Walt Disney World Wish List: Fix the Mess with Dining Reservations

August 11, 2015, 9:20 PM · (Editor's note: Updates below) Just about everyone who's planned a Walt Disney World vacation has faced the frustration of trying to get dining reservations for their trip. Getting an ADR [advance dining reservation] isn't tough for just the most popular table-service restaurants around the resort — even getting into average restaurants can challenge Disney visitors.

Many fans have blamed the emergence of the Disney Dining Plan for the difficulty. By locking users into a per-determined number of table-service meals, certain versions of the dining plan encourage users to book those meals early to ensure that they get what they've paid for, limiting availability at these restaurants for other diners. But some fans have wondered if there are additional factors in play. It almost seems as if many ADRs are being hoarded before the fans who would use those tables get a fair chance to book them.

Disney World fans, you're not being paranoid. It appears that there are people gaming the ADR system. Disney management could earn an enormous amount of goodwill from its loyal fans by cleaning up this mess and taking steps to ensure that ADRs actually go to the people who will use them... and not to middlemen who are trying to sell these reservations, or access to them, instead.

Be Our GuestDoes getting into Be Our Guest really need to be this difficult?

A quick Google search will return several websites that claim to be able to obtain ADRs for Disney World visitors, for a price. Sites such as Disney Dining Buddy, Dis Dining Agent, and WDW Table Finder say that they can get hard-to-book reservations for restaurants such as Be Our Guest and Cinderella's Royal Table, typically for about $7-8 per ADR.

How could a ADR reseller do it? There are several possibilities. The same way that ticket brokers/scalpers (take your pick) get seats to popular games and concerts. A reseller could employ people or automated bots to hit Disney's website the moment that reservations become available, booking as many as they can. Then the reseller could either transfer the ADRs to their customers or tell the customer when they are canceling them, so the customer can book the ADR as soon as it drops back into the system.

(*Update: Snapping up reservations and distributing them to your website users is nothing new. One group did that with the reservations for Cinderella's Royal Table in the early 2000s, which eventually prompted Disney to require credit card deposits, and even prepayments, for some WDW ADRs. The group making the Cindy's reservations did not charge the visitors to whom it transferred the reservations, but it did gain control over the restaurant's seating by creating an artificial scarcity of seats.

From multiple reports, Dis Dining Agent appears to be one service that is reselling reservations it has made. Disney Dining Buddy does not resell reservations, but notifies clients when reservations re-enter the system. WDW Table Finder also writes on Twitter its computer system monitors Disney's for available openings, then informs its customers when they become available.

No matter how these individual services operate, Disney could save its guests the hassle of having to constantly search its reservation systems -- or paying someone else to do that for them -- by implementing a more fair reservation system that is truly first-come, first-served. We will get to that in a bit.)

Disney's taken a hard stand against the reselling its admission tickets, lobbying the Florida legislature for anti-scalping laws and changing its ticket media to make transferring tickets nearly impossible. Why should Disney then just look the other way when some people essentially "scalp" ADRs?

Disney could end this practice swiftly, if it wanted to. For its guests' sake, it should. Here is what Disney can do immediately:

With a bit of technical effort, Disney could take the following steps, as well:

A Walt Disney World vacation represents a major expense for the resort's visitors. Those guests shouldn't have to face extra charges to pay off middlemen who are exploiting or even have helped create a shortage of ADRs. So we're adding a better, more honest ADR system to our wish list for the resort.


Replies (29)

August 11, 2015 at 9:44 PM · Yes! I can't get a BOG reservation 6 months in advance in November! Usually one of the slowest weeks of the year. I can't imagine what people go through to get them during the busy times. Thanks for posting.
August 12, 2015 at 4:54 AM · We have traveled to Walt Disney World at the end of August for a few years in a row now. We stay on property and book our ADR's exactly 180 days out (with my husband logging on at midnight of the 180th day out!). With this method, we have never had a problem getting the dining reservations we wanted, but we do go to the extreme. I had no idea this was even a problem! Disney should definitely address this problem; I think your suggestions are great ones! Somebody at Disney, get on this!
August 12, 2015 at 5:11 AM · Yeah it's very annoying and upsetting at times when we can't book a family meal at any of restaurants we want to visit, months in advance. Really good advice for Disney. I think your tip of requiring valid tickets is an excellent idea and definitely should be required when dining in a park.
August 12, 2015 at 7:37 AM · I don't think the Disney Dining Plan is really hogging up the reservations. They certainly are a big factor, but anyone can make a reservation with a credit card. While the DDP users can link their plan with the My Experience app and MyMagic+ MagicBand, Disney doesn't rely on having a DDP to make the reservation. Users can call the toll free line or do an online reservation. A DDP suggests they already made an on-site resort reservation and presumes their admission passes will be used on that trip. On the other hand, Fastpass+ reservations are reserved on the admission passes.

