Disney ADRs – are you a fan or a foe?

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IMG_3526-WDW-EPCOT-LES-CHEFS-DE-FRANCE🙂 Let’s talk about one of my “favorite” (NOT) Disney subjects – ADRs! For those who are acronyminally challenged (like me!), this means “Advanced Dining Reservations”. I would agree that one should expect crowds during a holiday and therefore it would be prudent to secure reservations for sit-down dining well in advance. However, I think Disney manufactures a certain level of hysteria surrounding sit-down dining by making 180-days-out reservations available all the time, even for non-holidays.

05152010731-WDW-Contemporary-WAVEThink about it. A hundred and eighty days in advance is six whole months – half a year! – prior to the day you’d like to dine. Some people don’t even know they are going to Disney yet at 180 days out. Not everyone plans a Disney vacation that far in advance. Even 90 days – 3 months – is a bit much for my taste. It’s too rigid – where is the ability to be flexible, to change one’s mind in all of this? To be fair, probably the reason I don’t plan that far out is because I am a Florida resident; while it’s still an overnight car trip for me, I don’t have to make plane reservations and save up to pay for them, etc. But to be equally fair, this means that the 180-days-out practice for dining reservations discriminates against Florida residents who want to just hop in the car and go when the mood strikes them. It’s even worse for the true locals – those who live in Orlando, Lake Buena Vista, Kissimmee and the surrounding area who can literally be at the restaurant in minutes, if only there were tables to be had!

042520102839-WDW-Boardwalk-Flying-FishI know this is a radical concept, even more radical than flexibility, but I would like the luxury of being a bit spontaneous sometimes – let’s see, what cuisine am I in the mood for today? However, by allowing reservations so ridiculously far in advance, Disney has made people anxious enough to take them up on it, and spontaneity flies out the window. This results in a lot of “I’m sorry, we’re totally booked for the entire week” should you not get through to WDW-DINE precisely at 7:00 AM 180 days prior to your meal. While there are allegedly a certain number of seats per meal set aside for “walk-ups”, my personal experience indicates it is a rarity to be seated this way. If it happens and you mention it to regular Disney-goers, they will stare at you in awe and maybe want to reverently touch your hem or kiss your ring to rub off some of your mojo.

From my point of view, the availability of sit-down dining reservations half a year in advance is NOT a valuable service for all guests. While it may be comforting to some, it’s also stressful and sometimes disappointing to others. It’s a method of creating near-panic that results in guaranteed butts-in-seats revenue for Disney’s sit-down dining establishments. Can you say “ka-CHING! $$$”?

Are you a big fan of ADRs or do they make you as “Grumpy” (but not Sneezy or Dopey) as I seem to be about it?

Please leave a comment; I’d love to hear what you think!

The preceding rant was inspired by a story at The Daily Disney, an Orlando Sentinel blog. You can read the story at the link below. Note how the headline admonishes that you’ll “miss out” if you don’t make ADRs – even the media is encouraging hysteria!

Without reservations, you might miss out on great dining at Disney World | TheDailyDisney.com from OrlandoSentinel.com.

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14 thoughts on “Disney ADRs – are you a fan or a foe?”

  1. The ADR rules are the same for everybody. That makes them fair.

    I am a little irked that those that can go to WDW on a regular or spur-of-the-moment basis – like to natter away about this. Do you think that people that are coming from another coast, another country, for maybe that once-in-a-lifetime vacation to WDW somehow magically know what kind of cuisine they’ll be wanting to eat 6 months ahead of time?

    When they changed the ADR rule to 90 days out – that also caused problems – so they changed it back to 180 days.

    For those that don’t have the foresight to make ADR’s in advance and arrive at WDW and then can’t get an ADR for the restaurant that they want, when they want, I say Boo-Freakin’-Hoo. There are STILL plenty of places to eat, both on-and-off site or try eating your main meal at noon (when many of the more popular restaurants have tables).

    And now that Disney has made it a snap to make on-line ADR’s – there is no excuse for not making an ADR. NONE.

  2. Mari, if you lived in Kissimmee, you’d be singing a very different tune.

    Here in the Fort Myers area, there’s a lovely restaurant close by called the Islamorada Fish Company. Perhaps it’s a 15-20 minute drive from my home. Fresh seafood and “Floribbean” cuisine are featured.

    Shall I make reservations NOW for 6 months from today? Doesn’t that sound sort of ridiculous? Since I live 20 minutes from the restaurant, it sounds ridiculous to me.

    If I decide I’d like Floribbean cuisine for dinner but I cannot get in because I didn’t make reservations six months ago, should I just settle for P.F. Chang’s next door? It’s not Floribbean, it’s Chinese… and I don’t even LIKE Chinese but hey, it’s a restaurant.

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  3. This is a sticky issue.

    When we were there during Spring Break 2008, we called the WDW Dine number from inside Epcot to see if the Rose and Crown had openings for a late lunch around 2:00. they did and were seated immediately when we arrived at the restaurant. We were sitting outside near the podium for check-in.

    There were very few guests in the restaurant at that time. We saw the check-in hostesses turn away EVERY walk-up guests even though there were lots of tables open.

