Advance Dining Reservations - The Solution?

by Steve Russo, staff writer
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Like it or not, making Advance Dining Reservations (ADR) for a Walt Disney World trip has become part of the planning process. Just as we do with booking flights, reserving Disney's Magical Express, making resort reservations, and securing park passes, we also must concern ourselves with making dining reservations—often 180 days before we set foot on Disney property.

I've long railed against this process as unnatural. Other than dental appointments, what else do we reserve six months in advance? I've now reached the age when I've stopped buying green bananas… but I'm supposed to know not only where I'll be in six months but what I'll want to eat? In the words of a few ESPN talking heads: "C'mon, man!"

However, what those of us who vacation at Walt Disney World know all too well is, without the ADR, you have little chance of dining in the more popular restaurants—or at least dining on your choice of day and time. Was it always this way? Certainly not. I can recall a time, way back in the last century, when making same-day dining reservations was the norm. There were kiosks set up in the front of Epcot, if I remember correctly they were where Guest Relations is today, and shortly after arriving, you'd interact electronically with a cast member and make your dining reservations. This interaction occurred via a two-way audio/video monitor so there was a certain coolness factor to it. Remember, this was in the 1990s before applications like Skype and FaceTime made this sort of thing commonplace.

So what happened? How did we get from same-day reservations and (dare I say it?) being seated in a restaurant as a "walk-up," to determining that "six months from today I'll be in Epcot and will desire French cuisine." The answer, in my opinion, is three words: Disney's Dining Plan.

You can argue that Disney has offered Dining Plans forever, but realistically, they never found wide acceptance until the 2000s. After raising the marketing of these Plans to new heights, Disney also began to bolster attendance during historically slower periods by offering a Dining Plan free of charge. Wait… what? Disney offered something free? I could go on about there being no such thing as a "free lunch" (or dinner… or snack…). These "free" Dining Plan promotions have always had a few caveats such as staying in non-discounted rooms, purchasing park passes for all members of your party, etc. I think I could successfully argue that the Disney Dining Plans are not a good deal financially for most people, but it's hard to argue against "free dining."

More and more people signed up for the Plans, and even today, many wait anxiously each year for the Free Dining announcement before booking their trips. So… what does all this have to do with the need for Advance Dining Reservations?

When the Dining Plans became ubiquitous, the "standard" plan offered included one counter service meal, one table service meal and one snack for each person in your party every day. The folks who had the Plan, via purchase or the "Free Dining" promotion, certainly wanted to take advantage of it—and who could blame them? Booking reservations early offered a way to guarantee they'd be able to dine at their choice of table service establishments. They could book 'Ohana for Monday, the Liberty Tree Tavern for Tuesday, Boma for Wednesday, and so on.

But then… the more popular restaurants started to fill to capacity. That, in turn, spawned the need to make reservations earlier and earlier and many people decided they really didn't know where they'd be that far in advance. Would we want to be in Epcot on a Wednesday night six months from now? Or maybe Hollywood Studios? The solution came when someone discovered it's possible to make two Advance Dining Reservations for the same time on the same day… at two different restaurants. Now I'm not saying everyone on the Dining Plan does this but I've seen the online forums discussing the practice to know that it was (and still is) widespread. Did I write "discussing" the practice? Many forums condone it and actually shared tips on how best to get it done. Heck, if I can make two reservations for the same night, why not three? Or four? Then I won't have to decide where to eat until that night.

What that meant for folks like you and me is that the chance of dining at 'Ohana was slim unless we secured an ADR months in advance. A new segment of the planning process, making ADRs, was born… much to my chagrin.

Some time ago, Disney expanded its website to allow guests to make their dining reservations online. In theory, if one is playing by the rules, Disney could prevent guests from the dreaded multiple bookings for the same time window. Unfortunately, it was a little too easy to find ways around that—multiple online IDs for example.

A little over a year ago, in another apparent effort to address this issue, Disney started requiring a credit card for reservations at its more popular, signature restaurants. If you were a no-show, and the reservation wasn't canceled 24 hours in advance, your credit card would be hit with a charge. Did it work? To some degree it did. However, like most enforcement systems, it can be beaten. I won't go into the "how to" scenarios here—let's allow the offenders to find their own way.

At any rate, I'd suggest we've seen a slight improvement in availability of Walt Disney World restaurants but nothing significant.

Similar restrictions are inherent in the new My Disney Experience website and app. If one uses the system as intended to take advantage of its features and benefits, double booking dining windows would be prevented. However, there's nothing to force people to use the system—although they could be missing out on some great new items.

