Our Five Favorite “Last Minute Dining Reservation” Options at Walt Disney World
If you know me very well, you likely know that my long term Disney vacation planning goals don’t always align with what I actually do when it comes to booking my own Disney trips. I talk about booking long term and encourage it here almost daily but often times it comes down to one of those “do as I say and not as I do” situations in reality. As much as I hate to say it (and even more so hate to admit it lol), most of my vacations are planned within two months of when we will actually arrive at Walt Disney World. The reasoning behind that reality is partially our desire to keep things “simple.” We do travel to the parks multiple times a year and avoiding having two trips booked at the same time makes things easier. The other part of the reasoning is our constantly changing schedule which so many of you also face time and time again. I’m a college student, Caitlin is a teacher, and the rest of our family works on a fairly constrained schedule as well. It’s far form ideal but we make it work even though we may not know when we’ll have the time to head south as far in advance as we’d like to.
Is it the best way to do things? Not at all and I don’t recommend you do it, but there are some incredible ways to overcome booking last minute Disney vacations and the struggles that they present. Truthfully, I could write a whole series of posts on booking last minute trips. My shortest turnaround time of booking and arriving was a three week window from the day we booked our trip to the day we arrived in the parks. It was hectic to say the least and some compromises certainly had to be made regarding fastpass+ selections and dining reservations but it didn’t require near as many compromises as you may expect.
Perhaps the best example of this is dining reservations. If you are flexible, dining reservations don’t have to be difficult to secure when booking at the very last minute and this post was designed to help you do just that.
The key to all of this is the fact that reservations as whole change constantly. If you look at seven o’clock in the morning and then check back two hours later, you’ll inevitably find different reservation availability. The real irony of the situation that so many guests overlook is that the closer your dates get, typically the more frequently dining reservation availability changes. The “golden window” of opportunity is the two days before your desired reservation time. It sounds insane, but more reservations are changed and altered in those last 48 hours that any other point in the booking timeline.
The reasoning behind this is fairly simple. As the cancellation window approaches, guests are faced with a decision. Either you keep the reservation or you cancel the reservation. If it is not canceled at least one day before your scheduled meal time and you do not arrive at your scheduled time, each member of your booking party will be charged a cancelation fee for not showing up. Unfortunately, it’s not out of the ordinary for guests to make more reservations that they intend to actually arrive for to keep their options open. At the last minute they cancel whatever they decide they no longer want right before the cancellation window. It’s a terrible way of doing things and adversely affects the guest experience for others, but it is done quite frequently to say the least. Combine that factor with the real emergencies and unfortunate circumstances that can cause vacation cancellations in those last couple days can play heavily in your favor when trying to secure difficult dining reservations.
On the off chance that you can’t find exactly what you want, these are the alternative dining options that we go to time and time again when we’re looking for an excellent meal at the very last minute. Obviously, there’s no guarantee that any of these locations will have availability for your your dates, but these are some of your very best options for “Last Minute Dining Reservations.”
1. Whispering Canyon
Whispering Canyon is certainly one of our go to spots at the last minute simply because I’ve never once looked on the app or the booking site for this reservation and found it full. Even on the day of the intended reservation, often times you’ll find two or three slots available and if you’re even remotely flexible you can typically find a time that works for your schedule. Whispering Canyon, as I’ve mentioned before is kind of an acquired taste and you have to be willing to go with the flow and be the focus of a few jokes during the meal. Nonetheless, the food is great and the menu is pretty reasonably priced. If you can’t find anything available in Magic Kingdom, this is a near ideal substitute for a table service option. If you jump on a boat at Magic Kingdom or take a bus to the resort you can be there in less that 15 minutes on a normal day and Whispering Canyon is right beside the main lobby. When you get done with the meal, jump back on the boat and you’re right back to Magic Kingdom in a few short minutes.
2. Homecomin’ Kitchen
Homecomin’ has somehow remained fairly “under the radar” over the years and while it’s not technically a Disney owned and operated restaurant it is an incredible part of the Disney Springs lineup of dining offerings and does participate in advanced dining reservations. However, if you can’t secure an online reservation ahead of time you can always drop by and typically get added to a walkup seating request as with many of the dining locations at Disney Springs.
