Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How to get Disney Advance Dining Reservations (after 180 days)

Update: Unfortunately, like a week after I posted this.. all of these websites closed due to Disney's demands. So. This post is useless. Sorry!

So. You're planning your Disney trip and want to sort out your dining reservations. Depending on what restaurant you are trying to get a reservation for, this could be easy or hard. I hope that what I share today makes it a little easier!

How to get Disney Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) when you are less than 180 days away from your trip

Unless you are a newbie to this whole Disney thing, you probably already know that if you are staying at a Disney (owned and operated) resort, you have extra privileges and can reserve a dining reservation 180 days in advance (and make up to 10 days of ADRs the same day). Whoopdeedo, right? There is lots of advice on the interwebs on how to obtain your ADR at exactly 180 days before your trip, so I am not here to talk about that. We didn't decide or book Disney 
until mid July, which was about 120 days out. Because the ADRs become available at 180 days, most of the ones I wanted were already snatched up.

If you are less than 180 days away from your trip and the reservations you want are all booked up, 
all the Disney experts advise to 'keep checking'. The reason for this is that people cancel their reservations all the time, for whatever reason.

My travel agent (I used Small World Vacations, highly recommend, see why here) also advised me that a good time to check is 45 days out from your travel dates (because that's when people using a travel agent have to pay their balance). She 
also mentioned that there were apps that monitor dining reservations, but she had not used them so could not attest to how well they worked.

This was the first I'd heard of any apps or the like that search for dining reservation availability. I know everyone says to keep checking, but I was, and I still wasn't getting my reservations. Not the end of the world, I know, but I really wanted them. So I did some quick googling and pinteresting, and to be honest it was quite hard to find! Why aren't these more popular? Why is this a secret?! After more digging, I discovered it's not a secret at all on Disney trip forums (like disboards) but for people like me who didn't frequent those forums, it's not widely known.


Eventually, I discovered four websites:


Disney Dining Buddy
WDW Table Finder 
WDW Tools (ADR sniper)
Disney Dining Scout

For the purposes of being (hopefully!) helpful and definitely a little bit crazy, I signed up for all but one of them. I show them all in detail below, but there is a clear winner (no offense to the others).

The point to these websites / apps is that they watch the reservations so you don't have to. This is handy for those who can't sit by their computer all day or who forget to check regularly (ahem, me).


Disney Dining Buddy



Disney Dining Buddy is a whopping $8 per search. If your time is flexible, you can choose 'breakfast', 'lunch' or 'dinner' in your search. Disney has it's own meal times so be sure to check the specific restaurant to see what time they serve meals. See below for example.


As you can see below, I only did one search (because hello $$).


Disney Dining Buddy definitely works, I got a notification when my reservation became available.

WDW Table Finder


WDW Table Finder is $7 for one search, $10 for 2. $5 extra for each additional search.  

Like Disney Dining Buddy, WDW Table Finder allows you to choose 'breakfast', 'lunch' or 'dinner'. Another handy thing, that the others don't have, is that you can search a beginning and end time, so you could search more than a 2 hour period (paid option only).


There is also a free search option, but honestly, you may as well go to the Disney website to check because it doesn't stay up or refresh the search.

The paid option (using the 'notification' tab) is below:



While I did get a notification from WDW Table Finder (so it technically works), I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. I don't think it's as user friendly as the others.

WDW Tools (ADR Sniper)



WDW Tools (ADR Sniper) is the most expensive at $10 per search or unlimited searches for $21 per month.


WDW Tools is very similar to the others, you search for a restaurant and time, etc etc. Something that they have that the others do not, and is - in my opinion - very cool, is the ability to search across all the parks, resorts and downtown Disney over a specific date and time.


I think this is really great because you might be flexible with your plans, or have park hoppers and the ability to see everything that is available over a few days or a week is really neat. This tool is free though, you don't have to sign up to use it.


This is the one I didn't sign up for, because of the price. Sorry WDW Tools. I still think that above feature is super neat, and if you have a lot of reservations to search for, maybe $21 a month isn't so bad.