On October 8, I was perusing the latest Walt Disney World Update from Stephanie Wien (available on MousePlanet every Tuesday—yes, I am a company man) when I caught this little update:

Dining policy changes coming this month

Starting on Thursday, October 31, all table service restaurant dining reservations will require a credit card to guarantee the reservation. In addition, any reservation that is not cancelled before 11:59 p.m. the night before the reservation date will be assessed a $10 fee at all restaurants in the parks and resorts.

Locations that already require pre-payment, such as the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, will continue with their existing policies. The new policy may help to alleviate the problem of people making multiple reservations on the same night, and perhaps make it easier to get table service dining reservations than it has been recently. A special cancellation line has been set up to avoid any issues with navigating the regular dining line. Read more details, and discuss these changes on our MousePad forum. Thanks to reader Cheshire Figment for alerting us to this change.


Will the changes make it easier to get breakfast with Mickey? Photo by Steve Russo.

Now all table service restaurants will require a credit card and Disney will impose a fee on no-shows. Will this work to alleviate the problem of people making multiple reservations on the same night, and perhaps make it easier to get table service dining reservations? My guess? Somewhat. In other words, I think it will help, but not completely resolve the problem.

People who are intent on scamming the system will always find a way around the rules. Multiple IDs and multiple credit cards might be used to eliminate the chance of Disney (easily) catching on to double bookings. Some might even consider the $10 charge to be an acceptable expense for that flexibility. For those that do cancel reservations the previous day, they might be freeing up availability for same-day reservations and/or walk-ups so there is a ray of hope.

Unfortunately, at least for me, last day cancellations aren't much help. I long ago gave up trying to be seated as a walk-up. Oh, I might still try if I happen to be in the right place. What I'm saying is I'm not willing to waste my time taking Disney transportation to the Polynesian Resort just to see if 'Ohana has had any cancellations. It's just not a productive use of my time.

I've defined a progressive situation here. It began with Disney introducing programs to help them fill empty tables in their restaurants. No one can fault that premise. Every restaurant in the world strives for full occupancy. Empty tables represent wasted space and lost revenue. However, it is my belief that these programs have spawned an unfortunate side effect—and it's there that I have my complaint.

Please understand that most of what I've written here is conjecture and opinion. I have no firsthand knowledge of the level of multiple bookings and rely solely upon anecdotal evidence. To the best of my knowledge, Disney has not publicly stated precisely how the ADR system works nor if they have empirical data to support my claim of people making multiple reservations. I can only surmise I am correct. What other reasons could Disney have for these policy changes?

Do you agree? Has securing table service dining been an issue for you on your trips? Do you buy my premise that the Dining Plans are at fault or have at least contributed to the problem? Most importantly, will Disney's latest change eliminate or alleviate the problem? Let me know your thoughts below, and as always, thanks for reading.

Comments

  1. By MajorMickey

    I book all my dining 180 days out and have no trouble with getting a reservation. I'm not a foodie so I book the restaurant that I want to eat at not the food I want to eat. I treat them as attractions and all the food is pretty much good. And having been to Disney World so many times, have a very good idea when we like to eat so the times are easy to pick. I tried the dining plans and found the Tables in Wonderland card is a better deal. I know that is a lot of pre-planning but hey, that's Disney World today. It sure beats walking around wasting time trying to find an opening. The word's out, Disney World is the place to go!!

  2. By srusso100

    Quote Originally Posted by MajorMickey View Post
    I book all my dining 180 days out and have no trouble with getting a reservation. I'm not a foodie so I book the restaurant that I want to eat at not the food I want to eat. I treat them as attractions and all the food is pretty much good. And having been to Disney World so many times, have a very good idea when we like to eat so the times are easy to pick. I tried the dining plans and found the Tables in Wonderland card is a better deal. I know that is a lot of pre-planning but hey, that's Disney World today. It sure beats walking around wasting time trying to find an opening. The word's out, Disney World is the place to go!!

    But... how do you know where you'll be 180 days in advance? If you book an ADR for an Epcot restaurant dinner but, during your trip, realize that's the only chance to see Wishes or the MSEP? This is especially true when you're there when the MK closes early for the Halloween or Christmas parties. Do you cancel the ADR and take your chances?

    That's been the difficult thing for me. It's easy to book restaurants 6 months in advance but we will OFTEN change our itinerary the previous day - or at the last minute.

