Disney Advanced Dining Reservations
Disney has the 'advanced dining reservation' system for it's sit-down establishments including character meals. At peak times it may be difficult to find a table at a restaurant if you do not have an ADR. So plan accordingly. In addition, peak travel times to Disney are the Christmas/New Years Week, Easter or April spring break, Thanksgiving and summertime. Advanced Dining Reservations do not have to be paid for in advance. You will find that at certain establishments (Cinderella's Castle, Hoop-tee-doo, etc.) advanced payment is required as well. The travel specialists at Disney will let you know if this is the case.
You can make your ADR's 180 days (180 + 10 for Disney Resort Guests) before the date of your meal. If you do not get the restaurant on the day you want ask the reservations specialist to find any lunch or dinner for 'x amount of people' at your choice of restaurant during your length of stay. For example, I need a dinner reservation for 3 at O'Hana during the week of June 15th-22nd. I did this when making reservations for Cinderella's castle and came out with a great reservation at a perfect time. Note: Breakfast or Lunch at Cinderella's Castle is one of the hardest reservations to get.
The busiest times to eat for lunch is 12-2pm; dinner 6-8pm. Other dining reservation times are easier. Check if you can get lunch if dinner is not available or vice versa. If you need a table for 2 and there is no reservation to be had, ask for a table of 3 and you might be in for a nice surprise. Disney's reservations system does not book a table for 2 unless there is an actual table for 2 available. Any restaurant will seat you at a table for 4 if necessary.
Many times you can call 45 days ahead of your scheduled trip and make reservations. Anyone traveling to Disney has to cancel their trip at that time in order to receive a full refund. Those ADR's then get cancelled as well, opening up some seats for everyone else.Consider splitting up large parties in order to reserve seats. Once you arrive let the matre d' know and they will generally try to seat you together or near one another.
If you are not going to use an ADR, please cancel it and double booking is frowned upon as it is not fair to others. Think of the other families, singles or couples like you that want to eat at their choice restaurants.
Good luck and good eats