Disney Dining Scout


Disney Dining Scout is the clear winner in my opinion.. for one, it has a great free option (no notifications though) and the paid options are significantly cheaper for more searches. Plus, it has an app.


There are no 'breakfast', 'lunch' or 'dinner' options, you need to select a specific time (though it will search for 2 hours on either side, like all the others, like the Disney website). I chose the 'standard' option and it's not 4 searches and you are done, but 4 searches at any one time. So when I found a reservation I was looking for, I was able to delete it and add another, which to me is just brilliant. If you want to use the app, you first have to register on the website. If you do the free option, you can just keep the website open (it refreshes frequently) and keep an eye on it. It will send you an email at the end of the day, but chances of them still being available are slim.

Below is the free option. I think Disney Dining Scout has the best free option because it refreshes and keeps the search listed. You can only search for 2 reservations at a time though. No emails or texts, but it beats refreshing the Disney page. It will email you at the end of the day to tell you what became available and what you would have been notified of had you paid for the searches.


Below is the paid option (4 searches with notifications). For the sake of knowing what it would look like and what would happen, I added a search for the Biergarten restaurant (which I already had a reservation for) and it showed up as available immediately. 



I don't know if you can see, but the Biergarten Restaurant has a green smiley face whereas the others have red frowny faces. Literally within 1 minute of adding this search, I also received a text and an email. Good to know they were on top of the ball!


I 'tested' it with the Biergarten restaurant so I knew the texts and emails worked, but it wasn't until I added a search for the 50's Prime Time Cafe and was notified the next day that I knew for sure for sure it worked. I actually got a text at work, I tried to get the reservation but missed it (sobs) then I got a text as I was driving home - again, missed it. The next morning I was at work fairly early when I got another text and I jumped on the computer and snagged it. Ha!

This is what the app looks like when one of your searches finds something.

After that, there was only one reservation that I really wanted, and that was Akershus. I have Be Our Guest listed up there, but I already had a reservation, I was watching to see if a later time came up. 

Who won?

After a month (ouch) of waiting, I finally was able to snag my Akershus reservation - the one I had set up a notification for on all the websites. The first website to text me was WDW Table Finder, then Disney Dining Buddy and then finally Disney Dining Scout. It all happened within 2 minutes of each other though.

Which one do I recommend? 

Even though Disney Dining Scout was the last one to text me when all 3 found one at the same time, I had no issues getting the reservation. Because they are all set up on different search times, it is very likely that one will find a reservation and the others will not.


So, to me, the clear winner is Disney Dining Scout. Hands down. It's the cheapest option by far and allows more searches. It is easy to use, has an app and a very handy free option. Can't go wrong, in my opinion. 


Something I want to add, and I don't know if this will always work, but I had all my searches set for 2 people. I set a search up for 3 people for shits and giggles, and the next day I got a notification (this was the day before all of the above). I was able to book my reservation and then I called Disney and asked them to modify it from 3 to 2. I read on a forum that they are more likely to give a table to 3-4 people than 2, and when I got a notification for the 3 people reservation, I tried to book it for 2 and it didn't come up until I changed it to 3. Just something to think about....

Important to note!


Regardless of which site you use, when you get the alert, you need to get your butt over to the Disney site immediately otherwise it will be gone before you can say acca-scuse me. I got a text for one of them and headed over straight away, but someone snatched it up before I did. I didn't cry. Actually, I discovered that the Disney app was much faster and I was able to snag the reservations much quicker than on the computer.


Also, remember that anything two hours on either side of your request time will be matched. If you don't want a reservation after 9 PM, set your request time to 7 PM or earlier. 

Another note...

If you don't want to pay for any of these searches, you can at least check out the forums at disboards.com for your specific month, people often share what they are cancelling and you can coordinate to get it at the same time.

And if you still don't get the reservation you want, don't fret. 

