By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Category — f. When Your Walt Disney World Plans Need to be Firm

The Basics: Key Disney World Milestone Dates


If you intend to dine at any of Disney’s best-loved restaurants, or see Disney’s most popular rides with low waits, there’s two milestone dates to keep in mind:

  • Disney World restaurants start accepting reservations 180 days before the desired dining date (for those staying at a Disney-owned hotel, at 180 days before your check in date you can book both that date and the next ten). Booking open at 6a for on-line reservations and at 7a for phoned-on reservations.
  • Disney’s FastPass+ reservations—which allow you to book a low-wait “appointment” to see certain rides—become available 60 days before planned use at 7a if you are staying at a Disney-owned hotel, the Swan or Dolphin, or (new in 2018) Shades of Green. the Four Seasons, and the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, or (new in 2019) the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando–and 30 days at 7a for everyone else.

The Basics - Key Milestone Disney World Dates from
For an 180 day calendar, see this.

Taking advantage of either of these requires that you know where you plan to be during the days of your visit—because dining where you already are saves much travel time, and you need to know what park you plan to be in to know where to book your FastPass+.

My itineraries take care of that for you, or, if you are building your own itinerary, leave a comment on this page (down at the bottom.)

Other key milestones are detailed in all the To-Do Lists on this site. Each is designed for a specific itinerary, but the general steps on the To-Do Lists apply to everyone.

A few other points deserve mention here

  • If all you’ve reserved from Disney is a room, you can cancel it up to 6 days before check-in without a penalty
  • If you’ve reserved a package—a “package,” basically, is a room plus anything else—you can cancel up until 31 days before check-in without penalty. (This used to be 45 days)

Note that if you’ve been shut out of a dining venue, start checking again at 31 days before your arrival, as some will get canceled around then from people cancelling their entire visit. Check again the day before, as there’s a penalty for not canceling by the day before.

This all is more planning ahead than many wish for, or want.

But with the advent of FastPass+ in particular, there’s never before been such a payoff to planning ahead at Disney World as there is today—and never before been such a penalty for failing to do so….



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March 15, 2016   3 Comments

First Time Visitors and Dining at Walt Disney World

(A slightly different version of this first appeared in WDW Magazine.)

Dining at Disney World for First-Time Visitors from yourfirstvisit.netFirst time family visitors to Walt Disney World need to know three things about dining:

  1. Some dining venues are among the best family experiences Walt Disney Word has to offer
  2. The most popular of these can sell out months ahead, so planning really pays off in helping access them—you can—and should– start booking them 180 days before the day you plan to eat
  3. Disney World dining in general is expensive, and some of the best experiences even more so, and there’s no perfect way to cut the cost

The best rides at Walt Disney World are often called “E” Ticket rides—from the old days, when it took a most-expensive “E” Ticket to get on them.

Dining—particularly at certain “table service” restaurants that have offerings beyond the food itself–can be an E-Ticket experience as well!

(“Table service” is Disney World lingo for venues with seats, waiters, and scheduled times. Venues without waiters are called “quick” or “counter” service, may or may not have seats, and can’t be reserved.)

Guide to Disney World Dining from yourfirstvisit.netThe most fun and best-loved family dining contains some or all of the following features in addition to the food:

  • A fun setting
  • Some kind of show and/or interactive play-along elements, and
  • Visits by Disney characters like Mickey, Tigger, or the Disney Princesses.

On almost everyone’s list of the best among these are

  • The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, a silly dinner show with interactive elements at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
  • The Princess meals Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom and Akershus at Epcot.  The first has the better setting, the second is much less expensive
  • Dining with Tigger, Pooh and friends at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom
  • Dining with Mickey and friends at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
  • Various degrees of wait-staff induced silliness at 50’s Prime Time Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Whispering Canyon at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Exotic settings in the local versions of national chain restaurants the Rainforest Café, in both Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney, and T-Rex in Downtown Disney

That’s why you’ll find most of these on each of this site’s itineraries.

San Angel Inn at Epcot from yourfirstvisit.netBut, because the best dining options have limited capacity and are wildly popular, these restaurants can be filled almost as soon as reservations open for them—180 days before.

The importance of dining experiences is the Disney World topic that most surprise first-time visitors, and is where their doing some advance thinking and planning pays off most.   So you should pick your table service dining choices as soon as you can, and reserve them as soon as reservations open.

Disney World calls these reservations “Advance Dining Reservations—“ADRs” for short.

Reservations currently open 180 days before the date of dining—online at 6 a.m. and over the phone at 7 a.m. (If you are staying at a Disney World hotel, once 180 days from your arrival dates rolls around, you can make ADRs for not just that day but the first ten days of your visit.  You’ll sometimes see this referred to as “180+10.”)

Disney World dining is expensive.  The Disney Dining Plan, which has a couple of variants, is a way to prepay some of these dining expenses.  Years ago, you could save a lot of money by buying the “Disney Dining Plan,” but at current pricing levels you won’t save much—or anything—by buying it.

The Disney Dining Plan is a handy budgeting tool, and it does relieve some anxiety (because you already paid for it…) about the cost of meals in the parks.  So I do still recommend it.  But with or without it, the typical family should budget about $50+ per adult per day for dining, and somewhere between $25 and $50/day for the kids–depending on their ages and appetites.

The best way to save money eating at Disney World  is to buy ingredients and build some of your own meals.  This works best for cold breakfasts in your hotel room, and packing some lunches and/or snacks into the parks.

But these ingredients aren’t cheap (if you have a car, you can hit an off-site grocery store…but that costs time you could be spending vacationing) and may not even be available in your hotel.

Food at Disney's Grand Floridian from yourfirstvisit.netThe availability of such ingredients—lunch supplies especially– varies widely across the Disney hotels.

The best selections of such food for sale in shops are found at Fort Wilderness and in the Disney Vacation Club resorts, and the weakest are the value resorts.

The example is from a shop at the Grand Floridian after its new DVC Villas opened.

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December 23, 2013   No Comments

More on When Your Walt Disney World Plans Should be Firm

When to Go      Future Crowds      Home       How to Use this Site       FAQ


This page brings to one place links to material on this site related to when your Disney World plans should be firm. 

It’s part of a series on navigating this site.

See the links below for more!

When Your Plans Need to Be Firm

Already Too Late?

180 Day Calendar

Using Travel Agents to help with your planning

How Far in Advance You Can Book your Disney World trip

See also, from the Comfortable Guide to Walt Disney World,

March 20, 2011   4 Comments

How Far in Advance Can You Book a Walt Disney World Vacation?


I can tell from my search traffic that people are already starting to plan their 2020 Walt Disney World vacations.

The Walt Disney World website currently only allows bookings through 2019…so how do you book for later dates? Do you have to wait?

The short answer is that you can book a Disney World resort room 499 days ahead…but it’s a little complicated… [Read more →]

February 21, 2011   47 Comments

Walt Disney World Calendar Changes to Six Months

In late October 2009 the Walt Disney World park calendar shifted from being available for the next three months to being available for the next 6 months.

At the same time, restaurants also became reservable six months out.

This site’s itineraries and To-Do Lists have been updated, as has its material on how long in advance your plans need to be firm.

Ideally, your plans should now be firm more than 180 days before your arrival date, so that you can reserve your dining sites for the right days and times. [Read more →]

October 30, 2009   No Comments

What if it’s Already Too Late?


Your plans should be firm more than 180 days before your arrival date. See this for why.

If it is already fewer than 180 days from your planned arrival date, see the items below.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

April 29, 2008   No Comments