There are many popular restaurants at Disney World including in the four theme parks, Disney Springs, and the Disney Resort hotels. Our guide will give you an idea of which restaurants tend to be the most popular and also give you tips on how to snag Disney World last minute dining reservations and other tips on getting a seat at the table for your group.
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Disney World Last Minute Dining Reservations: Inspired by Our Personal Experience
On my most recent trip to Disney World, I booked at the last minute after switching a carefully planned a year in advance Disneyland trip to a (with a month to prepare!) trip to Disney World. I missed my 60 days mark to book our dining (currently you can book dining reservations up to 60 days in advance) so from day one I was scrambling to get our dining reservations. To make matters even trickier, about 10 days before our trip Disney World’s dining system went through a major glitch and long story short… I lost many of my carefully coveted dining reservations!
Despite these two major road bumps, I managed to recover all my dining reservations and we still were able to eat at all our top list places. This personal experience of panic and searching for dining hacks inspired me to write this article so hopefully it can help someone else out who may find themselves in a similar boat. With some ingenuity and dedication, you can score those Disney World last minute dining reservations!
1. Sign Up for Cancellation Notifications
There are a couple of different websites that offer free and paid cancellation notifications for Walt Disney World Dining Reservations. All of these services work the same way: you set up a date/time range for the restaurant of your choice and their automated system searches the Disney World website for any cancelled reservations. If a cancelled reservation appears, you will get a text message with a direct link to reserve your spot and an email with the same instructions.
- Touring Plans Reservation Finder
- This free service allows you to have up to two active searches at a time.
- If you’re a Touring Plans subscriber, you can have more active searches at once.
- Mouse Dining
- This free service allows you to have up to six active searches at a time.
- Mouse Watcher
- This is a paid service and each active search starts at $5 (works for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner though!). Subscriptions start at $19/month if you need multiple restaurants.
- BEST OPTION! We had the best luck with this paid service. Perfect for the most difficult to get reservations.
The main difference between these options is how often the websites search because the more often they search, the easier time you will have finding a cancellation. I have personally used all three of these websites and have had the most luck with the Touring Plans and Mouse Watcher reservation finder. Touring Plans was able to get me more cancelled reservations in advance (2-3 weeks before our trip) but Mouse Watcher was able to find me reservations within a week of our trip for highly sought after restaurants. I had notifications set up on all three websites for the same restaurants and sometimes I would find one would send me a notification while others didn’t.
My advice is to use them all- the more searches you have, the more likely you are to succeed in getting that cancelled time. I would reserve the paid service through Mouse Watcher for the restaurants that you cannot live without. I did notice it searched more frequently than the others but I guess you get what you pay for, right?
2. Know Your Popular Restaurants
Some restaurants are more popular than others and knowing off the bat which meals might be the trickiest to get will help you prioritize your cancellation searches in the reservation finders I detailed above. Based on personal experience and current trends at Disney World, here are some of the most popular restaurants that are open now:
- Hollywood & Vine Minnie Mouse Seasonal Character Dining in Hollywood Studios
- Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios
- Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom
- Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom
- Plaza Inn at Magic Kingdom
- Yak & Yeti at Animal Kingdom
- Tiffins at Animal Kingdom
- Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room at Epcot
- Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot
- Beaches & Cream at the Yacht Club Resort
- Chef Mickey’s Character Dining at the Contemporary Resort Hotel
- Topolino’s Terrace (character dining for breakfast) at the Riveria Resort Hotel
- Rainforest Café at Disney Springs
- T-REX at Disney Springs
This is just a sampling, lots of restaurants are popular at Disney World since there are so many options, but these are the key ones to watch out for the most. For instance, I was surprised at how popular Beaches & Cream was when I was trying to get that reservation (which we did succeed) so it caught me off guard in my dining hunt.
3. Split Your Party Up When Searching
One thing I noticed when trying to snag last minute dining reservations is that Disney World would deprioritize parties of 2 as opposed to parties of 3-4. This is likely due to just logistics and not wanting to give away a table of four to a party of two. I managed to get more opportunities at reservations by changing our party size to three and had no issue when showing up to the restaurants with only two people. They won’t charge you a penalty for this, as long as you don’t make the numbers skewed to an extreme, and at least most of the party shows up.
For bigger groups, rather than searching for a party of six, try two searches for a party of three and three or four and two. Sometimes you just have to try and work around Walt Disney’s dining system. Then when you arrive at the restaurant, let them know you’re altogether and see if they can work something out to seat you as a group. Keep in mind this might not be guaranteed though! If you do manage to get two separate reservations that equal your party total, you can also call the Disney World dining line in advance and see if they can group your reservation together.
4. Keep Searching When You Arrive
Many guests may arrive to Disney World and stop searching for those must-do dining reservations. I mean, this makes sense because you’re busy and you may not want to spend time doing this on your trip. But even if you set aside a few minutes in the morning and evening to check, you may find the dining reservation you were looking for!
Since Disney World’s policy is to charge $10 per person cancellation fee for no shows if guests don’t cancel 2 hours prior to their reservation you may have the most luck for cancellations the day of your ideal time. I managed to find two of my sought after reservation times while we were already at Disney World because I took the time to keep checking and it paid off.
5. Consider Checking for Odd Times of the Day
I had luck with our Be Our Guest reservation by booking dinner at 7:55PM which was a strange time to eat with kids. But it worked out as we managed to get a reservation and since Magic Kingdom closed that day at 8PM, we were able to be in the parks after closing and take some great pictures in front of Cinderella’s Castle.
Be flexible with your times as often the most sought after times will remain those traditional lunch/dinner times of the day while afternoons or late evening may have more availability.
Bonus Tip: Become a Landry’s Select Member
If one of the Landry’s Club restaurants is at the top of your list but you weren’t able to find a reservation, if you show you’re a Landry’s Select Club member you will get seated without a reservation needed! This card applies to Yak & Yeti in Animal Kingdom, Rainforest Café in Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs, and T-REX in Disney Springs. Since these three restaurants are all highly sought after dining experiences, this is a great way to still get a table without a reservation.
The fee to join the club is $25 dollars but that $25 goes right back on your Landry’s card (mailed to you or use the app) and you can put that towards your meal. If you plan on eating at one of these restaurants anyways then the cost is free. Watch out for sign up bonuses too! When I joined I got a $5 bonus so that was basically like $5 off our meal. You can also call the restaurant in advance, tell them you’re a select member, and see if they’ll just give you an advance reservation. We were able to do this with T-REX and it was no hassle at all.
Keep in mind some Landry’s Select members have reported not always getting guaranteed seating like they used to (most often at Yak & Yeti) so this is something to keep in mind. This is why calling ahead might be especially beneficial right now.
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