Walk-up table service dining: Should you chance it?

A big topic of discussion in the Disney World foodie world is advanced dining reservations. Ever since Disney World extended the advanced dining reservation window from 90 days prior to your trip to 180 days prior to your trip, it's become a race to the computer or phone to get your reservations in a full 6 months ahead of time.

And some are not happy with this move. It can create a lot of anxiety a full half-year before your trip -- who knows what you'll be craving 6 months from now? And with so many great restaurants located inside the parks, it forces an early touring plan as well, when the crowd forecasts could certainly change in 6 months' time.

So, what are you to do? You could perhaps make a few ADRs at hard-to-book restaurants, but leave a meal or two open for walk-up dining. Gasp! Yes, really. If you're a party of 1, 2 or 3, this tactic could certainly work. Here's my first-hand account.

My husband and I wanted to eat dinner at Ohana at the Polynesian Resort during our Oct. 2010 trip, but we weren't able to get an ADR. So, that day, we called ahead to see if there had been any cancellations -- nope, still fully booked. So, we headed on over to Ohana around 5:30 p.m., shortly after dinner service started, to see if we could get squeezed in at any time that night.

We arrived at the hostess podium, and very kindly asked if there might be any availability for a party of 2. Guess what? They were able to get us seated in 5 minutes. Our Lapus Lapus were still being made at the Tambu Lounge when we were informed that our table was ready.

While we lucked out at a hard-to-book restaurant, be sure to have a Plan B and C ready if you're planning on walk-up dining. Arrive early in the meal service at your Plan A, then move on to your other choices if you can't get seated there.

The Disney Food Blog has a great list of the best restaurants to eat at without a reservation. Pick a couple options from this list for your Plan B and C, and you'll more than likely be chowing down sooner than you'd think!

JeffC wrote on Wed, 12/29/2010 - 23:11:

This is a great tip. It's what we are planning on doing in September. We'll make ADRs for the few must-eats but the rest will probably be play it by ear and luck of the draw. I hate committing to too many specific eating times because we like to change up what we do on any given day.

Thanks Kristen!

Kristen H wrote on Tue, 01/11/2011 - 04:34:

Kristen H's picture

JeffC -- you're very welcome! It can pay off to "break the rules" every now and then for sure. We're also looking at planning a September trip!

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