Therefore, this shows the loopholes of the whole Disney vacation is huge. Dining, Fastpasses, Resort reservations are all loosely linked together and not make firm until the day of the trip. You would assume Dining will have many cancellations on the day of the event, but I guess people release those reservations before they get charged for a no-show. Certainly, Disney should encourage the prepaying of the Dining plan much earlier so people have their dining reservations linked to their dining plan. I'm sure most people buy a vacation package with the dining plan; however, some people make separate resort reservations and can buy a dining plan up to one week before the trip.

This is quite complicated. The rules should be more streamlined.

"Disney could require a valid ticket for the date of the reservation in order to make an ADR, as it does with Fastpass+ attraction reservations."

That's a good idea, but right now you need to buy an admission pass 60 days in advance to get Fastpass+. So in the future, you need to buy admission passes 180 days in advance. Wow!!! Annual pass holders will have an advantage so they need some restrictions.

"Disney could limit the number of ADRs that could be made by each ticket holder, further restricting over-booking."

They should link reservations to the number of table service reservations on the dining plan. Yet this restriction can be easily bypassed with a credit card. Again, maybe the link to admission passes will further make the loopholes harder to circumvent. Requires creative software programming.

August 12, 2015 at 7:41 AM · Good suggestions for WDW to address this issue, Robert! I didn't realize there were so many ways for guests to get around the reservation system. Last summer I encountered a family who happily brought their wheelchair-bound "grandma" to Magic Kingdom. They hired "grandma" for the day to use the handicapped access services. Sometimes people leave me speechless.
August 12, 2015 at 7:55 AM · When BOG breakfast times were released for November I knew I would have to be up early. I happened to be up at 1am the day before they were supposed to be released and they already were. So I managed to book 3 tables of 12 fro our group of 36. I advised some friends who were going the same time and they tried at 2pm that same day and they were all gone for the entire week. This is after all of us trying to get some for dinner or lunch at the 180 day mark. I tried at 9am and got nothing 180 days out for an entire trip that is 14 days. Something is wrong with that.

Im not sure what the solution is but I would think for ADR's and FP+ Disney should take your list of restaurants you want to go to and fit you in for the week your are going. you may get a time you dont like but at least you will get in. perhaps you get to specify the time frame like 6-8PM. for FP+ they should give you one for every ride that is hard to get a FP+ for. Then you can get your regular 3 per day for the remaining rides.

Even with that solution there would be issues. They would have to make sure your ADR's and Dining reservations were at the same park.

I have noticed with this latest trip it is becoming a large pain in the rectum. Maybe because I have such a large group but it is a lot of work.
They have a group bookings department for ADR's but they can only do up to a certain party size. at that point they make you call the restaurant and no one answers. you leave a message. in the 24 hours it takes them to get back to you all of the reservations are gone.

I had to get 3 different logins from people in my group and make reservations for groups of 12 using two different browsers on one computer and get my laptop going with the third login. All of this after i called to confirm i could do group reservations through the group reservations department for our group of 36. It took me 4 hours to get ADR's for our group.

Why not have a number you can call and they take your info and the group size and all of their reservation info and get it done ahead of time for groups?

I have never had these issues in the past with large or small groups.


August 12, 2015 at 8:25 AM · "So I managed to book 3 tables of 12 fro our group of 36"

It never occurred to you that this is an abuse of the system?

August 12, 2015 at 8:43 AM · The real trick with ADR's is to keep trying. We changed our October trip to the beginning of August and hadonly 3weeks to rebook all the dining reservations. I would look 3-4x /day and were able to get all of our original restaurants which included Crystal Palace, Mama Melrose', Akershus breakfast, Via Napoli, Be Our Guest, Tusker House, Nine Dragons and Chef Mickey's. Most were suppers between 5pm and 6:30pm, 2 lunches at 12:30 and the princess breakfast at 10:30am which became brunch. These reservations seem to become available to book around lunch and supper time. So if you do not get what you want at 180days please keep trying, people change their plans all the time!
August 12, 2015 at 9:19 AM · This is a rather interesting subject to me - I really loved having Crystal Palace breakfast reservations pre-park opening and BOG for dinner and never thought it was a big deal until I saw all the frustration with people who were unable to book these in the subsequent months on various websites. My line of thinking is more about the regular people out there. I feel bad for families that plan expensive, once in a lifetime trips and are not available to have special meals due to people abusing the system. I hope that Disney will consider the simple changes you suggest, because these experiences shouldn't be just for those who are crazy Disney addicts or vacation planner enthusiasts -
August 12, 2015 at 9:52 AM · The ADR system is a huge problem. I do think the DDP is part of it, which is magnified during times of the year when the DDP is offered free or discounted as part of a promotion. I know Anon will want to banter about it, but it's a fact that many guests on the DDP strive to get the most value out of it. There are websites and forums devoted to getting the most out of the DDP. If people weren't doing it, those websites wouldn't exist, so it's definitely happening. That means the restaurants that offer the most expensive meals for the fewest number of credits will tend to book faster. If there were no DDP, restaurants would book on reputation and monetary value alone.

