Booking Advance Dining Reservations for popular restaurants at Walt Disney World is not easy. This ADR guide will help, with our best tips & tricks for scoring spots at the most difficult WDW dining options. Fair warning: this can be one of the most frustrating parts of planning your vacation, as the toughest ADRs book up over 60 days out. (Updated December 29, 2023.)
For Walt Disney World first-timers, it might come as a surprise that making Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) is such a challenge. After all, there are literally hundreds of table service restaurants that are bookable two months ahead of time at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, and the two dozen-plus resorts at Walt Disney World.
On top of that, knowledge is a big barrier to entry. Many travelers 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. Then there are the Walt Disney World diehards like us who know precisely how it’s done, but do not know where they want to eat so far ahead of time. (The ADR window used to be 180 days–I don’t even know where I want to eat tomorrow, nevermind 6 months from now!) Nevertheless, ADR availability tends to fill up fast for the most in-demand restaurants.
We’ve been documenting the challenges with making Advance Dining Reservations for years, as this has always been a hot topic among Walt Disney World fans. Last year’s What’s Up With ADR Availability? explained the dynamic, which has morphed over time and become a matter of staffing shortages and reduced capacity as a result (among other things).
However, this is hardly new. There have been controversies around booking, hoarding, and trading ADRs as long as I can remember. (Don’t Google “Howie’s Angels” unless you want to go down a fascinating-but-weird rabbit hole!) Over the years, Walt Disney World has made a number of changes to discourage the practice, yet it still persists to this day.
Turning to the latest updates on Advance Dining Reservations, let’s start with two pieces of good news. The first is that Walt Disney World has streamlined the search feature, and it’s now much easier to find ADRs for the entire day. Not only is search simpler, but it’s smoother. In the past, we found ourselves having to toy around with our times to try to get seemingly “hidden” results to display–searching by half-hour instead of by meal service and so forth. That’s not really the case any longer–what you see is what you get. We simply search all-day and typically see all results.
That alone makes finding Advance Dining Reservations for popular restaurants much easier. Of course, nothing with Walt Disney World vacation planning is truly simple, so there’s still a good chance you’ll need tips & tricks to find those tough ADRs. But this definitely makes it a lot easier for the ‘borderline’ restaurants that are somewhat but not super popular. Regardless, we’ve found ourselves spending a lot less time searching for restaurant reservations since the debut of this improved search function!
Part of the reason we’re wasting less time searching for ADRs is because availability has improved and reservations are now less competitive than they were in 2022 during the height of pent-up demand, staffing shortages, and reduced restaurant capacity. Thankfully, ADR availability has been improving for a while.
However, the extent of options we’re seeing is pretty remarkable. Restaurants like Chef Mickey’s, Story Book Dining at Artist Point, Akershus, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Topolino’s Terrace, California Grill, Space 220, and others all have availability in 2024. Of course, this still varies by party size and seating time. If you’re trying to find a table for 6 at Story Book Dining, you’re still going to have a tough time.
ADRs becoming much easier to book likely plays a big role in Walt Disney World bringing back the Disney Dining Plan in 2024. That’s more good news for planners and fans of that pre-paid meal service, but also, will once again make Advance Dining Reservations more competitive–especially for larger parties and during peak travel dates. Even now, ADR availability is tighter than it was back in 2019–it’s just better than it was the last 2 years.
It’ll also get worse when Free Dining inevitably returns in 2024. Trust us, we’ve been down this road and it’s what always happens during Free Dining. Even when the promotion falls during a time of year when the parks aren’t particularly busy, demand for ADRs is incredibly high due to the Free Dining. Accordingly, you’ll need to make reservations early or luck-out last minute.
Fortunately, there are ways to “beat” or “outsmart” the competition, and we’ll cover the top 10 methods here to maximize your chances of scoring the exact restaurants you want at precisely the right time!
10. Search Different Days – When searching for ADR availability, you’re given a calendar and can search a variety of different dates. It’s probably pointing out the obvious, but availability is not static across the calendar. Less obvious is which days of the week tend to have better availability.
