Why Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations Are More Important than Ever (and How to Make an ADR)

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With capacity restrictions in place across Walt Disney World theme parks, making Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) is more important than ever. Even as capacity restrictions are lifted, the importance of ADRs at Disney is likely to grow as more people visit the parks to take advantage of the year-and-a-half long 50th anniversary celebration. Here is what you need to know to make your Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations and why you should.

If you’re just getting started, you might want to check out this complete primer on Walt Disney World dining. It’s a great overview on Disney dining to help you understand all of the nuances and intricacies.

Understanding Disney World Restaurants

When starting your Walt Disney World vacation planning, you’ll notice there are two types of restaurants on Disney World property: the quick and ubiquitous counter service restaurant and a staggering array of themed table-service venues.

Quick service restaurants are akin to fast food in the non-Disney culture of modern life. Menu options are fairly limited at each location, and you can expect to stand in line, order your food, and then take it to a table yourself to enjoy your meal. The advent of mobile ordering has made this process simpler, particularly when eating at popular mealtimes, by allowing you to order via the My Disney Experience app.

However, for a true decadent pleasure, you’ll want to sup at one of Disney’s table service locations where well-trained wait staff is on hand to provide for your dining pleasure. Disney’s table service restaurants cover a variety of themes, from the Beast’s castle to a 1950’s family kitchen. You may even have the opportunity to dine with some of Disney’s most beloved characters.

As you can imagine, this crème de la crème of the Disney dining tier is quite popular, and it has become nearly impossible to simply walk up and get a table. This has been particularly true with capacity limits in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even as capacity limits begin to lift, we anticipate that demand will remain high for these themed dining experiences, particularly as guests begin to return to the park to experience the 50th anniversary celebration. In fact, if you want to enjoy a meal at one of Disney’s table-service restaurants in 2022, you really should plan ahead and book a Disney Advanced Dining Reservation, or ADR for short.

Disney Advanced Dining Reservation, Not Really a Reservation

Interior of Skipper Canteen restaurant at Magic Kingdom, a restaurant you may be able to visit without a Disney Advanced dining reservation.
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When booking Disney Advanced Dining Reservations, you should be advised that it’s really not a reservation at all. You aren’t booking a set table for a certain number of people at a designated time. Instead, with an ADR at Disney, you’re booking a spot in line to be eligible for the next open table fitting the number of people in your party.

Let’s explain this in a little more detail. When booking your ADR, either online or by phone, you’ll reserve a time slot based on the number of people in your party. You’ll be asked to arrive 10 to fifteen minutes prior to your reservation.

When you get to the restaurant, you’ll check in at a kiosk and a happy Disney cast member will look up your information and mark you present. From that point onward, you’re in line for a table fitting your party size. You may even be told that you’ll receive the next available table, but keep in mind, that anyone with a Disney Advanced Dining Reservation who checked in prior to you actually has first dibs on that next opening.

Let’s say that you have an ADR for 4 at Tusker House scheduled for 6:30 pm.  Like an obedient Disney guest, you arrive at 6:15 and check in. Since your reservation isn’t until 6:30, it’s unlikely that you will be seated right away as anyone with a 6:15, 6:20 or even 6:25 who is waiting for a table could be seated before you.

However, if you’re thinking about skipping the early arrival since you’ll likely have to wait anyway, here’s a word of advice: don’t. Arriving later will only push you farther down in the queue, meaning that all of those hungry diners who have reservations scheduled after yours, but arrived before you, will also get seated before you.

So, What’s the Advantage of a Disney Advanced Dining Reservation?

If it isn’t a reservation and you still have to wait for a table, you may be wondering why you’d want to go through the hassle of booking an ADR. The answer is pretty simple.

With a Disney Advanced Dining Reservation, you will get seated. It’s like a contract between you and Disney promising you a spot in the restaurant that day.

If you walk up to the kiosk without a reservation, depending on the time of day, the restaurant, and the crowd levels during your visit, you may not get in at all. This is often the case with the new Space 220 restaurant in EPCOT.

You will also have a much shorter wait with a Disney Advanced Dining Reservation. It’s hard to comprehend the magic behind it, but if your wish for a table is granted on a walk-up basis, you’re somehow worked into the queue of waiting diners with reservations. In our experience, this means you’re placed in an open ADR slot.

During a recent trip, we had a 5:30 pm reservation at Skipper Canteen, but certain members of our party were getting very hungry and cranky at 3:30 pm. Thinking it was too close to dinner for a snack, we decided to see if the restaurant could accommodate us early.

Despite a number of empty tables, they could not, but after tapping around on the computer keyboard for several seconds, our cast member was magically able to seat us at 3:50 pm instead. Since we were already at the restaurant, we opted to check in and take a seat. We were taken to our table five minutes later.

How and When to Make Disney Advanced Dining Reservations

There are a few different ways to go about booking dining reservations. The first is to plan ahead and decide where you want to eat and when.

Disney Advanced Dining Reservations can now be made starting 180 days before the start of your Disney World trip for most restaurants, according to Disney’s website. The easiest way to keep track of this date is through your My Disney Experience account which provides a nice little countdown to the number of days before you can book.

Reservations can be made through the Disney website. Look under “things to do” in the top navigation and then under dining in the drop down menu. You may also book by phone and have a lovely cast member assist you.

If you’re the plan-ahead type because you know exactly where you want to eat and when, it’s advisable that you’re ready on the Advanced Dining page of the Disney website, or ready to phone in, the moment the reservation window opens on the day you are eligible to book. Reservations for popular restaurants and times do go fast, so book the most popular restaurants first.

If you’re particular about the time you eat, you may want to book the more popular restaurants toward the end of your trip. Keep in mind that the beginning of your booking window is the end of someone else’s, so others will have been there before you taking up available slots in the booking process. Likewise, the end of your booking window is going to be less crowded as no one with a trip date starting after yours will be able to book yet.

ADR Disney Screenshot Biergarten.
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If you’re booking by phone, the cast member will do all of the work for you, but if you’re a do-it-yourselfer like us, you should find the website or My Disney Experience app easy to navigate. Simply click on the restaurant you want to book. From the booking page, type in your desired date, time and party size. A list of results close to your requested time will come up.

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If no times are available, try clicking on the little down arrow next to the time and selecting breakfast, lunch or dinner instead. After doing this, the reservation system will search for openings within that time frame and return a list of all available times.

Screenshot of  Disney advanced dining reservation on computer.
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If your planning isn’t quite as regimented as ours or you like a surprise, there is a simpler way to book. From the Disney Advanced Dining reservation webpage, you can also search a list of available reservations.

Simply enter the date, time and party size in the top bar and click search time. You’ll receive a list of restaurants matching your search. You can then use the category filters to narrow in on different parameters such as the restaurant location, type of cuisine, price, guest rating.

Once you’ve booked an ADR at Disney, you will receive an email confirmation.

Email confirmation of a Disney World Advanced Dining reservation
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Since the system can book restaurants across Disney property, including resort hotels and Disney Springs, this is a quick and easy way to find restaurants with ADR openings, particularly if you are searching the same day you want to book.

How to Book an ADR at Disney Through the My Disney Experience App

The My Disney Experience app is one of the most essential tools for your Disney World vacation, so if you haven’t done so yet, you’ll want to download it well before your trip and familiarize yourself with the available options. One way to do this, is to book your Disney ADR through the app.

To do so, click the plus mark at the bottom of the screen. You will be taken to a new menu. Select “Check Dining Availability.”

screenshot for making ADRs at Disney through the My Disney Experience app.

On the next screen, enter your party size. Once you do so, a calendar should appear on the screen. Select the date for which you wish to make the ADR. You may swipe left or right to select different months.

You will then be asked to select a time or meal, such as lunch or dinner. Once you do, a list of restaurants that have availability during that timeframe will appear.

Booking a Disney ADR through the My Disney Experieance app, screenshot showing list of available restaurants.

Select the restaurant where you want to eat and follow the prompts to finish the advance dining reservation process. It’s that simple to make an ADR through the app.

What to Do When You Arrive for Your Disney ADR

When you arrive for your Disney World ADR, there are two ways to check in. The first is to simply walk up to the podium at the front of the restaurant and let the cast member know that you are checking in for your ADR.

They will likely take your name or scan your MagicBand if you have one. This will allow them to access your Disney ADR via computer and verify the details.

At this point, the cast member will do one of two things. Prior to COVID, you would be handed a notification device that buzzes and lights up when your table is ready.

If the cast member takes this approach today, be sure to stay within close proximity. The alert device has a limited range, and you want to be able to receive your alert when your table is ready. Alternatively, the cast member may tell you that they will text you when the table is available.

The second way to check in for your advanced dining reservation is less traditional and uses some of Disney’s technology magic. A number of restaurants support mobile check-in through your smartphone. If you are able to use this feature, you will receive a push notification providing you with a link for checking in.

If you don’t receive a push notification, but mobile check in is available, you should find a sign with a QR code somewhere near the cast member greeting station. Simply open your camera, point it at the QR code, and you should be taken to a webpage where you can complete the check in process.

Regardless of how you use mobile check in, you will be texted when your table is ready.


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What if I Need to Cancel a Disney Dining Reservation (ADR)?

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You’re on vacation and plans change. When they do, no one wants to be held to an ADR at Disney’s Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom when the entire party has decided to spend the day at EPCOT.

It’s simple to cancel an Advanced Dining Reservation via the My Disney Experience app. You can also go online or call 407- WDW-DINE to have a cast member assist you.

Keep in mind that each restaurant has its own cancellation policy. Most, however, require that you cancel 24-hours in advance.

When you book, be certain to note the cancellation restrictions associated with your ADR, as Disney will charge you a fee if no one from your party shows up to honor the commitment. However, not every member of your party needs to make the reservation to avoid the no-show fee. As long as someone is there to claim your space in line, you should not be charged.

We Had Our Heart Set on Eating at a Particular Restaurant, but There Are No ADRS? What Can I Do?

Inside the Beast's dining room, a restuarant that needs  ADRs at Disney.
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It’s extremely disappointing to plan on experiencing a certain table restaurant only to find that you can’t get an ADR during your trip. If that happens, don’t give up hope. Periodic checks of the reservation system could net you an opening.

As the dates of your vacation draw nearer, openings become more likely. Often people change their plans and cancel reservations, particularly within the two-week window leading up to your departure.

Likewise, people frequently cancel reservations while onsite, so keep checking even after you arrive. A popular cancellation time is early in the morning and late at night, as people cancel to avoid any charges.

Some Things to Keep in Mind When Making ADRs at Disney World

As with anything related to Disney World vacation planning, there are a few particulars to keep in mind. First, if you plan to make an ADR at a restaurant within a Disney World theme park or other location that requires ticketed entry, you will need to hold a valid ticket for the day on which you make your ADR. You will not be allowed into the park with an ADR alone.

We made this mistake once ourselves. I bought a ticket with fewer days on it, for my daughter because I knew she would be leaving too early on the last day to enjoy any time in the parks. I also did not expect anyone to visit the parks on our arrival day as we got in late.

However, thanks to later park hours on that particular date, a few of the kids decided to go to the parks after arriving that night. That meant when we arrived for our dining reservation on what was her last day at Disney World, she was denied entry when she scanned her Magic Band. It was all easily remedied right there and then by purchasing an extra day on her ticket, but if this isn’t in the budget, be sure to align your reservations with days you hold tickets.

At present, you will also need to hold a valid park reservation for the park where the restaurant is located. To put this practically, if you plan to make an ADR at one of the Animal Kingdom restaurants, be sure you also make a park reservation.

The only exception to this would be if you hold a park hopper ticket. Currently, guests who purchase a park hopper ticket must make a reservation for one park and attend it in the morning. After 2:00, guests are then allowed to visit another park. That means, if you plan to make a Disney World Advanced Dining Reservation at the second park of the day, you will need to be sure to schedule it well after 2:00 pm to give yourself time to travel there and be admitted.

Plan Ahead and Save Some Time

A trip to Disney World should be spent enjoying the wonders associated with a Disney vacation, and while Disney table-service restaurants offer a richly-themed experience, you’re likely to have a more enjoyable time doing something other than waiting in lengthy lines for a table to open. Booking a Disney Advanced Dining Reservation allows you secure a spot with minimal wait, making the rest of your trip that much more enjoyable.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations

What will I need to make a Disney ADR?

the dates you would like to book, including backups, as well as times. If you simply say breakfast, lunch or dinner, you’ll have a much wider availability. You will also need to provide a credit card to hold the reservation.;

When will my credit card be charged for my ADR?

While a credit card is required to book a Disney World Advanced Dining Reservation, it most cases it will not be charged. The only caveats to this rule are when you fail to show up for an ADR without canceling. In this case, you will receive a $10 per person charge. You may also be charged up front for certain signature dining experiences.

What happens if I don’t show up for an ADR?

If you fail to arrive for an ADR at Disney without canceling, you may be charged a $10 per person fee.

What if a member of my party decides not to eat with us once we arrive at Disney World? Do I need to rebook or cancel the reservation?

As long as some members of your party do checkin for your Disney World Advanced Dining Reservation, you will not be charged a no-show fee.

Who can make a Disney Advanced Dining reservation?

If the restaurant is located within a Disney World theme park or other venue requiring ticketed entry, anyone with a valid theme park ticket and a park reservation for the day can make a Disney ADR. You do not need to be staying at a Disney World resort hotel to make advanced dining reservations.


More Disney World Dining Information


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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughter, Ali.
Mother daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S.

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother-daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S. We're sharing our experiences, tips and insights to help you more easily get out and explore the beautiful landscapes and places of this nation.

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