I don’t know about you, but half the time I barely know what I want for dinner at noon.  However, when planning a trip to Walt Disney World, I have to know what I want to eat a whopping six months before I get there or I’ll be relegated to bread, water and Mickey Bars.  I don’t want that to happen to you, so here’s a little guide to Walt Disney World advanced dining reservations and what’s absolutely needed, what’s nice to have and what you can hold off on until you arrive.

The Basics

Yes, you read that right.  You can start making your dining reservations at Walt Disney World 180 days before you arrive.  After you rip open the Christmas presents, it’s time to start thinking about what you want for lunch on your summer vacation.  A little cuckoo, no?  It’s not as bad as it sounds, actually.  Although I still don’t know what we’re doing for dinner tonight, I do know that my next trip won’t be complete without a heaping bowl (or four…don’t judge) of strawberry soup from 1900 Park Fare, and I’ll need to get my grub on at Garden Grill.  Love their salad!  Gotta balance out those four bowls of strawberry soup.  For a new traveler, however, it may be a little more difficult when you’re not sure what your choices are or if you’ll even like the offerings.  More on that later.

Garden Grill
Garden Grill

Once you decide what you’ll want to nosh on during your trip in six months there are a few ways to make those coveted reservations.  The easiest way is to ring 407-WDW-DINE and chat with a cast member.  You’ll offer up your preferences, and they’ll do the leg work.  If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, you can also make reservations via the Walt Disney World web site by going directly to the restaurant’s page or by searching your dining options.  If you’re a club level guest guest or using your favorite resident travel agent (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), you’ll shoot them your list of requests, and they will be up at the crack of dawn to try to secure your reservations.

1900 Park Fare
1900 Park Fare

After your reservations are confirmed, all that’s left is that six months of pesky waiting.  Unless you flip out before your trip and then decide you had it all wrong.  Now, I tend to keep all my reservations until the week prior to my trip even if I’m having second thoughts because while you can easily cancel a dining reservation if it doesn’t suit your needs or appetite anymore, if you decide you really do want  that lunch full of comfort food at 50s Prime Time Cafe but have canceled your reservation, you’re at the mercy of walk-up availability or someone else’s cancellation.  If you’re committed to a trip without the chicken pot pie, though, make sure you cancel at least 24 hours prior to the reservation!  Disney will assess a cancellation fee to the credit card used to guarantee the reservation of at least $10 per person for no-shows and cancellations within 24 hours of the reservation.

50s Prime Time Cafe
50s Prime Time Cafe

Get Park Wise: Disney resort guests are able to make reservations 180+10 days out from their arrival date.  What that means is that once you call in you can make reservations for not only your arrival day but ten days after.  Non-Disney resort guests will have to try for reservations 180 days before each meal they wish to reserve.

Now that all that is out of the way and you’re an expert on the ins and outs of advanced dining reservations, let’s find out where you really need them.

Need Reservations: Character and Signature Dining

By all means, if you know where you want to eat during your entire trip, make all your reservations as soon as possible.  Otherwise, (ahem…important info for new planners I referenced earlier) I highly recommend guests book these restaurants as soon as they’re able.  If you have your heart set on breakfast with a princess or dinner with Donald, your best bet is to be on the phone as soon as your reservation window is open.  While not all character meals are sold out at 180 days, they are among the first to lose availability.  Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella Castle and Chef Mickey’s in Disney’s Contemporary Resort are quick to book, so if those are on your list, make them a priority when you call or check online.  While not a traditional character meal, Be Our Guest is also #1 on many travelers’ wish lists, so if it’s on yours, make it your first request.

Cinderella's Royal Table
Cinderella’s Royal Table


In addition to character meals, signature restaurants are also very popular.  While Le Cellier doesn’t seem to have the pull it used to, if the Canadian restaurant is a must-do for you, it’s best to plan ahead.  California Grill, especially after its recent re-imagineering and with its incredible views is always hard to find as you get closer to your travel dates.

Get Park Wise: With Disney’s somewhat young cancellation policy, these reservations are not quite as hard to get as they used to be as guests are more likely to cancel a reservation to avoid the fees.  If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying.  I’ve had luck with guests looking for coveted reservations by searching again near the 45 day mark because this is when vacations can be canceled without penalty.  If they’re canceling their entire trip, the dining reservations tend to get canceled, as well.


