If you are anything like me, food is my favorite part of every vacation! While there are many delicious options at Walt Disney World, finding table service reservations in the parks and hotels can be challenging.
This last year, I found out in August that I would be going to Walt Disney World in December. I figured since we had 4 months before we travelled, I would have no problem finding dining reservations. After all, I was used to Disneyland, where I can often find a table just a few weeks to days in advance of my trips.
Walt Disney World is unique in that it allows guests to book dining 180 days in advance of their trip. If you are planning your trip well in advance, then you have a great chance of getting the exact reservations you would like. If not, you might have to work a little harder to find the right choices.
So, what do you do if you don’t have the luxury of planning your trip 180 days in advance? Here are 5 things that can make finding dining easier.
1. Know where you will be.
You can do this by looking at hours to maximize your trip. Our suggestion is to sit down with a planner (like The Pixie Planner) to determine which parks you will want to visit.
Parks like The Magic Kingdom are going to be most busy Friday-Sunday, so try to visit this park on a weekday. Animal Kingdom is always the least packed, so plan this park for the weekend. We also suggest taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours if you are staying on the property. If possible, also plan 1-2 days where you will not visit a park so that you don’t burnout.
If you have park hopper tickets, you can search for different parks, but factor in that it can take up to an hour to get between parks.
2. Master the search function on Disneyworld.com.
Now that you know where you will be each day, you can start searching.
I spent months searching for dining reservations restaurant by restaurant until I realized the search bar on the page can simplify the process. Simply select the date and time you want to eat, as well as your party size and search for available reservations. You can sort by location to ensure you will be able to visit the right park. You can even search for a specific restaurant (like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table).
The most popular restaurants will book quickly, but there are many fun restaurants that are not as popular. Searching by Character Dining can help you find less packed options that still promise character experiences.
3. Don’t try to find a specific time.
In that same dining search function, you will see an option to find a table by time. Rather than selecting a time, search by meal period. This will search all available time slots for your meal time, instead of a more narrow time period.
4. Know when to check for openings.
There are specific windows on when to search for available tables. These all revolve around cancellations from people who have previously booked tables. Disney requires that all payment plans are paid off 30 days before travel, so that is a prime time to check. Also, check 3 days before you want to eat, and the day of (if you haven’t found the perfect seat by then). Disney releases reservations at 6 AM Eastern time, so log on early to find those open tables. I found my perfect table at Be Our Guest 3 days before we travelled at 4 AM Arizona time.
5. Bring in outside support.
If you are working with a planner, like The Pixie Planner, we can help you search for dining. There are great tools out there, like a Facebook group where you can arrange dining swaps with people who are cancelling their existing reservations. The more support you can get, the less stressful your trip will be. You can also call Disney Dining at 407-WDW-DINE to speak to a person if the web search isn’t working for you.
Remember that even if you don’t have your perfect reservation, you can still have a magical time! There are plenty of good quick service options, and each park has its own character. Happy dining!!