By Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate Princess.
I live in vacation-envy of people who can stay at Walt Disney World during the Free Dining offers. For various reasons, such as belonging to the Disney Vacation Club and teaching public school, I have never been able to take advantage of the free food. It hurts me too, because most of the people I talk to that took their family to a character meal did it with the Free Dining. Not me…I paid full price and still feel the financial sting. But I learned a planning tip that can save those of you couponing your way to Disney some dining heartache.
The year my sons took me to Chef Mickey’s as my Christmas present, it cost $164 including the tip. That, coupon-clippin’ friends, is nearly half my monthly car payment. This was a last-minute meal, and the only reason we even got in that morning was because a kindly manager overheard my son asking for meal prices and slipped us a reservation. She offered us this golden tip…any time you plan to eat at a table service restaurant on the Disney property, be sure to make an “ADR,” otherwise known as an Advanced Dining Reservation.
What is an Advanced Dining Reservation?
Advanced Dining Reservations are just that… it’s a reservation for a meal you will eat in advance of when you reserve it. ADRs reserve you a space for Disney restaurants and dinner shows that accept reservations. This won’t move you to the front of the line upon your arrival, but it does reserve your party a seat when one becomes available. If you walk up without a reservation, you may not get a seat.
How do I make an ADR?
Seven days a week, you can make your ADRs from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m, unless it’s a holiday, and holiday phoning hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Just call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463). If you have registered with a free Disney.com account, you can simply make your reservations online at Restauants at Walt Disney World starting at 6:00 a.m EST each day.
When can I make my ADRs?
On Property Guests:
Guests staying on Disney-owned property can make Advance Dining Reservations 180 days in advance, for up to 10 days of your vacation, which gives you a big advantage over other Disney diners. One phone call, and you can schedule all of your dinner reservations during that one call for 10 days length of stay.
When calculating ADR dates, WDW guests should use their check-in dates, as opposed to using your preferred dining date. You should be prepared to give your reservation numbers in order to book your ADRs all at once.
Off Property Guests:
If you are not staying on Disney property, you can make your dining reservations 180 days in advance of your preferred dining dates. The bad news is you will need to make your reservations for each day of your vacation individually, and that means one day at a time, starting 180 days out.
All the Downtown Disney Hotels, the Swan and Dolphin, and Shades of Green are not owned by Disney, even if they are on Disney property, so they will not qualify for the “180 day plus 10” perk.
What if I need to cancel my reservation?
Cancel your ADRs as soon as you know you won’t be able to use the reservation. Just call 407-WDW-CNCL, or you can cancel your reservations at Disney Dining and Reservations, or you can talk to someone in person at any resort front desk, restaurant podium, or any guest relations location.
Are ADRs free to make?
On October of 2011, select table-service locations began using the credit card guarantee policy, a policy that was already in place at select restaurants at Walt Disney World Resort. When booking a reservation at these restaurants, you are required to provide a credit card to hold a reservation. You will be charged $10.00 per person if your cancellation isn’t made at least one day in advance.
Check the Disney World website or call Disney directly to find out if your restaurant choice needs a credit card number in advance for your reservation.
1. Arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled ADR.
2. If you are using the Disney Dining Plan, free or paid, you should make ADRs for any table service meals, character meals, and restaurants with buffets.
3. Check the WDW park calendar to determine which parks have Extra Magic Hours, in case you want to dine early or late. However, remember that park hours are always subject to change since they are set 6 months in advance.
4. Because of all the free dining participants, restaurant reservations fill up fast. You will need alternate restaurant options available in case your time and place is booked up.
5. If you are using a Travel Agent, they can make your dining reservations for you online or over the phone.
6. You are not permitted to make more than one reservation for each meal, with no two dining reservations within 2 hours of each other.
So there you have some basic information regarding how to use ADRs to make sure your family enjoys the character meal they have been dreaming of. If you will miss out on the Free Disney Dining offers this fall, I feel your $$ pain. And if you are one of the lucky coupon clippers that do eat for free, enjoy a Mickey waffle for me!
Disney’s Cheapskate Princess