Enhancements to Advance Dining Reservations Rolling Out at Disney World & Disneyland

Disney has officially announced the start of enhancements and updates to the Advance Dining Reservations systems at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, which are seemingly small changes that could end up having big-picture impacts. Here we’ll share the old & new policies and offer commentary about whether these updates are good or bad, and the potential impact on ADR availability.

Let’s start with the official announcement. Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort continue to roll out enhancements to simplify planning and make the guest experience more convenient, so guests can spend more time enjoying their visit with loved ones.

In the coming days, we will update how Guests book dining reservations to make it easier to discover and book reservations on the Disneyland website and Disneyland app, as well as on the Walt Disney World website and My Disney Experience app.

These ADR updates include:

  • Visibility of All Available Reservation Slots: Guests will see all reservation slots available to them for their selected dining location and timeframe on the Disneyland website/Disneyland app and on the Walt Disney World website/My Disney Experience app. Currently, only a few available reservation slots that fit the Guest’s selected timeframe are shown.
  • Reservation Slots Sorted by Meal Period: Reservation availability will be sorted by meal period so Guests can view which menu is being served during the time of their reservation. For example, it will be clearer to Guests whether the lunch or dinner menu is being served at 4 p.m.

These updates will roll out in phases across the Walt Disney World and Disneyland websites and iOS and Android apps for each coast.

Above are screenshots of the current vs. new Advance Dining Reservations systems for the My Disney Experience app.

As you can see on the left, searching for “lunch” yields three times for each restaurant chosen by The Algorithm™️. It doesn’t matter how many times are actually available, you get three results.

In our experience, The Algorithm™️ displays the least desirable times. If we had zero experience with Disney IT, we’d say this is a clever move to redistribute demand throughout the day at less busy times. But we do have experience with Disney IT, so we’re guessing it’s accidental or coincidental.

Same deal with the screenshot above, except for the Disneyland app.

You’ll notice that the new side displays all available time slots, and scan be scrolled left to right. For unpopular restaurants like River Belle Terrace of Splitsville, you’ll literally see spots every 15 minutes for each meal service.

Same deal on the Disneyland official website, but with a different display.

It’s difficult to discern in the screenshots, but the new system has the option to click to “show ___ more times” after the first four slots. Again, River Belle Terrace and Splitsville are extreme examples, as they typically have endless availability.

Same deal with the official Walt Disney World website.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall actually would be a good example, but naturally, it’s cut off in the screenshot above. Still, same idea–you’ll see 4 time slots with the option to reveal all of them for each meal service.

Beyond the obvious upside of being able to see all available time slots rather than ones chosen by The Algorithm™️ either at random or strategically, this should also eliminate an issue with ADR searches. Right now, if you search for 1 pm, it’s all too common to get a “sorry…no reservations available” message. Change that search to “lunch” and, boom, 3 different times display.

That’s just one of many examples of frustrating…let’s be charitable and call them “quirks”…to the ADR system. It’s why #9 on our Guide to Advance Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World is using the refresh method of toggling between times and meal services. If you tinker around with the system enough, ADR availability can sometimes magically appear out of thin air.

This is a wrinkle with which many Walt Disney World fans are familiar. But if you’re not a seasoned planner, you might search for one time, find nothing, take the results at face value, and assume nothing is available. So this will be helpful to first-timers and other people who don’t read blogs like this one. It’ll also be a light ‘quality of life’ improvement even for Walt Disney World and Disneyland diehards, as it should streamline the process, resulting in less clicking and wasted time.

It’s worth reiterating that making Advance Dining Reservations is surprisingly complicated and unintuitive for Walt Disney World first-timers. You may not recognize this or think the system is great as-is, but as a reader of a site like this, you are almost certainly a power user. As with all facets of visiting Walt Disney World, knowledge has been a big barrier to entry.

Many visitors are unaware that it’s even possible to make ADRs a couple of months prior to their trips, or the ins and outs of booking reservations. These first-timers or casual guests are at a distinct disadvantage as compared to power users who book far in advance and find loopholes for securing multiple simultaneous reservations.

For its part, Walt Disney World has done a lot to even the playing field and make it easier for casual guests to dine at table service restaurants. When the parks reopened, Disney shortened the ADR window from 180 days to the current 60 days. While some fans bemoan this, it has been a positive change for most average visitors. It’s difficult to make firm plans at Walt Disney World that far ahead of time given all of the moving parts of the vacation destination. (Not to mention that few people know where they want to eat 60 days beforehand!) These changes are another step in the right direction for first-timers.

In isolation, these are incremental improvements to the ADR process that probably don’t deserve a ton of fanfare. With that said, it’s our understanding that these are the first of multiple phases of planned improvements to the Advance Dining Reservations systems on both coasts aimed at making the process easier for average guests. If all goes as planned, other upcoming updates should address pesky problems about which readers complained in response to changes in the ADR modification and cancellation policies that rolled out late last year.

(On a not-unrelated note, Walt Disney World recently made different backend changes that took down third party apps and services that interface with Genie. Some of those are already back up…for now. We’ve been asked about these and would caution against purchasing anything far in advance of your trip. Perhaps these services will be around for years to come with the workaround–or maybe Disney intended to send a message subtly, and will follow-up more directly with cease & desists for those businesses that didn’t take the hint. It would not be the first time.)

Ultimately, we’re pleased with the announced enhancements and looking forward to seeing what else changes (or doesn’t!) with the Advance Dining Reservation systems at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. While we are big fans of last year’s updates to the modification and cancellation policies, we have to concede that that did have unintended consequences–even if it was a net benefit for most guests.

Previously, we said “so long as tables are not going unfilled as a result of this policy change (and, again, they won’t!), it’s a zero-sum game. If you’ve complained about Disney requiring too much pre-planning or being too stressful, this is them listening to you.” Well, as it turns out, we were wrong.

It’s our understanding that tables actually have gone unfilled as a result of the changes, meaning that it has not been a zero-sum game at some restaurants. Walt Disney World’s backend systems are a bit of a patchwork, and podiums aren’t always updated with last-minute cancellations with sufficient time to offer Walk-Up Waitlist availability.

You might’ve noticed in that our recent Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant Review discussed how Walt Disney World has gotten “aggressive” with ADRs at many restaurants to avoid tables going empty, which can result in longer wait times to be seated. That’s not a totally new phenomenon, but it’s gotten worse in the last few months and is seemingly an informal solution. To make a long story short, we’d expect more changes to the ADR system that fix this and other issues. We’ll keep you posted!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


What do you think about these enhancements to the ADR systems at Walt Disney World and Disneyland? Any other procedure or policy changes on your ‘wish list’ for Advance Dining Reservations? Is this a good, bad, or neutral news from your perspective? If you’ve visited or booked ADRs for Walt Disney World in the last few months, what has been your experience? Have you had success at the last-minute (0-3 days in advance)? Had challenges at the 60 day mark? Notice any differences in the dynamic as compared to pre-closure? Agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

29 Responses to “Enhancements to Advance Dining Reservations Rolling Out at Disney World & Disneyland”
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