Dining reservations for your Disney World trip open 180 days in advance of your check in date at 7am WDW time. If you’re staying on property, you can make reservations for your entire vacation all at one time (see all the on property vs off property details here).
Being a full 180 days away from of a vacation, and trying to have a lot of the plans all set up already seems like overkill to many people, especially first time visitors (or first time in a long time visitors). However in reality, if you have specific places you’d like to eat, you might very well not be able to get those reservations if you don’t make them the first morning you can.
For example, the first morning of dining reservations for my own family’s trip this fall, I had to make a reservation for a guest first, and in the 6 minutes it took me to take care of the guest, then get into my own account, there was only an 8:10pm reservation left for one of the character dining experiences we wanted. So, that first chance at reservations can be incredibly important!
To be fair, it IS possible to grab up a reservation when people drop them as their plans change, but they definitely don’t always open, and certainly don’t always open for a time period you preferred.
Do you *have* to make reservations in advance? No. You can certainly walk up to a restaurant and ask to be put on a waiting list, but you may easily be waiting an hour or longer at many restaurants. If you would like a sit down meal, but have no reservation, my suggestion is to try to eat at an off time. Like have a late lunch/early dinner at 3:30 or 4pm, but even then, you will probably still not be seated immediately. Quick service, or grab and go, restaurants never take reservations and will allow you to mobile order, so you can always go that route if your group wants to eat right now, but has no reservations.
If you have any preference about dining and/or where you’d like to eat, should you make reservations as far in advance as you can? Most definitely.
Knowing details about reservations, and how to set up what parks to go on which days (which can determine where you eat on what day) can be a bit overwhelming for people. That’s where I come in! I would love to help you plan your next magical vacation. Email me at Jill@ThinkTheHappiestThoughts.com or fill out the form under “Free Quote” at the top of the page.