Would Be Nice To Have Reservations: Themed Dining

There are many restaurants at Walt Disney World known for their experiences, atmosphere and great food, and the highly themed restaurants such as the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios and ‘Ohana’s Hawaiian all-you-can-eat dinner at Disney’s Polynesian Resort are sought after spots for Disney fans to indulge.  It’s not crucial to have these booked at 180 days, but you’re more likely to get a table at these types of restaurants with a reservation as opposed to walking up when the mood strikes.

Yak & Yeti
Yak & Yeti


Get Park Wise: Not having much luck getting a reservation?  Expand your time search, and you may be better off.  Consider a brunch instead of a breakfast, a 2:00 lunch or an early or late dinner (i.e., not at 6:00 or 7:00 when everyone else is trying to eat).

Spur of the Moment: Everywhere Else

Aside from those categories, most other eateries around the resort tend to be easy to book or often have walk-up availability.  We have a lot of luck in the World Showcase grabbing a meal at the restaurants that don’t fall under the above headings on the fly such as Via Napoli in Italy, which, by the way, is a great place to save a little money, as the pizza can feed a family of three or four for about $30.  Table service restaurants at the resorts also tend to offer more last minute reservations or walk-ups, as they are off the beaten path.  Olivia’s Cafe at Old Key West consistently gets good reviews from my guests and offers pretty decent prices, as well.


This is definitely not an all-inclusive list of must-have advanced dining reservations, so I’d love to hear your opinions!  Have you had consistent luck with walk-ups at certain restaurants?  Can you never seem to snag a reservation for others?  Share your Walt Disney World advance dining reservation tips in the comments!

  • gboiler1

    Yes, dining has become a game in itself these days. When my daughter still enjoyed the princesses, I relied on our Disney agent to help with those character meals. The last 4 trips we’ve made I’ve either decided on the counter service meal plan or we just do ala carte and live on the edge with no plan at all, which works great for those shorter trips. The only exception is to make one reservation at a favorite such as Sci Fi Dine In, otherwise the commitment is more than I care to deal with.

    • We average about four must-dos over a week at Disney World, other than that we wing it. Sometimes it works, sometimes we’re counter service bound, but all in all, the advanced reservations usually work well for us.

  • Amy VandenBoogert

    I usually avoid the full service restaurants because I don’t want a reservation time telling me when it’s time to eat and have to plan my day around reservation times. I’m a spontaneous person at the parks – I never know what I’m going to do until I do it. Also, since I’m a “local” I find the full service restaurants unnecessary for my needs and overpriced to boot so I don’t bother with any of the dining plans since I usually only take day trips or a 2-3 day trip at the longest (and I stay off-site, but that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame). I find enough variety at the counter service restaurants to satisfy my needs/cravings… and they’re cheaper too. Yeah I usually do the parks on a budget, can you tell? 😉

    Not to say I’ve never done a full service restaurant… I have a few times in the past and have enjoyed it, but I’ve normally gone at lunch (which is much cheaper than dinner and usually offers the same menu).

    • That’s the great thing about Disney! No one way to do your trip. We love a few sit-down meals and welcome the rest (as opposed to feeling dictated to stop), but we also enjoy a few days where we just go where the wind takes us.

  • It’s impossible for me to book my dining 180 days in advance. I usually don’t have a schedule for my trips until about 30 to 60 days before I fly. It’s so frustrating to try to get dinning reservations at that point. Often, I’ll just call on the morning of my visit and ask what’s still available in the parks. It’s not the best way to handle things, but it has forced me to try some spots which I otherwise probably wouldn’t reserve.

    • It can definitely be a struggle that close to travel, but we’ve had luck getting what I assume is someone’s last minute cancellations in the past. If you’re really wanting to try a certain restaurant, my advice would be to try up until the last minute possible via the phone, site or even the app is occasionally helpful. 😉

  • Country Bear

    I find the dining reservation process to be frustrating at best. I have always stayed on Disney property and called 180 days in advance (to the second) and still couldn’t get reservations in Le Cellier (I’ve been there 4 times and still haven’t been able to get into this restaurant). I agree with the comments about the restaurants planning your day for you.
    The three that I have found the hardest to get reservations for are Le Cellier, California Grill and Cinderella’s Royal Table.

