Changes Ahead: Disney World Dining Reservation Policy

If you have not been making dining reservations lately, you may be unaware that Disney has been tweaking their Dining Reservations policy over the past few months. If you have ever stumbled onto a Disney message board, you have inevitably seen a post from a proud park goer boasting that they have booked a breakfast, lunch and dinner reservation for EACH park for EACH day of their vacation. Why would anyone go to such lengths? The reason given is they just do not want to be tied down to a plan…they just want to wake up and go where the mood takes them, and they want to be guaranteed a great reservation. As they delight in their superior ADR prowess, every other reader of the post is getting ready to give it to him…with both barrels. And I can understand why – by making a reservation in each park and perhaps a few resorts that person is keeping the rest of us from getting a coveted dinner at ‘Ohana or breakfast with the princesses. As a travel agent, I find myself scouring the internet looking for cancelations for my clients, in case someone was kind enough to cancel some of their double, triple, and quadruple booked reservations. And Disney…well they are stuck with empty tables, that could otherwise be filled.

Disney has been working to combat this problem in many ways. First of all, you are no longer allowed to double book dining reservations. If you create a reservation for a meal on a particular day, you are given a prompt that you already have a meal booked for that date and time. You will be asked which one you would like to keep, and the other will be canceled. This is a great feature as it not only prevents a accidental (or intentional) over booking, but it saves a step of having to cancel a previously made reservation. Nice!

Disney also has started sending out email reminders. With so many smart phones, families stay plugged in - even on vacation. A quick email is a great way to remind folks where they need to be. And if you need to cancel – they provide both a phone number and a link for you to do so. Easy! If you last minute planners are reading between the lines here, that means 24-48 hours is a great time to troll for cancelations.

Finally, and perhaps most controversially, a new policy effective October 26, 2011, will require a credit card guarantee for new reservations at Signature Dining and most Character Dining locations. Cancellations to reservations made less than one day in advance will incur a $10 charge per person listed on the reservation.

A few restaurants have already had this policy in effect, but the new policy will greatly expand the list. The $10 per penalty is not huge, but will certainly give triple bookers a cause for pause! Only serious diners need apply! While this can be a little frustrating, and some “innocent” dinners may be caught up in the penalty charges, this should mean more reservations available for those who fully intend to eat at the restaurant booked.

A word of advice: Be careful scheduling Signature and Character meals on your arrival day! A delayed flight, or excessive potty stops on your drive can mean that you not only miss a reservation, but will face a penalty if you do. Also, if you plan your trip and fully intend to go, but end up canceling your plans – be sure to cancel your dining reservations as well!

A new phone number has been added, specifically for canceling dining reservations. Avoid those penalties by calling 407-WDW-CNCL within the appropriate cancelation window.

The following locations will require the new credit card guarantee (Note: This is just a credit card guarantee, not a prepayment of your reservation):
  • 1900 Park Fare
  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
  • Artist Point
  • California Grill
  • Cape May Café
  • Chef Mickey’s
  • Cítricos
  • The Crystal Palace
  • Flying Fish Café
  • The Garden Grill
  • The Hollywood Brown Derby
  • Hollywood & Vine
  • Jiko – The Cooking Place
  • Le Cellier Steakhouse
  • Narcoossee’s
  • ‘Ohana
  • Tusker House Restaurant
  • Victoria & Albert’s – $25 per person
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse
The following locations still require prepayment of your reservation (or a credit card guarantee if you are on the dining plan):
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table
  • Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

Overall, I think these changes will result in a better experience for everyone. Just remember to cancel your reservations if you do not need them – credit card guarantee, or not!


  1. While I agree that it should be considered a common courtesy to cancel a dining reservation if you change your plans, I seriously doubt that no-shows have a negative impact on WDW restaurants. If you have ever tried to dine at the most popular restaurants without a reservation, you know it is almost impossible. Even with reservations you often have to wait a long time to be seated, leading me to believe that they overbook. Our trip last December coincided with record-breaking cold weather and by the end of the week my husband and I were both sick. We ended up cancelling our last two reservations several hours before, after it started raining. Had we incurred the fees they are now implementing, I would have been one very unhappy, sick guest.
    I really can’t see that it will make reservations easier to obtain. And if that is not the end result, it’s just another money-maker for Disney.

  2. Paperdoll, I was freezing along with you last December! ;)

    I will be interested to see how this affects things, perhaps Disney will not overbook as much and everyone will have a shorter wait?

    You make a great point about cancelling due to illness. The $10 will hopefully make the triple bookers think, while not being overly punative to those who have a legit need to cancel.

    It will certainly make me MUCH more cautious about booking meals for the families I work with. I would hate for someone to forget to cancel something and incur a penalty. Also, it will mean families will have to think twice about starting their vacation with a character meal if they are flying!

    My guess is that many "diehards" will see the obvious hole in the new system and will continue to make multiple reservations. I guess time will tell what, if any, impact these changes have. I am very curious to see!