Just like Fastpass+ reservations, I think the advanced booking window needs to be reduced. There is absolutely no reason someone needs to book their vacation meals 6 months before they arrive. Most high end restaurants don't allow advanced reservations more than 1 month in advance, and there's a movement in the business to eliminate reservations altogether. Some of the most popular restaurants in Washington, DC, New York, Chicago, and San Fransisco have been experimenting with walk-ups only, which means there are lines at the door hours before the dining room opens for dinner service. I don't think the no reservation system would work at WDW, but if guests were only able to book ADRs 2 or 3 months in advance, it would reduce the problem of guests squatting on reservations and would reduce the attractiveness of scalping ADRs.

Guests should also be limited to 1 ADR per party per day unless they're on the Deluxe DDP. Disney can monitor this by using guests' MyMagic+ accounts and/or through credit cards (one credit card equals one party). If guests want to make a second (or third) ADR for a day, they can do so a week before their trip. This idea of guests booking 3 and 4 ADRs in a day and then waiting until a week before to decide which one they want to keep needs to stop. If you have no plan of using all of your ADRs, you shouldn't make them in the first place. By limiting guests to one per day, it would force them to pick the one they really want the most and leaves spaces open for guests who are not as aggressive when ADRs become available.

Disney could also restrict cancellations. Many thought the credit card deposit now required to book an ADR would curb the squatting, but it hasn't. As long as you remember to cancel the ADR 48 hours in advance, you're not charged anything. What they should do is to limit the number of cancellations allowed per reservation to one per day, just as the limits I suggested for booking ADRs. If a guest knows they can only cancel once, it will make them think twice about booking placeholders and squatting on ADRs.

Finally, resort guests should be given more of an advantage when booking ADRs. As it stands now, the only advantage is that resort guests can book for the length of their stay (up to 10 days) starting 180 days prior to check in day. That means resort guests can have up to a 10 day head start, but that's only good for the last day of your trip and only if you're staying a full 10 days. ADRs for resort guests should be treated the same way as FP+ reservations with on-site guests getting exclusive time to make reservations while off-site guests have to wait. After all, off-site guests have access to off-site restaurants, while some on-site guests (particularly those using Magical Express) are stuck on property and thus dependent solely upon Disney restaurants for meals. I would also say this perk should extend to DDP guests who have already purchased their plan (most are on-site guests anyway). There's nothing worse than having to burn a table credit on a counter service meal or an undesirable table service meal because nothing better was available. I've read too many trip reports of this happening, and it seems to be a more common occurrence as the proliferation of ADR squatters and scalpers has grown. On-site guests are what make WDW go, and they should be given more of an advantage when it comes to the ADR system.

August 12, 2015 at 11:13 AM · @Russell: "I know Anon will want to banter about it, but it's a fact that many guests on the DDP strive to get the most value out of it."

I don't dispute that. In fact, I argue the typical guests know how to use DDP to their fullest advantage.

August 12, 2015 at 4:31 PM · Really and truly, while I understand the frustration that people are feeling about not being able to get ADRs, the majority of the suggestions that are being made to alleviate the issue are impossible to implement - at least without causing an immense outrage from guests.

First, not everyone is on DDP, so using that to police ADRs is impossible. Disney is not going to turn down cash or credit cards. Personally, DDP is not financially efficient, and I will most likely never purchase it. That's not to say I wouldn't use it during Free Dining, though. Then, the $$ might work.

You cannot limit people to 1 ADR a day, especially if QS is going to start requiring ADRs as well. You might be able to get away with limiting people to one ADR to a singular restaurant a day - but that also blocks out those pesky QS/TS restaurants like BOG and the rumored new Jungle Cruise restaurant. There's also talk of limiting reservations to one per restaurant per trip - but really, if I want to eat an overpriced cronut every day for breakfast, it's my money. Your solution for one ADR a day until a week before the trip might work - but then, who's to say that the popular restaurants will still not be filled by that time? Walk-ups only are really the only logical solution in this scenario.

You can't limit people to making ADRs only with valid tickets - that will block out people who buy their tickets on site day-of (unless, of course, restaurants held back spaces for walk-ups.) This will include people who have legitimate room-only reservations - not just off-siters. Not to mention, people can book ticketless packages - something implemented rather recently. Granted, with those, you still have the possibility monitoring through DDP, but I've already mentioned the disadvantages of doing that.

