What used to be easy in 2019 and 2020 has turned into an all out adventure in fast fingers. Gone are the days of simple Disney Dining Reservation Hacks to get the Restaurants you want!
Now, If your fingers aren’t fast enough, then you won’t get the reservations you’ve been looking for on your Disney Vacation.
Thankfully there’s a few hacks and some quick tips that can help score your dream reservations. I’ve been testing these out over the last few weeks, and I’ll list the items in order of most effective to least effective.
Why are Table Service Reservations so hard to find?
Two reasons. One is that not all locations are back to full capacity. I’ve walked into locations where I grabbed a last minute reservations to find that half of the restaurant is empty (and stayed that way as their wasn’t staff to serve the guests).
The second reason is ingenuity. There are several apps/programs that send out notifications for folks to grab a reservation the second it becomes available. There are also online groups where visitors will ‘hoard’ reservations to trade or sell.
Both of these have lead to less reservations over all.
Disney Dining Tips for getting a Reservation
1.Try the Night Before you’d like to dine at the location
While not ideal, grabbing a reservation the night before has been very effective. Every 3/4 food reviews that I do for this site are from reservations grabbed the night before.
It would seem that either as soon as possible (at 60 days or 60 days+ length of stay for on site guests), or the night before are the best options for reservations.
2. The day of, by walking up or using the app
This has worked two ways for me. Either you are physically there in line the minute they open OR you have the app pulled up and are close enough to the restaurant to use the ‘walk up list’ option.
To use the walk up list option, have your My Disney Experience App updated to the latest version. Open the app and search for the restaurant. Click the restaurant and then refresh until the ‘join walk up list’ option pops up.
3. Use a Dining Notification Service
I signed up for both Touring Plans and Mousedining to see which option was better. Right now they are tied one for one (meaning, each system helped me secure one reservation). I’m going to keep testing them to see which one helps in the long run!
But they are helpful to notice patterns too… like are you getting more notifications for one location but zero for the other? It helps to adjust your expectations.
I wanted a Chef Mickey, and I was getting several options (albiet they were some weirder times) but the one I really wanted was StoryBook Dining at Artist Point, and I got ZERO alerts for the days I selected.
This told me that my chances of getting Chef Mickey, especially last minute, were very high. And that Story Book was going to be a harder reservation to score if I ever did.
4. Rainy Day Reservations
If the forecast calls for rain, especially severe rain, I’ll see several dining options pop up 2-4 days before the forecasted rainy day. Rainy Day’s are a great way to get hard to find reservations, especially Character Dining options, as most people go for pretty photos.
If you are ok with rain, use this to your advantage!
5. Booking a Resort to get hard to find reservations
Everyone, both those staying on property and those staying off property, can book at the 60 day window.
Guests staying on property can book reservations for their stay (up to 10-day stay) up to 60 days in advance of their check-in date.
This can be very useful when you work backwards by starting on your last day of vacation and then working forwards.
You can start booking at 6 am EST on the 60 day mark (or 7 if calling in).
6. Calling ahead
I haven’t called ahead for just myself yet, and Disney is actively discouraging this option. They’ve gone so far as to remove the number from their website (which I think is awful for those needing accessibility help)
But, calling ahead is a great last ditch effort *especially if you have a larger party. Disney does want parties over 8 people to call in. I called in for a party of 7 to get a reservation that I knew would be available, but I couldn’t find it on the app. I could see lots of options when I split the party into ‘2’ and ‘5’ but not ‘7’. So a quick call was able to secure a spot for 7 as they’d need to move tables together and that’s something that you can’t request in the app! The CM was also helpful to explain that some places just can’t accommodate large parties very well, but other places can.
7. Remember that not all places are Disney Owned, and might have their own reservation system
So for example, newly reopened Flying Fish on Disney’s Boardwalk, is found in both the MyDisneyExperience App and on the OpenTable reservation App.
And Yak and Yeti, in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, lists both a phone number on their site in addition to online reservation through MyDisneyExperience App.
Both of these are independently owned, and Disney has a several options inside the parks, resorts and grounds that are managed by a third party company.
A lot of what’s working *right now* is similar to things that have been working previously (like the dining hack where you are staying on property or rainy day openings).
What is surprisingly different is how effective and easy the ‘walk up’ option is in the app at *exactly* opening time. It’s also surprising to see SO many options the evening/night before that have opened up. I wonder if this is because of the reservation system or more to do with people shedding long table service (that take 1-2 hours) for shorter eats to maximize their time in the parks.