Have you ever spent hours trying to get just the right dining reservation or a special reservation to celebrate with your family? I know I have. I have tried over and over again to take my granddaughter to Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom®. This spot was one of my kid’s favorites for years. Many trips later, and at 7 years old, she has yet to experience a meal here. No matter how far in advance I try, no matter what date, no matter what time of year, no matter what meal – I have yet to be able to secure a reservation to take her here. Knowing I will bring her back to Walt Disney World often I just keep trying with the hopes that someone will cancel a reservation and I will be able to lock one in. I also check for last minute cancellations while there. I also know that part of my inability to attain this reservation is the fact that we often don’t make long term plans and decide last minute to hit the road to WDW. I absolutely REFUSE to pay one of the many “brokers” that offer to get your reservations for a fee. The biggest reason is – it’s against Disney policy. The next reason I think would be I have an issue paying for something that I am suppose to be able to get for free and with people making money from people trying to have a nice vacation.
People set their alarm clocks to get up when the dining reservation system opens. People call day after day after day after day. What the heck has eating at Walt Disney World® come to that people have now made a business out of securing dining reservations?
Today I read a post on Theme Park Insider about this issue. The author offers many solutions to the nightmare that the Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) system has become. I’m not sure that many of his solutions would work, but I do know that something needs to be done. You can read his full article HERE.
The article states: Many fans have blamed the emergence of the Disney Dining Plan for the difficulty. By locking users into a
per (pre)-determined number of table-service meals, certain versions of the dining plan encourage users to book those meals early to ensure that they get what they’ve paid for, limiting availability at these restaurants for other diners. But some fans have wondered if there are additional factors in play. It almost seems as if many ADRs are being hoarded before the fans who would use those tables get a fair chance to book them.
As with anything else – people always try to work the system. The Disney Dining Plan is not at fault – people are at fault. Several years ago Disney implemented a credit card requirement for many of the more popular restaurants. This was necessary because of people making multiple reservations for the same days and times, not cancelling – just not showing up – yes, hoarding reservations. Disney’s hope was that losing $10 per person on the reservation for no shows would limit people from doing this. In my opinion, Disney’s mistake was made with the 24 hour cancellation policy. People are still making multiple reservations and just being sure to cancel 24 hours in advance to avoid the charge. Many guests won’t try last minute within that 24 hour period to get an ADR because most guests have much of their Walt Disney World vacation planned out to the last minute. However, it’s also unreasonable to think a much longer cancellation policy is feasible. Things happen. People get sick. People have to legitimately cancel last minute. Unfortunately as with most things, those with legitimate issues suffers because of the actions of others that have been trying to work the system.
There is an automated system in place that won’t allow guests to make conflicting reservations. However, people have also found their way around this system by staggering times.
ADR monitoring services such as Disney Dining Buddy or WDW Table Finder charge $7 or $8 per ADR and say they can alert you to those hard to get reservations. Frankly, I have seen more people disappointed by these sites than happy with them, yet there are those that are happy with the service so the sites are making money and continue to thrive. These sites are also selling memberships (at a hefty fee) to frequent visitors and to Disney Travel Agents who use them to secure reservations for their clients.
The article lists several points from the author under: “Disney could end this practice swiftly, if it wanted to.” One point is:
Disney can make clear with a notice on its website and in spiels to telephone callers that selling ADRs is forbidden and guests who do so will forfeit their ADRs and their tickets and be banned from park property permanently.
The first thing that strikes me here is IF DISNEY WANTED TO. Why wouldn’t they want to make guests happy? They are in the “happy business.” Placing disclaimers on their sites about dining reservations will not change the practices of people that have created the issue. Disney has disclaimers everywhere for a multiple of reasons. People everywhere ignore the disclaimers. A disclaimer isn’t going to change how people behave. All a disclaimer will do is give Disney the ability to take action if/when they isolate an offender.
The author also suggests a “sting operation” on the part of Disney to catch offending cast members and guests who are selling and/or working with the reservation brokers. I don’t know about you but for pete’s sake – in the grand scheme of things going on in the world – a “sting operation” for dining reservations seems a bit ridiculous to me.
A Walt Disney World vacation is a once in a lifetime experience for many guests and getting those special reservations, some feel, can make or break that experience. What the solution to the nightmare is – I don’t know. Until human nature changes – which isn’t bound to happen any time soon – we will always have people trying to work the system, people trying to make money from others and people trying to find a easier way.
Am I frustrated by the reservations I can’t get? – yes. Am I annoyed by some of what goes on with trying to get reservations? – yes. Is there an easy solution? I don’t think so. Will my granddaughter eventually get to eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table? I hope so!
What do you think a solution might be?