Reservations open for the restaurants 180 days in advance, at 7am EST, which is 11am when we’re in British Summer Time and 12 noon when we’re in GMT. That’s around 6 months in advance. And seriously, if you’ve booked your holiday prior to that, know your 180 day mark, research the restaurants you really want to go to and book them on the first day you can. If you know when you’re going but not actually booked yet, you can still make dinner reservations – you can always cancel them. And if you’ve booked after the 180 day mark, its worth making your ADRs just as soon as you can.
And I know that if this is the first time you’ve considered a trip to Walt Disney World or looked into, that as you’re reading this, you think I’m crazy. Barmy. Off my rocker. Why the hell would you need to make dinner reservations a whole 6 months in advance when you sometimes have trouble figuring out what to cook for dinner, right? All I can say is, please trust me – if you want a choice of meals and at times to suit you, you’ll need to book them early. If you wait until you get there, you could end up waiting a really long time (when you could be in the parks) for a table at the only restaurants that have any spaces, or eating quick service the whole time. It’s not uncommon to see signs up saying the restaurants are fully booked.
One of the reasons the restaurants are so busy is the Disney Dining Plans – pre-paid plans that enable you to eat at over 100 Walt Disney World restaurants. They’re great value if you make the most of them and to do that, you want to be eating at the best restaurants – and therefore they get booked up. In addition, Disney has offers throughout the year that offer the Disney Dining Plan for free. They’re extremely popular, especially in the States and if it is a period of free dining, then the majority of people in the parks are on the dining plan and so will be taking up reservations.
So how and when should you make Advanced Dinner Reservations (ADRs)? Bookings can be made 180 days in advance. However, if you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, Disney have a 180+10 policy – so at 180 days from your first day of the holiday, you can actually book for the 10 days following that – so you don’t have to book separately everyday. Unfortunately for us Brits, the longest typical holiday in the states is 10 nights, and this is what Disney use. We tend to visit for a fortnight, so that’s 4 extra nights we have to make separate bookings for. If you want to take advantage of the 180+10 rule, make sure you know your reservation number. If you haven’t booked directly with Disney, it might be worth phoning in advance as it is likely to be different than the reservation number you have from your holiday company and you don’t want to waste time on the day while they try and find your reservation.
There are two ways to book restaurants – online or by phone. The phone number is +1 407 WDW DINE or +1 407 939-3463. The website is http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining. If you’re booking a few meals, the phone is actually easier – the cast members know the system and can offer you alternatives and move on to your next reservation much quicker. It is an American number though, so look into using skype or an equivalent to keep costs down.
Where should you make reservations for? Well that’s a huge question as there are just so many options! I’ll be blogging about a few of our favourites over time, so you might want to check out my posts. There are also many websites out there that devote space to reviewing the restaurants (my favourite is the Disney Food Blog) and of course Disney give you lots of information on their website. So just do a little research and take a punt at a few – trust me you won’t regret it! One tip is to look at the Disney calenders (released 6 months in advance so it will be close to your 180 day mark if not after it, so not always possible) to see when the shows and extra magic hours are. Plan roughly where you want to spend each day, and then select a restaurant in that park or at a nearby resort.