Disney World has two main types of dining: Table Service & Quick Service. Table Service includes any sit down restaurants as well as character dining and some dinner shows. Quick Service (also called counter service) includes all walk up options. Think of it as the fast food of Disney World.
It would be difficult to avoid Quick Service during your stay at Disney World, & rest assured you do not need any kind of reservation to partake in their services. For the purposes of this article whenever dining is mentioned it is referring to Table Service Dining for which you often need a reservation.
Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) are reservations you make for Disney World’s Table Service Restaurants to ensure a seat. These are very helpful if you are wanting to dine on Disney Property as seating can be very limited, & for some places impossible to get without a reservation. So without further delay, here are 10 tips to help you navigate the world of ADRs.
Tip 1: Get them!
You are not required to have ADRs to dine at Walt Disney World, however, if there is a place that you really want to eat at it is HIGHLY recommended that you get an ADR as space is limited. Obviously, the more busy the season you travel the more booked up everything will be, but do not be fooled it is good to get them all year round. If you have the Disney Dining Plan getting ADRs is a MUST.
Tip 1A: GET THEM!
This is the point where you might decide you don’t want your trip micromanaged 6 months in advance. You might think that it would be exaggerating to say that all restaurants will be booked and you will not be able to get a seat. I assure you that it is no exaggeration & that it is really hard to get a seat at the last minute – especially to somewhere good.
Tip 2: Do Research
Research the restaurants that are available in each park. Find out which ones your family would be interested in visiting based on your itinerary. If you are unsure of a specific venue try reading some reviews or looking at menus to get an idea what the flavor of the place is. Write a wish list of places you want to try. Find out which ones are popular & which ones need a deposit when you book. If you have the Disney Dining Plan make sure you know the ones which take more than one credit.
Tip 3: Prioritize
Now that you have the list of places that you would like to dine, it is time to prioritize. The highest priorities should the ones that are the most popular & therefore hardest to book (Character Dining, Dinner Shows, Popular Restaurants) as well as the restaurants you really have your heart set on attending. Write out a schedule with the days you would like to have a reservation (that would be probably every day if you are on the Disney Dining Plan) & on your schedule jot in the place you’d like to go, as well as the time you would like to dine.
Tip 4: Have a Backup Plan
For every restaurant on your schedule remember to put a back-up choice in case you cannot get a reservation to your first choice. As crazy as it may sound the place you have your heart set on may already be booked so it does not hurt to have a backup. Also, try to be somewhat flexible with your reservation time. Remember the time YOU desire to eat your breakfast, lunch, or dinner is the time EVERYONE wants to do the same…being flexible will make your reservations go more smoothly.
Tip 5: Book Early!
ADR’s can be booked up to 180 days in advance. The earlier the better! Many people call at 7am at the 180 day mark, especially if they are trying to book something popular like Cinderella’s Royal Table or dinner at Le Cellier. Book as soon as you have the opportunity to do so to try to get the optimal amount of options.
Tip 6: Book It!
Now that you have your list all sorted out & written down you can make your reservations! You can book online or by phone. If it is your first time it may be easier to book by phone (407) WDW-DINE) so that the Disney Representative can help you & answer any lingering questions. Make sure you have your credit card ready for reservations that require a downpayment.
Tip 7: Make Accurate Reservations
Be sure to give an accurate headcount which means remember to include any infants or toddlers. Because Disney still has capacity limits and must adhere to them it is necessary to include everyone in your party! Also, you cannot book at multiple locations for one time. Disney will not allow you to book 2 meals within 2 hours of each other, and it’s not fair to other guests to monopolize the system.
Tip 8: You May Cancel
If you change your mind you CAN cancel. Disney asks that you call and cancel at least 1 day ahead of time out of politeness. For dining experiences that require a deposit you should make sure you know the refund policy before you cancel. Be assured that you are not locked into a commitment with most restaurants in Disney World.
Tip 9: Stick to It!
I would suggest that you try to stick with the places that you picked for simplicity’s sake. Once you cancel a reservation it can be very hard to pick up another one the closer you get to your trip (or during your trip!) so cancel at your own risk!
Tip 10: Work (and Play) Around Your ADR
This is not as hard as it sounds. If you have an ADR for 5 o clock in the Magic Kingdom make sure that you are at your destination 15 minutes ahead of your ADR to make sure you get seated. Disney only asks for 5 minutes, but it’s probably better to plan to be a little early because traveling times may take longer than expected. Disney will try to seat you if you are late, but you might have to wait, & hey, it’s rude!
Whatever you decide, dining in Disney is a pleasure. Make your vacation easy and have all of your Table Service Meals planned before you go. If you love to live on the fly there is always the possibility that there will be a last minute cancellation, & obviously there is always Quick Service. Bon Appetit!