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News! Disney World To Add Cancellation Policy and Fee to All Table-Service Restaurant Reservations

Welp, the days of skipping your Disney dining reservations when you’re stuck in line for Soarin’ may be over!

Remember when Disney started requiring a credit card guarantee — and subsequently charged for no-shows — on signature and character meals back in 2011? We’re hearing that starting on October 31, 2013, that policy will apply to all Disney World table-service reservations.

What are the details of the cancellation policy?

If guests fail to cancel their reservations within one day of the reservation time and then don’t show up at the restaurant, they’ll be charged $10 per person on the credit card used to hold the reservation.

For dinner shows and some character meals, guests will continue to be required to pre-pay for the meal and will forfeit the entire cost should they not cancel within the required window and fail to show up for the event.

Guests planning to visit Cinderella's Royal Table could lose their entire payment should they fail to cancel

What does “within one day” mean?

Well, this is usually defined as a 24-hour window, but many guests have had luck with cancelling by 11:59pm the night before the reservation.

How do I cancel a reservation when I’m in Disney World?

Disney’s tried to make it easy to cancel reservations. You can use the My Disney Experience app on your mobile device (if you have already set up a username and password and your reservations are linked up to your account), use the Disney World website, call 407-WDW-CNCL, or head to guest relations in any park or resort. You can also theoretically cancel reservations at any restaurant podium, but we’ve had sketchy results with that in the past.

Luckily, Disney will send you a little reminder email for your reservation with enough advance notice that you’ll be able to cancel in time if needed.

Reservation Reminder Email

Why is Disney doing this?

Well, since Disney opens the booking window 180 days in advance — and many Disney restaurants are SO popular that you really do have to book 6 months ahead of time to get a reservation — guests often book multiple reservations during similar time slots since they (understandably) have no idea half a year ahead of time what they’ll want to eat when they’re in Disney World.

Once they arrive in Disney World and choose which reservations to keep, the others just get skipped. This means Disney’s holding tables that could go to other guests.

We have no idea if the policy is working to accomplish Disney’s goals of fewer no-shows or not, but we’d love to hear your thoughts.

What do you think of extended cancellation policy? Let us know in the comments below!

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115 Comments

  1. scott says:

    this is a GREAT policy! most of the points about something coming up are the exceptions.
    im sure those folks can call and explain and probably get the fee waived. (btw-we usually go with 4 little ones and have never needed to cancel because of a missed nap or a chnage in plans for that day-what this is, is simply an excuse for “I want every option open to me with no worries of any consequenses)

    Ths policy is NOT for those few exceptions anyway, this policy if for what has become the norm-families booking many reservations for the same days and pretty much the same time slots and not bothering to ever cancel the ones they are not using.

    This is half the reason you cant get a reservation even 6 months out, its ridiculous!

  2. Linda says:

    I don’t have a problem with Disney charging no shows it will open up a spot for others and keep people from not making cancellations. But I think within 24 hrs is to much time to have to cancel by. We have only cancelled an ADR twice the afternoon of our dinner ressies in all our trips but it would nice to be able to cancel if someone is not feeling well, we have left the park early a few times due to our son having seizure. It’s a shame it’s because of the people who double book and people who are inconsiderate and don’t cancel that others who have a legitimate reason for canceling lose out.

  3. Marie says:

    We are local and have two chronically ill children. I have found Disney to be very understanding when we have had to cancel credit card guarantee reservations due to their illness same day. It has unfortunately happened to us twice this year. I would only assume this would continue, with Disney looking at each cancellation on a case by case basis.

  4. Shirley says:

    I think it is a great thing. My only concern is we use the Disney transportation to and from places. We love eating at other resorts, especially breakfast, and sometimes find it hard to get to a resort due to the fact we first have to go to a park and hope there is a bus to take us to the resort we book breakfast. This last visit it took us 1-1/2 hours to get from Animal Kingdom Lodge to Captain’s Grill for our 9:30 a.m. reservation. We made that reservation by 2 minutes. I would like to see breakfast buses to take you to resorts for meals.

