HOW FAR AHEAD YOU CAN BOOK
If you’re staying at a Disney hotel, you can make dining reservations for your entire trip 180 days before your vacation starts. If you’re staying off-property or haven’t booked a hotel yet, you can still make your first-day’s reservation 180 days in advance, but you’ll have to wait until the following day to book tables for the second day of your trip, and so forth. It’s easiest to search for reservations on the My Disney Experience mobile app, so download it.
First, think about how many reservations you really want, because your kids may be just as happy eating at the grab-andgo places at the parks, where there’s no rushing to get to your table on time. “We had one character lunch and ate at a couple of buffets, but for the most part, we found food when we were hungry rather than letting reservations dictate the day’s agenda,” says Henry. “That way, when the kids wanted to linger in the hotel pool or go on another ride, we didn’t have to say no.” Decide 60 to 90 days before your trip—that’s when reservations start to fill up at most restaurants. There are two exceptions, both in Magic Kingdom: Cinderella’s Royal Table (dining with the princesses in Cinderella Castle) and Be Our Guest (a newish restaurant in Beast’s Castle, which includes a photo op with him) often fill up 180 days in advance. If either of these is on your must-do list, book it as soon as you can. If you can’t
snag a table, Epcot’s Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (another dining spot with princesses) and the 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (breakfast with Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh) are great alternatives.
Rest assured, there are plenty of places to eat on the fly. “In the Magic Kingdom,
I like the Columbia Harbour House,” says Len Testa, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2018. “There’s extra seating upstairs—a good place to decompress with the kids.” Most of the year, Epcot sets up food stands in the World Showcase area that are a perfect place for families to grab a fast bite, says Testa. And Woody’s Lunch Box, an adorable Toy Story–themed counter-service restaurant, will open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this summer. You might even be able to score an eleventh-hour reservation at some of the most popular sit-down restaurants. “Disney charges $10 per person for reservations not cancelled within 24 hours, so if you’re using the My Disney Experience mobile app, you’ll see a lot of tables open up 24 to 36 hours in advance,” says Testa.