Dining Reservations: Unlocking the Secrets to WDW’s Reservation System. Your guide to tips, tricks, and how to book dining reservations.
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Walt Disney World is not just a theme park; it’s a world of enchantment, adventure, and, of course, delightful dining experiences. For many visitors, securing dining reservations is an essential part of their Disney vacation, ensuring they get a taste of the culinary magic that the parks and resorts have to offer. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of booking dining reservations at Walt Disney World, making your culinary journey as seamless and enchanting as possible.
Understanding the Importance of Dining Reservations
Walt Disney World is home to a plethora of unique and highly sought-after dining experiences. From character dining with beloved Disney characters to fine dining options that cater to every palate, the demand for these experiences can be overwhelming. Thus, making dining reservations is crucial to guarantee your spot at the table and make the most of your time in the parks.
Dining reservations at Walt Disney World can be made up to 60 days in advance. For guests staying at a Disney Resort hotel, the booking window extends to 60 days plus the length of their stay, allowing them to plan for the entirety of their vacation. To increase your chances of securing your preferred dining times and locations, it’s advisable to plan well in advance, especially for popular restaurants.
There is a handy calculator that can help you confirm the exact date your dining window opens so you don’t miss it. This is a pretty cool page to bookmark and keep on hand. Just enter your arrival date to Walt Disney World and it will auto-calculate when your dining window opens up. It also provides a few other important dates that you should know, so this is a pretty cool resource.
Be sure to put a reminder on your calendar/phone so you be sure to get up on time to book. Or if you use a travel agent/advisor, like Love of the Magic, they will remind you of specific dates you need to be aware of for your trip.
Booking opens at 6:00am EST every single day. It’s been said that sometimes dining for certain popular restaurants open even a little earlier than that. My recommendation, start refreshing the reservation page around 5:45am EST. You’d be surprised by how many times you get one of your top picks by doing this. There is no guarantee, but sometimes it works.
My Disney Experience (MDE) Platform
The key to unlocking the world of Disney dining reservations lies in the My Disney Experience platform. This user-friendly app and website serve as your central hub for all things Disney during your visit. From booking dining reservations to using Genie+ and checking park hours, MDE is your go-to tool for a seamless Disney experience.
Creating a My Disney Experience Account
Before you can start making dining reservations, you’ll need to create a My Disney Experience account. This account will be your digital companion throughout your Disney journey, allowing you to customize and plan every aspect of your visit. Simply download the app or visit the website, create an account, and link your park tickets or hotel reservation to get started.
Navigating the Dining Reservation System
Once your My Disney Experience account is set up, navigate to the “Check Dining Availability” section. Here, you’ll find a list of all available restaurants within the parks, resorts, and Disney Springs. Filter your choices based on location, cuisine, and dining experience to narrow down the options that best suit your preferences.
Selecting Dining Preferences
Before making a reservation, consider your dining preferences. Are you looking for a character dining experience, a romantic dinner, or a family-friendly meal? Some restaurants offer unique themes, such as dining with princesses or enjoying a meal in a lively atmosphere. Choose your preferences and explore the available options that match your desired experience.
Once you’ve selected a restaurant and preferred dining time, the system will check for availability. Keep in mind that popular restaurants, especially those with character dining experiences, may have limited availability. Be flexible with your timing to increase your chances of securing a reservation at your preferred location.
Must-Have Dining Tips for Searching for Reservations
- Whether you are using the My Disney Experience app or the Walt Disney World website, the search tools and tricks are pretty much the same.
- Before you start searching, be sure to be logged into your My Disney Experience account. If you do not have an account, create one. Logging in ahead of time saves you time on the morning you need to book reservations.
- If this is your first time making dining reservations, I suggest doing a few practice tries first. It’s very easy to cancel reservations, it’s all through the app or website, so you can easily create a few and cancel.
- Start searching before 6:00am EST. As mentioned previously, sometimes reservation windows open before 6:00am. Start your search around 5:45am. Keep refreshing. You never know what is going to pop up.
- You can search on your laptop and phone, or both.