  5. Debbie T says:

    I feel this is a very fair policy. It will make getting a reservation easier for everyone and maybe even make am occasional walk up seating possible. I always thought it unfair that a person could make several reservations for the same time slot at different restaurants blocking out others. If a person with a reservation has a real last minute emergency, the last thing they should be concerned with is the $10 per person no show charge. If I had a reservations and an emergency came up, I would just accept the no show fee.

  6. Sonya McMahon says:

    Fabulous idea!!!! So sick and tired of not being able to get reservations ANYWHERE!!!! Even when trying to make them 180 days in advance. A family can go hungry at WDW!!!!

  7. Bev says:

    I agree with this policy too. But I noticed when making reservations online, if Disney’s system is working right it will tell you there is already have a reservation for a meal and make you cancel the new one or old one. I say if the system is working right because it wasn’t one day so I was able to make 4 Fantasmic H&V reservations and 4 Sci-fi reservations. I didn’t think they “took” since they didn’t show up on MyDisneyExperience. I called to verify and the castmember found 4 of each and cancelled 3 of each for me.

  8. Lindsay says:

    Any idea if this new policy applies if you keep the reservation, but not everyone in your party shows up? When traveling to WDW with friends and family, we’ve had others decide at the last minute not to eat with us. So we’ve gone to the restaurant to check in for our reservation and had to tell them it will be for 2 instead of 4. It’s never been a problem before, but now I’m wondering if we will be charged $10 per person that doesn’t show up for the reservation?

  9. Sandy says:

    Many of the post here complain about spontaneity. If all these multiple reservations are eliminated, than perhaps you can be spontaneous and walk in to a restaurant and there will be availability since there is not multiple empty tables being held.

  10. Nada says:

    We are avid Disney vacationers, and have gone on the Dining Plan every year except for one. I agree with this policy completely, as long as some occasional exceptions apply, like a child who became ill during the trip – which we have had happen. I also was told Disney didn’t allow multiple restaurant bookings within a few hours of each other, especially if you are on the plan. How is that happening? Finally, I wish DIS would come up with some type of waiting list system, so that if an opening pops at a restaurant like Ohana or others, we could book it or swap reservations.

  11. Jenny says:

    I actually worked for Disney dining and you can ABSOLUTELY cancel at pretty much ANY time. I shouldn’t be telling this probably, because they may not want you all to know, but they have a “reasons” category when you call the reservations number. If you say “someone is physically ill RIGHT now and we are having to leave the park” then we would check that in our computer system, waive the fee, and you are completely off the hook….NO FEE charged at all. So don’t let this new “policy” scare you too bad. It is annoying when people “over book” though, so be polite and cancel if you possibly can, but if not…don’t panic, the reservationist will take of it with NO fee!!!

  12. MissSlim says:

    Shame that this policy is needed but with people abusing everything these days, I am happy to hear they are doing this. That people don’t just call anyway and cancel at any restaurant is a habit we should all break…

  13. Carol says:

    I have cancelled a reservation through the phone number, and the cast member did not actually cancel it. Hopefully, they will be giving a cancellation confirmation number.

  14. Kerry King says:

    Should have been done a long time ago. For those of us who know what we want and can’t get in, this is GREAT!

  15. John says:

    After reading through all the comments about people who have to frequently “no show” for ADRs, I’m feeling really, really lucky. I really couldn’t relate to many of those situations, so I went back and checked our “trip calendars”. In the last 10 years, we’ve made 8 trips to WDW, for a total of 92 days. During that time, we’ve had 85 ADRs for table service meals (lunch and dinner). Of those 85 ADRs, we’ve cancelled 3 times (always at least a day early – usually several). For the ADRs we kept, we’ve never once been late to the ADR or had anything that forced us to cancel at the last minute. Many of these ADRs were for large groups (10 – 20 people), and all involved many young kids.

    I guess overall, I really appreciate the policy. It will address them simultaneous ADRs or the people who make them “just in case”, making it easier for everyone to get ADRs. If people chronically have problems keeping ADRs, just don’t make them – theoretically, fewer ADRs should make spontaneous dining at table service restaurants actually possible … or at the very least, it will allow people to make last minute ADRs on the day they want to dine.

