Early for Your Disney Dining Reservation? Magic Trick or Major Mistake?


Wondering how early you can show up for your dining reservations at Disney?

I’ve been there and done that.

Sometimes all you can think about is getting to the table at Le Cellier (at least in my case), ordering a couple different varieties of poutine (which is outrageously good) and then telling yourself you can walk it off as you finish your tour of the World Showcase.

When it comes to Disney World dining reservations, you can actually arrive up to 15 minutes early for your reservation.

This gives you plenty of time to check in, get settled, and enjoy the atmosphere of the restaurant. Plus, if you’re running a few minutes late, you won’t have to worry about missing out on your reservation.

But what about arriving really early?

While you may be tempted to show up an hour or more before your reservation time, it’s generally not necessary.

In fact, Disney World recommends that you arrive no more than 15 minutes early.

This is because the restaurants are virtually always busy and won’t be able to accommodate you until your reservation time. So, if you arrive early, you may end up waiting around for a while.

So what do you do?

What are your options?

Before diving in, join our new private Facebook group, the Disney Park Advisor Community, for Disney enthusiasts to share their passion, seek advice, and make friends. Click here to join now!

Can You Arrive Early to Disney Dining Reservations?

Preparing for your Walt Disney World Resort adventure? You’re probably asking, “Should I show up early for my dining reservations?” Perfect question. Let’s dive into that, strike a balance between punctuality and flexibility, and help you level up your Disney dining experience.

The Disney Dining Clock: Can You Beat It?

You may be pondering, “Is early always better?” Disney, however, has some clear guidelines.

The official stance is that guests can’t check in for dining reservations more than 15 minutes before the scheduled time.

This policy ensures restaurants maintain their rhythm and guest flow.

But what if you’re running a tad late?

Reservation Realities: What to Expect at Disney Restaurants

Whether you’re dining at popular spots like the California Grill or enjoying a dinner show at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, you’ll likely be seated close to your reservation time. Sometimes, though, you might find yourself waiting a bit longer.

Imagine this:

You’ve planned advanced dining reservations for 4:45pm at Le Cellier in Epcot. Depending on the restaurant’s flow, you could be seated closer to 5pm.

Here’s the gist:

Your reservation ensures a place in line, but not necessarily an exact seating time. Despite this, Disney’s cast members usually do a stellar job keeping things moving.

Exceptional Circumstances: Early Arrivals and Disney’s Flexibility

While Disney’s policy typically does not accommodate early arrivals, there are times when exceptions can be made.

If you’re celebrating a special occasion, the cast members might be able to offer some flexibility.

Here’s an example:

One year my wife and I were at EPCOT celebrating our anniversary, but try as we might we could not get a reservation at Le Cellier no matter what.

We watched the My Disney Experience App, and did everything we could.

We even went and begged Guest Services over by Spaceship Earth.

The best we could get from them was “we can try, but there’s no guarantee we can seat you.”

We figured we’d give it one more shot and walked over to the Canadian pavilion and explained the situation to the cast members, and they worked a little magic and actually got us seated!

It was an amazing dinner (as always) and they even gave us a “happy anniversary” desert.

It was perfect.

And we were incredibly grateful because we knew we had no guarantees and were completely at the mercy of the cast members and fate.

Navigating Your Disney Dining Adventure: Key Insights

While arriving early to your dining reservations at Disney World might not always work in your favor, being as close to your reservation time as possible is your best bet.

This strategy ensures that you have the best chance of being seated at your preferred dining location and making the most of your dining experience.

The My Disney Experience app is your go-to tool for managing your reservations.

If you need any assistance or have questions, don’t hesitate to ask a cast member or reach out to your travel agent. They’re there to ensure your Disney dining experience is as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Remember, Disney dining reservations can be made 60 days in advance of your check-in date, so plan ahead to snag a spot at the most popular restaurants, whether you’re craving the fine dining experience at Victoria & Albert’s or character meals at Hollywood & Vine.

And if your plans change, be aware of Disney’s cancellation policy to avoid any surprise show fees.

The Tick-Tock of Disney Dining: What If You’re Running Late?

You’ve scheduled your day down to the minute, you’ve got your FastPasses ready, but then something happens. You’re running late for your Disney dining reservation. What now? Will your precious reservation at Chef Mickey’s evaporate into thin air? Will you be slapped with a fee? In this in-depth section, we’ll unfold the mystery of what happens if you’re tardy for your Disney dining rendezvous.