In our experience, restaurants at resorts or Disney Springs are more difficult to book on weekends–since those aren’t gated, you’re competing with locals. Conversely, we’ve found that weekends are often less competitive in the parks (except EPCOT), especially now that Saturday and Sunday are the two least-busy days. (See Best & Worst Days to Visit Every Park at Walt Disney World for more insight on that.)
This recommendation goes even beyond that, though. Don’t just search for different days all at once. Do the searching itself on different dates if you’re not having success. Some restaurants–especially third party ones–don’t load all of their reservation availability into the system right away 60+ days in advance.
It’s not uncommon to suddenly see a ton more reservation availability ~30 days, ~2 weeks, ~7 days, etc., ahead of time. This isn’t due to cancellations–it’s the restaurants releasing more reservations. (From what we’ve been told by managers, at least some restaurants do this once their server and staff scheduling is set, which makes complete sense.)
9. Use the Refresh Method – This is less useful with the new search function, but one strategy worth trying if you’re not having success finding availability is to toggle back and forth between a meal service and all-day in order to refresh the ADR availability. This is particularly useful on ADR drop days, when reservations are being loaded into the system or scooped up and released by other guests.
This is actually how we’ve scored competitive Candlelight Processional dining packages. I just bounce back and forth between times, until eventually getting what we want at Biergarten. It’s also great for last minute availability, either on the night before or morning of your desired dining reservations.
This is less about the My Disney Experience system being bugged and more because refreshing allows you to see cancellations or reservations that are released from holds by other guests in real-time. On both the ADR drop days and last-minute, there’s a lot of reservation constantly entering and exiting the system. So persistence pays off!
8. Change Your Party Size – Since reopening, Walt Disney World has hidden availability for smaller or odd-numbered parties as part of its never ending quest for yield management and revenue maximization. The theory behind this is that a party of 1 only utilizes half the capacity of a table for 2, and is statistically likely spend less. Given the ongoing imbalance between capacity and demand, Disney would thus rather turn those parties of 1 away. Same idea applies for a party of 3, although we’ve seen this less in practice.
The solution to this for odd-numbered parties is to search for your party size, and the size of the table to which you’ll be assigned. Meaning that a party of 3 should search for 4, a party of 5 should search for 6, and so on. During the mobile check-in process (or sometimes before), you can modify the reservation downward to reflect your actual party size. Just be sure to only search for +1 your actual number–going any higher (or lower) is a recipe for problems.
7. Use A Notification Service – There are several ADR finder services, some of which are free and some of which are paid. These dining reservation finders notify you when an ADR you want becomes available. It’s then up to you to act fast and get it reserved.
We previously recommended a free service for this, but it got shut down when the new search function rolled out. An additional wrinkle to those changes was that they required logging into a My Disney Experience account to see reservation availability. Some ADR finders still work, but it’s our understanding that Walt Disney World is working to shut down all of them.
With that in mind, our strong recommendation would be to not pay for a reservation finder far ahead of your trip or for a year-long subscription. Basically, don’t spend anything you wouldn’t be upset about losing if the service goes belly-up overnight. (Personally, I’m not fond of ADR finders as they strike me as unfair, but it would be a dereliction of duty to not at least mention their existence.)
6. Multiple Devices, Computer Priority – Before your ADR window opens, my strong advice is to login to disneyworld.com on your computer and the My Disney Experience app. Sure, this all goes down at the crack of dawn, so there might be the strong temptation to do this all while lying in bed. But there are few better ways to cut your teeth on the Walt Disney World planning machine than by setting up a veritable command center, ready for every contingency.
If you’re really serious, go into private browsing, login, and open a new tab for every single restaurant you want. From there, start making your ADRs in highest priority order. If something goes wrong–and let’s be real, this is Disney IT, so something probably will–switch over to the My Disney Experience app or a different device and keep rolling.
5. Stay On-Site – Anyone can book ADRs for Walt Disney World table service restaurants up to 60 days in advance. However, on-site guests can make ADRs for the duration of their trip (up to 10 days) starting 60 days prior to their resort check-in date.
This is what’s commonly referred to as the “60+10 rule” among Walt Disney World fans. It’s called that rather than the “70 rule” because it isn’t necessarily 70 days. If your trip is 5 days, you’ll be able to book for the duration of it at the 60 day mark (so in your case, 60+5), but you wouldn’t be able to book 5 days beyond your checkout date. In other words, it’s more accurately the “60 plus up-to-10 rule” but that name isn’t quite as catchy or succinct.
