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Do I Need A Reservation? – Dining at Disney World

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There is so much to cover when discussing dining at Disney!

  • Reservations – Should I make them?
  • Restaurant Choices
  • Table Service vs. Counter Service – What’s right for you?
  • How do I make a reservation and when?
  • Meal Plans, do I need one?
  • Allergy Friendly Locations

It is far to much to cover in one post! Eventually I will cover it all, and you can use the bullet points above to link to those posts.

For now, let’s cover reservations. ?Many guests want to know, is a reservation necessary? ?Well, that question is not simply answered, however we can get to the bottom of that discussion pretty quick.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • When will you be traveling to Disney World?
  • What are the crowd levels predicted to be?
  • What are your dining expectations?

If you have not already done so, take a look at the dates you are traveling on one of the many published crowd prediction calendars. ?You can google this information and find a calendar pretty quickly. ?The days and times of year are generally labeled as high, medium and low crowd levels.

HIGH: If the time of year you are visiting is a high crowd level such as spring breaks, summer, fall breaks and holidays, then the answer to the question “Do I need dining reservations” is YES! You must make a reservation.

MEDIUM: If the time of year you are visiting is a medium crowd level, the answer to your question is still, Yes, if you have expectations of eating at the more popular table service restaurants, or have your heart set on a particular restaurant.

LOW: ?If you are visiting at a lower crowd level time, and have your heart set on a particular restaurant, I would say yes, you may still need a reservation. ?More popular restaurants may still fill up.

So, if you didn’t notice, the basic answer is YES, make dining reservations. ?Please do not make the mistake of thinking you can put your name on a wait list the day of and be seated within an hour or two, or at all. ?You will be disappointed and I will be disappointed for you! ?At lower crowd levels, you may be able to get in at a table service restaurant, but you may not get your first choice. ?Why risk it!??!!

Here’s my logic (and trial and error to back it up). ?Disney accepts dining reservations for table service restaurants, on the Walt Disney World app, My Disney Experience, online at www.disneyworld.disney.go.com or by calling 407-WDW-DINE, 180 days prior to your arrival date for guests staying on Disney property, or 180 days prior to the day of the reservation, for guests staying off property.

Very quickly after 180 days pass, and sometimes within hours of the window opening (6 am eastern time), reservations for Disney’s most popular table service restaurants are full. After first choice reservations are full, the planners of the universe, like me and a thousand others out there, are moving on to their second choices. The cycle continues. ?At peak crowd times, it is very possible there will not be many, if any, table service openings available.

This past January, on our short notice, traveling with hubby while he went to a work meeting, one day only trip to Magic Kingdom, we did not have any planning time prior to our arrival. ?The Friday we visited the park happened to be a holiday weekend. ? The park was packed!!! ?We started our day at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for breakfast. ?My husband needed to drop us girls off early to get to his meeting, several hours for park opening. ?I decided The Contemporary Resort was a great place to start. ?Chef Mickey’s character breakfast is located there and the monorail line runs through the hotel for easy access to the parks. ?I made this decision 24 hours prior to our arrival. ?I could not get a spot at Chef Mickey’s on the app or by checking in upon our arrival at the restaurant, and this was for all intensive purposes, a random?January?day.??No fears, we didn’t starve and we still got our Mickey waffles (picture above) for breakfast too! ?There is a quick service breakfast option?available, Contempo Cafe, located right next to Chef Mickey’s. ?We were not too disappointed, but you maybe?if it’s your long awaited vacation and this continues to happen throughout your trip.

Later that day, for lunch we popped over to Be Our Guest to see if we could squeeze our way in there. We had eaten there the previous October and were impressed with the atmosphere. ?The food was good enough, but the service for food allergy patrons was exceptional, as I have found at many Disney table service restaurants. ?As you might have guessed, we were unable to be seated for lunch or any other time that day. ?At dinner, we opted for a walk up service restaurant in Tomorrowland called Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (a great counter service location for food allergy needs), knowing that our luck wasn’t with us for table service that day. ?

Don’t get me wrong, you won’t starve without dining reservations. ?There are plenty of counter service options that have great food. ?Food that is more than just a hamburger and fries, but at some point during your visit, and I would say at least once a day, you are going to want a place to sit down, enjoy the air conditioning and some personal space, and have someone serve you a meal! ? Just trust me on this!

So by all means, please do your research, keep reading at Love of the Mouse, and be prepared to make your reservations at 180 days prior to your trip!

Now, where do you want to eat?

Need help? Well, that’s the blog post coming up next! ?I’ll provide you with a guide to all table service restaurants in each park, at the Disney Resorts, and at Downtown Disney, their popularity. Along with each restaurants allergy friendliness for those that are interested! ?Complete with my reviews of the many I’ve been to!

See ya real soon!

Jamie Rumph
Jamie Rumphhttps://www.loveofthemagic.com
Hi, I'm Jamie, traveling mama, entrepreneur, and travel advisor. I'm addicted to Disney, traveling and exploring the world with my family, and have a passion for helping families experience the magic of travel. My home is filled with love and chaos, 2 crazy girls, 2 large dogs, and the most spectacular architect and Disney Cast Member I call my husband. We live in Florida and spend our weekends playing at Orlando's many theme parks and visiting the beach. In 2015, after helping numerous families plan their vacations to various Disney Destinations, I started a blog to answer all of the many travel questions I received daily. In 2016, the blog grew into a travel agency, and Love of the Magic Vacations was born. With a team of nearly 20, we spend our days creating family vacations around the world. What started as a blog is now a full service, worldwide vacation destination planning service. I create custom itineraries for each of my clients that not only meets but exceeds expectations. There is no greater gift than making memories while sharing the world and its cultures with your kids.
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