Disney’s Grace Period: The 15-Minute Window

First things first, don’t let panic set in. Disney is a dream-maker, not a dream-crusher. They typically extend a grace period of up to 15 minutes beyond your scheduled reservation time. This means, if you’re running a little late, there’s still hope. But, if you’re likely to surpass this 15-minute buffer, it’s highly recommended to call the restaurant directly and keep them posted.

Running Late? Here’s Your Game Plan

Running behind can happen to the best of us, especially at the “happiest place on earth”.

When it does, here’s what you can do to try to save your spot at Cinderella’s Royal Table or the Hollywood Brown Derby.

  • Contact the restaurant: Disney encourages guests to inform the restaurant if they’re running late. This can be done by calling Disney Dining at 407-WDW-Dine.
  • Resort hotel front desk to the rescue: If you’re staying on a Disney property, like one of the resort hotels, the front desk can be a valuable resource. They may be able to offer advice or even aid in contacting the restaurant.
  • Explain your circumstances: Sometimes delays happen due to issues beyond your control like transportation delays (those monorails can be a bit unpredictable at times). If this is the case, be sure to communicate this to the restaurant staff when you arrive.

The ‘No Show Fee’: A $10 Wake-Up Call

Disney’s 15-minute grace period is a sigh of relief for many, but there’s a flip side. Arriving beyond this window may result in what’s termed a ‘No Show Fee’ of $10 per person. This fee might be charged to your credit card if you provided one as a guarantee during your reservation.

Avoiding this fee is simple:

Arrive on time.

But, as we know, things don’t always go according to plan.

If you’re running late, remember to call as soon as possible. Transparency can go a long way and might just save your reservation.

In a nutshell, while running late for your Disney dining reservation may send you into a panic (been there and done that too!), Disney offers a buffer and solutions to help manage such situations.

Remember, they’ll generally hold your reservation for 15 minutes, and it’s crucial to arrive within that window to avoid any potential fees.

If you’re running late, promptly call the Disney Dining Line and explain your predicament. A spoonful of communication helps maintain the magic in your Disney dining experience.

Savvy Moves for Smooth Sailing with Disney Dining Reservations

Navigating the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World Resort dining can feel like a Herculean task. From credit card details to booking windows, pre-payment policies, and those coveted Cinderella’s Royal Table reservations, there’s more to this culinary journey than meets the eye. Don’t fret, though; we’re about to make your dining voyage smoother than a ride on the It’s a Small World attraction.

Your Trusty Sidekick: The Credit Card

Think of your credit card as your trusty sidekick, always ready to leap into action when you’re making Disney dining reservations. Some of those fancy Disney restaurants (we’re looking at you, Le Cellier and California Grill) ask for a credit card guarantee to hold your spot. Here’s the deal: no show, no cancel, you pay a small fee, so keep your card at hand, just like Mickey’s magic wand.

The Magic Window: When to Book

Picture this: you’re 60 days out from the start of your epic Disney vacation, it’s a beautiful morning, you got your coffee ready to go, and the booking window for dining reservations has just opened.

This is your moment, your chance to snag that elusive reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

Don’t hesitate, dive in and book as fast as you can! That clock’s ticking.

The Fine Print: Pre-Payment and Cancellation Policies

Now, let’s talk about pre-payments and cancellation policies.

Some of Disney’s finest, like the Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, require you to pre-pay at the time of booking.

And if you need to cancel?

Do it 48 hours in advance or face a fee.

So, make sure you’ve got that cancellation policy down pat before you commit.

The Golden Ticket: Tips for Booking Hard-to-Get Reservations

Trying to book a table at Disney’s most popular restaurants is like trying to win the Golden Ticket.

But with the My Disney Experience app, cancellation windows, and maybe even a breakfast or lunch booking, you could be dining at the Beast’s castle in no time.

Here are some more super tips for a magical Disney dining experience:

1. Quick Service Restaurants: Your Fast-Pass to Deliciousness

You’re in the heart of the Magic Kingdom, and your stomach starts to rumble.

But wait!

You didn’t make any dining reservations.

Good news!

Disney’s quick-service restaurants come to the rescue.

They offer a variety of choices that are just as enticing as their table-service counterparts – no reservations needed!

2. Dine with a Crowd: Disney Dining for Large Groups

Visiting Disney with a large group? Awesome!

But it also means a bit more planning.

Many Disney restaurants accommodate large parties, but early booking is key.

When making your reservations, be sure to specify your party size to ensure a smooth dining experience.

3. Disney Springs: A Culinary World Outside the Parks

Need a break from the parks but still craving Disney magic? Or just need an alternative?

Check out Disney Springs.

It’s home to an array of dining options from world-renowned chefs.

Plus, you don’t need a park ticket to dine here!

