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Do I really have to make reservations now for Character Dining?

by Tanva
(Rio Rancho, NM)

I will be in Disney 2nd week of October and all the research is saying make your dining reservations before. It makes me nervous to think that we won’t be able to have any character dining or nice meals if I don’t know what time I want to eat 2 months from now? Is it that rushed to make a reservation? Or is this something I can decide when I have a better idea of what we are doing?

On a side note, your website has been very helpful, especially for a mother taking her kids for the first time. It almost feels like I’m studying for a test with all the information.

Thank you,

Mickey in Safari Gear at Donald's Safari Character Meal

Mickey at Donald’s Safari Breakfast – Photo by Kerry Willmott Wood from Facebook

Dad’s Reserve Now or Risk Answer


Thanks for the kind words about Dad’s Guide. It’s a whole lot of fun, especially when I can help people like you. You are right about the amount of information out there about Disney World, and your test will come in October.

First, let me say I went and looked at a couple of days in mid-October and there are some reservations available even at some of the Character Dining. If I were you, I’d go and grab a couple.

Dads’s Character Dining page

Yes, make them now. If you really want to experience one of the best things Disney does (Character Dining) or even some of the better restaurants, you will need a reservation. You might get a table by showing up (it’s happened before), but you probably won’t. Character meals are some of the most popular dining experiences at WDW.

The problem you’re facing (and it’s getting worse everyday) is that thousands of people are booking Free Dining right now for October. (Get your FREE Dining here.) Right after those people make their reservations they go directly to Disney’s site and start booking dining reservations. FREE Dining brings people out of the woodwork and as we’ve discovered earlier this week, some dates are already sold out.

Disney starts taking reservations 180 days in advance. There are several restaurants that are “sold out” within a couple of minutes on day 180. The Character Meals are usually sold out pretty quickly, but most of them are in bigger restaurants and have a little more availability, but they still will fill up almost every day.

A little girl with a menu at Sci Fi Dine In

You might not get to eat at Sci Fi Dine In – Photo by Cora Busch from Facebook

Mrs. Mom and I found out last year (we were there in mid-October) that FREE Dining brings people out of the woodwork. Crowds will be bigger and restaurants are fuller. It just makes sense. You are going during the heart of FREE Dining. It’s going to be busy and the restaurants will be packed.

Let me end with this. I’ve found that when it comes to planning a trip to Walt Disney World you have to do things a bit backwards. Instead of looking at what you want to do and planning your dining around that, you usually have to find out when you can get a reservation at the restaurants you want and then plan your day around your reservations. Yes, it’s backwards, but that’s just reality.

Dads’s Making Reservations page

Destinations to Travel

Dad’s Bottom Line

Tanva, this is one of those, go directly to Disney (their dining page), do not pass go, etc. Yes, go there now and make a couple of reservations. You don’t have to make reservations for every meal, but you do want to make a few.

Comments for

Aug 11, 2013 Dining Reservations
by: Angela

We have made dining reservations six months in advance and are so glad we did! The great eating establishments and Character Dining completely fill up and without reservations the wait times are as long as two hours or more!

We made this mistake on our first trip to Disney World, but now that we know a bit better use of the system and are Vacation Club Members, we are standing outside waiting.

Aug 10, 2013 Dining reservations
by: Anonymous

We didnt make any reservations our first time on dining plan, for same reasons you stated, big mistake! Do your homework to decide which park you want to do on which day (there is advice on best days to do each park, there are websites, blogs and books to assist you in how to plan!) then plan your dining around that. You can show up early for your reservation and they work you in. We called to let them know when we were going to be late due to transportation issues. Best to plan the meal in the park you plan to be in, even with park hopper, transportation takes a lot of time.

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