgable, can answer questions about the different experiences, and most importantly, can notate your reservation if someone in your party is celebrating a birthday or anniversary, or if someone suffers from a food allergy or special dietary needs.
1 – Early Birds – when planning your ADRs, you may discover that you can only get into Le Cellier at 8:40 PM (thus blowing your plan to see Illuminations at 9 PM). I have found that Cast Members will always try and accommodate you with an earlier seating (at any restaurant) if you show up early and your entire party in present. This trick has gotten me out of some very late dinners at Via Napoli, as well as gotten me into the character lunch at Tusker House when I foolishly made a dinner reservation (before the characters were added to that meal). Be considerate with the Cast Member at the check-in counter and they usually will accommodate with a small wait.
ADRs can be the difference between experiencing the cuisine of the World Showcase and chowing down on yet another hamburger or hot dog. What dining reservation tips do you follow?
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