  3. By cbarry

    I have never made, nor probably will I ever make dining reservations 180 days in advance. We don't finalize our plans until much closer and I'll let the cards fall where they may. We start to formulate a plan a month or so in advance and we've always done just fine. There's always someplace to eat. You can still plan close to your travel date and have a great time and eat good meals at Walt Disney World. We do it all the time. We have missed out on a few of the most popular places. We still haven't been to Le Cellier or 'Ohana, but it gives us something to keep trying for. Someday we'll get lucky. Same with Cinderella's. The only reason we got in there was because Hurricane Charlie stranded so many travelers on their way to WDW. We were already there and word spread that there were plenty of no-shows! We swooped in and got a walk-in breakfast reservation. I'm hoping that the new policy opens up last minute opportunities like that for everyone.

    I've always said on the boards and in my articles that I'm no fan of the Dining Plan. We had it once. It was actually the first free dining plan offer made. We were on a 10-day trip. So, yes...10 days of free meals was pretty amazing as a cost saving measure. I can't deny that. However, we felt completely tied to the Dining Plan. We ate more. We wasted a lot of food. I can't tell you how many carrot cakes were in our Riverside fridge at the end of the week. We were always checking our credits and basing everything we did around our meals and we hated it. So, I'm no fan and I've never gone back. I prefer a discounted room and less food. Some of our happiest family moments were when we cancelled a reservation and stayed at the pool with a pizza, or decided to stay later in a particular park because the lines were short or we were having such a good time and didn't want to interrupt our fun. The Dining plan doesn't really work for us and our type of Disney vacationing.

    That said, I'm perfectly OK with this new policy because we always made it a point to cancel unwanted reservations no matter what. We always feel that we may be giving another family a chance to dine if we cancel. I do think that a lot of people make these multiple reservations and then DON'T cancel anything they're not going to use. This causes problems for the restaurant staff and their ability to seat everyone and shuts out other guests. So, I think this policy is going to help ease the reservations quagmire a bit. At least I hope it does.

    I do agree with you Steve. I think the Dining Plan is the root of this evil, but I want to really blame the "few bad apples." I think that guests took advantage of the system and now Disney had to react, the same way that they turned a blind eye to the refillable cup abuse for years and now we have computer chips in our cups. If people weren't filling empty popcorn buckets with soda, this probably wouldn't have happened. I always applauded Disney for the refillable mugs. $11 or $12 for all my drinks for the week and a souvenir cup to take home was a great deal. People abused it and now it's changed. The same with the reservations. My guess...once again, just MY guess...is that they had complaints from guests and from the restaurant cast that this was a problem and there was too much abuse. So, they had to react. I hope it changes things for the better and I can finally have a cup of Cheddar Cheese Soup at Le Cellier!

  4. By MajorMickey

    Quote Originally Posted by srusso100 View Post
    But... how do you know where you'll be 180 days in advance? If you book an ADR for an Epcot restaurant dinner but, during your trip, realize that's the only chance to see Wishes or the MSEP? This is especially true when you're there when the MK closes early for the Halloween or Christmas parties. Do you cancel the ADR and take your chances?

    That's been the difficult thing for me. It's easy to book restaurants 6 months in advance but we will OFTEN change our itinerary the previous day - or at the last minute.

    I know what you mean, and sadly I have found that planning a successful Disney World trip has become an art form of sorts. But with all the info from this great site and others on the web, figuring out details is possible. It's a bummer taking out the spontaneity of a trip, but at the cost of an unsuccessful trip, I'll stick to a schedule. Example: this years trip I had to factor in the Halloween party, the Food and Wine Festival, an Epcot tour, the Festival of the Masters, and the Christmas Party on top of the staples like the MSEP and Fantasmic. It can be done and I fear the future is looking more crowded and daunting. But when it comes to Disney World, it's worth it!!

  5. By srusso100

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    I have never made, nor probably will I ever make dining reservations 180 days in advance. We don't finalize our plans until much closer and I'll let the cards fall where they may. We start to formulate a plan a month or so in advance and we've always done just fine. There's always someplace to eat. You can still plan close to your travel date and have a great time and eat good meals at Walt Disney World. We do it all the time. We have missed out on a few of the most popular places. We still haven't been to Le Cellier or 'Ohana, but it gives us something to keep trying for. Someday we'll get lucky. Same with Cinderella's. The only reason we got in there was because Hurricane Charlie stranded so many travelers on their way to WDW. We were already there and word spread that there were plenty of no-shows! We swooped in and got a walk-in breakfast reservation. I'm hoping that the new policy opens up last minute opportunities like that for everyone.

    I've always said on the boards and in my articles that I'm no fan of the Dining Plan. We had it once. It was actually the first free dining plan offer made. We were on a 10-day trip. So, yes...10 days of free meals was pretty amazing as a cost saving measure. I can't deny that. However, we felt completely tied to the Dining Plan. We ate more. We wasted a lot of food. I can't tell you how many carrot cakes were in our Riverside fridge at the end of the week. We were always checking our credits and basing everything we did around our meals and we hated it. So, I'm no fan and I've never gone back. I prefer a discounted room and less food. Some of our happiest family moments were when we cancelled a reservation and stayed at the pool with a pizza, or decided to stay later in a particular park because the lines were short or we were having such a good time and didn't want to interrupt our fun. The Dining plan doesn't really work for us and our type of Disney vacationing.

