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How to Deal With… You Didn’t Get the Dining Reservation You Wanted at Disney World

Disney dining is a huge part of the Disney experience for many people. It is definitely easy to understand why since the food and experiences are so amazing and unlike anything that you can experience anywhere else in the world. This means that many of the locations are extremely popular and hard to snag reservations too. Your best chance for success is always to make reservations as soon as the 180-day booking window opens so that you don’t have to worry about. Sometimes that isn’t always feasible or doesn’t work out as expected, so there are other things that you can do. Here are some ways to help if you didn’t get the dining reservation(s) that you wanted:

Editor’s Note: During the phased reopening of Walt Disney World in 2020, there is a 60-day booking window with reduced capacity. Not all restaurants have reopened. Click here for a complete list of restaurants available during the phased reopening.





 

8 – Look for less popular dining times.

If the issue that you didn’t get the exact time that you wanted, then definitely consider eating at non-popular times. It is typically much easier to find reservations during these times as everyone else is also attempting to get the “perfect” mealtime. It may take a little getting used to, but you will be having so much fun, and the meals will be so delicious that you won’t care what time you are dining.

7 – Upgrade to club level.

This could be a long shot and will hit you in the pocketbook, but it just might work. When you stay club level, your stay includes access to the Itinerary Planning Office. This group will make all of your dining reservations for you and help make your stay absolutely perfect. These cast members know who to call and help get guests into a restaurant even if the online reservations are all gone. The office has told me that they can’t do anything to help get into Cinderella’s Royal Table or Be Our Guest restaurants once reservations are gone online due to their consistent popularity, but they can help with most other restaurants. If the dining locations are significant to you, this is an option that may help you get in but get prepared to pay since club level isn’t cheap and comes with many other benefits. This level of stay is also only available at deluxe resorts.

6 – Call the restaurants directly.

This likely won’t work as well for Disney-owned restaurants, but still worth a shot if you can find the phone number. For restaurants that are not Disney-owned, they usually hold back some of their reservation inventory from the Disney system. So it is definitely worth the call, even the day of to get a reservation, and you’ll likely meet success. These restaurants include TREX, Rainforest Café, Yak & Yeti, Splitsville, etc. We have had a lot of success in snagging these reservations and even during normal, popular dining times.





 

5 – Research and consider other options.

There are over 100 table-service dining locations on property, so there are so many options. At any time, even during peak/holiday times, you can still find reservations for at least a couple of the dining locations. While it is early and you still have time before your trip, research many of the other options and consider trying others. All of the restaurants are amazing and offer something unique, so you may find something even better than what you originally wanted. So you didn’t get Cinderella’s Royal Table, but if your interest is princesses, then you could snag Akershus Royal Banquet Hall or 1900 Park Fare, which will also have princesses at the character meals. That is just one example, but you get the idea. You can usually find a great back-up option for your first choice. Read our 12 dining alternative options for more help!

4 – Book what you can now, and cancel later.

So you have looked into the back-up options, but maybe you are on the fence about making reservations. Do it! You don’t want to come down to your vacation and miss out on these options. You can always cancel these reservations later, especially if your desired location(s) opens up, but it is better to have an excellent back-up option rather than nothing at all. You don’t have to worry about any ramifications for canceling dining reservations. As long as you cancel the reservation within 24 hours prior to the time/day of the reservation, then you will have no issues. If you get within that window, then there is a $10 per guest charge for a no-show if you fail to cancel and also don’t show for the reservation. Disney is also great about sending reminders for reservations, and you can link all of the reservations in your My Disney Experience account, so this makes this very low risk that you will have any issues or lose track of the reservations.

3 – Keep checking regularly.

Even if you have booked back-up reservations, don’t stop checking for your first choice. People are constantly changing plans, vacations are getting canceled or changing, preferences change, etc. It is very safe to say that the restaurant inventory for any given day has regular changes, so persistence could likely end up with you getting precisely what you want. Just check periodically as often as you can and keep your fingers crossed!

2 – Stalk for openings the week and days leading up to your trip.

So you leave for your trip in a few days, or maybe you are even currently on your trip, and all hope is lost, right? Absolutely not! Because of the $10 per guest no-show policy that we have mentioned, there are many people that drop their reservations at the last minute. The couple of days or even the day before you are looking for a particular reservation can become a very great time to snag it, especially some of the most popular restaurants. Don’t give up and keep trying, you may get a delightful surprise in what comes available!

1 – Ask at the restaurant.

If all else fails, go ahead and go to the restaurant and try to get in! I would go as soon as the service (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) opens so that you are first in line and can snag any available spots. They also may be able to work you in if they hold back any reservations for walk-ins, especially at resort locations. Many of the restaurants are starting to send texts when your tables are ready, so even if you have a long wait, you may be able to go ahead and enjoy attractions while you wait, as long as you keep an eye on your phone. Various restaurants have told me that the plan is to roll out the texting system to all restaurants in the coming months, but for now, you won’t know until you get to the restaurant. It is definitely worth a shot!

Editor’s Note: During the phased reopening of Walt Disney World in 2020, walk-up service is not available. You must have a dining reservation to dine at a table service restaurant. 



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About Christy Caby

Hi! I’m Christy, and I am a wife and mother of 2 young boys (ages 5 and 2). I first fell in love with Disney when my mom took me when I was a child. After that I proceeded to go to WDW for my senior trip with my friends, and I completed a year in the Disney College Program (working in merchandise at Mickey’s of Hollywood at Disney’s Hollywood Studios). I shared my love of Disney with my now husband and sucked him in. He proposed at Disney, we honeymooned at Disney, we started bringing our boys before they were born and then as early as 8 weeks old. We then continued to vacation to Walt Disney World 2-3 times per year. We decided that what makes more sense than just moving to Orlando so that we could live the Disney life and be here for all of our favorite events and seasons every year. That is exactly what we did! Now we are at the parks a couple times a week and go for most events and major holidays. We can’t get enough and get to experience Disney in a whole different way. I love to share this love and passion for all things Disney with the world and hope that I can help others appreciate the magic that Walt Disney World has to offer!