    I would also recommend reservations for the Polynesian Luah dinner and Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review dinner. Both are magical experiences and worth the effort to go see.

    It would be awesome if Disney only had “same day or next day” reservations that required you to be there to make them. EPCOT Center used to do it that way when they had the “World Key” center inside Spaceship Earth. Reservations were easy and available then.

    • I agree it can be a little daunting sometimes. Disney is, as we all know, a business, so they definitely want to keep those restaurants full of patrons, so I imagine holding back tables for guests who may or may not attempt to reserve them won’t happen anytime soon.

  • Alltwelve

    Compliments and a question:

    Compliments: Jessica, I love, love, LOVE all of your articles! I remember reading the one about what kind of bag to bring to the parks and at first I thought “really? An article about bags? Ummm…. okaaaaay.” After reading it the whole way through, though, it had so much practical info it made me completely rethink the kind of bag I carry into the parks; you have so many good tips!

    Question: I can start making reservations for my September trip on March 28th (180 days out). I will be making reservations online since I live in China and its easier than calling. My question is this: am I able to start making reservations right after midnight on the 180th day, 7am that day, or 9am that day? I think the answer is 7am, but I’m not totally sure.

    The funny thing about my question is I actually used to answer the phone at Disney Dining, but it was about 100 years ago! lol Okay, maybe only a decade or so ago, and only occasionally, but so much has changed. I remember those mornings of people frantically trying to get into Cinderella’s Royal Table and Chef Mickey’s (it seems Be Our Guest may be the new hot ticket), only to give them the disappointing news that it was only available at 7:05am or 10:25am when most people want a more convenient 8:30 or 9:30am. It was fun, though, when you actually had a time available that they wanted and were able to give them the good news. I haven’t been to WDW is about 3 years, and it looks like a lot of the food options and menus have changed quite a bit.


    • Haha! Thanks so much! Well, I do love bags, but, yes, there are some ins and outs of the bag you sling over your shoulder in the parks. 😉
      When making your 180-day reservations online, you can begin as early as 6:00 A.M. EST. Now, I have seen a few people slip in reservations prior to that time, but 6:00 A.M. is the official word.

  • BradyNBradleysMom

    Honestly, the reservations situation at Disney has really gotten out of hand. I hope one day in the future this gets fixed, because having to book 6 months out for dinner is ludicrous.

    From now on, my family is going to be using Jessica as our travel agent. Friends of mine have used her and she handled their dining reservations expertly. Took all the stress off them. I’m going to start doing that too from now on. Just have Jessica take care of it with her Disney magic.

    It is just too stressful for me to be trying to think about calling on the phone to make reservations to eat two whole seasons from now!

    • I’d love to help your family make some magic (maybe on a runDisney vacation!). Just shoot me an email when you’re ready to start planning!

      Now, the 180-mark works out well for us crazy planners, but it can be aggravating when those who do not plan six months ahead of time (or even have a trip booked that far in advance) are looking to dine at the more popular restaurants. Again, my advice here is just to keep trying. With the new cancellation policy, reservations do open up more often than they did in the past.

  • SpectroMan

    I actually like the current situation. It gives me something to think about for 6 months…like how awesome that O’Hana meal is going to be.

    And, I LOVE that it can be done online now – never liked talking to the call centers because the level of CM knowledge is always hit or miss.

    • ‘Ohana definitely is a yummy choice!! These comments are making my hungry!

  • holierthanthoutx

    I love the current WDW reservation system for dining. It works extremely well and makes getting into the restaurants of our choice very easy.

    For those who are complaining about the dining reservation system — there’s nothing wrong with the system. Your complaints are about the number of people making reservations, not with the system itself. No system can create more tables when all tables are already reserved.

    We’ve never had trouble getting into any restaurant; for our upcoming trip, we’ve got reservations for Le Cellier, Be Our Guest, Chef Paul’s, and a whole bunch of others. If you’re staying on property and use the online reservation system at the earliest possible date, you can get reservations for anything.

    As for dining reservations forcing us to plan out our entire days, it does nothing of the sort. We just need to be in the park where we have our reservation near the time of the reservation. We might go to the Magic Kingdom in the morning, then take the monorail over to Epcot at about 4:30 or 5:00 if we have a dinner reservation there. If we have a lunch reservation somewhere, we’ll start the day in that park, then go wherever we want afterward.