    That said, I'm perfectly OK with this new policy because we always made it a point to cancel unwanted reservations no matter what. We always feel that we may be giving another family a chance to dine if we cancel. I do think that a lot of people make these multiple reservations and then DON'T cancel anything they're not going to use. This causes problems for the restaurant staff and their ability to seat everyone and shuts out other guests. So, I think this policy is going to help ease the reservations quagmire a bit. At least I hope it does.

    I do agree with you Steve. I think the Dining Plan is the root of this evil, but I want to really blame the "few bad apples." I think that guests took advantage of the system and now Disney had to react, the same way that they turned a blind eye to the refillable cup abuse for years and now we have computer chips in our cups. If people weren't filling empty popcorn buckets with soda, this probably wouldn't have happened. I always applauded Disney for the refillable mugs. $11 or $12 for all my drinks for the week and a souvenir cup to take home was a great deal. People abused it and now it's changed. The same with the reservations. My guess...once again, just MY guess...is that they had complaints from guests and from the restaurant cast that this was a problem and there was too much abuse. So, they had to react. I hope it changes things for the better and I can finally have a cup of Cheddar Cheese Soup at Le Cellier!

    Don't wish too hard. A friend just posted a photo of his Cheddar Cheese soup at Le Cellier with the caption, "$10 and it's not even half full". Sigh...

  6. By arnoldvb

    Steve, what I do is wait until the Disney calendar has been published, carefully select what seem to be the best days for each park, and then make my ADRs. So far this has worked out for us, and I've never had to cancel or change a reservation ... knock on wood!

    Wait, there was one reservation we had to cancel at Olivia's at OKW because Helena came down with a bug that required a visit to the doctor. But that's been the only time.


    Quote Originally Posted by srusso100 View Post
    But... how do you know where you'll be 180 days in advance? If you book an ADR for an Epcot restaurant dinner but, during your trip, realize that's the only chance to see Wishes or the MSEP? This is especially true when you're there when the MK closes early for the Halloween or Christmas parties. Do you cancel the ADR and take your chances?

    That's been the difficult thing for me. It's easy to book restaurants 6 months in advance but we will OFTEN change our itinerary the previous day - or at the last minute.

  7. By Jimbo996

    My problem with the DDP is there's a missing link. I don't understand why they can't make the reservations on your behalf via the DDP system. DDP users should not use the regular reservations system. The situation is similar to that of a cruise ship. Reservations must be made in advance, but it should be linked to your account. If you don't show up, there is some penalty, but the impact is not on other guests who don't have the plan. Thus, a certain amount of reservations should be allocated to DDP users and everything else is opened to regular guests and walk-ins.

    If DDP user don't show up, they lose the ability to reserve another table service reservation using the same allocation; however, since they must still eat, any casual service restaurant is permitted.

    The plans should be more flexible in that table service and casual service should be less different in food quality. I love the faster service in casual restaurants without the long wait service, but many times I prefer better tasting food. There should be some blending of preferences. Thus, Disney should probably come up with some new dining choices. How about more buffets? How about a casual service line in some restaurants?

    The WDW restaurants have changed for the worse with the reservations system. Overall quality gone down. Individual preferences went out for crowd herding.

  8. By srusso100

    Quote Originally Posted by arnoldvb View Post
    Steve, what I do is wait until the Disney calendar has been published, carefully select what seem to be the best days for each park, and then make my ADRs. So far this has worked out for us, and I've never had to cancel or change a reservation ... knock on wood!

    Wait, there was one reservation we had to cancel at Olivia's at OKW because Helena came down with a bug that required a visit to the doctor. But that's been the only time.

    Arnold,
    That's exactly what I do. Unfortunately, 180 days is (for me) to much time. We often change our minds. Lately, it also seems Disney is changing park hours fairly regularly and within just a few weeks.

  9. By Drince88

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo996 View Post
    How about more buffets?...
    The WDW restaurants have changed for the worse with the reservations system. Overall quality gone down. Individual preferences went out for crowd herding.

    NO!!! Not more buffets! I abhor buffets!

