March 29, 2012

The Agony of Making Disney Dining Reservations

Once upon a time, a nice family of three made reservations for their next trip to WDW. Being Disney Vacation Club members, their trip was at the mercy of when their points would become available, and so they planned their journey for September 2012. After booking the hotels and flights, they eagerly awaited the opening of the dining reservation window, so they could confirm their upcoming feasts.

After many weeks of scouring menus and making their wish list, the nice family called DVC to make their reservations, on the very first day they were allowed to do so. They were told, much to their chagrin, that the restaurant they were requesting to dine at, the Yachtsman Steakhouse, had no reservations available. Not a single one. For the entire week of their stay. An unapologetic Member of Cast told them to try later, and then directed them to a phone survey that took more time to complete than their original call.

Not satisfied with this, the nice family called back. Again. And again. Every day. Each time, Members of Cast offered a different, vague, uninformed explanation. Maybe the restaurant is being renovated. Maybe they haven't made their reservations for September available yet. Maybe, even though it is the off-season, everyone who is visiting the parks wants to eat here and made reservations already. Maybe you would prefer to eat at the Maya Grill?

The nice family, who had been considering the Disney Dining Plan option, was very sad. If they couldn't get a reservation at one non-park restaurant 180 days in advance, then what would become of their Table Service options when they arrived at the resort? Would they be left hungry, unable to eat anywhere, Table Service credits filling their pockets? Or would they be rushing from place to place, always at the mercy of some last-minute reservation? The nice family yearned for the days of old, when they could eat where they wanted, whenever they wanted, without having to make decisions three months in advance.

While the nice family's story is tragic, it is probably a common tale. Share your tales of dining hardship in the comments below!

Related Links:
* F is for Family and Food
* The Disney Dining Plan, or "How I Learned to Stop Worrying About My Figure and Love My Sweatpants"
* Golden Oak: My House is Better than Yours


Jennifer Lissak said...

What time of year were you planning? That makes no sense that 180 days out it was completely booked.. I'd say keep checking online - it's gotta come up. Crazy.. and Maya Grill as a substitute? That's just mean! good luck getting some good ADRs!

IAN! said...

My wife and i have been going to WDW just about once a year since 2002 and a good amount of our day is based on which park / where we want to eat mentality. This never used to be a problem until 2 things came around. The dining plan and the use of online reservations. With the dining plan people are so obsessed with the food (not that is such a bad thing) that they book everything SO far in advance and they fill up quicker then usual. And the killer (at least we think so) is with the advent of the online booking system it has also caused over booking. I think that when people used to have to actually call for reservations they would be they would pick and choose more carefully. They idea of picking up a phone and talking to a stranger was a deterrent. Now that you can do it online; without having to talk to someone, people have become reservation crazy. They make multiple reservations for the same time (all around the parks) and then just pick whichever one they feel like doing at that moment. We have actually heard about this trick from people we've 'chatted up' while out and about in the parks. This of course fills up the reservations, but not necessarily the actual tables. Another fault / trick my wife and i have learned about the reservation system is it's deeply flawed guest QTY loophole. It is typically just the 2 of us and there never seems to be anything available (for a table of 2?!)via calling or checking online. But when we call back or check online and say we are now a table for 3... magically there are now tables available!? We've learned to work with the system but it is flawed and i understand WDW has to accommodate a HUGE amount of hungry guests. Our suggestion would be when making a reservation online, they guest must register for an account or have some kinda WDW account tied to the guests park ticket / resort reservation so that they can keep track of double booking. Granted people could just make multiple accounts but that may stop some of the over booking.

Our other gripe (which i'll save for another time) is that as a party of 2, we always get stuck in the corner, off to the side, near the kitchen, etc. of these restaurants and never get to fully enjoy the ambiance or 'cool tables' if you know what i mean.

Thanks for listening!