If you’re headed to Disney World soon, you probably have your eye on some Advance Dining Reservations at some really fun restaurants.
It comes as no surprise, but dining is one of our favorite parts of a trip to Disney World (did our name give it away?). There are certainly some reservations that tend to be more difficult to get than others any day you try, but, right now, it seems like dining reservations are harder to get in general. Whether you’re trying to book Oga’s Cantina, Be Our Guest Restaurant, or even some of the less popular spots, why is it harder than ever to get a reservation for Disney World restaurants?
Social distancing has made for fewer tables at some of the most popular restaurants.
First of all, social distancing is certainly still the reality at Walt Disney World table service restaurants. At the time of writing, mask mandates have been lifted in outdoor areas of Disney World and social distancing is being relaxed as well. However, Disney has specified that in the areas where masks may be removed (like restaurants), social distancing will continue. That means the tables are still distanced 6 feet apart.
Distanced tables make for a pretty significant cut to the capacity of a restaurant. This has, of course, been the case since the reopening of Disney World last summer. Now, the issue is becoming more exacerbated as Disney World raises the overall park capacities and demand returns. MORE people with the same low amount of available tables=hot mess when it comes to booking dining.
So, we’re looking at restaurants, like Oga’s Cantina and Cinderella’s Royal Table, that were already difficult to reserve prior to the closure of the Disney parks. Limited capacity in these restaurants does make it even MORE difficult to get a reservation, and that can be frustrating. As long as social distancing remains the norm in Disney World to keep guests and Cast Members safe, we may have to contend with these limited capacities.
At first, lower demand matched the limited capacities. Now, demand is starting to return.
As we mentioned, demand is starting to return to the Disney parks and capacities are increasing as well. Disney CEO Bob Chapek did mention that demand is already back at 2019 levels. At first, lower demand matched the limited restaurant capacities, but now things are starting to skew out of balance.
Chapek did note that capacity should continue to increase in the coming months. With social distancing remaining in restaurants, the increases in capacity and demand might cause even further issues with nabbing a reservation.
Imagine you want a popsicle. The ice cream man has 3 left. A few months back, it was just you and one other kid chasing after the ice cream man. Both of you get your ice cream and are happy. Now, the WHOLE neighborhood has shown up wanting ice cream…but the ice cream man still only has those 3 popsicles. Disney World is the ice cream man. Sanaa or Rose and Crown or Hollywood Brown Derby are the popsicles. 😬 It’s possible Disney will introduce a policy to mitigate this, but the reality is that reservations may be hard to get for a while.
Here’s what to do when you want a hard-to-get reservation.
So, here’s what to do when you’re looking for a hard-to-get Advance Dining Reservation? Make sure you’re ready to book your reservations as SOON as you are able. That means right at 7AM ET, 60 days in advance of your dining day. (No kidding — be sitting there with your finger ready to click refresh watching a clock tick down!) For resort guests, that’s 60 days plus your length of stay.
If you do miss a big reservation that you really wanted, don’t despair! You may be able to find a reservation at the last minute! Check the day before your preferred dining day to see if you can catch any reservations that crop up as people cancel. A cancellation fee kicks in within 24 hours of a reservation, so that’s a great time to catch people making last-minute cancellations before they hit the fee. Plus, you’ll want to check regularly in general. You never know when someone will cancel and you’ll get to snag the reservation you wanted. REFRESH, REFRESH, REFRESH!
Some restaurants also offer a Walk-Up Waitlist. Check to see if it is an option for one of the reservations you are chasing. If so, you might be able to get a table day-of by joining the Walk-Up Waitlist through the My Disney Experience app. Just keep in mind, this list can fill up, so signing onto it as early as possible is a good idea.
Regardless of when you’re searching for reservations in My Disney Experience, we recommend searching by the hour and not by the meal. We have had it happen many times that no reservations will be available if we search for “Lunch” but some might be available if we search for “2PM.” You’ll also want to refresh, refresh, refresh (did we say that already? LOL it’s SO important!). Again, you never know when a reservation might become available. The same can be said if the Walk-Up Waitlist is full!
And finally, have a backup plan. If you can’t get the restaurant you wanted, don’t let it ruin your plans. You can still have a wonderful time in Disney World and there are plenty of amazing dining locations — some of which don’t require a reservation at all! Consider a good backup plan so that if you don’t get the reservation you were after, you still get to have a tasty meal.
Hopefully, this has been helpful if you’ve been struggling with hard-to-get dining reservations! As always, stay tuned to DFB for all the latest planning tips and advice for your Disney trip!