    I don't think the restaurants have changed for the worse because of reservation systems - but because of the dining plan. Because on the plan, they have to make all meals 'about' the same cost, otherwise the restaurant margin is too small if people eat too many of the 'most expensive' items and not enough of the 'least expensive' item. And on the dining plan, people gravitate towards the most expensive item, because they want to get their money's worth. I haven't looked at the latest menus - but for a while Coral Reef was sadly lacking in the seafood dishes on the menu -- I think entrees of one fin-fish and no shellfish - at a seafood restaurant?!!

    The other thing with 'free dining' vs a 'room discount' -- it makes a huge difference on your savings if you're a solo traveler of a pair, vs a full room of 4. Since I'm RARELY a full room of 4, it would be cheaper for me to get the discount and pay out of pocket for the dining plan, if that's what I really wanted.

  10. By stan4d_steph

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo996 View Post
    The WDW restaurants have changed for the worse with the reservations system. Overall quality gone down. Individual preferences went out for crowd herding.

    The reservation system hasn't driven these changes. They have been driven by the Dining Plan and the need to cut margins in order to still profit off of those using it.

  11. By danyoung

    Ah yes, I remember the days of same day booking. Way back, like in the 80's, the Spaceship Earth post-show area used to be where you'd book your dining, with the very cool (at the time) technology of being able to see your booking agent. This area moved to the left of SSE - the area is still there, with a couple of trees in front of it.

    While I also think the problem of double booking exists, there's another aspect of the DDP that you didn't mention. With the plan, there are a lot of folks who were previously happy with burgers and fries now enjoying at least one sit-down dinner a day. This has put a huge strain on restaurant capacity.

    Quote Originally Posted by arnoldvb View Post
    Steve, what I do is wait until the Disney calendar has been published, carefully select what seem to be the best days for each park, and then make my ADRs.

    This is the trick, and it works very well for me too. I don't know exactly what I want to eat 6 months out, but I just don't look at it that way. When I have my schedule set, including a nice Disney restuarant almost every night of a trip, I'll look forward to dining there, and can always find something on the menu that appeals to me. I never approach a Disney dinner from the view of what do I feel like eating. I look forward to whatever restaurant I've got booked for that evening, and almost always enjoy the choices that I have. That said, I wouldn't at all mind going back to the same day system, but I just don't see that happening.

  12. By steelmuse

    Quote Originally Posted by srusso100 View Post
    But... how do you know where you'll be 180 days in advance? If you book an ADR for an Epcot restaurant dinner but, during your trip, realize that's the only chance to see Wishes or the MSEP? This is especially true when you're there when the MK closes early for the Halloween or Christmas parties. Do you cancel the ADR and take your chances?

    That's been the difficult thing for me. It's easy to book restaurants 6 months in advance but we will OFTEN change our itinerary the previous day - or at the last minute.

    That's exactly my problem. My roommate / best friend and I just got back from a stay at WDW. We're both young adults, so there's even less of a reason for us to plan. We don't have anyone to wrangle but the two of us, so one of the pleasures of going to WDW is making elaborate plans, then completely ignoring them because one of us wants to see the Tiki Room again or Epcot is staying open extra late.

    As a result, it's really hard to find dining reservations. Because of the wonderful advice on this site, I always book ADRs. (It really is just another step to planning the trip, along with getting plane and park tickets.) I also end up canceling and rebooking due to last-minute decisions. What's unfortunate is that even though I'm conscientious about only having one reservation at a time per day, this policy is actually going to make things harder for us. I paid attention to when I'd cancel and rebook during the trip, and it was never 24 hours in advance. More like the morning of. This means there's going to be less flexibility for our trips, because I don't really want to get pinged with a fee. $10 is another drink at the pool bar, after all.

    As far as what the culprit is, I do think it's very much the dining plan. Having those table service credits means that a lot of people who probably wouldn't be able to justify a lot of pricy sit-down meals can indulge every day. Even if there is no net savings, it's a lot easier to justify spending the money when you're not in the parks, contemplating buying another $3.50 water bottle. And since more people are going to those restaurants, not only are reservations necessary, you either have to dine early or deal with a packed and noisy restaurant. (We ended up eating around 4:30 most days, because those were the only spots left, and I honestly liked it better. There were fewer people and it was a lot less overwhelming and noisy.)

    I don't think this policy will ease up the pressure to reserve early at all, but it might make walk-up reservations more than a pipe dream. (Maybe we'll finally get to eat at the Be Your Guest restaurant!) I don't think the dining plan is going away, either. What might be annoying for us, I'm sure is excellent data for Disney and the restaurants, not to mention lucrative financially.

  13. By Jimbo996

    Quote Originally Posted by stan4d_steph View Post
    The reservation system hasn't driven these changes. They have been driven by the Dining Plan and the need to cut margins in order to still profit off of those using it.

    Sorry, it is the opposite. How can it be the Dining plan and not the reservations systems especially if the Dining plan encourages customers to use the reservations system for table service and not do more casual dining. The Dining plan has shifted its responsibility.

    The prevalence of table service restaurants in the parks are the problem. Table service requires more reservations.

    Disney offers 3 choices, each with their price points. If Disney has a hard time profiting from its highest priced dining plan (and it is silly to expect patrons to not use certain food choices), then the problem is it stuffs the reservations system, which in itself cannot be managed.

    Disney needs to fix the reservations systems to better service its guests. Thus, it needs to offload the DDP patrons to its own separate system that can be managed and controlled. If the DDP gets too crowded, less plans should be offered. Strict control by letting the DDP to manage restaurant reservations should be key. If a patron want to deviate from the plan, they should be allowed that opportunity.

  14. By steelmuse

    The quality is definitely going down. As is the ambiance. I was at the Brown Derby last week and it was horrible. Noisy, crowded to the point that my anxiety made it hard to speak to my traveling companion, horrible service. This might just be in my head, but while the waiter doted on the family next to us with all the kids, he didn't even speak to us while he was serving our drinks. The food was still delicious, which is more than I can say for the Coral Reef, which I used to love (I've noticed the lack of seafood -- how is that a thing?), but I don't know if I'll be going back next time.

    It puts a crimp in our planning, but my friend and I are probably going to stick to the less popular Epcot restaurants and odd times. The best meal we had all week was at Via Napoli around 4:30, when the place was actually only about 1/3 full.

  15. By danyoung

    steelmuse, it just goes to show that like any restaurant on the planet you can have a good experience or a bad one. I just had the best meal of my trip at the Brown Derby - great food, great ambiance, and a terrific waiter. And while I've had so-so meals in the Coral Reef, I just had another great one about 2 weeks ago. I do think the quality of the WDW sitdown restaurants went down for a while there after the current DDP went into place, but I think it's made great strides in the past year or so, and is now overall pretty good.

  16. By arnoldvb

    Quote Originally Posted by srusso100 View Post
    Arnold,
    That's exactly what I do. Unfortunately, 180 days is (for me) to much time. We often change our minds. Lately, it also seems Disney is changing park hours fairly regularly and within just a few weeks.

    Steve, I guess we've been lucky so far in not having Disney change park schedules on us. We'll be checking in on Thanksgiving day for a week with Selene and family. Not the best timing, but demanded by varying school and work schedules. Of course, I'll report on what happens.

  17. By danyoung

    Every once in a while Disney will add an event or change hours to the point where I will now want to change my plans. And then it's all about what I want to do. Is it more important to get into the MK to see the fireworks that were just added, or is it more important to keep my dining plans in Epcot? As you said, it doesn't happen often. But when it does, then I just decide and go on with it. It's not like it's a life threatening situation!

  18. By cbarry

    Sometimes the less popular restaurants can be the best. We've gotten reservations at the Grand Floridian Cafe easily both times we've been there and both times it's been delicious. Once we were staying at the Polynesian, walked over and after dinner hopped the monorail over to MK, nice and easy, no brainier. Last month we took the Epcot monorail over to the MK monorail and had another excellent meal before heading into the MK for Wishes. Two for two, great experiences and never a problem getting a reservation there. This place gets overlooked.

  19. By stan4d_steph

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo996 View Post
    Sorry, it is the opposite. How can it be the Dining plan and not the reservations systems especially if the Dining plan encourages customers to use the reservations system for table service and not do more casual dining. The Dining plan has shifted its responsibility.

    Reservations existed before the large-scale use of the Dining Plan, and these problems were not prevalent then. The Dining Plan definitely is causing a lot of the shortage of ADRs though.

  20. By davidgra

    I guess dining reservations just don't bother me. Sure, I grumbled 10 years ago when we stopped being able to get same-day reservations or walk-up seating, but we now enjoy the planning of our dining.

    Of course, we're not the typical WDW visitor. DVC members and passholders, so we're never feeling the need to "maximize" a day in any particular park. We're not concerned about missing something in order to dine. We don't use dining plans and we don't eat at more than one table-service restaurant per day.

    We also don't feel that reservations have any effect on our spontaneity. If we have a lunch reservation, we'll go to that park in the morning, then, after we eat, we might head to a different park. With dinner reservations, we don't worry about which park we start the day in; we just head to the park where our reservation is in the late afternoon.

    And, yes, the quality of dining did drop noticeably after the introduction of the free dining plan, but it really seems to be turning around. We've had some EXCELLENT meals on recent trips.