Limiting cancellations to one per day is silly. I've changed my park plans four times so far for my November trip, and had to shuffle ADRs accordingly. If I couldn't do that, I wouldn't be able to eat anywhere but QS (and a non-ADR requiring one at that), including in a resort, after my first cancellation.

Lastly, none of the ADR services make a reservation for you. They do put loads on the system by pinging it to see if items are available, but once you are alerted, it is up to you to get it booked. You have to be fast - really fast - or it's gone by the time you check your MDE.

Like I said - I understand the frustration. It's a pain to have to keep checking back if there's an ADR you really feel like you "need," hence the advent of the pinging services. However, the ADR system is, for all intents and purposes, here to stay because it helps Disney anticipate staffing levels, which in turn keeps their costs down. They know that the slight bit of pain that people go through to get the ADRs isn't going to affect the bottom line - which is that people will still come to the parks, stay in the resorts, and eventually, eat.

August 12, 2015 at 10:59 PM · A few months ago, Star Wars Weekends was at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In the weeks leading up to the first SWW, I was on a SWW fan message board where everyone was scrambling to get ADRs for all the special meal events that were being offered. I watched as dozens of people on that message board started to get as many ADRs they could, at as many different times they could. As the days passed, they were still deciding which ADR they wanted and all understood that they had so many ADRs that they could not physically use them all.

IT DIDN'T MATTER to them that they slammed the system and were screwing over other, slower reacting SWW fans. I took this as just the modern, smart-phone, me first, "I'm Special" attitude people have today.

August 13, 2015 at 7:47 AM · I simply don't agree with some of your points Dawn...There's absolutely no reason guests cannot be limited to 1 advanced (whether it be the current 180 days or 90 days or less as I recommended) ADR per day and then allow guests to make additional ADRs the week prior to a trip. There are far too many people hoarding ADRs and making 4, 5, 6, and sometimes more ADRs for a single day, and then waiting until the week prior to decide which ones they want to keep. If you don't think this is happening, go take a look at the popular Disney message boards and see for yourself. Because certain ADRs tend to be more scarce, guests are deliberately booking multiple restaurants all at the same time 180 days out, and then discussing with friends and family a few weeks before they leave to hammer out exactly what they want to keep. It's like a person running through the store grabbing every copy of a hot item and then walking around deciding if they really want to buy it and then dumping it at the register in the re-shop cart. That's an abuse of the system that really needs to stop. The only way I see that Disney can stop that from occurring is either limiting the number of ADRs a person can have for any given day or limit the number of cancellations. I can somewhat see your point about the fact that people's schedules and plans can change, but the lax cancellation policy is what is causing people to overbook ADRs and locking out the system to guests who are not as quick on the trigger.

I think you absolutely need to limit ADRs to guests with current tickets with additional priority given to guests with room reservations. With a limited supply of seats and service times in restaurants, you cannot cater to guests arriving spur of the moment. Counter service restaurants exist for those guests, or they can always eat at resort restaurants that tend to have more availability. This is one of the only ways to eliminate scalping of reservations. It still won't eliminate the problem, because someone could use an old non-expiring ticket to make ADRs and selling them since there's no obligation for the guest making the reservation to use the ticket entered in the system to make the reservation. However, it will eliminate some of the riff raff out there that are true scum selling exclusive ADRs to the highest bidder.

Ultimately, the problems stem from the amount of time guests are allowed to book ADRs in advance. The obscene amount of time between when ADRs are made and when the meal occurs opens it up to changes and abuse. At some point, Disney needs to stop the madness, and while I can see and understand the need to build anticipation for an upcoming trip to WDW, booking 180 days in advance is ultimately anticlimactic. When we managed to get our reservation for Victoria and Albert's Chef's Table last year in April, I was so excited I could barely contain myself since I had been trying to score that exclusive ADR for nearly a decade of trips to WDW. After the euphoria wore off, I then realized that we still had another 6 months until we'd be sitting in the kitchen eating our $700+ meal. The system simply does not lend itself to helping guests plan their vacation, and because of the flexibility allowed, people are deliberately double and triple booking themselves to provide options when they really start thinking about their trip a few weeks out.

Perhaps another solution, as you suggest, is to set aside space for walk ups, but I believe that many restaurants, particularly those located in the parks, already do this. Also, the FP+ reservations for counter service locations, like BOG, is more intended for crowd control and service normalization, particularly at BOG because of the layout of that particular location, which ironically takes a cue from Universal Orlando CS restaurants more so than other Disney CS locations. Those FP+ reservations exist outside of ADR system, and may eventually go away as popularity wanes.

