Disney Dining Tips: What to Expect on Peak Booking Days

Are you ready? The countdown is on, and early booking will open for the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival in just a few hours!

That means that you and (and several thousand other people) will be calling Disney, trying to get into the Low-Cost Events,  Culinary Demos, Beverage Seminars, and Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It! Workshops of your choice!

What else does that mean? Well, this is a great example of a Peak Booking Day for a Disney event.

You may be wondering: What’s a peak booking day? It’s anytime that you can expect a high volume of guests calling at the same time to book events. This goes for early booking days for certain groups, regular booking days, days for booking where a new restaurant or experience is announced, and days that offers of Free Dining for the Disney Dining Plan are announced. And experience has taught us that all the things are probably not going to go smoothly.

Free Dining Offer?!? Be Prepared for a Wait

Free Dining Offer?!? Be Prepared for a Wait

With that in mind — and the fact that forewarned is forearmed — we want to share with you just what you can expect when it comes to peak booking days with Walt Disney World as well as some suggestions that may just help you to be successful (and keep your blood pressure down).

Peak Booking Days Equal Long Wait Times on the Phones.

No. Seriously. Be prepared to wait for hours — like multiple — when you call. And then, once you get through, it’s very likely that you’ll be placed on hold again for several minutes. And then maybe your call will be dropped. No joke.

"Thank you for calling..."

“Thank you for calling…”

This is the reality, and it’s always the case. Always. And that’s why we suggest that…

Peak Booking Days Equal Blocking Off a Significant Chunk of Your Day.

I would plan to schedule at least one to two hours to make reservations on a peak booking day. Easily. Because here’s the deal with that. If you’re wrong, and you happen to call the VERY first time that Disney has its collective act together, then you just got the happy surprise of extra time in your day!

Be Our Guest Restaurant

Booking for a Hot Restaurant Opening Can Feel Like It’s Taking Forever!

But if you don’t build in that window and you are banking on hopping on and off the phone all short and sweet-like, you will either A) not get your reservation, because you have to run; or B) be late for whatever other important things are part of your schedule. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Peak Booking Days Equal Cast Members Who Possibly Have NO Idea What You’re Talking About

Disney Cast Members are truly some of the best and nicest humans walking the planet. But they don’t possess magic powers. (So sorry if that’s a disappointment to find out.) And they also can’t know what they haven’t been told.

Minnie'sHolidayDine_15-024

Don’t Be Shocked If Your Cast Member Doesn’t Know What You’re Talking About. It Happens. A Lot.

Time after time, for peak event after peak event, the poor Cast Members aren’t given the information that they need to set them up for success. So please, know this up front.

Frozen Dessert Party Seating

Special Events Can REALLY Throw Them Off. (Rest In Peace, Osborne Lights. Sniff.)

And be prepared to cut them some slack. Also be prepared to talk to multiple Cast Members (as in, hang up and call back to get a new person) or request to speak to a more senior Cast Member or a supervisor. Also keep in mind that kindness is always, always the best route to take, period. (But especially if you’re trying to get something to go your way.)

Peak Booking Days Equal the Online System Not Being Updated.

We’ve seen it time and again: Disney announces that reservations are open for a special event or a new eatery…but they kinda sorta forget to update their online systems.

Blue Bayou Check Availability Tool on Blue Bayou's webpage

We Have a Love Hate Relationship with Disney Online Systems

There are times when reservations are only available via phone. Like, on purpose. For example, early booking for Epcot Food and Wine Festival Events is often only available by calling. But sometimes, online booking is supposed to be available, and isn’t. Be prepared on peak days to hop on the phone to take care of the business at hand, rather than booking via the website or the My Disney Experience App.

Peak Booking Days Remind Us, Yep, Disney Kinda Stinks When It Comes to This Stuff.

Look, we love Disney. Obvi. We’re such big fans, we photograph all of our food there and share with you guys!

Chef Mickey is ready to welcome UK Residents for Free Dining in 2017!

We Heart You SO Hard, Chef Mickey! Even If Your Peeps Can’t Get It Together.

But let’s be honest. They have never gotten the hang of executing the launch of peak booking times. Not once. And we’re talking about stuff they KNOW, year after year, is coming.

Why do I point this out? Well, again, if you know what to expect, it helps you to plan, and it might ease your frustration a little. Because personally, I find when I know it’s coming, it’s a little easier to cope with.

So, that’s our primer for setting you straight on what booking anything at a peak time is like if you’re dealing with Disney.

And now, I’d really love to hear from you! Share with us your experiences while attempting to secure a spot during a peak Disney booking day in comments below!

Comments

  1. Mark says

    Actually it will be nice not starting at 7 this year. Just hoping I don’t have to listen to It’s a Small World too many times. Tough to get out of your mind. :)

  2. Keith says

    Actually all of these comments are apropos of trying to book ANYTHING with Disney….from accommodations, Run Disney events, special events, etc. Very seldom do you get someone on the phone that is informed. They usually are reading from resolution flow charts and know much less than most experienced Disney faithful.

  3. MouseMom says

    The worst was when I got put on hold and demon voices came out of the phone…the music was looped at the middle of the Haunted Mansion song. It took me a long time to figure out why I was being howled at! It was funny after I figured it out, but I definitely wasn’t “grinning” at first.