In any case, the 60+10 rule makes it easier to make all of your ADRs all at once rather than day-by-day. More importantly, the head start can be hugely advantageous in booking the most difficult-to-score Advance Dining Reservations, such as Chef Mickey’s, Story Book Dining at Artist Point or Akershus, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Space 220, Topolino’s Terrace (breakfast), California Grill, and others. By the time the 60 day mark rolls around, many of those will already be gone!
4. Book “Backwards” – This works in tandem with the length of stay Advance Dining Reservation perk. If you make your ADRs in chronological order (meaning day 1, 2, 3, etc.), it’s possible you’ll miss out on the toughest reservations if you want something with really low capacity or you’re visiting during peak season dates.
As such, the best approach is to make your ADRs in order of difficulty, and to the greatest extent possible, backfill your vacation with those hardest-to-book Advance Dining Reservations. For example, if I were doing a weeklong trip and wanted to dine at Story Book Dining at Artist Point, Space 220 Restaurant, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Turf Club Bar & Grill, and Skipper Canteen, I’d do Artist Point first for day 7, Space 220 second on day 6, Be Our Guest next on day 5, and the last two whenever.
This is not a hard and fast rule, so don’t build your itinerary or trip plans with Advance Dining Reservation difficulty at the heart of your plans. If it works out to be more convenient to do Story Book Dining on night 5 instead of 7, you’re probably fine. Just don’t expect to get it on the first night. (This only applies to those staying on-site, since off-site guests must reserve day by day.)
3. Look Early – It wasn’t too long ago (a little over a decade!) that the only way to make ADRs was by telephoning Walt Disney World bright and early at 7 am, hoping you had just the right call cadence to get through to an operator. From there, it was a rush to get through your list as quickly as possible, hoping you scored seasoned, speedy Call Center Cast Member. While that’s still an option, it’s a terrible one. No one reading this internet-based weblog should be doing that.
Instead, use the Walt Disney World website or My Disney Experience app. Officially, here are Advance Dining Reservation drop times according to Walt Disney World:
Reservation availability for select Walt Disney World restaurants typically begins each day at approximately 5:45 AM (Eastern).
Please be aware that if you cancel a restaurant reservation, your previously scheduled reservation time will immediately be made available to another Guest.
All newly introduced dining events—such as special dining experiences and dessert parties—can typically be booked beginning at 7:00 AM on the day their offers become available.
Unofficially, I’ve gotta give those times a bit of side-eye. While it’s possible that some normal ADRs will be preloaded into the system at or before 5:45 am, you’re far more likely to have success most days at 6 am. Conversely, if you wait until 7 am for a newly-introduced dining option…you will miss out! Instead, you’ll want to be online by 5 am for new releases–and sometimes even that is too late. (Other times, it’s far too early–ADR release days are very hit or miss!)
2. Look Last Minute – I’ll be honest with you: it is exceedingly rare for us to follow any of our own advice here. The big exception is newly-introduced dining, which we almost always reserve. Beyond that, I’ll book (or sometimes just browse) at the 60+10 window when we’re eligible for that. Otherwise, we usually do not make ADRs over a month in advance.
Fortunately, many restaurants are not dropping all of their ADR availability ~60 days ahead of time. This is happening in part due to staffing–restaurants release a conservative number of reservations two months out, and then open up more as the dates draw nearer if Cast Member scheduling allows.
On top of that, many Walt Disney World visitors hoard ADRs, and cancel their unwanted ones the night before or even a couple of hours prior to their meals to avoid being penalized. (Some of these people likely are not hoarders, but have their plans change–this happens to us all the time.) Walt Disney World’s newly-relaxed ADR cancellation policy has made this more of a challenge, but it still works.
The most common times that we check for Advance Dining Reservations are between 9 pm and 11 pm the night before, as well as around 10 am and 2 pm same-day. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen nothing for many restaurants ~30 days in advance, only to find numerous options for lunch and dinner released the morning of or one day in advance. This is my manual version of an ADR finder!
