Are you excited to book your events for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival?
OF COURSE you are!! You know who else is excited?
Lots and lots (and LOTS) of other people. 😉
Booking for Special Events and Demos and Seminars for the Festival will open to the general public on July 30th at 7 am this year, and the popularity of these events makes that date into something we call a Peak Booking Day — a day when you never quite know what to expect, because the phone lines and online booking engines are often jammed with folks trying to nab their top choices.
Of course, sought-after bookings aren’t unique to the Food and Wine Festival. Just ask anyone who’s ever tried to
grab an Advance Dining Reservation at Be Our Guest Restaurant. For instance, earlier this year, the dates of February 25th and March 17th were big days on the calendar of many Disney World guests.
You see, these were the dates that Disney Dining launched a couple of unprecedented processes. Due to the popularity of Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest Restaurant, Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) were opened up for lunch on February 25th. Next, it was announced that Be Our Guest would begin serving breakfast for the first time, and booking would be available beginning March 17th.
These events were unprecedented because lunch and breakfast at Be Our Guest are Counter Service meals, as opposed to the Table Service option typically associated with Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs). Today we’re going to discuss the experiences on each of those two dates as examples of what Peak Booking Days can be like. So let’s hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time… all the way back to Wednesday, February 25th 😉 .
What to Expect on Release Day for High Demand Reservations — “You May Experience Technical Difficulties…”
We’re going to use booking an ADR at Be Our Guest as the example here, but these scenarios can happen on any peak booking day.
It probably goes without saying at this point, but scoring an ADR for dinner at Be Our Guest has been the hottest dining ticket in Disney World since the restaurant first opened. Since dinner has been Table Service from day one, it has always accepted Advance Dining Reservations, and the main problem with getting an ADR for dinner had primarily been a matter of finding availability.
On February 25th, when ADRs opened up for lunch for the first time, there was a whole slew of reports of various experiences — and yes, kinks — in the process.
I remember it well… When I tried to make my reservation, I encountered what seemed to be a common problem: I had no luck getting a Lunch Reservation to come up via the Disney World Website through the Be Our Guest Restaurant page; however, going through the My Disney Experience app on my tablet gave me no problem.
In fact, I even got my ADR a few minutes before the 6 am typical transition time (6 am is when ADRs traditionally open for the 180-day-out reservation window ).
Of course, that was just my experience. It seems reports were almost as varied as the amount of people trying to snag an ADR. Okay, not quite; but experiences included everything from the website server itself going down with no options to even search for times, to some SERIOUS wait times (i.e. HOURS) calling (407) WDW-DINE to reserve a spot through a Cast Member, to getting through the entire reservation process online only to receive an “error” message on the screen at the end (Ouch!). On big release days, stories like this can sometimes be the rule rather than the exception.
It’s worth noting that as soon as the next day, February 26th, things seemed to be going better. While I can only speak for what I saw on my computer, reservations for lunch appearing through the Be Our Guest page were showing up just like they were for any other Disney World restaurant (not necessarily “open,” mind you — it was still the hot ticket. But checking was possible).
Next up? March 17th — that’s the day bookings opened up for Advanced Dining Reservations for Breakfast at Be Our Guest Restaurant.
I am happy to say that my experience — and it appears that of many others, from various reports — was MUCH different, and MUCH better. Now, we certainly don’t know everybody’s stories, but speaking personally the entire process was smooth as silk making a reservation via my computer promptly at 6 am, and friends of mine had similarly positive experiences.
This could be due to a few different factors: first, with three different meals offering Advance Dining Reservations, there were suddenly simply more opportunities for people to book that incredibly popular restaurant (Hooray!). Second, Disney released bookings only through 3 months out as part of a test, which meant that the pool of people trying to get a reservation was limited to those who would be visiting Disney World in the next three months as opposed to the typical 6 month window, thereby reducing the potential for system overload. It seems to me that — if that was indeed part of the reason behind the test — it was a smart move that seems to have worked.
Another example prior to that was when it was announced that Hollywood Studios would offer Star Wars Character Dining in conjunction with Star Wars Weekends for the first time. This year guests were able to book these meals online, but the only option to book a Jedi Mickey Character Dinner for the very first year was via the (407) WDW-DINE phone line. Word and excitement had spread quickly about these brand new meals, so the morning the reservations became available, I was on hold for about 60 minutes only to find I was suddenly disconnected, and had to enter the calling line all over again.
(P.S. When all was said and done? Totally worth it.)
This year’s Rebel Hangar — A Star Wars Lounge Experience wasn’t quite as difficult to reserve, but once word spread it was definitely a tough ticket to get (especially for the weekends). And if the rumors about Minnie’s Holiday & Dine Dinner coming to Hollywood & Vine are true? It’s possible we could be looking at a similar situation.
The moral of the story? You just may get your hoped-for reservation right away. And if so, that’s great! However, Disney often experiences technical difficulties on the mornings when majorly anticipated reservations open up due to such demand, and you may need to try a few different avenues to book, including:
- The DisneyWorld.com website on your PC
- The My Disney Experience app on a tablet or smartphone if you have one
- Calling (407) WDW-DINE directly — or, in the case of the Food and Wine Festival, (407) WDW-FEST.
The process can take anywhere from 15 minutes of checking the various booking avenues to refreshing your computer screen or being on hold for a much looooonger time.
What if I just want to make a regular old dining reservation for a restaurant that’s not a “hot ticket?”
Conversely, let’s say you are just making your regular ADR plans. Perhaps you aren’t hoping to score the big Special Event or Reservation du Jour. Maybe you’re interested in restaurants that aren’t in quite as high demand.
It might pay to do a little online searching before making your Advance Dining Reservations and see what’s going on in Disney World reservations the day you hope to book. More often than not, you will enter the same queue as everybody else who IS trying for the difficult reservations — even if your hoped for reservation may be a simple one. So, when possible, it’s best to plan around these times if you’re making reservations that are less in demand.
Here’s wishing everyone lots of luck and pixie dust as you try to make your own reservations for whatever your dream vacation experience may be!
What’s your most hoped for Disney dining experience? Please let us know with a comment!