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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It never occurred to you that this is an abuse of the system?
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.
I don't dispute that. In fact, I argue the typical guests know how to use DDP to their fullest advantage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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