Disney World is Lying To You About Dining Reservations

If planning for Disney World dining is stressing you out, you’re not alone.

Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom

There are a lot of puzzle pieces to put in place to get the dining reservations you want at the time you want, and it may feel overwhelming and confusing — we’ve been there! However, when it comes to booking dining reservations, we’ve found that not everything works the way we believe it will. So, here are a few things you may want to know before booking.

When You Can Book Reservations

Although we know that you can begin scheduling dining reservations 60 days before your Disney World visit, there’s no official word on when exactly reservations populate online. That means even if you mark your calendar 60 days out from your stay, depending on when you hop online to schedule those advance dining reservations, some restaurants might already be fully booked during your visit.

‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Disney’s website states that reservations open “each day at approximately 5:45 AM [Eastern Time],” but that’s not always the case in our experience. You might want to add a reminder to keep checking for reservations as often as you can, because they could still populate at another time. If you never check, you’d never know!

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Restaurant Availability

Even though a Disney World restaurant can show no reservations available, there might actually be walk-up or waitlist availability. There are generally two main ways to check on this. First, you can join some restaurant waitlists through the My Disney Experience app, but you do typically need to already be within a certain distance from the restaurant to join the list.

Mobile Dine Walk-Up Waitlist

The other way to check is by visiting the restaurant in person. There have been times we’ve seen “waitlist full” on My Disney Experience, only to visit the restaurant and still be able to join the list. You never know, so what’s the worst that can happen by asking?

Here’s everything you need to know about walk-up waitlists in Disney World.

Modify versus Cancel

When you make a dining reservation, you can then choose to either cancel your reservation altogether or modify it to find a different time. Sometimes you’re better off modifying your reservation rather than canceling because you might be able to select times you wouldn’t otherwise see if you were making the reservation for the first time.,

Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom

However, keep in mind that you never really know for sure what times others are seeing, and there might not be an advantage at all to modifying. If you’re more comfortable canceling, it may be a better plan for you.

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Unlimited Dining Reservations

Disney World guests can generally schedule as many dining reservations as they want (as long as they don’t have time conflicts), which means that some people make reservations at multiple popular restaurants before making a decision about which reservations to keep. This leads to many Disney restaurants showing no reservations, even though the guests with the extra reservations are likely going to cancel later.

Cinderella’s Royal Table

We’re not mind readers (unfortunately) so it’s difficult to predict which reservations might open later — but this is why last-minute reservations can pop up. Guests can generally cancel up to 24 hours before a reservation so it’s not uncommon to find reservations open suddenly for the following day. That’s why it’s so important to check for reservations as often as you can — don’t give up!

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Last-Minute Cancellations

Disney’s dining cancellation policy generally stipulates that diners can cancel up to 24 hours before a dining reservation or your card will be charged $10 per person. But you might be able to get a last-minute cancellation if absolutely necessary.

Space 220 in EPCOT

Your mileage may vary, but if you need to cancel within 24 hours of your reservation, you might be able to find a phone number listed in the My Disney Experience app. The phone number should be attached to your reservation, and it usually pops up if you try to cancel within 24 hours.

Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

You never know what Cast Members will actually be able to do, but if you have an emergency (like getting sick, or your car is broken down, etc.) it’s a good idea to call and see what they can do. There are no promises or guarantees, but it never hurts to ask. The worst that can happen is that you get charged that $10 anyway – oh, well.

Le Cellier Server
Le Cellier

Keep in mind that some restaurants or dining experiences have special cancellation terms or specify “the day before,” so you might want to review your restaurant’s policy before it’s too late.

The BEST and WORST restaurants in EPCOT’s World Showcase.

Next time you’re tearing your hair out over dining reservations, keep these tips in mind, and keep checking for more reservations! Stay tuned to AllEars for more Disney dining tips!

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9 Replies to “Disney World is Lying To You About Dining Reservations”

  1. If you’re under 24 hours and need to cancel, and all you’re getting is the phone number, just modify it instead. Modify it to another date/time, then immediately turn around and cancel it. Worked on our most recent trip via the app (we had about 2-3 reservations that we decided not to go to due to tired or save money).

  2. I live within a couple of hours of WDW but I’ll never go back until the dining reservation system gets fixed. The only way it get fixed is to charge the credit card for every reservation and then deduct it from the restaurant bill to keep people from hoarding reservations. This is the only way the vast majority of guests will ever be able to get into venues like Space 220. I have tried every day since it opened and have never, not once, seen an opening.

  3. You can make some reservations through Open Table such as Terralina Crafted Italian, Wine Bar George, Paddlefish, STK, Shula’s, and Il Mulino.

  4. The major advice here is to keep checking? That’s it? Of course more may open up later. People cancel or modify.

  5. I haven’t had any problems at the restaurants. It never hurts to ask. People cancel a lot. I love all of the restaurants in EPCOT’s world showcase. If one cannot accommodate me, I go to another.

  6. When I called and booked my vacation I was told that I can book all reservations for my entire vacations restaurants from day one when if the last day was outside the 60day window. This being because of staying on site.

    1. That is correct, Jonathan. That is why during peak times, all the ressies may show as unavailable at the 60 day mark because there were enough customers checking in a few days before you that got first dibs on everything. People used to play the system by booking a 14 day visit, grabbing dining ressies 60 days from the date of first checking in, then modifying the room to stay only the last 7 days of the original booking. This gave them a 7 day jump on everyone who was playing the game fair. Thankfully Disney finally changed the policy to state that if you cancel any room days, you also cancel all the dining ressies tied to the original booking. We’ve found that walking up at opening time often gets us in for evening dining at places like Chef Mickey’s and others.

  7. Don’t forget many Disney Springs restaurants are independent. While they appear with limited reservations in Disney’s online system they may also be part of OpenTable and have many many more openings in that app or even by calling them direct.

  8. No kidding! AP here. My Disney Experience is the worse.It will show almost no dining options. We just go right up as a walk in and get seated.