Nonetheless, maintaining the status quo is not the solution. Disney must fix this problem, because it's getting worse. Certainly there will be outrage when solutions are implemented, but much of that will be from those Disney loyalists that are the prime offenders and will come back to WDW anyway, just like what happened when the resort transitioned from FP to FP+. Eventually, the really savvy people will figure out ways around the rules, but at the very least Disney needs to tighten things up to make the system more accessible to a larger segment of guests and eliminate the secondary market for reselling of ADRs. Personally, I think it's absurd that people would pay money for a reservation, and part of me says they deserve to pay for their stupidity. But, the other side of me sees that many ignorant people are being taken advantage of by ruthless jerks that are gaming a system that has far too many loopholes.

August 13, 2015 at 10:50 AM · The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) was great the first time I used it. But after that, we realized that we were spending more time dining than we wanted. The plan changed a little… The first time, we had full dinners for the plan with Table Service. But the next time, we were told (on numerous occasions) that the vegetables/sides were not included. We’re back to the old plan of just pas-as-you-go.

You mentioned various web sites that charge for ADRs. That concept irritates me! It’s almost as bad as renting a handicapped person so a family can go to the head of a line. Scams! The suggestions made to stop this sound good, but it could also create ill will. Telling a guest that this ADR is not honored, no matter how it was obtained, will cause hate and discontent. That guest may retaliate by not coming back, or by telling bad stories about their experience. No matter who is right, the guest is irritated. Requiring a valid ticket to make an ADR could work, but it wouldn’t stop these companies from releasing the ADR and allowing the guest from getting it right away. Adding these released reservations back into the system on a random time delay might make it work.

Booking ADRs 180 days in advance is nice, but during my vacation, I want to be able to change my plans. Sometimes, I meet someone I know, and sometimes, we’re in the middle of a park and don’t really want to change parks just to eat dinner. I don’t want to plan my vacation around dining reservations.

One time, I made a suggestion to Disney and I got a letter back from their legal department. It said that they cannot accept suggestions from the public, and they returned my letter and assured me that they are not keeping copies.

August 13, 2015 at 12:06 PM · Some good points, Russell. Some thoughts:

1) There are no FP+ for counter service anymore. BOG lunch has moved to a traditional 180-day ADR - for a quick service meal (with pre-ordering, btw). Same with BOG breakfast. And like I mentioned, it is rumored that the new Jungle Cruise restaurant will be set up similarly. So yes, you're right - FP+ for counter service did go away - but not in the way you thought it would.

2) There is no reselling of ADRs by third party companies. I cannot stress this enough. All the services do is alert you to the fact that there is an open reservation in your user-specified time period. It is up to you to go get it. And 99% of the time, someone else gets there first. However, the services do work - I used one to grab a BOG dinner for my next trip. I was told that 4 openings were available during my specified period - by the time I logged in (not more than 2 minutes after getting the text - I happened to be at my desk) only 2 were available. You better believe I grabbed one of those two. No one "held" it for me - I had to go and see it for myself in MDE. If a third party system had grabbed them for me, then I wouldn't have been able to see them on the Disney website or app, and I would have been able to go back at my leisure and pick it up.

3) I do believe I said that the 1 reservation until 1 week before was a possible viable solution, as you do, but does have the disadvantage that restaurants still could be booked up by that one week mark. It's the 180+10 dilemma... those people whose vacations start 3 days before yours have already filled everything at that "one week" mark. So it doesn't really eliminate the issue.

4) Honestly, I do believe the time between ADR making and the actual trip should be shortened, especially since FP+ can really put throw a kink into plans. It is making people choose between a meal and a ride. Either put them both on the same day or stagger them a few days apart (rides first, most likely).

As for the walk-up issue... I think we're beating a dead horse. It's never going to happen. Yes, some people have reported being successful with walk-ups at super-popular restaurants. However, they are few and far between. I have watched people be turned away due to no reservations (at Disneyland, mind you - where reservations are only made 60 days in advance AND you can usually walk in almost anywhere at any time - I managed to add a party of 5 to my party of 4 TWO HOURS before my reservation on DL Half weekend. I was amazed. That same weekend I was told that I couldn't change my dinner reservation to a different restaurant because they were totally booked - if they held spaces for walk-ups that wouldn't have been a issue). Disney's policy is obviously geared toward no walk ups - they do not "save spaces."

