Visiting a Disney theme park, to me, is about much more than just the rides and entertainment. I think the best part is the food! There are so many unique must-get eats at the Disney parks from snacks, to full blown meals at sit down restaurants. And those who have been to Disney previously, or have heard about it from their friends, know that there are certain restaurant reservations that are so popular that they can be very difficult to book. But if you can’t get what you want right away, don’t worry! There are still ways to get those hard Disney dining reservations at ‘Ohana, Cinderella’s Royal Table, or anything you please.
Either by continual searching, using online tools to aid your search, or knowing exactly when to search in order to have the best odds, it is entirely possible to find some of those coveted and rare to find Disney dining reservations.
After over 10 years of Disney planning experience, these are my best tips and tricks for scoring one of those hard-to-get Disney dining reservations. Keep reading for everything you need to know in order to have the best chances of finding exactly what you’re looking for.
1. Keep Searching, and Don’t Give Up
My motto of “keep searching, and don’t give up” really applies to anything that you can book or make a reservation for at Disney parks. But especially so in regards to Disney dining reservations. Basically, if you don’t find what you’re looking for when you first search, KEEP LOOKING! Something WILL come up.
The continual search for coveted reservations is one of my favorite parts of planning a Disney trip. It is something I do every trip I plan, and I usually check the My Disney Experience App at least twice a day for new openings. Sometimes even more than twice a day. And let me tell you, virtually every time I check, something new is available. In the past ten years of Disney trip planning, I have seen everything from Cinderella’s Royal Table, to ‘Ohana, to Beaches and Cream, and more.
The trick is to not give up. Most of the time you check for availability, you won’t find that special reservation. But you might find something else. Or, if you’re dedicated, and you keep searching, I bet that you probably will find what you want eventually.
Pay Extra Attention To Checking For Hard Disney Dining Reservations Shortly Before Your Trip Start Date
This tip is not widely known yet among the casual Disney planner. Due to the nature of having to plan Disney dining 180 days in advance of travel, MANY visitors will double book dining reservations as a way to have more options available to them later on when they actually decide what they want to do. Therefore, when these people actually make their decisions, they will cancel their extra dining reservations.
Typically, there are three time frames to look out for when searching for these cancelled reservations.
- Around 60 Days Prior To Your Vacation Start Date
- This is when people staying onsite at a Disney hotel can book their FastPass reservations. People will start to drop reservations once they know their FastPass plans, so keep an eye out around this time.
- Around 30 Days Prior To Your Vacation Start Date
- This is when offsite guests can book FastPasses, and just like with onsite guests, many people will start cancelling their double dining reservations.
- About 2 Weeks, up to 1 Day, Prior To Your Vacation Start Date
- This is the BEST time to search for dining reservations. I can not tell you the number of times I see super rare dining reservations open for things like ‘Ohana, Chef Mickey, etc. about a week out.
Keep in mind that when you’re searching for these dropped reservations, you need to act FAST when you see them available. If you see something you think you might want at all, book it immediately, and then think about it. If you decide you don’t want it after all, just cancel it again for someone else to get.
2. Use The Touring Plans FREE Reservation Finder
Touring Plans is one of my favorite Disney planning resources, hands down. Their tools are unlike anything else you will find on the internet. In regards to Disney dining, you HAVE to check out their FREE reservation finder. Simply create an account at the link provided, and you can then set up a reservation alert!
The reservations alerts will continually search for you for the reservations you are looking for. You are allowed to have the system search for two reservations at a time. You can specify if you’d like the reservation at a certain time, or on a certain day as well. When the reservation finder does find an opening that you’re looking for, you will get an email and a text message with a link to the reservation booking page.
I have personally used this free service for several Disney trips and it has helped me find countless “difficult” dining reservations that I might not have found otherwise. For the best outcomes, I recommend using the Touring Plans reservation finder in conjunction with searching on your own in order to double your chances of finding what you want.
3. Keep Looking For Those Hard Disney Dining Reservations While At Disney, Try as a Walk-Up Or Eat at The Bar
If you’ve followed both of the suggestions above but still couldn’t find what you were looking for, don’t give up yet! I say keep looking while you’re on your trip as well. I have heard from several past clients that they have found hard-to-get reservations for the next day (or even same day) while on their trip. So keep checking all the time, it is even more likely for someone to drop something the day before if they don’t think they’ll make it, so that they’re not charged the no-show fee by Disney.
Otherwise, you can also try to eat at the location you’re looking for as a walk-up or at the bar (if they have one). Granted, things like Cinderella’s Royal Table might not be possible as a walk-up (and they definitely don’t have a bar) but there are other restaurants that this will work for. Outside of the Magic Kingdom, the vast majority of Disney dining locations do have a bar that is seating first-come, first-served – and children are allowed to eat in the bar with you. So while eating as a walk-up or at the bar might be a last case scenario, it is not something to ignore.