The advantages & disadvantages of booking advanced dining reservations (or ADRs) at Disney World in Orlando, Florida

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We’ve talked before here about Advanced Dining Reservations, or ADRs, at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.  This is when you book your dining reservation in advance.  You can book them ahead of your trip.  You can book them at any point of your trip.  Or you can even book them a few hours ahead of when you want to eat.  We talk about how to make a dining reservation at Disney World here.

The idea of being able to reserve your seat might sound great.  And there are some definite perks of it, which I want to talk about.  But there are also some disadvantages, too.  So today I am going to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of booking an ADR at Disney World.

Advantages

Making Sure You Have Somewhere To Eat

This may seem a little too intuitive to include in the list.  After all, the point of making a reservation is to make sure you have somewhere to eat.  Isn’t that rather obvious of an advantage?

But the thing is, Disney World has been pretty crowded lately.  And with the employee shortage that has hit so many restaurants across the country, sometimes that can limit how many dining options are available, or the hours that the restaurants are available.

For example, last summer I was staying at the Swan Resort.  I planned to eat at the restaurant The Fountain, but I didn’t realize it wasn’t open that day.  It was pretty stressful trying to find some place to eat that night.  We finally were able to order a pizza from Il Mulino and eat it in the lobby.  And it was really good.  But we did eat at about 10:00 at night, which was less than ideal.

By the way, I eventually did eat at the Fountain and really liked my meal here.  I reviewed it in depth here.

Another time my family wanted to eat at Casey’s Corner (see our review of that restaurant here).  It was so hard to find a table!  We got really lucky and were able to secure a table inside just as someone was leaving.  But other people were having to eat on the street outside or on the trash can.  Which to me is not something I really want to do on vacation.  Especially when you think about how much you pay for food at Disney World.

But the point here is that by securing a dining reservation, you don’t have to worry about something like that happening to you.  You can feel good that you will be able to sit down at a restaurant and have a good meal at a reasonable time.

One side note: there was just one time I booked a reservation and lost it.  I booked a reservation for Space 220.  This is a brand new restaurant at Epcot and I wanted to be one of the first to try it.  I got a call the day before my reservation that there was a mix-up and I should not have been able to book my reservation for the day I did.  They did, however, let me make up my reservation at a different day.  And my family loved our experience; see our review here.  But this is the only time I’ve been bumped so I still think you can feel secure you will get your reservation.

Less of a Hassle

Even if you find a quick-service restaurant, it can be a bit more stressful to eat at quick-service restaurants.  You have to take the time to order food.  Then you often have to wait around for your food.  Even if you do mobile order and they tell you your meal is ready, you often still have to wait around for your meal.

Disney's Pinocchio Village Haus in Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando, Florida is a counters service restaurant

It is a lot less of a hassle to check in to your reservation.  Even if you arrive early and your table isn’t ready, you can often sit around a comfortable lobby.  Then you can sit down at your table and enjoy being waited on.  Your feet will hurt enough after a day at Disney World.  Your feet will appreciate not having to do even more standing around.

Better Food

Now, this is not a hard and fast rule.  I have had delicious food at quick-service restaurants before.  For example, I love the burgers at Pecos Bill and I have had some great pizza at Pinocchio Village Haus at Magic Kingdom.

But by and large, the food is better at the sit-down restaurants.  I can’t promise your meal will always be good.  Tastes are always subjective.  And someone, say, cooking your burger too much for your liking could always happen.

But a lot of the food at the sit-down restaurants at Disney World is so good.  The Welsh burger at Rose & Crown at Epcot is unlike any burger I can get anywhere else.  The Fettucini Alfredo at Tutto Italia at Epcot is particularly good.  And the Boeuf Bourguignon at Chefs de France is a favorite of my family.

And they generally have more of a selection on the menu at a sit-down restaurant.  The quick-service restaurants at Disney World can often serve very little in ways of variety.  Take the Lunching Pad in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom.  You can choose between hot dogs or Caribbean Jerk Chicken Strips for your entrée.  Don’t like either of those options?  You are a bit out of luck.  You’re less likely to run into that problem at a sit-down restaurant.  The menu is much more extensive if you go to, say, Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom.

