If you ever want to dine at a full service Walt Disney World restaurant, most Disney fans will tell you to stay at a WDW Resort Hotel and once you have your room reservation, you can go online or call, and make Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) 180 days prior to the first date of your visit plus up to the next 10 days into your vacation (so a total of up to 190 days). If you’re not staying on site, you can still make your ADRs 180 days in advance (but the up to 10 days into the rest of your vacation aren’t included).
But what if you decide to go to WDW on a last-minute whim because of a great airline flash sale? Or what if you’re a local and don’t plan your dinners 6 months in advance, because you may not decide to go to WDW until that morning? (True story! That is, without a doubt, Joe and I!)? Are you forever doomed to quick service restaurants, waiting long periods of time as a walk-in, or simply eating off site (which actually doesn’t suck, because there are a lot of really awesome restaurants off property – but it does interfere with park time)?
There’s a way to get last-minute reservations at a bunch of restaurants on Disney property, and all it takes is one thing…
OpenTable is an online restaurant-reservation service company founded in 1998. Although its main market is the United States, it’s expanded in recent years to include restaurants in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom (we can vouch for its use in Australia, Japan and the U.K.!). It’s free to make a reservation and according to the company, it provides online reservations for about 40,000 restaurants around the world and seats about 23 million diners per month. Many reservations, once fulfilled, will give you between 100 and 1,000 points and once you have accumulated a minimum of 2,000 points, you are eligible to receive either a check that’s good for use at a future restaurant visit, or other rewards.
The list of restaurants that use Open Table as its reservation system is constantly expanding and whereas Open Table initially had reservations available for just a couple of restaurants on Walt Disney World property, it’s now expanded to include:
- II Mulino New York Trattoria (WDW Swan)
- Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge)
- Big River Grille (Boardwalk)
- The Boathouse (Disney Springs)
- Boatwright’s (Disney Springs)
- Bongos Cuban Cafe (Disney Springs)
- The Edison (Disney Springs)
- Enzo’s Hideaway (Disney Springs)
- Flying Fish (Boardwalk)
- Frontera Cocina (Disney Springs)
- Garden Grove (WDW Swan)
- Grand Floridian Cafe (Grand Floridian)
- House of Blues (Disney Springs)
- Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
- Kona Cafe (Polynesian)
- Morimoto Asia (Disney Springs)
- Olivia’s Cafe (Old Key West)
- Paddlefish (Disney Springs)
- Paradiso 37 (Disney Springs)
- Planet Hollywood (Disney Springs)
- Raglan Road Irish Pub (Disney Springs)
- Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
- Shula’s (WDW Dolphin)
- STK (Disney Springs)
- Todd English’s bluezoo (WDW Dolphin)
- The Wave (Contemporary)
And get this – unlike when you make an ADR through WDW, you don’t have to leave a deposit if you make a reservation with Open Table! Also, as of this writing, if you’re a no-show, you won’t be charged a no-show fee (that being said, if you get 3 no-shows on Open Table, your account and saved up points will be revoked).
You can use Open Table on your computer or via its app. You tell Open Table where you are looking for a restaurant (there are lots of pre-made categories such as I-Drive/Sand Lake (a.k.a. “Restaurant Row”), Downtown Orlando, Kissimmee, Celebration, etc. I chose “Lake Buena Vista”), what date and time you’re looking for, as well as how many are in your party. As an example, I searched for a party of 2 for tomorrow at a very typical dinner hour, 6pm. I was able to find reservations at 23 of the 26 WDW area restaurants. If I expanded my search (an unusual time, or more days ahead of time), I could snag reservations at any of the 26 restaurants.
Open Table does have its drawbacks – you have to sign up to make an account and provide your email address to receive information about your reservation. You also can only make a reservation up to about 90 days ahead of time (although if you’re booking that far ahead of time, you may as well just make an ADR through Disney). But really, if your goal is to make a very last-minute reservation, Open Table can be a fantastic help!
And I’ve just told you one of Joe and my best secrets about Disney restaurants – now that you know, save us a couple of last-minute reservations here and there, OK? 😉
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