In this post, I want to talk about the all important ADR (which stands for Advanced Dining Reservation, by the way!). ADRs are a great way to make sure you get to experience the amazing restaurant offered at Disney Parks. You can make ADRs at Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Walt Disney World, but none are as important as those at Disney World. At both Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, ADRs can be made 60 days in advance. However, often it’s not really necessary and you’ll find available tables if you just arrive or call a few days ahead of your trip. In Walt Disney World, the reservations can be made 180 days in advance (that’s 6 months!). To guarantee you get to eat in some of these popular sit-down restaurants you're going to want to secure an ADR. The basic rules for ADRs are the same across the different Resort Parks, but I’m going to focus on Disney World for this post.
Some quick facts about Disney World to consider:
- Disney World allows you to book dining reservations 180 days in advance of your first day PLUS 10 days of your stay (if staying in their resorts).
- Disney World is a busy place, if you want to eat at “normal” meal times, you’re going to want reservations. It is possible to get lucky and walk in, but not usually during peak meal times
- If you want some of those more popular and magical experiences, remember that so do most other guests. You’ll have to do some advanced planning.
The first thing you’re going to want to think about which days you’ll be visiting each of the 4 parks during your stay, and if you’ll have Park Hoppers. If you will have Park Hopper tickets, you’ll have the option of booking at any location and not worrying about having the proper entry ticket, however you may not want to waste time traveling from one place to the other. For example, if you’re planning on spending the whole day at Magic Kingdom, you may not want to leave the park to eat at another park. EPCOT is only a monorail ride away, and you may choose to consider that, or one of the local resorts, but know you will have to leave the Park you are currently in. This is the first decision you may need to make. Some families prefer to make a conscious choose to leave the parks around lunch time, or the hottest time of the day, and eat and/or swim at a resort. Others don’t want to waste the time leaving and re-entering a Park. There are a lot of resources to help you choose the best days to visit each park. Touring Plans uses algorithms to fairly accurately predict the busiest days in the park. You may consider consulting a site like this before thinking about specific restaurants.
Next, look through some of the available options for restaurants and make a list of ones you might like to try. I know it seems ridiculous to try and figure out what you’ll want to eat in six months (I rarely know what I want for dinner tonight), but you’ll be happy you did when it’s time for your vacation. Think of it as something to look forward to! Decide also if you want to try for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner reservations.
Remember that the Resorts/Hotels and Disney Springs also have some amazing restaurants. Don’t limit yourself to just the ones inside the parks. Decide if you are interested in Character Dining as well. Those tend to be a little more popular so you’ll definitely want an ADR. If you’re using the Dining Plans, please also make sure that the restaurant you choose accepts dining plans. Most do, but not all (especially in Disney Springs). Make a list and maybe a few back up choices for your days in WDW. If you’ll be staying on property and have a longer trip, put those popular ones (like Be Our Guest, Chef Mickey’s, or Cinderella’s Royal Table) towards the end of your trip as you’ll have less “competition” to get those reservations using the 180 +10 days rule.
I’ve got my list, what do I do next?
There are two ways to book your ADRs. The first way is using the My Disney Experience website directly from Disney. If you’re choosing this route, make sure that your Resort reservations are linked to your account a few days in advance. The online booking window opens a full hour earlier than the phone lines. Online booking begins at 6AM ET. Online booking is very convenient, but there can be difficulties. You’ll need to do a new search for every reservation, and mistakes can happen if you forget to change the date you’re trying to reserve. Luckily these are usually easily fixed, but can waste some time. Most people prefer to do their reservations this way.
However, if you’re having difficulties or just prefer the “old fashioned way” you can call Disney at 7AM ET at 407.WDW.DINE and talk to a real life person. After going through the automated system, they’ll link you with someone who will access your account and can handle your reservations. The benefit here is they can see all the open time slots at once and can move pretty quickly through your options. Also, they are always so friendly and wish you a “magical day”! They will link your reservations and give you confirmation numbers so you can then look at, modify or cancel your reservations through the website.
Please note there was a recent change to their policy regarding “split stays”. A split stay is where you change hotels/resorts midway through your vacation. In the past, the phone operators could override the fact that this is counted as two separate reservations. This was great if you wanted a more popular reservation towards the end of your stay, but it was counted as a later “start” day for your vacation due to the reservation window. You could still book your 10 days, even if 4 days in you had a new hotel. That is no longer the case. The rule was changed in 2015. Now if you have a split stay you will have to book your ADRs in two separate blocks.
With a little advanced planning, your trip to Disney will be well organized, less stressful and you’ll get to sample some of the most delicious foods the parks have to offer! See our other posts about Restaurant Recommendations and Character Dining!