If all else fails, the concierge desk at your resort and Guest Services at the parks can check for last minute cancellations and openings once you are on property. Also, just for fun, every week or so I would check for the upcoming Saturday and there would always be openings. People cancel closer to the date, because some restaurants charge a cancellation fee ($10-$25) if you simply decide not to show up. See below, these are restaurants I would randomly check the next day or two for, and there was always a reservation available. 



Please note that I had no desire to eat at the more popular restaurants (Cinderella's Royal Table or Chef Mickey's for example) so I have no idea how well these would work for the super hard to get restaurant reservations. Because Cinderella's Royal Table requires full prepayment, I think that it would be much harder to catch a cancellation, but I could be wrong. 

Please also note that I am not affiliated with any of these companies, I purchased all the searches and such myself. I just really wanted to share because I know it can be stressful trying to get those reservations, especially if you have kids that want to eat at certain restaurants (not that I do, but I may as well be a child) so I really wanted to get the word out.


Happy ADR making! 



Anyway - I know this was a super long and crazy post, and if you aren't planning a Disney vacation this is obviously useless to you and you might think I am crazier than you ever thought possible. But if you are planning a Disney vacation and having trouble with your ADRs, well I hope this helped!

Linking up with Kels for her secret blogger club (tomorrow, my bad).
The Blonder Side of Life

38 comments:

  1. Great post. I have always wondered how those apps worked. We went on our first ever Disney Trip in April and despite when we booked being after the 180 we were super lucky and got all the reservations we wanted just by my STALKING the website. However, I don't know if I will be able to do that the next time we go and these apps sound really cool. Love the Disney posts!

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  2. Yay for yummy Disney food! We've also been crazy lucky with eating "early" dinners (going up the restaurants around 4-5 and if they have any cancellations, etc. you usually will get seated or told to come back at a certain time!

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  3. Oh wow. I knew booking the hotels was difficult, but I didn't know the restaurants were the same! Too many human beings in one place. We're actually going to Disney in the spring, but my dad's planning it, so I probably won't have to do any research. Hooray for being lazy! I am, however, bookmarking this just in case anyone mentions having difficult with reservations.

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  4. My goodness, I had no idea all this went into eating at the parks! We always go to the 50s one because my mom and aunt were born then so they love the theme, and my cousin and I like some giant ass smores dessert thing they have. But I feel like we've always just walked right in?! Maybe I was just young and blissfully ignorant.

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  5. You are the best at finding deals and sharing information with readers. <3

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  6. You are like the expert! I had no idea that Disney restaurants were such a hot commodity! You could make some families very happy to read this...

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  7. I had absolutely no idea about any of this! It is, quite literally, a whole new world (groan, sorry). But then, I've only ever been to Eurodisney which I think is a much more compact situation. Even though I'm not planning a Disney trip, this definitely appeals to my inner planner and researcher. Nice work! I hope you enjoy your meals :)

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  8. Wow, you are the Disney expert! This post is so informative and helpful. Totally bookmarking it for when I plan my next trip to Disney! It's crazy how fast the reservations go. But if you don't have them it's really hard to find a place to eat at. It's all so crazy.

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  9. wowwww! this is awesome. who knew?! you have all the tricks up your sleeve! I love it!

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  10. :O Now I want to go to Disney!! These are great tips! Thanks for sharing.

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  11. You are too cute! I took Taylor to Disney about 7-8 years ago and I wish I would have known this then because we were not able to eat anywhere. Disney requires so much planning!

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  12. Awesome post gurlie! I still can't believe I haven't checked out the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Beast's castle - definitely on my must do list :)

    Green Fashionista

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  13. I wish I could save this in all of the places!!! This is amazing. I cant wait to go, Saving for that day :D

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  14. One of the things that we didn't do when we went to Disney World a couple of years ago was to eat at some of the nice sit down restaurants. I'll definitely have to look into these when we go to Disney next!

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  15. I had no idea there were so many options to making reservations at disney! You of course really did your research xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  16. Very helpful. To get one reservation, I just kept checking and I lucked out. But man could that be frustrating!

