Disneyland has been reopened for six months now and many things have changed, including how difficult it is to make dining reservations at the resort.
Dining reservations for many of the popular places, such as Oga’s Cantina, Blue Bayou and Carthay Circle, are becoming increasingly difficult to come by. Many guests planning their trips have been disappointed to discover almost everything booked solid in the weeks leading up to their trip. They wonder how those of us who managed to snag them went about doing so because surely we must have some sort of magical dining reservation power. As someone who has a reservation for both Oga’s and the highly popular Storytellers Cafe for my upcoming trip, I’m going to outline how I went about doing so and how you can do the same. It’s challenging, but not impossible.
When can I make dining reservations at Disneyland Resort?
You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance. The ‘up to’ part of that is important, however, as many places don’t have availability until far closer to the date. One of my top choices for dinner, the Storytellers Cafe, released reservations for my desired date only 35 days in advance, and Oga’s was around the 50-day mark.
What time these reservations go up is also unpredictable. The fact that reservations can get scooped up within minutes means you’ll want to jump on it as soon as they become available. But we have no idea when that’ll be exactly. I’ve seen some people say the reservations popped up in dead of night, but for me, they became available around 7:00 am my time (Hawaiian-Aleutian Standard Time). Just like the date they become available, the time of day is all over the map and not easy to pin down.
How will I know when dining reservations become available?
There are three ways to know when reservations become available:
- Refreshing – When I was first trying to scope out reservations, this is the method I used. This is how I got the Oga’s Cantina reservation. I basically camped out on the reservation webpage and refreshed a couple of times an hour and whenever I woke up at night looking for any sign of change. One night, right before bed, I noticed a change in how the reservation page was displaying the availability, but it still wouldn’t let me actually make a reservation quite yet. I spent the next few hours refreshing every couple of minutes until it finally loaded the option to submit a reservation, and I then did so around 1:00 am my time. I was exhausted, but my God, I get to experience Oga’s.
- Using a Third-Party App – Right now there are two third-party apps that monitor reservation availability and will alert you once they go live, whether it’s for the first time or due to someone canceling their reservation and freeing up a slot in a booked restaurant. There’s MouseDining, which offers their email alert system for free with a $9 upgrade for text alerts and a $90 annual pass. And there’s also MouseWatcher, which is a paid system with text alerts that charges based on how far out you’re making the reservation and how many reservations you’ll be watching. I went with the latter and paid about $13 approximately 50 days out and ended up getting a text alert that Storyteller’s Cafe had availability at about 7:00 am 35 days out. Please note that if you are going for text alerts turn off the “Do Not Disturb” feature overnight. Remember that they can go up at any time, and if you sleep through it you may miss out.
- Luck – So you don’t want to pay for texts, check your emails religiously, or refresh the website constantly, but you still want to score a top-tier dining reservation. That’s fine! But you’ll be relying on pure luck. If you happen to log on just in time to see a spot available at your location of choice, the Disney Gods have smiled upon you. But more than likely you’ll only have what’s left after the people doing the above two methods take all the popular choices. Choose wisely.
Why is it so difficult to make a reservation?
Disney hasn’t really confirmed one way or another why it’s so difficult to make dining reservations right now, but many fans have some pretty solid guesses, most of which have to do with the pandemic. While some people assume it has something to do with limited capacity and social distancing, I tend to believe the theory that it’s a staffing issue might be closer to the mark. Disney absolutely has staffing issues and there’s no denying it. It’s one of the reasons they’ve also pushed mobile ordering so hard. Individual restaurants may not know how many guests they can accommodate with their current staff until far less than 60 days out, which also accounts for the unpredictability of when the reservations go live, and why they seem to be getting released in batches.
Staffing issues – or really any kind of issues – are not something Disney is eager to admit to, though, so all we really have to go off of with this guess is the rumor mill coming out of Disney bloggers, YouTubers, and anonymous cast members giving them information on the down-low. Disney has said they would be fully staffed by the end of 2021, though, and that’s as close to an admission that they aren’t quite there yet as we are likely to get. Just how badly this is impacting the parks, however, has been largely surmised from online chatter.
What if I miss out on dining reservations and don’t want to pay for a text alert to notify me if things become available?
Walk-up reservations are available in a limited supply, so if you want to wander over to your preferred dining location first thing in the morning to check it out, you may be in some luck! Walk-up waitlists can be accessed via the app and you’ll need to be close to the restaurant to join the list. If you’re having trouble figuring this out, speak to a cast member at the restaurant and they can assist.
Alternatively, there are many quick-service places that can provide a decent meal for walk-up guests and mobile orders. It may not be the most popular restaurants or the nicest meal ever, but you won’t starve. Be advised that some mobile order pick-ups take longer than others, so try to scope out your dining location on the app beforehand. The app is basically the key to eating well during your trip, so download it before you go for the best experience!
Keep in mind that all of the above will likely fluctuate as staffing and COVID protocols change. If you’re coming to this article months from now, things could be radically different. At this time, however, these steps should give you a solid knowledge base to get the dining experience of your choice. Good luck and happy eating!
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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