1. Walk-Up Waitlist – This is perhaps the only Walt Disney World planning site that is vehemently anti-spreadsheet and cautions against over-preparing. We feel strongly about that as fans of Walt Disney World and enjoyers of fun. There’s also the practical reality that everything about planning for Walt Disney World is overly stressful and complicated. Sometimes, it’s refreshing to just wing it and go with the flow. (See our Being Spontaneous at Walt Disney World for a longer diatribe, including the importance of ‘planned spontaneity.’)
We’re also at least somewhat anti-ADR, or at least bemoan the practice of planning where you want to eat months in advance. That’s why one of the biggest improvements of the last several years is the addition of the Walk-Up Waitlist in My Disney Experience. This is one of the few technology initiatives in the last several years that reduces stress rather than adds to it. We regularly see options like Be Our Guest Restaurant, Le Cellier, Garden Grill, Topolino’s Terrace, ‘Ohana, and other hard-to-book Advance Dining Reservations.
This has only increased since Walt Disney World relaxed its cancellation policy to 2 hours. As a result of this, many more guests are cancelling last-minute, and that availability goes into the Walk-Up Waitlist rather than back into the reservation pool (since it’s not far enough in advance).
One thing to note here is that the restaurants have to do all of this manually, and sometimes can’t keep up with no-shows, cancellations, and modifications. As such, if there’s a restaurant that’s really important, consider actually walking up to the podium and seeing if there’s walk-up availability. Not as convenient as the app and your chances of success are low, but it can be worth a shot. We’ve had luck with this from time to time!
BONUS: Use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner – If you’re overwhelmed by all of this–or even if you understand it all but find it daunting–consider outsourcing your ADR-making. One of several great things about using an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner–the term for a travel agent specializing in Disney who is an ‘accredited’ graduate of the company’s college of knowledge–is that many of them will make ADRs for you and assist with itineraries.
If you want to take advantage of this service, we’d recommend requesting a FREE no obligation quote from an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. (Note that you’ll need them to book your entire vacation, not just ADRs.) They will happy to assist you with the planning process, help you choose the most economical dates, best add-ons, and so forth. Notably, they also monitor reservations and can retroactively apply new discounts if a better deal is released to save you more money.
BONUS: Alternative ADRs – In my experience, Walt Disney World’s popular table service restaurants aren’t always best. To the contrary, many of the most coveted Advance Dining Reservations are a product of hype and FOMO, coast on their legacy, or have non-culinary appeal, like characters or location. Some are thus able to “get away with” serving uninspired cuisine, as they’ll book up regardless. Ask any longtime Walt Disney World fan and they can name at least a couple of restaurants that they believe fall into this category.
For easier alternatives, see our a List of Underrated Restaurants & Hidden Dining Gems at Walt Disney World. Every single one of these serves up great food despite being easier ADRs. Despite their comparative “unpopularity,” you’re more likely to have a great meal at these restaurants. Honestly, that list just scratches the surface. Ask any Walt Disney World fan about their favorite under-the-radar restaurants. While they might swear you to secrecy for fear of these sleeper picks being popular, most will share their favorites. (Hey, it’s better than the alternative–closing completely, the dreaded menu overhaul, or character dining experience transformation!)
Honestly, this last ‘bonus’ pick is my favorite recommendation of anything on this list, and the big reason why Advance Dining Reservation planning has been one of this blog’s blind spots over the years. We should probably fix that, and this post is a small step in doing exactly that. After all, it’s easy for us as longtime fans to say “don’t worry too much about ADRs!” We’ve dined at almost every single Walt Disney World restaurant, most numerous times.
If it’s your first visit to Walt Disney World, you’re an infrequent visitor, or planning a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, you understandably have a greater sense of urgency. You also want to hit the highlights, do the popular dining, and form your own opinions about what’s under or overrated.
In fairness, many of the most popular ADRs are fantastic–there are no better character dining experiences than Topolino’s Terrace for breakfast or Story Book Dining at Artist Point for dinner. To that end, hopefully this list helps you make the most of your ADR drop day, and you’re able to score every hard-to-book reservation that’s on your wishlist!
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? Think staffing shortages explain most of what’s happening with fluctuations and limitations in Advance Dining Reservations? 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!