It may take some time for them to get you in, especially on busy days and times, but the wait is well worth it and it’s a reservation you can regularly find available even if you are booking last minute. If all else fails, try to walk up and you’ll likely get in. If for some reason you cant, walk over to Polite Pig and it’s a table service level meal in a counter service style dining experience. It’s not the perfect meal and it is a little pricey for quick service but nonetheless it’s an excellent option if you can’t manage to snag Homecomin’.
3. Cape May Cafe (Dinner)
The first time we ate at Cape May Cafe we made a random reservation that we found while sitting at the pool one afternoon (I cant be the only person who makes dining reservations while at the pool… ok maybe I’m the only person who does that…) literally hours before the arrival time we ended up choosing. Truthfully, this is one of the best, if not the best buffet on Disney property. We’ve been buffet people for years and have slowly but surely gotten away from it to try new things and work our way through more of the table service offerings. With that being said, Cape May Cafe is one we come back to time and time again.
Last minute reservations are typically readily available because very few people realize that it’s only steps away from Epcot and if they do know that the most commonly booked meal time is breakfast due to the characters present at that particular meal.
It’s not a budget friendly option and it’s mostly for the seafood lovers of the group, but nonetheless it is a top notch offering you can reserve quite literally on the day that you hope to dine there more often that not. For more on Cape May Cafe check out our full review here -> Our New Favorite Disney Dinner Buffet – Cape May Cafe.
4. Yak and Yeti
Yak and Yeti, much like Homecomin’, is one of a select few walk up reservation possibilities still available at Walt Disney World. Yak and Yeti isn’t quite as adventures as the name tends to imply and if you’re a Landry’s Select card holder you’re automatically bumped to the top of the wait list if there is currently a wait to get in to the restaurant. It’s a great perk and the card is 100% worth it if you ever eat at locations owned by the Landry’s group. I won’t drone on about that program here, but we did do another article all about that one in our -> How Our Party of 4 Guests Ate At T-REX for $15! – Disney Springs Dining. That article focuses heavily on T-Rex and our experience there but at the same time it shares the little known secret of how to save money and get priority seating using the Landry’s card.
Yak and Yeti itself usually takes walk ups and it’s not out of the ordinary to be seated almost immediately (at least for lunch), and truthfully it has slowly but surely climbed it’s way into one of the tops spots we recommend at Animal Kingdom.
5. Kona Cafe
While Kona isn’t quite the same incredible location and menu that it once was, I do have to say that the location really cant be beat for a last minute option. Reservations are plentiful and if you’re a sushi fan this should be very high on your list to begin with!
The prices are pretty reasonable and the atmosphere is excellent to say the least. You’re sitting there eating a meal perched on the second floor of the Polynesian Resort’s main lobby and you really get that multi sensory experience that Disney is oh so good at creating.
When you get done with your meal you can hop on the resort monorail and be back at Epcot in a few short minutes! If you want a quick and easy meal, or even the perfect start to a night of food followed by Dole Whip on the beach and a picturesque view out over the water as the Happily Ever After fireworks debut, this is a great way to start the evening!
The point of this whole article is to share essentially one thought and that is the fact that planning a Disney vacation isn’t something that has to be done months or even a year in advance. You can make the most of a last minute booking and truly enjoy every minute of your stay. Don’t sweat making dining reservations months in advance unless that’s just something that makes you happy. Most of our dining we book one to two months out max unless we’re looking for something really specific or traveling with a large group. If you don’t want to book super far in advance, don’t! If you’re even remotely flexible with your decisions, you’ll be more that happy with many last minute selections and if nothing else it may give you the opportunity to try something new that you otherwise wouldn’t.
Truthfully, that’s the key to doing anything at Walt Disney World. Flexibility and learning to go with the flow is a huge part of making the most of every minute. Not everything is going to go as planned during your trip and if everything goes perfectly it’s been the rare exception rather that the rule. The key to enjoying the parks is rolling with the changes. I’ll never be that person that puts every attraction into specific timeframes to plan out my day. It will never happen and I wont wish that vacation planning strategy on my worst enemy. It’s a recipe for disaster and while it works for some, I couldn’t even begin to enjoy that. Either way, just roll with the problems and issues the may develop during your stay or even before you get there and just make the most of whatever happens. Some of the most unexpected issues can lead to the most incredible of moments and that is something I can assure you!
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!
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A few short years ago, I was sitting in a college apartment trying to figure out what was "next" and came up with this idea to share my accumulated knowledge of the Disney Parks and Resorts with others. The end goal was to help others make the most of their Disney experience and it's been quite the journey!