  16. Amy says:

    Jenny,
    Good to know. I once cancelled a few hours before at the podium and they still charged me. Annoying because I was visibly ill and we were leaving the park. Next time I may try calling.

  17. Joanne says:

    One thing I don’t understand. Disney is very computer smart with all the new programs etc. When somebody makes a reservation for one of the restaurants and then makes another one at the same time but at a different restaurant why can’t the system not let you make a double reservation on the same date and time. You used to have to enter a resort confirmation number so they have all your information on hand. If your not staying on grounds the system should still pick up duplicate names of everybody in your party so no double booking should happen. I know many of these restaurants have no problem filling seats for no shows or cancelations. Many people will try walk in as we have many times.

  18. Julie says:

    The best advice I had from a cast member when I was trying to cancel a BOG ressie within 24 hours was… just go and order a drink or a desert, just so you are no charged the $10.00 fee! We did and it was awesome. Kids were melting down at the idea of not eating that till 7pm

  19. Vickie says:

    I have no problem with this new policy, however Disney needs to do better on their times. We have had reservations for example, 6:00 pm and have waited at a minimum of an hour to be seated! Perhaps a discount on your dining bill should be offered when seated no later than 30 minutes.

  20. Ilene says:

    I hate this new policy. Everything that Disney is doing lately is adding friction and angst to the spontaneous day – booking FastPasses, giving credit cards for dining reservations, getting rid of the Guest Assistance Card. Because some people abuse something, everyone else has to pay for the abuse. This is nothing more than like being in grade school. The whole class suffers because of one idiot too many! Blaaach!

  21. Ilene says:

    Oh, and here’s a good question…this policy says a $10.00 per person charge. What happens if you’re coming with a big group and some of those people don’t show up due to being stuck somewhere in traffic or they get sick. Why should someone be charged for that. That just happened to us the other day. According to this policy, I would’ve been charged $30.00 because someone else’s schedule changed at the last minute.

  22. ARLENE says:

    I can’t see how this is really going to help unless Disney changes it’s on line ADR system. Right now you can still book mutiple ADR’s on line for the same day within about 1-2 hours of each other. That means that you can STILL hold all of those reservations right up until the 24 hour cancellation period, at which time you will most likely be at Disney anyway. So how does that free up reservations? You are STILL holding them until 24 hours before your scheduled time and that means that NO ONE ELSE can get that time slot until you CANCEL! So if you keep all of your ADR’s for different dining locations at around the same time, then you cancel the ones you don’t want the day before (24 hours), others still cannot make an ADR for the same spot on such short notice. You would have to BE IN the parks and walk up to the check-in area to check availabitly or be on line checking the Disney web site the whole time you are in Disney for avaiability!

  23. SCB says:

    Following up on @Illene’s question…..I have a reservation for 8 people, but am not sure if 2 of those people can make the dinner. It’s for California Grill, so there’s no reservation on that day for 6 people. I don’t want to give up my reservation, but I also don’t want to be penalized for the changed schedules of 2 members of my party. Can anyone let me know what the policy is on this?

  24. valerie says:

    I have a problem because i have cancled reservation the morning of when i realize we will not make it because of being not use to the heat or humidity of the day or if it rains it is usually a party of two

  25. Julie says:

    I concur with everything Scott has said. Disney is not just doing this for Disney but for all of us other guests who do make reservations that we intend to keep–and no others.

  26. George says:

    Just having returned from a WDW visit and seeing numerous people turned away from a few more popular WDW restaurants with the cast member saying “sorry, we are all booked up” only to see many tables empty, I thing it’s a great idea.

    It also irks me when I am charged 18% tip when using the “Tables of Wonderland” program.
    Seems like when mentioning you’ll be using the TOW, customer service disappears. I guess the waiter/waitress figures I get 18% why do I have to work for it!

    It’s not the 18% as my wife and I always add more for good service. I can understand why Disney does charge the 18%, but it still irks me. One time at the “Rose and Crown” we had to ask a manager if our waiter got sick and went home the service was so bad and he still got 18%.

  27. Margaret says:

    In general, I think the policy is a good idea, although 24 hours does not allow for bad weather, illness, etc. I would rather see the policy change so that you are unable to book a reservation within a certain amount of time of an existing reservation. For example, if I already have a reservation at Living Seas at 2pm, I could not make a reservation for Garden Grill at 2:30 on the same day. You obviously cannot be at both restaurants at the same time. This should simply not be allowed.

  28. Kathy says:

    I think it is a great idea

  29. Edward says:

    Common courtesy would have anyone not able to make their reservation for any reason to cancel it. I think Disney’s new policy is good and needed.

  30. Kathy says:

    Having been in the restaurant business for 30 years, I find this to be completely reasonable. There is nothing worse than having to turn away hungry, paying customers only to have your reservation be a “no show”. We are visiting in January and I had made reservations several weeks ago. We’ve changed a few of them in the past week. I booked the new restaurant and cancelled the original. It’s simple and most importantly, the courteous thing to do.

  31. Cynthia says:

    I have become more and more appalled at the extremely high prices at the restaurants and have made a decision to utilize the less expensive counter restaurants instead of having to plan ahead for 180 days and then am disappointed with the meal which now costs more than a day’s salary. Even with Tables in Wonderland, it has become challenging to have meals in our favorite places. So anyone who wants my normal table service reservations at the higher priced restaurants, you may now have them. In order to continue to come to our “magic place”, we have to cut in the meal department……

  32. Eric says:

    This is a croc, because when you reserve, you really do not have a guarunteed reservation. It is imply the next place in line when you arrive with your res number. Disney is just rying to gouge like any other business.,

  33. Carolyn Schroeder says:

    We have been going to Disneyworld every year since 1976 and have reservations for Nov.2013 but with this new dinner reservations policy which is now going to cost us $10 a person if you don’t cancel a day before is a new reason to cancel our trip altogether because things happen that can’t be prevented at the last minute and then you will get charged for each person. Well we are annual passholders and are Disneyholics but this new greedy rule has made us rethink about spending our money at Disneyworld anymore. Everything at Disney has skyrocketed in cost and now they want charge a family for not calling the day before is horrible. I guess we need to give up on something that has been getting more and more greedy in getting money out of people anyway they can and Walt Disney would be completely appalled if he knew this was happening. I think it‘s time to hang up our hats and cancelling our trip to Disneyworld and go somewhere else because this just killed the Magic for us!!

  34. Teresa Motz says:

    I don’t think this policy accomplishes much of anything. Since it isn’t a true reservation you’re making, only a spot they’ll give you when a large enough table becomes available around your check in time, this is not going to get a ton more people in. Trust me , the Disney restaurants are NOT wringing their hands while holding your table waiting for you to show up at your scheduled time. Even with a confirmed reservation, they will gladly give your spot away to the next guest in line guest if you don’t show up!

  35. Carolyn Schroeder says:

    I also want to say in all the years we have been going to Disneyworld we never booked more than one restaurant at a time. I can’t understand why with their state of the art computer system that they can’t see people double booking restaurants and can’t stop it from happening at time they are trying to do it. I always said Disneyworld and Disneyland are my favorite places in the world but it‘s the IDIOT PEOPLE who ruin it for everyone!!!

  36. Alissa says:

    I agree with this policy. Disney is understanding when someone gets sick. I ended up in the hospital and we missed our character breakfast. My party went down later that day and they waived the fee for the whole party. I think they are tired of turning away people, then having no shows. If you don’t like the policy you can still eat counter service or try to walk in. Maybe with this policy it will be easier to walk in and get a seat…

  37. Janice says:

    I think this is a great policy! I always book our reservations at the 180 day mark but there have been times when I have tried to book for certain times and these times are already full. How is this possible? Because there are those people who book more than 1 restaurant in a preferred time slot because they can’t make up their minds or don’t know what the rest of the family is doing. These are the “extreme” planner people so I guess now their “extreme” planning will have to include their dining. I overheard 2 women talking one time about this double booking and a light bulb went off in my head…now I know why.

  38. dianne P says:

    It’s about time – I have known of several people who made multiple reservations for their trip, with the intention of only attending one and never bothered to cancel the others. Having called WDW to make reservations just to hear there were already no available times, even well over 150 days out, I know many of these will become cancelations or will be no shows. I wish they had a waiting list so I could get into a fav. More than once, I’ve had to settle for a third or even a fourth choice several times!
    Glad to know Disney’s doing this – may cut down on this phenom.

  39. JuneT71 says:

    I think that when I show up to my reservation on time – and I don’t get seated at the exact time of my reservation then Disney should pay me $10.

  40. dianne says:

    I agree with the $10 fee paid to us when we are not seated in 30 minutes
    or at least some tpe of compensation. When you have paid for the tickets and get tied up sitting waiting then the kids get tired and your plans get changed we should be compensated

  41. Suzanna Crean says:

    I’m a Florida resident and have residents’ passes for the two of us. We always make reservations at only one restaurant…and we always show up. I think the 24 hour window is too restrictive. I think four hours should be plenty of notice for Disney. They always have people waiting for tables. With Florida’s weather, you never know what’s going to happen the next day…or if you’re ill and can’t make the trip, you should be allowed to cancel without a a penalty. Let’s put a window of four hours on the cancellation. I also like the idea that if my table is not ready at within a half hour of my reservation, Disney will take ten dollars off of each meal.

  42. Darcy says:

    Yes, they should do this. Unfortunately, it’s necessary. I’ve heard (so many times) in Epcot someone discussing meal plans by saying “Well, I reserved us at XXX and XXX and XXX and XXX, so take your pick.” It’s just not fair to other diners, especially those who really wanted to try a certain place, but didn’t get to because it was “completely booked.” You know, I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but the guests make it necessary by taking advantage and trying to “work” the system. Disney is always trying to be easy and friendly, but there will always be those who take advantage or abuse it.

    The other side of this is that by charging for the reservation, the folks at Disney can take each more seriously. Right now they’re so used to having tons of no-shows, and they don’t know which reservations those will be. So they must operate assuming the no-shows, but never knowing how many, or what times … which is why there’s often a wait even when you have a reservation. It makes it nearly impossible for them to operate smoothly because they never truly know. If every reservation was guaranteed, they could more accurately know who is coming and when, and they could actually hold your table.

    As for why Disney can’t tell if people make multiple reservations, Disney CAN (but only if you’re doing it all on the “up and up” from within your account.) Unfortunately, those who want to a whole bunch of reservations just use different email addresses or different credit cards, or just have different members of their parties make sets of reservations.

  43. Gigi says:

    As many said above, I’d be more OK with this is Disney in return respected your reservation time. At EPCOT, we stood in a line waiting for over an hour past our reservation time in Germany. Once we got in, we had completely missed the show which was our entire purpose for booking at that time. While I hope this policy opens more slots, this has got to be a 2-way street of respect for it to work. The addition of fastpass reservations will also affect the dining as how happy are guests going to be when they miss their fastpass “reservation” because their dining reservation had an extra hour long wait because they were backed up? Not good.

    Why hasn’t anyone just discussed that 6 months is just too far out. Bump it to 3 and maybe people have a better idea of what they’re doing. To be fair, people book and cancel because you’re constantly waiting for the restaurant you really want to open up. We tried for 5 months to get into Cinderella’s Table. We never did get in, but had it popped up we would have cancelled whatever other reservation we had on the spot no matter the notice. While they may be shocking to some, we have always been respectful and canceled any reservation we didn’t use; however, there are those times…

    And, yes, I agree with those who mentioned the reserved fastpasses as ridiculous. With the dining plan, Disney is moving to all-inclusive but without the flexibility many of those resorts offer. I hope Disney considers that while many of us love to plan our trips well out and think of all the places we hope to visit and eat, too much planning will begin to make it seem like work.