August 13, 2015 at 1:40 PM · Companies are not "selling" ADRs in the purest sense of the word, meaning they are making a reservation and then transferring it to you for a fee. However, companies are profiting by providing information regarding ADR availability for a fee. This "business model" is as unscrupulous as those that rented disabled people to groups or sell information about WDW that is readily available. They prey on the ignorance/technological incompetence of guests that want to give their kids the world and are willing to pay any price to give their little ones the best WDW vacation they can. The companies go onto the ADR system every day and grab highly desirable restaurants and times. Then they provide their paid subscribers the days and times when those ADRs are released. The companies also scan the available ADRs inside the 180 day window on a constant basis and snatch up dwindling inventory of desirable ADRs, and again provide information to their paid subscribers when those ADRs are released. These "services" are the lowest of the low, yet desperate people making their first and only trip to WDW with their little princesses will do whatever it takes to get into the Castle during peak dinner time.

It would seem that Disney could combat some of this by deliberately holding back reservations and slowly releasing them every week, but because these companies are constantly monitoring availability and snatching up ADRs when inventory becomes scarce (probably using bots and other automated systems), the trickling out of ADRs won't work. Reserving walk-in space could work, but it doesn't make sense to have guests queuing up outside a restaurant for hours where they may never get in for a meal.

Disney needs to come up with a way to limit the number of ADRs any single person/group can hold, and track "heavy hitters" to quash this secondary market. Perhaps they can force guests making ADRs to link them to their MyMagic+ account (or create an account if they don't already have one) so Disney can see when the system is being abused. By limiting to 1 super advanced ADR per day until 10 days prior, it should eliminate hoarding. Hoarding, whether by indecisive individuals or companies seeking profit, is the biggest problem in the system, and anything that can limit that should make things dramatically better. Sure, the system will go crazy and ADRs will get gobbled up 10 days prior, disadvantaging those with shorter stays, but at least guests will have the peace of mind that some loser in their basement is not making money selling tips to inexperienced travelers, because the 10 days will not allow such an enterprise to succeed.

August 13, 2015 at 3:14 PM · To limit hoarding, they do need to prioritize reservations by those that have bought admission tickets plus made hotel reservations and/or bought the dining plan. Give those people advance 180 days reservations privileges. Fastpass+ privileges kick in at the 60 day mark. Then, release the remaining restaurant reservations to the day trippers 60 days prior that already bought admission tickets and opened an account on My Disney Experience. The day trippers will have Fastpass+ privileges 30 day prior.

This staggered reservations policy might be weird, but this could solve the problem by giving priority to people staying at the resorts and bought the whole package.

The customer service representative will ask for an account number that shows the hotel reservation and admission tickets to confirm the exact dates and parks the guests will visit. They can't make multiple reservations between the various parks and meal times. The maximum meal reservations is limited to 3 per day at one park. If the guest have park hopping, they can allow 2 reservations maximum at 2 parks per day. The exception is if your bought a Deluxe or Premium Dining Plan. You can make 3 reservations per day at any park or resort.

Disney can also have an option to restrict the number of reservations at a restaurant due to high demand. Be My Guest and Cinderella's Royal Table should be restricted to one party per trip.

Limiting restaurant reservations via My Disney Experience will shut out the outside services by not allowing public access. It forces the guest to commit to date they will visit a park. Restaurant reservations are firmed up as opposed to considering their options. Annual Passholders are limited to a few reservations per month at a lesser priority than the on-site guests.

August 13, 2015 at 11:52 PM · I think you might be on to something with the staggering, Anon. I don't think it'll limit hoarding, but it will lessen competition.

I don't agree with the whole limiting per park thing, though. Some of the most highly sought after reservations are at resorts... places you don't need tickets for. The logistics behind limiting those would be staggering.

As for limiting number of visits... that won't work either. Many restaurants have different experiences for different meal times. I shouldn't have to choose between a character breakfast at Ohana or a dinner, just because they are held in the same venue, and it happens to be a very popular one.

How do you propose people make reservations for restaurants who are not holding tickets? Public access without requiring a ticket or hotel is essential unless you want to completely lock down the whole resort area, as there are many more restaurants outside the parks than in them. Sure, you can force guests to use MDE to make reservations. This won't stop the pinging services though...they can create a passthrough ID to use to authenticate. It's done all the time in programming. And since those pinging services are never actually *making* a reservation, only notifying other people that they exist, it is highly unlikely that they would ever be noticed in the grand scheme... it's just another MDE account searching for an ADR.

August 14, 2015 at 5:48 AM · Dawn: You say limiting won't work without saying why it can't work. It's a matter of prioritizing on-site guests and people with pre-paid admission tickets who already decided they will be there. Everyone else will make reservations later like 60 days before. Resort restaurant reservations don't require a ticket certainly, but priority to resort guests is the point.

MDE is locked down so it can't look beyond 60 days without a resort reservation. And even then, it could further be locked down with admission passes for people with known itineraries have first priority. The guests are forced to only look for dining reservations within their narrow visit to the parks. Perhaps all resort dining reservations are opened up in 14 to 30 days in advance. Park dining is much more restrictied to those with prepaid admission passes.

I think my suggestion is reasonable.