    Since we have to plan our DVC usage so far in advance, it's no big deal to make dining reservations 180 days out. We make a list of places we'd like to eat, we always look for one or two places where we've never eaten before, and then we go online and set everything up. Since we always travel in the off-peak season, we can usually make changes or additions to our reservations much closer to the trip. Aside from a handful of restaurants (Be Our Guest, Le Cellier), most restaurants have plenty of available tables a month or two out, if you're willing to be a little flexible about your dining time.

  21. By danyoung

    Quote Originally Posted by davidgra View Post
    ...we're never feeling the need to "maximize" a day in any particular park. We're not concerned about missing something in order to dine. We don't use dining plans and we don't eat at more than one table-service restaurant per day....With dinner reservations, we don't worry about which park we start the day in; we just head to the park where our reservation is in the late afternoon....And, yes, the quality of dining did drop noticeably after the introduction of the free dining plan, but it really seems to be turning around. We've had some EXCELLENT meals on recent trips....we always look for one or two places where we've never eaten before, and then we go online and set everything up.

    Wow - we are identical on our observations and vacation dining habits!

  22. By srusso100

    Good comments all and I can't disagree. I will, however, offer two observations that may impact ADRs and schedules:

    1. I also get park hours early and plan using them. On our upcoming trip, I learned with 7 days to go that the hours had changed - in some cases significantly. MK was due to close at 9:00. now it's 1:00 AM (not EMH night). AK hours extended on several nights. DHS is closing early one night for a private event. You can see how these might wreak havoc with a dining schedule.

    2. We also park hop freely - hit a park in the morning, break and hit a different park in the evening is our standard M.O. The restaurant we choose to have dinner will typically dictate which evening park we will visit. As I mentioned, the wrench here is when you learn tonight may be your only chance to catch Wishes (or MSEP or...) and your ADR is in a different park.

  23. By danyoung

    And as I said, at that time you just have to decide what you want to do more - keep your existing dining rez or change plans and go to the MK, and just get dinner where you can. Yeah, it can be an adjustment, one that would be a lot easier if you could book dining on the same day. But that's not the World we have today . . .

  24. By mkelm44

    Not having done a trip in a couple years (and being a notorious off-peak traveler) I haven't had as many issues with the advance booking. That being said, I understand the problem and the fact that it has much to do with the dining plan- people who probably would have eaten at the Electric Umbrella to save money for dinner are now eating at Le Cellier. I suppose Disney doesn't mind this, since the restaurant stays full but it's harder on the traveler.

    What I think Disney should do is open it's reservations on a rolling schedule. Let's say (for ease of argument) that there is seating for 250 people at Le Cellier. 125 of those seats should be opened at 180 days, another 75 seats opened at 90 days, and the last 50 seats opened at 30 days. Also, Disney should have an app (it very well might and I'm just not aware of it) that lists all available tables open in the World. You wake up in the morning, decide you're going to Epcot and then open the app and see if there are tables available. Make the information easily accessible and let people work out what htey want to do.

    That being said, the way I've approached my trips before was to make my dining reservations first. Then I work backwards as to what I want to do that day. If I know that I have a reservation at Narcosee on Thursday at 7:30, that means I have to be at the Floridian at around 7:15, which means I need to be on a monorail or a bus in time to get me there. Before that, I don't necessarily have anything locked in- so if I'm in the kingdom, that's easy- I can walk there, or if I'm tired, hop the monorail. If I'm in Epcot, it means I need to start doing my monorail ride over at 6:30 to the TTC to transfer to the resort loop. If I'm in the studios, then I need to catch a bus at 6:30 to the Flordian. Outside of my dinner, the rest of my day is still relatively spontaneous.

    The bigger threat to spontaneous traveling is if I can book my fast trips in advance- then I'm just checking off a list- be at Space Mountain at 9:30, be at Pirates at 10:45, etc... I can live with the dining thing, but let me roam the parks in peace...

  25. By Jimbo996

    My feeling is Disney needs to integrate the MyMagic+ plan with the Dining Plan. Not only can you reserve rides and show times, you ought to reserve your dining schedule. The guest's schedule can be integrated. The model is obviously taken from the Disney cruise model where the scheduling of activities is much more strict, or not depending on preferences.

    The Dining plan needs to be separated out of the the reservations system. A restaurant should automatically allocate 50% or whatever number is better to the dining plan. The dining plan system schedules rides and dining at the same park to ensure the guests eat and play at the same location. For guests who are not on the dining plan, it is easier for them to reserve a space since a big segment was removed from the system. It should be noted that the dining plan guests who reserved via the reservations system cannot use their allocation.

