What is a ADR:
Disney Speak is like learning a foreign language. There are tons of acronyms that, when you're planning your first trip, are completely overwhelming. One of the most common terms you'll hear thrown around is ADR, which stands for Advanced Dining Reservation.
Making dining reservations for some Disney restaurants is practically a job itself. Others are really easy to get. Of course, this all depends on what time of year you are going and how busy the parks are as well.
Once you are 180 days away from your first day in the parks, you can begin making dining reservations for your trip. You can call to do this, but I've found the easiest way is going online. Just go to Disney's website, click Things To Do, then Dining Reservations (or just click here). From there, you can sort through all of the restaurants on Disney properties (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, the hotels and Downtown Disney) and look for available times to eat.
The actual booking of reservations is pretty easy - just pick a date and time and place your reservation on hold with a credit card (which you can store on file so you don't have to keep re-entering it). The hard part is knowing when and where you want to go and what to do if no reservations are available.
Let's start with knowing when and where to go. Real Mom's Disney is committed to bringing you great information on places to eat while on vacation, but as we are still a brand new site, we don't have a ton of reviews posted just yet. I personally love reading reviews on Trip Advisor as well as on other Disney blogs (like WDWPrep).
First, I look through reviews and Disney's website and plan out a list of places I want to visit. Then I like to start looking at the crowd calendar. I plan out our reservations based on what park we will be in (since at this time, we are base ticket people and won't be park hopping). I end up with a list of reservations that I want each day. We like to do one quick service and one table service meal each day. Our upcoming trip was booked with free dining (for more information on the dining plan, check out this post) which also influenced my decisions. Once I'm at that 180 day mark, I get up early (or stay up late) and book everything.
Hard to get ADR's:
Sometimes, it's not that easy. Last year, I booked my trip inside of the 180 day mark which meant almost every ADR I wanted was gone. But, by the time we took our trip, I had every single reservation I wanted with only one exception (Be Our Guest). How did I do it? I stalked Disney's site like it was my job. I kept a tab open on my browser for each ARD I wanted, with the date and number of guests already plugged in. I clicked search on each of them a minimum of 50 times a day until I got in. People are constantly cancelling ADR's in favor of other restaurants or better dates/times for their trip, so reservations open up frequently - but you have to watch carefully! They get snatched up quickly!
There are lots of tips and tricks posted online. Some people like to search for a party of three when there are really four people in their group. The reasoning is that you will still be sat at a table for four. While that's true, I've never tried it. I've also read that people will do the opposite - reserve a table for five when there are only four of them. While it's not something I would choose to do, I've heard from several people who have had success getting their ADR's this way.
DIS Boards also lets you post ISO:ADR's (in search of). If someone has a table booked for the date/time you want and they are going to cancel it, you can set up a time that works for both of you so that you can try to get their ADR as soon as they cancel it.
If you have any tips or tricks, share them with us in the comments! We would love to hear about your ADR experience!