    We’ve even found the FastPass+ system to integrate well with this. If we’re dining at the Garden Grill, we’ll make a FP+ reservation for Soarin’ just before, so we know we’ll be nearby. If we’re dining at Be Our Guest, we’ll make a FP+ reservation for The Little Mermaid or Peter Pan right before it.

    Our strategy is to only make one table-service reservation per day. We don’t use dining plans, which give you way more food than you need to eat. With only one reservation per day, we are free to do things pretty spontaneously most of the day.

    For those who don’t like planning your dining 180 days in advance, keep in mind that it’s really only a few restaurants that require that much advance planning for a reservation. The majority of table-service restaurants will have available reservations 30-60 days out, except for the busiest times of the year. Just last night I made some reservations (Nine Dragons, Brown Derby) for a trip we’re taking in April.

    Dining is a big part of all our Disney trips. If other people don’t want to have to spend a few minutes making plans for it, then that just means it’ll be easier for the rest of us to get reservations!

    • Country Bear

      I think your perspective is true for those who aren’t on the Dining Plan. However, many people do use the Dining Plan and this is where the challenge of “getting your monies worth” comes into play. You really need to use the table service restaurants to get value from the plan. And it’s these restaurants where the challenges come from. As well as dinner shows and character dining. It’s not all a nightmare, but some components are.
      I’m glad to hear that your experiences are positive but that is not true when you are booking two weeks of meals, 3 meals a day, six months in advance.

      Just different experiences I guess.

      • TheBig2na

        Unfortunately it is near impossible to get your money’s worth on the dining plan any more. unless of course you can get it for free, but then it isn’t your money. I used to love it but haven’t used it for the past two trips. I consider ADR’s a part of the planning process along with FP+ now. I still don’t think I like FP+, but as holierthanthoutx said, if you plan for ADR’s and then do your FP+’s around that time its not so bad. We tend to do what we want when we want and planned on booking fewer dinners last trip but we ended up not wanting to miss out on our favorites and somehow managed to get into Le Cellier and the Castle 3 months out. Be our Guest we went to for lunch and I was able to get that just a few days before we left for 7 people.

        I have also done last minute trips with no ADR’s and called the morning of to see what they had and got into some pretty good places. I hope the changes they have made as far as reservations go will open up a few mroe tables for people who want reservations. Booking a restaurant at each park and then showing up to one isn’t really fair.

        I’m not sure what the best solution is to reservations for food or rides. At All Inclusive resorts you have to make ADR’s as well but you can’t do it until you get there so you can end up waiting in lines to figure out where you are going to eat days later. IT would be nice to just show up and get a table anywhere, but you can’t even do that on a Friday or Saturday night at any good restaurant in any city.

        At the end of the day, its vacation and if the new systems get you down, find another place that lifts you up. That isn’ ta statement of if you dont like it go somewhere else, I’m, just saying vacations are short, make sure you are enjoying them. I still enjoy my WDW vacations, but if a time comes when I don’t, I will go elsewhere.

    • Each person sees it differently. For some it will fit their traveling style, for others, it won’t. Every travel party will just have to see how they can fit the system into their vacation. Glad you’ve been able to use it to your benefit.

  • KENfromOC


    RE Your Article on Advance Reservations for WDW Dining:

    Jessica – I just went to make a reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table for our trip the first week of July for a party of 6. On the final confirmation page it says

    Reservation Payment Method

    Advance payment is required to reserve Cinderella’s Royal Table.
    Credit Card Advance Payment

    $341.69 will be charged to your credit card (including tax and 18% gratuity).

    SO…….. am I understanding this right? I will be charged the second I make a reservation?
    This is exactly what it said to confirm my reservation on the web site!!

    You did not mention that in your article! (or I did not read it correctly) Please explain, as this could load up one’s credit card for potentially hundreds to potentially thousands of dollar months prior to your trip!
    Thank you!

    • Calm down! Haha!! Advance payment is only required for Cinderella’s Royal Table and the dinner shows for those guests not using their dining plan. It does NOT apply to all restaurants. You will always have to confirm payment, so there will be no surprise charges.