4. The Disney Dining Plan: A Delicious Investment

Thinking of getting the Disney Dining Plan?

It’s a fantastic option that lets you prepay for meals and snacks (when it’s available).

It can be a real time and money saver, especially if you plan to enjoy several character dining experiences or meals at fine dining locations.

5. Last-Minute Dining: Spontaneous Foodie Fun

Plans change, and sometimes, you might find yourself looking for a last-minute dining reservation.

Don’t panic!

Same-day reservations can open up.

Just keep checking the My Disney Experience app for availability.

6. Character Dining: Meal Time Meets Fun Time

Want to dine with Mickey, Cinderella, or maybe the Beast?

Character dining is one of the most unique experiences Disney offers.

You get a great meal and precious interaction with your favorite characters.

Don’t forget to book these popular experiences at the 60-day mark!

7. Animal Kingdom Dining: A Wildly Delicious Adventure

Looking for a dining experience that’s a little wild?

Animal Kingdom offers unique dining options like Tusker House and Tiffins Restaurant. It’s the perfect place to refuel during your safari adventure.

8. Disney Resort Hotel Dining: More Than Just Convenience

Staying at a Disney Resort Hotel? Great choice! Beyond their convenient location, these hotels also offer fantastic dining options. From the Polynesian’s ‘Ohana to the Contemporary’s California Grill, resort hotel dining should definitely be on your foodie bucket list.

9. Park Reservations and Dining: A Perfect Pair

Remember, to dine in a park, you need to have a park reservation for that day. So, as you’re planning your dining, make sure it aligns with your park days. This is especially important now with the Park Hopper option allowing park switching only after 2 PM.

10. Walt Disney World Restaurants: A World of Culinary Delights

With over 200 restaurants across the parks, Disney Springs, and resort hotels, Walt Disney World truly offers a culinary adventure.

From quick bites to fine dining, there’s something to satisfy every palate.

11. The Best Option: What Works for You

Ultimately, the best option for your Disney dining experience depends on your group, your budget, and your preferences (just be on time for your reservation).

Whether it’s a quick-service meal in Animal Kingdom, a princess breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, or a romantic dinner at Victoria & Albert’s, the choice is yours to make your Disney vacation deliciously unforgettable.

Related FAQ: Navigating Disney Dining Reservations

Still have questions? We’ve got answers. Here are answers to some related and frequently asked questions about Disney dining reservations.

Q: What time should I wake up for Disney dining reservations?

A: Well, how eager are you? Disney dining reservations open at 6:00 AM Eastern Time. So, if you’re serious about snagging that hard-to-get reservation, you might consider setting your alarm a bit early. (Just think of it as training for those early morning park arrivals!)

Q: Does Disney dining open at 5:45 or 6:00?

A: Right on the dot at 6:00 AM Eastern Time! That’s when you can start making reservations for dining experiences at the Walt Disney World Resort. (Or, as we like to call it, the culinary version of the rope drop!)

Q: What is the busiest week at Disney World?

A: Get ready for some company! The busiest times at Disney World are traditionally during major holidays like Christmas and New Year’s, and also during spring break (late March to early April). Weekends are also typically busier than weekdays. But hey, the more the merrier, right?

Q: How do I get notified when Disney reservations open?

A: Stay in the know! The My Disney Experience app or website doesn’t currently offer notifications for when dining reservations open. However, there are third-party apps that strive to offer this service. Just remember, you’ll still need to book through Disney once you get that golden alert.

Q: How to eat at a Disney restaurant without a reservation?

A: Impromptu dining? No problem! While reservations are recommended for many Disney restaurants, there are also plenty of quick-service and some table-service restaurants that accept walk-ins. You’ll have to check with the table service restaurants individually to see how busy they are if you’re trying to get in without a reservation (but it doesn’t really happen very often, so don’t get your hopes up too high).

Q: Can I cancel a Disney reservation?

A: Absolutely! You can cancel your Disney dining reservation via the My Disney Experience app or by calling Disney Dining directly. Just remember to cancel at least 24 hours in advance to avoid any potential cancellation fees.

Q: How many times can you not show up for Disney reservations?

A: It’s always best to avoid no-shows. If you don’t show up for your Disney dining reservation and haven’t cancelled at least 24 hours in advance, you may be charged a fee. Repeated no-shows may also impact your ability to make future reservations. So, be courteous and cancel if you can’t make it!

Next Steps

Want to talk to other annual pass holders? Join the Disney Park Advisor Community group to connect with other Disney fans and get tips and advice and feedback on your Disney experience. Simply click the link below to request membership and become a part of our community.

Disney Park Advisor Community