Better Theming/Experiences

Now, this is also not a hard and fast rule.  Plenty of quick-service restaurants around Disney World have great theming.  For example, I love the theming at Columbia Harbour House at Magic Kingdom.  It is themed to fit a New England revolutionary era inn.

But one of the things I love about visiting Disney World is feeling like I entered another world.  And you really get that feel at a lot of the sit-down restaurants around Disney World.  You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into space at Space 220 in Epcot.  You’ll feel like you’ve entered the magical castle at Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom.  Or you’ll feel like you’re in Mexico at night (while being indoors!) at San Angel Inn Restaurante in Epcot.  And Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom is practically a theme park attraction itself!

Disadvantages

Interfering With Genie Plus

Have you used Genie Plus or are planning on using Genie Plus?  It’s okay if you have no idea what I am talking about; it is a fairly new thing at Disney World.  It essentially replaces the old Fastpass.  We go into detail over it here.

One difference it has with a Fastpass is that you have to make your selections the same day.  That can get a bit complicated if you already have an advanced dining reservation.  Sometimes it’s really hard to get a Genie Plus Reservation for one of the more popular rides, such as Slinky Dog Dash at Hollywood Studios or Frozen Ever After at Epcot.  If one pops up and interferes with your advanced dining reservation, then it is a shame if you’re not able to use it.

One way to avoid it would be to alternate days you use Genie Plus and advanced dining reservations.  But what if you want to use Genie Plus every day so you can skip ahead in the lines?

You can cancel your dining reservation.  But that will cost you.  This brings me to my next point.

Cancellation Costs You

You are allowed to cancel your reservation in advance, but only if it is more than 24 hours in advance.  For example, if it is Monday and you decide you don’t really want to go to your advanced dining reservation on Wednesday, you can cancel it.  No problem.

But if it is Wednesday morning and you want to cancel your reservation for that night?  It costs you $10 per person.  Which, if you have a large family, can add up.

Now, maybe that is not a big deal for you.  But you should definitely know before you make a dining reservation that it could cost you.

And this brings me to my next point…

More Expensive

So I mentioned how the food was better.  So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your bill can be a lot higher at the restaurants that require reservations.

In some cases, the difference in price can be staggering.  Not that there is any cheap food to be found at Disney World.

But there are a number of restaurants that you’ll need reservations for that have fixed-price menus.  You can choose from a list of appetizers, entrées, dessert trios, and desserts.  This is a great mix of food and you shouldn’t leave hungry.  But it costs you.  For example, if you go to Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom for lunch, it costs you $62 per adult and $37 per child.

There are other restaurants that serve a buffet.  You can get a lot of great food here.  But this is also costs you.  For example, Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom costs you $39 per adult and $23 per child.

And even at restaurants where you can just order an entrée, the prices aren’t cheap.  For example, a Fried Chicken meal at 50’s Primetime Cafe costs $25.

Additionally, at sit-down restaurants, you’ll need to pay a tip.  So even if the restaurant you pick doesn’t have a fixed price menu, the overall amount you’ll pay could still be more.

There can be a few ways around it.  No, I don’t mean giving your server a lousy tip.  I mean, you can try to make the whole meal cheaper by sharing things.  For example, you could order a pizza for your whole family at a restaurant like Via Napoli.

And for the reasons I mentioned earlier, spending more at a sit-down restaurant can be worth it.  It is just something you need to be aware of before you go and while you are budgeting your trip.

Interferes With Long Lines

One other negative can be if you happen to get in a long line before your ADR time.  Let’s say, for example, it’s thirty minutes before your advanced dining reservation time.  If you end up in a long line, then it’s possible you could miss your advanced dining reservation time.  So sometimes it means you have time to kill before your ADR because you don’t want to be stuck in line.  Or it means you might stress in line hoping you can finish the attraction before your ADR time.  Either way, that can add a bit of stress to your trip.

Conclusion

Getting an advanced dining reservation has both its advantages and disadvantages.  So whether your family chooses to get one or not has a lot do with whether or not you think the extra cost is worth it.  And if you are unsure, you could always consider for your next trip doing a bit of both and seeing what you like better.

Saving Money on a Disney World Trip

And one way you can justify the cost of the restaurants is by using our money-saving tips for your trip.  The money you’ll save on tickets, your hotel, etc. could help balance out the extra cost of the restaurants!

So check out these links: