Updated March 9, 2023
Booking and scheduling for your Disney trip is in some ways, more complex than ever before. Guests find that there are many dates to track – when to book dining, when to make park passes, the best time to book the hotel, what time to purchase Genie+, and it can be confusing. One of the most important things for vacationers to plan is your dining reservations. Here’s how to snag a dining reservation for your ‘must-do location’ when the all the reservations are taken.
As a first step – always try to get a dining reservation 60 days before your trip. This is when your window opens and is the best time to get some of the popular reservations. As a reminder – if you are staying onsite, you can book for your entire trip at 60 days out. This is a great reason to stay onsite and to watch this date! But, if you missed this window or reservations weren’t available, don’t worry.
How To Get A Dining Reservation When They’re Unavailable
First of all, don’t call or chat with the internet help desk, cast members, etc. Sadly, they can’t help you any more than the MyDisneyExperience app. Instead, your most important tactic is going to be persistence. Dining reservations can become available in one of two ways: a) someone cancels a reservation for that day or b) Disney opens additional availability for that day (typically unlikely, but can happen with extended park hours).
Your best option is to check back often and refresh the page constantly in hopes of a cancellation. As stressful as it may be, this is unfortunately going to be more fruitful in the weeks/days leading up to your trip – people are much more likely to be rearranging plans and therefore cancelling existing reservations at that time.
The best way to see if a reservation becomes available is to use a website like this. This will allow you to set a notification for a reservation becoming available.
Disney Opening Additional Availability
It’s unlikely that Disney will open up availability, but it can happen. Specifically, if Disney extends park hours you may see additional reservations open up. Keep an eye on park hours and keep checking!
Refresh, Refresh, Refresh
Some other tips – if you don’t want to refresh the page over and over yourself, install a Chrome extension, such as Easy Auto Refresh, that you can set to refresh the page periodically (like, every two seconds). Set it aside in a smaller window and keep an eye on it while you work.
However, as a note – we’ve seen better success not using an automated refresher. It’s possible that this doesn’t actually re-check the system for new reservations. It can be better to refresh periodically to make sure that it’s truly re-checking the database.
Don’t use the App
Despite the glitches that we see on My Disney Experience, there’s another reason to skip the app and use the website. If you are using the app, the restaurant will not show up even as an option to book unless there is an available time. If you are using the app, to make it easier to see if a reservation DOES show up from a cancellation, use the ‘filters’ in the bottom right to set the location you will be visiting – i.e. Polynesian if you are looking for Ohana.
However, our trick is to use Safari/your mobile browser versus the app. This has more filter options and also allows you to drill down directly to the restaurant, even if there isn’t availability. As a bonus, it will also leave you logged in for a longer period of time unlike the App, which will make you set your date/time/filters each time you close it.
Use A Notification System
Arguably the best option to get dining reservations is to use a notification system, like mentioned above. This will allow you to sign up for notifications. When a reservation becomes available, this system will send you a text message or other notification. Then, you can quickly check the app. Note that many others will be competing for this same reservation at times, so it is not guaranteed that you will get it. It’s simply notifying you of the availability. This is our favorite, and a that link includes a step by step guide.
Flexibility will be your friend with dining reservations. Most people want to eat at a regular meal time – 11:00 AM – 1 PM and 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM. If you choose a time outside of those meal times, you may be much more likely to find a meal time!