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  17. So I honestly had no idea that eating at Disney was so complicated! I haven't been to a Disney World in the States since I was a kid and I don't even remember much of it. Thanks for this advice! Whenever we finally get our Disney trip on the books, I'll start looking at places to eat!

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  18. So many details!!! Don't mind me while I pin this for when we can afford our DIsney trip!!! Hopefully it is sooner than later!

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  19. This is so interesting! Last time we went to Disney we were broke college kids, so we just ate wherever. Haha. Definitely saving this for next time, though. Can't wait to read all about your Disney trip when you go!

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  20. I didn't know about any of this and I have season passes. I guess cause I don't stay at the resort. Also Ive never eaten at Akershus but the menu looks yum! You can also download the Disney app to set up your dining reservations, show times and fast passes etc.

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  21. I'm not even planning a trip to disney and I just read through that entire post. I had no IDEA it was so difficult to get reservations. Good lord.

    Sarah
    Midwest Darling

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  22. Good stuff! My friend always books when we go. Disney dining gives me a headache and I hate the prices there too. They know they have you once you're in.

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  23. Thanks for the awesome tips! I didn't know that eating while at Disney would be so competitive. Making reservations 180 days in advance is pretty intense. On the other hand I'm not surprised because there are SO many people there all the time.

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  24. I can't get over how much they charge for a search, that seems crazy! But obviously people are doing them or they wouldn't exist! Biergarten is so good, where else are you guys eating?!

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  25. This is crazy! I've been to WDW once, but we didn't dine anywhere fancy. We've been to DL about ten times and are going again in February and I've never run into an issue getting a reservation, sometimes even the day of the meal. Maybe because we always go in the off-season? Insane!

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  26. Dang girl you are a PRO!!! I had no clue this was even a thing that it was so hard to get reservations! But now that I know and saw your post, I'll be able to beat the rest when I got to Disney :) Thank you for taking the time to lay this all out!
    xo, Candace | Lovely Little Rants

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  27. Disney is insane! I always want to go since we live so close but they charge just way too much for everything! But dang you go girl! Totally didnt know you could do all that!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

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  28. This is really interesting and informative. I had no clue that dining at Disney could be so complex!

    I've actually never been to any Disney park, but I'd kind of like to go one day (especially if/when I have a kid). I'll definitely have to keep this stuff in mind if we decide to make Disney a travel destination in the future!

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  29. This is way too much information for my brain right now BUT I am hoping to get myself and a friend to Disney this spring so onto the pinterest board it goes. Thank you for always sharing your wisdom to help us out :)

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  30. um...I'm going to Disney in February for the Disney Princess Half Marathon and making a reservation for food as not even crossed my mind!! You are a hundred steps ahead of me. Thanks for bringing this up, I need to get on my reservation game.

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  31. So doing this when I finally get to Disney again! You are a genius!

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  32. Very interesting. I'm not a Disney person. I love the movies but I was never a big fan of the World and Land. However, my SIL is such a huge Disney person her and my brother stayed at a resort for their honeymoon so I'm passing this along to her!

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  33. I'll have to show my mom and sister this post... we're planning on going together sometime next Fall!

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  34. Wow, so crazy that they have sites and apps for watching for reservation openings! If we aren't able to get one, we normally just show up right when the restaurant opens and have been fortunate enough to get a table still! There's definitely hope!

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  35. I didn't read all this but I pinned it for future use! I totally want to take my kiddos to Disney some day!

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  36. These services have all been shut down by Disney. This article is about a month too late. Disney issued cease and desist orders in September. I was surprised to see that the article was written in October, they shut them down last month. This information isn't going to help fing a reservation.

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    1. My notifications only stopped last week, and when I went to the website to find out why... womp womp. Such a bummer, but what can you do!

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  37. Ugh. . .I'm just about ready to boycott Disney. Why do they keep raising prices, shutting down sites and keeping their movies in the Disney vault. So annoying to me.

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