August 14, 2015 at 6:36 AM · Here's a crazy idea. CANCEL all ADRs and just make EVERYTHING available to people who walk up to the restaurant at the time they want to eat. Seriously tired of ALL the BS that goes with going to Disney.
August 14, 2015 at 9:06 AM · I think Anon is onto something. If you're able to lock down what guests can see in the system, it eliminates the ability of outsiders to hoard dwindling supply and/or sell availability information through pinging. If those allowed to make reservation 180 days in advance (personally, I think this should be no more than 90) are required to have hotel reservations and park tickets, they are only allowed to book for the days they're at WDW. If a guest just has park tickets with no hotel reservation, they would not be allowed to access the ADR system until 30 or 60 days in advance (since Disney can't verify what days those guests will actually be visiting), giving confirmed resort guests plenty of time to pick and choose what they want. However, as Anon noted, you need to place limits on those guests so they don't gobble up everything so APs and off-site guests and APs can still get some of the more desirable ADRs. I think Anon's suggestion is rather liberal, and allowing 3 reservations in a single park is a little much...Personally, I would limit it to 1 or 2 TS reservations unless the guests have purchased the Deluxe DDP. On the other hand, booking multiple meals in the same venue on a single trip is something that I don't think you can put limits on. If someone wants to eat at CRT every day of their trip, be my guest. I don't think people making multiple visits to the same establishment is a real problem...Also, I think the biggest problems are with the in-park restaurants, not the resort restaurants. Yes, there are some exceedingly popular resort meals like Ohana and the Hoop Dee Doo Review, which already have their own separate ADR rules. However, most of the resort restaurants are relatively easy to book, and if any limits are placed on the number of ADRs in a trip or in a single day, those rules should be geared towards the in-park table service restaurants. Even California Grill during Wishes has become an easier get after the recent renovations were completed, and Chef Mickey's before MK opening has become a rather easy booking as well.
August 14, 2015 at 9:54 AM · Actually, Anon, I did say why it wouldn't work - it's not a logistics thing (park passes, etc.) It's a behavioral issue - telling guests that they can't experience two completely different meals just because they are held in the same venue will cause dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction causes less spending and less customer return. Granted, it doesn't seem like Disney is really concentrating on retention right now (FP+, I'm looking at you), but less spending would definitely make them take notice.

Perhaps "won't work" was the wrong terminology. "Would be difficult to sell to the general public" might be better. It's already been proven that the concept of "limits" causes major customer discontent - look at FP+. Disney "limited" FP+ to three a day at first, and eventually decided that was a silly decision. Now, it may have always been the plan to let people choose more, but I think the customer base, even those who were first time visitors, was vocal enough in their dissatisfaction at "limits" that Disney eventually changed that policy. Call it an entitlement culture, if you will... but whatever it was, it really pissed people off.

My thoughts on the "fairest" way to do it? Switch to the DLR way - 30 or 60 days, no +10, open to everyone at the same time. This gives everyone, whether on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, a non-local AP holder, or a local that visits once a week, a completely equal chance of getting a reservation. Plans are pretty much set at that point, so it's easier to be confident that you will make that reservation. It is VERY rare in CA for a restaurant to be "sold out." Yes, staffing would be a nightmare, but the customer experience would be better.

August 14, 2015 at 10:49 AM · In Southern CA, where I live, few people eat at the table service restaurants. It just isn't obsessed over like at Disney World. I was certainly interested in eating at the Blue Bayou restaurant at Disneyland where the novelty was sitting next to the water while the boats leave the docks at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but many people don't care much. Anyone can easily get a reservation a week in advance. Many people choose to eat there at the last minute and you can get a table with 60 minutes or longer of waiting (a waste of time for most).

Disney World is a different market. You're there for a vacation. My suggestion of limiting reservations is so other people can get a chance. You say "selling" the limitation to the public is wrong, but it is worse that someone could not get a reservation at all. So one person successfully getting several reservations at "Be Our Guest" while several people cannot get any leaves a bad experience for a larger number of people.

Of course, to add FP+ as the contrary argument does the opposite. It improves my argument that more people should get a chance. Disney changed FP+ to allow you to get more than 3 after using your first allotment, but you get this in the park and not in advance.

The "fairest" way is a combination of advance reservations, short-term reservations, and spontaneous reservations.

Advance reservations was what I already proposed: Those with Hotel reservations, Disney dining plan, and pre-paid park tickets, get advance reservation privleges up to 180 days in advance. Perhaps it should be cut to 120 days in advance (4 months). The party size is limited to those linked up at MDE and staying at the same resort.