  4. Kathleen says

    I soooo appreciate your candor and up-frontedness! It’s so true about the people on the phone (you know – the people manning the “special events line” – not actually knowing about the special events. I’ve been calling about this since late June – and they pretty much give the answer of “they don’t tell us anything, so I can’t tell you anything”. It’s sad – isn’t it – especially – as you say – that they KNOW that this is coming. My husband and I accidentally attended this 10 years ago – and now we have returned ever since. And we live in California – and have real jobs – and have to plan our vacation 6-7 months ahead of time, so it’s hard to pick a week during the 6 weeks that we want to go, and then hope and pray that the special dining events for that week is what we want. As an example, we have always wanted to attend the Victoria & Albert’s special event, but missed it this year by a week. We even had serious trouble securing a regular “dining room” reservation for V&A now that it has become so famous. But, alas – as you say – we LOVE DISNEY! So – we grin and bear it. We have our alarm set for 3:30 am PST, and our list in hand for the events we want, so wish us luck (and I hope that our Disney VISA credit limit is enough to cover it all;))

  5. Lori says

    Idk….when I called for beverage seminars the two times we did them…it was minimal wait times and the CMs were very helpful….

  6. Elaine Prosecky says

    Great article–you’ve captured the yearly experience perfectly … Just a heads up for everyone: With a Disney card, I was able to book Reserved Seating for the Party for the Senses this morning. I called right at 6:00 a.m. Central and waited about 20 minutes on hold. But, I could only get 10 seats–our group size is 11, so I had to book a single separately (general admission, online via My Disney Experience). Also was able to book the Italian Food, Beer vs. Wine event, but only for a party of 5. Couldn’t book the French Family lunch at all. So, I called back at about 9:30 a.m. Central and tried again. Only waited 3 minutes on hold (calling the Epcot Food & Wine number on Chase’s Website this time, not the “FEST” number). The CM was able to see the French Lunch, but couldn’t grab any seats. Same thing with the Italian event. I’m thinking I will try again tomorrow just in case (or maybe even later today), but it appears likely that the complete inventory isn’t going to be available until Thursday when general booking opens. That’s what both CMs I spoke with implied …

  7. LizC says

    Thanks for all the info. I called this morning, 7am on the dot, I waited 17 min and was able to get everything I wanted.

  8. Leslie says

    I don’t know if my experience was a fluke, but I thought I’d mention it in case it helps anyone. When free dining was announced this year, it was available for Port Orleans Riverside but not French Quarter. I was reserved at French Quarter, so I called accommodation reservations the day of the announcement to switch to Riverside, and I got someone within 5 minutes. She then asked about my dining reservations and made them for me right then. So. . .maybe there is a work around where you call a non-dining reservation line to deal with something else and then ask nicely if they can make dining reservations too? In my case, I didn’t have to ask, but my experience could mean that all the cast members have the ability to do this. . .

  9. Paul A. says

    There is absolutely ZERO, count it again – ZERO excuse for Disney to not have their operators up-to-date on current offerings for any event. Shame on you Disney. This is one of the many reasons we are no longer Annual Passholders and will not be for several years until all the expansions are completed. There is too much on Disney’s plate at this time.

  10. Tricia says

    I’m going to be trying to score some hard to book restaurant reservations for a trip next year with the hope that it will be during the Free Dining Plan time. I looked at past Free Dining times and my trip falls in that time. Then I counted back the 180 days for each day of my trip as well as when the Free Dining Plan dates were announced each year and the 180 days comes before they’ll announce when the Free Dining Plan dates are… so my hope is to get up super early 180 days out from my expected trip to make my dining reservations, then wait for the dates to be announced before I even book my trip.

  11. Mark says

    Let me report on today. I called at 9:00:01 and immediately got in the queue. Cast member was on the line in the promised 25 minutes and she was terrific with a great sense of humor. All done by 9:37 and I even made an omission we had to go back and correct. Well done Disney.

  12. Steven says

    Early morning here on the west coast. Called in at 4am my time 7am EST, wait time said 90mins. At 48 mins into the wait a cast member was on the line ready to help. I was able to book the Japanese beer pairing and the signature dinning at the Flying Fish. The Fish is one of my fav restaurants I hope with the updates and refresh it still is… Heavy price tag for $199 a person. Either way I’m super excited, thanks for all the guidance from the DFB team. You guys rock!

  13. Janet says

    Tried to book both a “What’s Cooking with…” and Reserved Seating for Party for the Senses. After being cut off the first time I was on hold, & calling back, I spent about 45 minutes on hold. Then another 20 minutes or so with the Cast Member who could not pull up either item to book. He said that the CMs were being told to have the guests call back later to see if the events became available.

    In the meantime, I went to the website & pulled up general admission for Party for the Senses (Reserved was not available online) and could book that if I wanted to. Also pulled up the other event, so since I still could not get the CM to find the events available, I booked both myself online.

    I would have preferred Reserved Seating for Party for the Senses, but didn’t want to try the phones again. (2 hours was enough considering I was calling from the West Coast and had gotten up at 4am to do this)

  14. Mike says

    I just booked my special dining events (Mexican Tequila Luncheon and Mediterranean Food & Wine Pairing) an hour ago and only had a four minute wait on the phone and it took all of five minutes to complete the dining reservation. By far, the easiest and quickest special dining event reservation made by me, for Food & Wine Festival in the last five years. It seems that the morning rush is over.. Good Luck, everyone!!

    Mike

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