    Then what happens if a Disney Dining guest cannot get their preferred restaurant? Obviously, the system will try to shift them to a less busy restaurant at the same park to fit their itinerary or attempt to get them a different day or time. The alternative solution is accommodate them at a restaurant of a similar caliber that has more available seating at a different park or resort. Of course, this opens some possibilities. Why not accomodate overflow guests at high caliber restaurants at the nearby resorts like the Comtemporary or Grand Floridian? Just a monorail ride away.

    The issue of restaurant capacity is well known. They just need to find a better way of dealing with reservations.

  26. By Drince88

    Quote Originally Posted by mkelm44 View Post
    What I think Disney should do is open it's reservations on a rolling schedule. Let's say (for ease of argument) that there is seating for 250 people at Le Cellier. 125 of those seats should be opened at 180 days, another 75 seats opened at 90 days, and the last 50 seats opened at 30 days.
    Ugg. Can you imagine you wanted to eat there, and had to call 3 or 4 different days because you were seats 130-131 the first time, then seats 78-79 the second time, etc -- And then do you book your backup at 180 days, or wait on that?

    Also, Disney should have an app (it very well might and I'm just not aware of it) that lists all available tables open in the World. You wake up in the morning, decide you're going to Epcot and then open the app and see if there are tables available. Make the information easily accessible and let people work out what htey want to do.

    There is! The My Disney Experience Application does just that. I just said 'dinner for 2 in Epcot tonight' and 5 restaurant options with 1 or 2 times, plus a couple other restaurants that it said you'd need to call to book. All for tonight. (Too bad I'm too far away to eat at La Hacienda tonight!)

  27. By colchester1

    I am just recently trying to make dinner reservations at WDW using the Dining Reservations website. It has been a challenge! I was fortunate to win a trip to WDW during the holidays in December. I wanted to eat at California Grill since it has reopened. I thought I was making an 8 pm dinner reservation on Dec. 31, and it turned out it was the New Year's Eve special event which was not explained on the website. Luckily I was able to extricate myself from that reservation. I guess I'll keep checking the website every few days in the hopes of getting in there.

  28. By danyoung

    I'm going to wager that at this late date you're not going to be successful getting a CG rez. That's the busiest time of year for Disney. And even quieter times of year, that restaurant will book up full right at 180 days out. Keep trying, though, and good luck!

  29. By relaaxedwheniamthere

    can someone explain this to me !!!! " chips in cups " at resorts to prevent what ???? someone from overdoseing on coke ??? sprite ??? compare your old resort mugs to the new ones . the mark up on beverages is high as it is . so what if I want to drink a lot of coke with a meal & then refill before I leave, cant do it in a certain time frame . dinning plan has ruined any chance for walkups & last chance say a week out for a meal at fav. dinning spot . when people realize at the end of the day Disney is all about making money LOTS OF IT . I am lucky to be able to visit Disney 4 - 5 times a year and am amazed at the $$$$ I see familes spending . and it is all due to the dinning plan .

  30. By Dave1313

    Quote Originally Posted by relaaxedwheniamthere View Post
    can someone explain this to me !!!! " chips in cups " at resorts to prevent what ???? someone from overdoseing on coke ??? sprite ??? .

    I'm no dining plan expert (but I'm following along for potential future decisions), but I'm pretty sure it's to prevent one paid cup from filling a whole family's (or more) worth of drinks. This is why there is a time gap programmed in. No one can actually drink 5 32 oz sodas by themselves in 15 minutes(example only, I have not witnessed this exact scenario, at least that I was aware of).

  31. By danyoung

    Quote Originally Posted by relaaxedwheniamthere View Post
    ...and it is all due to the dinning plan .

    I'm going to pick on you, my friend, but I've seen this incorrect spelling from many folks, and it makes me crazy. It's dining, not dinning. Dinning would rhyme with winning, and isn't a word.

    Sorry, hadta do it . . . . .

  32. By stan4d_steph

    The chips are meant to prevent someone from buying only one drink and filling it enough to supply their whole family.

  33. By relaaxedwheniamthere

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    I'm going to pick on you, my friend, but I've seen this incorrect spelling from many folks, and it makes me crazy. It's dining, not dinning. Dinning would rhyme with winning, and isn't a word.

    Sorry, hadta do it . . . . .

    that's ok dan I only graduated 6th grade

  34. By relaaxedwheniamthere

    Quote Originally Posted by stan4d_steph View Post
    The chips are meant to prevent someone from buying only one drink and filling it enough to supply their whole family.

    understand !! but in 18 years of 5 to 6 trips a year I have only seen this once . some teen with a BIG GULP CUP . I am sure all here budget for trips to our happy place ever seen Disney DECREASE THEIR PRICES ?

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