When it comes time to make those all-important Walt Disney World Dining Reservations (or Advance Dining Reservations (ADR’s)), we know how overwhelming it can be…mostly because you want to see and eat it ALL!
That’s not just us, right?
Bread and seasoned dipping oil from Mama Melrose restaurant in Hollywood Studios.
There are so many things to think of, which is why we’ve put together some of our best tips to help you sort through all of the info and make good decisions when it comes to your WDW dining reservations.
We want all of your dining experiences during your long-awaited vacation to be the most magical they can be.
Note that these tips apply to table-service (sit down, get served) restaurants, but most tips can also be applied when planning which Disney quick-service (counter-service) restaurants you want to try.
Tips on How to Choose Your Walt Disney World Dining Reservations
Read the Restaurant Menus in Advance
This tip is a no brainer, but what you may not know is that ALL of the restaurants at Disney, even the food carts, have a menu that can be found online.
This allows you to do your research in advance to be sure there will be something to satisfy everyone.
Keep Special Diets and Food Allergies in Mind
This ties into the tip above. Research the menus before making your reservation to learn what the best spots are to deal with your special diet or allergies.
If you don’t see something on the menu that suits your diet, give the Special Diets number a call to be sure they can accommodate and be sure to note your special diet on your reservation when you make it.
Vegan dish, specially made by the chef from Jiko – The Cooking Place.
Whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free, diabetic, or something else, Disney will take care of you.
Most restaurants now have a separate allergy menu which makes it easy for those of us who need something different from the standard fare.
Consider the Restaurant’s Atmosphere and Dining Experience
Some Disney restaurants are loud, some are dimly lit, and some are a little fancier than others. Some serve family style plates, and some are buffet.
They’re all different in their own ways and having this variety is great, but all of them may not be the right fit for your family.
Mama Melrose restaurant in Hollywood Studios has a great atmosphere, it’s dimply lit with sparkly lights everywhere.
Read some reviews of the restaurants to get an idea of what you should expect when it comes to the atmosphere and dining experience, especially if you have kids who are sensitive to specific things.
Keep Restaurant Locations and Proximity to Later Plans in Mind
One lesson Rebecca and I both learned (the hard way) is that a lot of thought needs to go into the location of the restaurants you choose if you have plans afterwards.
If you’re relying on Disney bus transportation and you plan to return to the Magic Kingdom for fireworks, book at a restaurant that’s close, like California Grill or ‘Ohana (there are many others in that area, those are just two examples!)
Family-style dinner platter from ‘Ohana.
The buses can sometimes take a while to get from place to place, and as a rule of thumb when it comes to the internal bus transportation, expect it to take longer than you expect.
Of course, you can make your WDW dining reservations somewhere further out, but if you do, be sure to book an earlier reservation so you have enough time to make it to where you want to be.
Make Reservations for Off-Peak Times
Peak times at the restaurants are always going to be very busy, and even though you have a reservation, you may not be seated right when you arrive.
This is why booking your meals a little earlier or later than most people is a smart idea.
Just make sure that everything lines up with the plans for the rest of the day (see the tip below about planning for buffets properly!)
Tip: Book extra early breakfasts at the Magic Kingdom table service restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest, or The Crystal Palace and time it so you get into the park before it officially opens (they will let you in for your reservation!).
This will get you some prime pictures in front of the castle with hardly any crowd in the background and after breakfast, you can be one of the first to head towards Fantasyland to enjoy a short wait for the Seven Dwarfs Train and take in a quieter park experience (it won’t last long!).
If you weren’t able to snag one of those early Magic Kindgom restaurant reservations, be sure to read our suggestions for the best use FastPass+ at Disney’s Magic Kingdom!
Remember the Type of Park Tickets You Purchased
If you’ve purchased park hopper tickets, you are fine to enter and exit as many parks in one day as you want.
However, if you purchased regular tickets, you’re only permitted entry into one park per day.
So, if you spend the day at Animal Kingdom but you have dinner booked at Coral Reef in Epcot, that’s not going to work.