    For people that are making once-a-year or once-in-a-lifetime vacations, then 6-months reservations make sense.

    The real crime is how Disney has propagated the myth that Disney Dining is the end-all/be-all of experiences at Disney. It really is the Dining Plan and the Magic Your Way Plan that has created this glut in the dining experience.

    My thought is that we need to go back to the Ticket Books! Let people vote with their money about which attractions to do during the day. Keep the gluts at the biggest “E” Ticket attractions down…spread out the love throughout the park.

    Oh yeah…and boycott the DDP. It really isn’t worth it. You spend way too much time in the restaurants…

  4. I have never called in for reservations and have never been completely turned away from a restaurant. Last December we walked right in to the Rose and Crown and got seated right away. In April we did the same thing but had to wait only about 20 minutes. In April we also walked into the Wave with no reservations, had to wait all of 5 minutes, and got seated right by the window. We’ve done this in a couple of other places too and never waited more than 20 minutes. So, no, I’m not going to make call ahead reservations 6 months in advance. I’m with you Tink, being a Floridian now, I sometimes don’t know until a week ahead if I’m going to WDW or not.

  5. George, first it’s nice to see you 🙂 Second, I agree that dining at Disney is nice but it is not all that and a bag of chips. Well actually it’s TOO much that and a bag of chips! For me it’s not worth it simply because of the portion sizes. I can’t do sit-down at Disney three meals a day – just not happening. I will ‘splode, and that ain’t pretty….

    Yo, Sno – You were so lucky about the Rose & Crown! You know when I’ve seen that place the emptiest? Monday nights. For some reason, Mondays are light nights at EPCOT. All the prime viewing areas for Illuminations are open to the general populace, and there are plenty of seats at the Rose & Crown.

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  6. Hi Tink! I don’t think if I lived within striking distance of WDW that I’d change my tune. If I may quote myself: “The ADR rules are the same for everybody. That makes them fair.”

    Disney has changed their on-line ADR system. If you want to make an ADR 180 days in advance or just a couple of hours in advance, you have the choice to do so.

  7. Mari, the ADR system is only fair for everyone IF they know where they want to eat six months in advance. However, if you have the audacity to not know where you want to eat on January 8th 2011, then you are probably S.O.L.

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  8. I don’t think anyone knows where they want to eat 6 months from now.

    But the reality at WDW (gee, I used ‘reality’ and ‘WDW’ in the same sentence – lol) is if you don’t PICK SOMETHING and make an ADR – you might not even get something.

    Besides, the Disney online ADR system is MUCH improved. Even if you don’t know what you want to eat until the day you are going – you can go online in the morning and see what’s available. However, just be aware that Phil from Podunk who booked at the 6 month mark and Hortense from Hawaii who booked at the 3 month mark and Zelda from Zaire who booked the day before, all got their ADR’s in ahead of you.

    Anyway, people at this blog have been posting that they didn’t have all that much trouble getting into a WDW restaurant.

  9. Well Mari, you are quite living up to your moniker today, aren’t you? ;p I’m not sure that the two people testifying here today are proof enough that I’m full of it; all I can say is that my mileage has varied from theirs, as I have certainly never been blessed with same day availability of the Rose & Crown, be it walk up or WDW-DINE. The one thing we can agree on is that if the reservation isn’t made, the odds against sitting down for dinner increase dramatically.

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  10. I think the one thing we can agree on is that if the ADR IS made, the odds OF sitting down for dinner increase dramatically.

    And again, Disney has made some very good improvements their on-line ADR system.

  11. Generally, when I’m on vacation, I’m an eat & go kind of girl so I’ve only had a few experiences with sit down dinners at Disney. I will say that on our last visit we had to restructure our schedule to accomodate a character breakfast, since the only day available for our party of four was the day we were scheduled to be at Sea World. We decided to go to MK after dining at Chef Mickey’s cause it was right there. Anyway – I called to get the reservation more than four months in advance, and this was for the second week of November – considered off season. Also, we were warned not to be late, as they were “squeezing us in”. I could see that if we had a large group or called last minute, but it all seemed to be a little over the top for me. BTW – when we got there (early) the wait was just a few minutes and I would say the flow seemed comfortable – not overly busy and a few empty tables scattered about. Who knows – maybe they had some cancellations.
    To answer Tink’s specific question, I would be peeved, too, if I lived in the area and couldn’t get tables without very advaced reservations. There is no good reason Disney can’t hold a percentage of tables as “unreserved” to try to accomodate walkups. I wonder how many locals would love to celebrate an unplanned special event (engagement, promotion, new baby on the way) with a nice dinner at one of Disney’s famous restaurants but simply can’t get a table?

  12. No amount of improvement to the ADR system is going to make a table available for a walk-up. The only thing that will make that table available for a walk up is if Disney sets aside a certain number of tables for walk-ups.

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  13. Denise, I imagine after having had the experience of not getting in a couple of times, locals don’t even bother any more. The only time of the year you can walk into a Disney park on the spur of the moment and be guaranteed some interesting food – albeit, not sit-down – is during the Food & Wine Festival.

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