- There are a few ways to search. You can search by all Disney dining or by a very specific restaurant. I prefer to search by a specific restaurant by entering the name in the search bar. This will save some time of scrolling through all of the other restaurants to get to the one you want.
- If you are trying to get several of the very popular dining choices, I recommend using your phone or web browser vs the app. You will be able to open several tabs in your browser, one for each of the specific restaurant pages you are trying to secure. When you start searching, you can refresh multiple tabs and you may have a better chance as reserving some of your favorites. With the app, you can only search one at a time.
- You can search in various ways, but I always seem to have luck just searching by a specific time.
- If nothing shows up for your size party, consider decreasing the number by 1. For example, instead of search for 3 people, try searching for 2. When you “check-in” for the reservation, you will be able to add or decrease the number of people in the reservation by 1.
Making the Reservation
When you find an available time that suits your plans, proceed to make the reservation. Confirm the details, including the number of guests, and finalize your booking. The system will prompt you to provide credit card information, which is required to secure some reservations. Note that cancellation policies may apply, so be sure to review the terms before confirming.
Once your dining reservations are confirmed, they will be visible in the My Disney Experience app or website. Here, you can review, modify, or cancel reservations as needed. Keep an eye on your reservations, especially if your plans change, and make adjustments accordingly to optimize your Disney dining experience.
Most dining reservations at Walt Disney World can be canceled within 2 hours of your reservations via the Walt Disney World website or My Disney Experience app. There are a few exceptions to that rule. When making your dining reservations, please note the cancelation policy so you are aware. For the full list of exceptions, see here.
Be Flexible and Persistent
While planning ahead is crucial, it’s also essential to be flexible and persistent. If you couldn’t secure a reservation at your first-choice restaurant, keep checking for availability. Guests often modify their plans, freeing up spots at popular dining locations.
Must-Have Dining Reservation Tools
There are several tools and services that can help you find the right reservation at the right time. While none of them are full-proof and a guarantee, they are pretty good and helpful. I’ve used several of these and have had luck finding hard-to-get reservations for my upcoming trip(s).
Let’s take a look at the options.
Tried and true. This one I have had lots of success using the last several years. I have only used the free version, they have a paid version as well. Let’s break down the differences.
If you use the free version, you are limited to only 6 alerts via email. You have to stay on top of your emails too because if you receive an alert, you have to jump on it immediately. Reservations go quickly! And I mean lightning fast. If you are someone that doesn’t stay on top of emails as often, you may prefer text alerts. Text alerts require the paid service. For $9 month, you get up to 50 alerts and you can have up to 3 phone numbers added for texts. This widens your chances of grabbing a hard-to-find reservation. You still need to move quickly, but texts might be easier than email.
Either way, this service works and is very helpful. Especially if you are someone that doesn’t want to or can’t persistently check the dining reservations availability every day.
Here is a link to their website where you can sign up. I personally think signing up for a few months leading up to your trip might be beneficial so you can try to get the dining reservations you want for your trip.
This one I haven’t personally tried yet, but I heard it’s a great resource. It’s less cost effective than Mouse Dining, as the fee for 10 searches is $10 a month. Otherwise, you only get one search/alert. This is also an app only, so you’ll need to download to this from the App Store or Google Play.
This is another one I have used, but unfortunately I haven’t had too much success. I subscribe to Touring Plans, but if you don’t you can still use their reservation finder, you just need to sign up for a free account. You only get two reservation alerts at time, but they do text you, so that’s good! Text is always better than email. Here’s a link to their site to give them a try. The reservation finder is currently down (as of the writing of this blog post), due to changes in the Disney booking reservation process. I’m sharing the link here in the event the site is restored.
Booking dining reservations at Walt Disney World adds a delightful layer to your magical adventure. By understanding the process, planning ahead, and utilizing the My Disney Experience platform, you can ensure a seamless and enchanting culinary journey. Whether you’re dining with beloved characters, savoring gourmet cuisine, or enjoying a family-friendly meal, Walt Disney World offers a diverse array of dining experiences that cater to every taste and preference. Bon appétit and may your Disney dining adventure be as magical as the rest of your visit!