Chip’s Sticky Bun Bake from Garden Grill in Epcot.
If you don’t have park hopper tickets, be sure to book a restaurant within the park you’ll be visiting that day, or book a restaurant at Disney Springs or one of the resorts where there is no admission required.
Is Character Dining Important to Your Family?
If your kids are into the characters, then including a character meal, or two, in your Walt Disney World dining reservations is a must-do.
The big questions when it comes to character dining is…which one?
Mickey signing autographs at the character breakfast at ‘Ohana.
The simple answer is to choose the character meal(s) based on the characters your kids love and use the other tips above and below to make the reservation mesh well with the rest of your plans.
Plan for Buffets Properly
Disney buffets are no joke. They offer so many things, most of which you will want to stack onto your plate!
Throughout the day, you’ll likely be enjoying other Disney meals and treats, so plan your buffet reservation accordingly.
Plan it for a day where you have no other big meal reservations so you arrive hungry and if you do have reservations on the same day, space the reservations out properly.
Try having snacks for the other meals rather than having full meals.
Family-style breakfast platter from Garden Grill in Epcot.
There’s nothing worse than arriving at a buffet and you aren’t that hungry. I know this from experience because of bad planning. It was not fun.
So don’t be like me, you know yourself best. Eat accordingly throughout the day so you can enjoy the buffet the way a buffet should be enjoyed.
Know Which Reservations are Hard to Get
When it comes time to making your Walt Disney World dining reservations, you’re allowed to book them 180 days before your trip. But don’t get too relaxed about that…even though it’s 180 days before your trip, those spots book up FAST!
Some restaurants are very hard to get a reservation at because their popularity.
Fruit and sorbet dessert from Flying Fish on Disney’s BoardWalk.
What are the hardest reservations to get at Disney World?
They are as follows:
- Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
- Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom)
- The Plaza Restaurant (Dinner, Magic Kingdom)
- Sci-Fi Dine In Theatre (Hollywood Studios)
- Akershus (Epcot)
- Le Cellier Steakhouse (Epcot)
- Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria (Dinner, Epcot)
- Rose & Crown Dining Room (Epcot)
- Chef Mickey’s (The Contemporary Resort)
- California Grill (The Contemporary Resort)
- O’hana Dinner (Dinner, The Polynesian Resort)
- Victoria and Albert’s (Grand Floridian Resort)
- Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ (Dinner, Disney Springs)
- T-Rex (Dinner, Disney Springs)
If one of the restaurants above is on your list, plan to be up early to grab your reservation.
Art’s Famous Fried Chicken dinner from Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ in Disney Springs.
If you tried your best and still did not get a reservation at your coveted restaurant, keep checking back because Walt Disney World dining reservations get cancelled all the time, so something may open up.
And always have a back up plan. If you can’t get a reservation at one of those popular restaurants, choose one that’s not on the list.
Enjoy All That Disney Has to Offer
Disney has 4969395495 restaurants to choose from…okay, not that many, but there are A LOT!
Chocolate and Cherry Tort from Mama Melrose in Hollywood Studios.
There will be dishes and snacks you’ve never tried before, so try them! Be open to tasting new things. Sample and share everything you can by trying those new-to-you things.
Disney also offers signature dining and dinner show experiences, so if you can, check those out too!
Opening yourself up to new foods, flavours, and experiences is all part of the fun of visiting Disney. You may even find a new favourite treat or meal that will become a must-have every time you return.
Flatbread from Jiko – The Cooking Place in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
And remember…you can read all the best tips and tricks out there, but sometimes, mistakes will still be made when you make your Walt Disney World dining reservations.
Both Rebecca and I have made our fair share of them, which is why we have so many tips to share—many of them were lessons learned from our own Disney dining reservation missteps.
If you do happen to make a mistake along the way, learn from it and remember it for your next vacation!
Do you have any tips for making Walt Disney World dining reservations? If so, leave them below!
And be sure to follow us on Pinterest where we pin lots of other posts that contain helpful tips like those above!