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Pixie Dust Central: The Scoop On Dining Reservations At Walt Disney World

Photo Credit: Disney Parks

Photo Credit: Disney Parks

Pixie Dust Central:
The Scoop On Dining Reservations
At Walt Disney World

In my old days of planning a vacation with my entire family, planning our meals were not at the top of the list. I’d figure out the dates that we wanted to travel and coordinate with everyone in the party to make sure that everyone was able to get time off of work and that the dates were a go. Next, I’d work on booking flights because the vacations we’d go on typically required us to fly somewhere. The next thing I’d work on was where we were going to stay; whether it was going to be hotel rooms or a condo or maybe even a rental house where the whole family could stay comfortably. The last thing we’d work on was our meal plans. We’d figure out if we were going to eat at restaurants for 3 meals per day or if we were going to bring a crock-pot along and cook dinners at our “home” for the week. Often times, we’d make breakfast in our “room” and not spend the money it would cost to enjoy breakfast out until our departure day before heading back to the airport. We’d also pack non-perishable snack items to fill in the cracks between meals.

Fast forward a few years to when we decided to go on our first Walt Disney World vacation and planning got a whole lot different. You see, when you plan to visit the Walt Disney World Resort with a party of 8, you cannot just “wing it” or “play it by ear because you don’t want to be tied down to a schedule” when it comes to dining. Being footloose and fancy-free sounds like all kinds of fun but when you are exhausted from the magic of touring a Theme Park and you’re starving, the last thing you’re going to want is to be turned away at a restaurant because you don’t have an Advanced Dining Reservation and the restaurants are not taking walk-ins because they don’t have the availability.

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As a side note, you may see lots of empty chairs in said restaurant and get immediately annoyed because it “looks” as though there is plenty of room for your family. A quick note of importance on that to remember is that each building has an occupancy capacity that is set by the fire marshall. That code states how many people (no matter their age) can be in any given building at any given time. This includes all of the restaurant staff as well. You’re always welcome to stop by any of the restaurants and ask for walk-in availability, but don’t be surprised if there isn’t any as you can make reservations 180-days in advance.

OK, back to the planning part. When a Walt Disney World vacation is on your family’s travel agenda and there are certain restaurants that are a must-do for you, you absolutely MUST first visit My Disney Experience and set up an online account. You’ll want to go in and have a look at all of the wonderful restaurants that have Character Dining because if you are bringing kiddos with you, they’re going to want to meet the famous Disney Characters, take pictures with them and have their autograph books signed. You’ll want to do this where you can get a bunch done during a meal instead of waiting in a long line just to meet one Character. These locations tend to fill up the fastest, so start there!

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If you and your significant other want to have a meal alone while the kiddos hang out in one of the great Children’s Activity Centers, be sure to check out the many Signature Dining locations that can be found in some of the Resort hotels, at Downtown Disney as well as some of the Theme Parks. Even if you don’t think you’ll need a reservation, make one because most of the locations have just a one-day cancellation policy and trust me, you’d rather be safe than sorry; you can always cancel the day before the actual reservation if your plans happen to change. A word of caution though, be sure to pay careful attention when booking your dining reservations as not all dining locations have the same policies.

If you’ve never been to the Walt Disney World Resort, you may also be surprised to know that Guests will often secure their dining reservations before they even arrange flights and accommodations to make sure that they’re able to dine where they want to. Please remember that just a tiny bit of planning goes a very long way!

Do you have anything to add? Please let us know in the comments!

4 Comments

  1. Paul W

    April 28, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Even if you can’t get the reservations you like, keep checking back periodically and trying again. Cancellations are more common than you think.

    Another tip: If you’re staying at a Disney resort, the “180-day mark” means 180 days before your arrival day, and on that day, you can make ALL meal reservations that span your whole trip (up to 10 days), even though your last vacation day is still 190 days away.

    But if you’re staying off-site and want to make reservations 180 days out for each day, you will need to come back online every day after the first day to keep reserving meals through the end of the trip.

  2. Debbie

    April 29, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Yep. Found this out the hard way on a December 2014 trip. We like to wing it too and even though there were only 4 of us, we were turned away at multiple restaurants since we didn’t have a reservation.

  3. Jackie Gailey

    April 30, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    You’re SO right, Paul! I’m often amazed at the great reservations I’m able to find at the last minute.

    Thanks for the tip about the 180+10 too! That’s a super-fabulous way to get what you’re looking for; especially if you book your must-haves toward the end of your trip!

  4. Jackie Gailey

    April 30, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Bummer, Debbie. I know that can happen, especially during busy times of the year. I wish I could shout it from the rooftops so that no one has to learn this the hard way. I do spread the word to everyone I can!

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