When to start planning WDW dining reservations

When to start planning WDW dining reservations

OK Disney veterans and newbies, let’s talk. I’m happily planning WDW dining reservations for a trip later this year. I know, it’s months away. But I’m one of those people who thinks the planning is almost as fun as being there.

Sometimes you need to plan your WDW dining early, 180 days early, to be exact. If you’re traveling to WDW during crowded park times or trying to score a reservation at one of the most popular restaurants, then planning WDW dining ahead is necessary. I’ve got the top dining tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites for you.

Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
Spencer and me at the Magic Kingdom. Baby Tate is technically there too since I was 6 months along here.

What you need to know when planning WDW dining reservations

  • WDW restaurants start accepting reservations at around midnight EST, 180 days before the reservation date. Crazily enough, that can be crucial to getting into their most popular restaurants (see list below). If you have a reservation at a Disney resort, you can get up to a 10 day edge on that. So, that can be up to 190 days early.
  • Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, and summer vacation seasons have higher crowd levels…so, dining reservations fill up faster.
  • Free Dining weeks cause reservations to fill up faster too. Every one wants to make the most of those Free Dining Plans.
  • Disney now requires a credit card to place a reservation. No shows will be charged $10 per person on the reservation. Make sure to cancel ahead of time to avoid the penalty.
  • Only one person from your group needs to show up for your reservation to avoid the penalty.
  • Disney will try to work with all Food allergies and special request(ex. gluten-free or kosher). Note the allergies or requests on the reservation and then remind them when you arrive. The server, or sometimes the chef, will make sure they understand your needs.
  • You don’t have to order a full meal. It’s perfectly fine to just enjoy apps and drinks, maybe a dessert at your favorite WDW table service. You can even share an entree. With 2 little boys, sharing entrees and apps is how we roll.
  • Can’t get the reservation you want:
    • Keep trying, people cancel all the time. Some people book 4 or 5 reservations for the same night while trying to decide what they want to do. They eventually let those go as their plans firm up.
    • Try the earliest and latest times for that meal, they tend to be the last to go.
    • Try booking the day before and day of for a reservation. Cancellations go up from people trying to avoid the no show fees.
    • Walk up and ask for availability. You never know, it’s worked for me many times.
    • Split large parties. The reservation system might be able to take 2 parties of 4 when it can’t take 1 party of 8. It’s not guaranteed, but you can always ask to be sat together or next to each other while dining.
Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
Don’t forget to pin me.

Hardest to get WDW Dining Reservations, March 2017

  • California Grill in the Contemporary Resort
  • ‘Ohana in the Polynesian Resort
  • Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort
  • Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom
  • Victoria and Albert’s in the Grand Floridian Resort
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Ft. Wilderness Resort
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ at Ft. Wilderness Resort
  • Spirit of Aloha Luau at the Polynesian Resort
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom
  • Tiffins at Animal Kingdom

I’m totally an undercover Disney nerd. I say undercover only because I don’t wear any Disney gear. Well, I do have Star Wars Tees that get lots of action. Maybe I’m a not-so-undercover Disney nerd. Once upon a time (see what I did there), I lived in Orlando and spent most of my free time at the parks. When your daily routine includes stopping by EPCOT after work for a 5-mile walk and dinner, the meal count adds up quick. I’ve tried a lot of great food at WDW But they are always updating menus and opening new restaurants. The Disney Food Blog is my favorite way to keep up with all of the tasty food at WDW. And Disney podcasts are my jam. Both are a great resource for planning WDW Dining Reservations!

My top 10 WDW Dining spots (table and counter service), right now

Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge, table service

  • I’ve had breakfast and dinner at this buffet at least a dozen times and I still love it. Great food selection at both meals. I love the African flavors and the Zebra Domes, of course. Bonus, kids like the food too! The restaurant is absolutely beautiful and you can hang out by the indoor or outdoor firepits while waiting for your table. Also, AK Lodge has a viewing area for their savannah animals that is worth the trip, even without a meal.

    Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    The legendary Zebra Domes. Photo Credit: Disney Food Blog

Ample Hills Creamery at Disney’s Boardwalk behind EPCOT, quick service

  • New opening since my last trip, but I keep hearing rave reviews.

    Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog

Donald’s Dining Safari at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, character meal, table service

  • I’ve enjoyed this character breakfast 3 times. You get to see Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, and Donald, and the food is so much better than Chef Mickey’s!

    Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    Mickey stopping by to catch up.

Geyser Point Bar and Grill at Wilderness Lodge, NEW, outdoor bar with bar food and a quick service window

  • I’m hearing only good things about this new spot. Plus, the view from this outdoor dining location is amazing.

    Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    Geyser Point Bar & Grill – Photo credit: Disney Food Blog

Patisserie Boulangerie Les Halles in the France Pavillion at EPCOT, quick service

  • It’s all about the French Pastries for me. Though the sandwiches are quite good too. We literally had to fight my 2-year old for bites of the chocolate mousse on our last trip. My tip: Buy a bunch of pastries and share so you can try more.

    Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    Macaron with Raspberry and Lime Cream or Macarons Collection from Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie at Epcot, Photo Credit: Disney Parks Blog

Columbia Harbor House at Magic Kingdom, quick service

  • My favorite quick service at the Magic Kingdom. The sandwiches are great (not the typical burger and chicken strips) and the kids mac ‘n cheese is really very good.

    Seafood Macaroni and Cheese - Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    Seafood Macaroni and Cheese, Photo Credit: Disney Food Blog

Ohana Family Style Dinner at the Polynesian Resort

  • Oddly enough, I’ve never tried this place. But I’ve finally decided it’s time after hearing about how great it is for years now.

    'Ohana Bread Pudding - Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    ‘Ohana Bread Pudding, Photo Credit: Disney Food Blog

Satu’li Canteen opening soon at the Animal Kingdom, quick service

  • Pictures of some of the new menu items have been released and I’m totally impressed. Plus, the theming looks amazing. We will be stopping here.
    Pandora Concept Art ©Disney - Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    Pandora Concept Art ©Disney

    ©Disney - Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    Vegetable Steamed Curry Pods. Our first peek at Alien Food. 😉 ©Disney

Skipper Canteen at the Magic Kingdom, table service

  • I haven’t had a chance to try this restaurant yet, but I’m looking forward to a little Jungle Cruise-style humor and checking out the decor.

    Char Siu Pork - Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    Char Siu Pork, Photo Credit: Disney Food Blog

Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Resort, table service

  • The stuffed French toast is as amazing as everyone says it is!

    Planning WDW Dining Reservations - Tips, hardest to get reservations, and my current favorites
    Tonga Toast at Kona Cafe

My favorite Disney Podcasts (I listen on iTunes)

My favorite resources for planning WDW dining


How about another trip? Read about our family trip to the Magnolia Silos in Waco. And find out why I recommend it for families and girl’s weekends. I can’t wait to go back.

What to do on your visit to Magnolia Silos - Courtyard


So, what do you think? Which WDW restaurants or foods are your favorite? I’d love to get your comments below or post pictures of your favorites at Abbotts At Home on FB, I’d love to see them!

9 thoughts on “When to start planning WDW dining reservations

  1. Pinning this for my daughter – she is planning a trip to Disney next summer!

  2. Lots of great suggestions here. I haven’t been to Disney World in forever. I can definitely see going with the kids and making a week out of it, it looks like there is so much to see and do, not to mention eat. Pinning!

  3. We try to make sure we try new restaurants each trip but we’ve found so many family favorites over the years it’s hard to squeeze them all in!

  4. Thanks for all your WDW dining tips! Crazy, but I had never been to WDW. Living in Phoenix I grew up going to Disneyland in CA all the time because it is closer. We just went again last October and had a great time! I hope to someday make it to Disney World. Thanks for sharing at the Friday at the Fire Station link-up!

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