  44. Darcy says:

    With the “planned” fastpasses, I heard that Disney is only making some available that way, and holding a bunch to be used in the normal way, too (so people who don’t want to pre-plan their day don’t have to.) I would imagine that part of the reason for this new dining cancellation policy is so that they can more accurately know what the day looks like and similarly hold a certain portion for walk-up (and then know better what’s really available.) Maybe by curbing the no-shows, they can make everything run a little more smoothly for all involved, and cut back on those wait times.

    I would guess that because they have a certain percentage of no-shows each day, they have had to use that percentage as a “guess” or measuring stick – assuming a certain amount won’t show up. So the long waits would be when that guess is inaccurate. Taking out the guess-work should improve everything.

    It stinks that it has to be this way, but … unfortunately not everyone is being courteous. If more people kindly cancelled the reservations they weren’t using, it wouldn’t even be necessary. It’s really unfortunate that Disney has to threaten a charge to get people to do the right thing. Sigh.

  45. john says:

    We made a reservation when we were in Disney in early October. We made the reservations at the Marketplace-guest services, where we stopped to upgrade our passes at about 12 for 630pm for that night at Italy(epcot). I was told if we didn’t show, we would be charged. We then decided to eat throughout the food and wine festival instead. I called back and was told that they needed to be canceled 24hrs in advance. I asked “how can that be done when I made the reservation 2 hrs ago?” They tried to argue the point about the 24hrs, but realized it would have been impossible. I told them I was never told of a 24hr policy or I wouldn’t have made them. They agreed to wave the fee since the time was impossible.

  46. John Nicholson says:

    Disney has to do this as many people were taking advantage of the reservation system. However, the requirement to cancel one day in advance is perhaps too long a time. For example, we fly into Orlando and arrive in the early afternoon. If the flight is delayed, etc. and we have a reservation that evening at, say 5 O’clock, we could very well miss it. If we could cancel as soon as we knew we were not going to make it that would be fine, especially since we can now do so online easily. I would suggest they change the cancellation time to at least two or three hours from your reservation time, not one day.

  47. Lauren says:

    I was just at Disney World this past week and 1 week ago yesterday we encountered a mishap on a Disney bus that sent my mother to urgent care for a tetanus shot due to being cut on metal. We were going to miss our Narcossees reservation and Disney knew that this was a last minute cancellation and went ahead and credited our in house account for the 20 bucks that may or may not hit my credit card. They also called over to the restaurant and let them know that we weren’t going to make it so that someone else wanting to dine there that night could use our table. ( the cancellation charge has yet to show up on my credit card so I don’t think it will). Another words if they know that it is a true reason that you need to cancel they have the power to make sure that you don’t pay that fee or if systems don’t stop it they have the power to give you a credit to cover the charge.

  48. Jennifer says:

    I think this is a great idea. It will open up tables to other guests. Disney dining is all about planning and there’s nothing wrong with having to do so. Cancellations happen but just no-showing is unfair in my opinion.

  49. Bob says:

    There has never been a time that I have checked in for a reservation at a disney restaurant and not have somebody at the podium asking if they have any reservations available. That being said and having worked in the restaurant business for 30 years. There is no need for this policy. even years before the reservation policies were in place, you were hard pressed to find a place to eat at the table service restaurants in the parks. This policy IMHO is to protect the outside the park Disney restaurants (hotels, downtown Disney etc.). This policy forces you to try to figure out which park that you may be going to months ahead, based on dining reservations because going from the studios to the Animal Kingdom park for an early dinner because that park closes early just waste everyone’s time and at Disney ticket prices time is money (Perceived Value).

    Maximising all available seats in the park’s restaurants has never been an issue I believe that this is just incremental revenue, besides if your not there within 20 minutes of your reservation your table is not sitting there for an hour and a half empty waiting for you. So you paid $40.00 for a table of 4 for not showing up and someone else bought and paid for space. They get money both ways.

    For those of us who frequent the world more then twenty five times a year it is just more management on my part and more revenue on there part. I would challenge any one who frequents the parks regularly to remember a time in the park restaurants that they weren’t at capacity.

  50. M. Anderson says:

    Responsible adults will cancel or change their reservations in a timely manner or pay the penalty. Those offenders who just blow it off should pay the price.

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