Short-term reservations: Those with theme park tickets, but no hotel reservations. 30 or 60 days in advance. Can only reserve in 14 day window of the park admission and only the number days of the park ticket (1 to 10 day ticket). APs can only reserve up to 10 table service restaurants within a 60 day window. Disney can decide to remove a restaurant limitation at some point (perhaps 14 days prior) for everyone if they believe a popular restaurant has more space available. Or they can save the open spaces for walk-ups.

Spontaneous reservations: Walk-up reservations. Spots should be open for early and late meal times. This might mean 11am or 3pm lunch, 4pm or 9pm dinner.

"My thoughts on the "fairest" way to do it? Switch to the DLR way - 30 or 60 days, no +10, open to everyone at the same time."

This is no different than what we have now with 180 day advance reservation.

August 14, 2015 at 1:27 PM · Hm... let me think about this for a second. Good points...

Ok... working backwards... my "fairest way" thought is different because it eliminates the +10 for resort guests, therefore removing the possibility that a restaurant could be booked by other people who started their vacation before you. The day opens when it opens, for all.

I like your short term reservation plan, though it gets dicey for APs and foreign visitors. Think of the DVC people who come for two or more weeks at a time and have APs. Not being able to reserve more than 10 restaurants in 60 days, when paying all that money for DVC, is not going to go over well. As for foreign visitors, I believe they sell tickets longer than 10 days... up to 21 according to the website. So you would have to extend that 14-day window of admission to at least 21 days to accommodate those visitors.

The advanced reservation idea works too, mostly. How would that work with the rumors that you can share credits with non-dining plan holders (effective 2016)? Obviously, if the rumors are true Disney acknowledges that families on the plan (and therefore having room reservations) dine with others that may not be on the plan, or may not even be staying in a hotel. You could probably get away with forcing the users to be linked on MDE, but making all of them have to stay at the same resort (or any resort) to even make a reservation for their party may be a bit much. Converting people to walk-up status if they add people to their party at the door (due to not being able to before the reservation time, for whatever reason) may not be an option, either, due to staffing constraints.

I grew up in So Cal as well, so I guess I just don't get the whole "dining rules the whole vacation" mindset of FL. People plan vacations to DLR, too... so why is there not the frantic "we need this" mentality there as well? Sure, there's less people..but there's also less options (on site, at least). It really just may be my CA outlook - I don't see why I should care if someone gets 10 reservations for a restaurant I can't get one for. There are other places to eat. If I really want that reservation, I'll keep looking for it, but it's not a big deal if I don't get it.

The difference, I think, is that Disney is artificially generating the feeling of exclusivity in order to further encourage people to stay and spend money. People LIKE that - they feel like they're winning if they get something someone else can't. Disney has absolutely no reason to make things "easier" on their guests until they lose money doing it.

August 14, 2015 at 2:37 PM · Disney will not get rid of ADRs, as it would likely impact the sales of the DDPs.

However, if they did go to walk-up only, how would the pre-RD eating times be impacted? Disney wouldn't want hordes showing up early and having the wrangle that for pre-RD. Either those eat times would have to be eliminated (not likely - $$$) or there would need to be *some* reservations.

Honestly, it seems maybe a solution making the reservation window smaller, and also giving priority to those who have on property reservations.

August 15, 2015 at 8:18 AM · "Think of the DVC people who come for two or more weeks at a time and have APs. Not being able to reserve more than 10 restaurants in 60 days, when paying all that money for DVC, is not going to go over well."

In this case, the resort reservation is the bigger priority. Since typical DVC reservations are by the week, they should be able to get as many reservations they want when they stay on-site.

AP restriction to 10 is for the casual local visitor with non consecutive day reservations. Of course, what if they come from out of town and stay off-site. Then the same rules for apply as if they bought the Magic Your Way passes. They get a 14 day window and 10 consecutive days to reserve 3 table service meals a day for 10 days. To make the restriction tight, they need to have their companions linked with accounts with purchased APs and admission passes.

Seems like "what ifs" are getting larger and the exceptions to my idea is quite a bear. Maybe that's why the reservations systems is so congested. Everyone is trying hard to eliminate the reservation hogs. The restaurants seems full so Disney likely closed the loop with false reservations. Now, they should consider a plan to give everyone a chance.

August 16, 2015 at 6:55 AM · Why not just limit reservations to 3 per day - one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner(all in respective time frames like breakfast 7a-10:30a, lunch 10:45-3p and dinner 3:30-on)?
August 16, 2015 at 4:54 PM · "Why not just limit reservations to 3 per day - one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner(all in respective time frames like breakfast 7a-10:30a, lunch 10:45-3p and dinner 3:30-on)?"

Because sometimes parties split up. Half the group goes to an pre-rd breakfast at one park, while the rest of the family sleeps in and goes to a nice, leisurely resort breakfast at a more comfortable "brunch" hour.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive