Shrimp appetizer at Citricos in the Grand Floridian.
When I talk to first-time visitors to Disney World, they often balk at the thought of making their advanced dining reservations (ADRs) a full 180-days before travel. Who, they say, plans out what they're going to eat six months in advance? And they're perfectly right--everywhere else but Disney World. Because Disney allows guests to make their ADRs 180-days prior to travel, and because many guests plan their trips a year in advance, the most popular restaurants will fill up right away. You can bet that restaurants like Le Cellier and Cinderella's Royal Table will be full except for a few odd seatings within an hour of being available. The irony is, some of the best restaurants on property are often the most overlooked. So what should you do?
If you're planning far in advance:
- Make your ADRs at 180-days out. I start with a spreadsheet with desired locations and times. You'll want to be organized when you start.
- If you're working with a travel agent she's probably making your ADRS. Give her alternate locations and times and let her know what you consider a must-do.
- Disney resort guests can make their ADRs at 180-days plus 10. This means you can make your ADRs at 180-days prior to check-in plus for up to 10 days of your trip, so you can basically make all your ADRs at once.
- If you're doing a split stay, you'll only be allowed to make your ADRs for the first part of your trip, even if your entire stay is less than 10 days. You'll call back for the second part of your trip when you hit the 180-day mark for that stay.
- Use the online service at 6:00 a.m. then, if you're not finished, consider calling 407-WDW-DINE when they open up at 7:00 a.m. if you haven't gotten everything you need. The reason I suggest this is that sometimes, tables aren't "loaded" yet. It's better to have a cast member confirm this than to think your ADR isn't available. If this is the case, call back the next day.
- Make your hardest-do-get ADRs first.
If you're planning a few months out:
- First, don't panic. Some of the best restaurants are actually not the ones that fill up first. If you're not a fan of character meals or if you want to try signature dining, you're in luck.
- Try a walk-up. It's particularly easy to get one in the World Showcase at lunch.
- The more exotic the menu, the more likely you'll get an ADR.
- Try same-day reservations. Call first thing in the morning.
- If you're staying at club level at any of the resorts, try asking the concierge to find a reservation for you.
- Be willing to eat at odd times. Late dinners tend to be easiest to get.
- Keep calling. People cancel vacations all the time. While the system does not cancel dining reservations when you cancel a resort reservation, many times clients will cancel those as well.
- If possible, make your ADRs before you add the dining plan. While you can eat well no matter when you make your ADRs, the value in it for you is getting the ADRs you want, so consider not adding the dining plan until you're aware of availability. You don't need a resort reservation to make ADRs.
Very Difficult to get: These reservations often book up within the first hour of being available.
- Le Cellier
- Cinderella's Royal Table
- Ohana for dinner
- Chef Mickey's
- Hoop De Doo Review'
- California Grill, particularly during Wishes, which can be viewed from the restaurant.
- Hollywood and Vine. Located in Hollywood Studios, this popular character meal is a buffet.
Medium difficulty: Book in the first month of availability to ensure the best times.
- Akershus/Princess Storybook Character Meal, particularly breakfast.
- Crystal Palace, particularly early breakfast seatings.
- Via Napoli. This has become very popular.
- Kona Cafe
- Liberty Tree Tavern. Easily the best table service location in the Magic Kingdom.
- Brown Derby
- 50s Primetime Cafe
- Mama Melrose
Easy to get, but great food: Book as soon as you make your travel plans. These restaurants are good possibilities for short-notice travel. I'm not including everything here, just the ones where I think the food is very good. Many of these locations are two table service credits on the Disney dining plan.
- Yachtsman Steakhouse. The best steak on property.
- Chefs de France
- Artist Point
- Grand Floridian Cafe. Somewhat pedestrian menu, but always reliable. Breakfast is particularly good.
- Flying Fish. On the Boardwalk. Hidden gem with excellent seafood.
- 1900 Park Fare Character dinner with Cinderella and friends. Easily one of the best princess character experiences, this is also one of the most overlooked character meals. Worth it for the evil stepsisters alone. Located in the Grand Floridian.
- California Grill. 48-hour cancellation policy.
- Cinderella's Royal Table. Cancel 24 hours in advance or you'll be charged for the full meal. S
- Akershus. 48-hour cancellation policy.
- Hoop De Doo Review. 48-hour cancellation policy.
A few final pointers:
- You can no longer double-book.
- Please cancel reservations you won't be able to keep even if there's no penalty.
- Don't overlook calling Disney directly. I've had cast members find tables that the online system wouldn't give me.
- Some locations require a credit card. For Cinderella's Royal Table, the person's name on the reservation will need to match the card.
- If you have a group of six or more and can't get your reservation, consider splitting the group and making two ADRs. When you check-in, just tell the cast member you're together.
- If you're a resort guest booking at 180-days plus 10, you'll need your resort confirmation number to book beyond the 180-day mark.
- As noted above, you don't need a resort reservation to make your ADRs. If you're waiting to book or if you aren't staying on site, you may still call at the 180-day mark (or sooner), you just won't be able to book "180 plus 10" unless you have a resort reservation.