There are some things that you will only learn by experience. No one can prep you unless they experienced it themselves. Here are some things I experienced. They should help you plan in advance and/or prep you just in case you come across this situation.
If you made reservations for a certain number of people, but one or two of them cannot make it, that is ok! As long as someone shows up for the reservation and checks in, you’re good for most restaurants. Some restaurants require modifications in advance and a more advanced notice than 2 hours. Click here to see if your restaurants are on the list requiring a more advanced notice. For the restaurants that only require a 2 hour advanced notice, there are no fees for the seats not being filled. It is best to call days in advance to lower the number of guests if you know they cannot make it, though. You freeing up those 1 or 2 seats could be giving someone that magical reservation for their family. Just like most of us, they have been trying to get a reservation for months. Rest assure, though, if someone does not show for your reservations, you will not be charged $10 per person fee.
Some restaurants have minimal or do not have tables that seat more than 6 people. Try booking two separate reservations for parties of 7 or more for the same dining time or within a few minutes of each reservation. For instance, if you have 8 people in your vacation party, book 2 tables of 4 or 1 table of 6 and 1 table of 2. Then, call Disney dining (407-939-DINE) and tell them. They will link the reservations so the tables are close together.
Dining Reservations Check-In
All members of your reservation who will be dining with you must be present in order to check-in. Be prepared that they could be running behind. So, if you are looking to get in early, it may be later than your original reservation time on very busy days.
While I encourage tipping of 20% or more for good service, Disney auto charges 18% on parties of 6 or more. Most places we dined at do not point out the auto tip already on the slip. This also happened at a bar at Animal Kingdom where we merely sat and had drinks until our reservation time. Read your slips carefully before you sign. We ordered drinks over a certain time frame without the bartenders knowing how many people and we were auto charged the 18%. We did not realize this and added a generous tip.
Thankfully, I noticed after that we gave him more than a 50% tip, because of the auto 18% tip and I had them fix it. I still gave him 35%, which is more than generous. Feel free to add on top of the 18%! I just wanted to warn you about the auto tip in places where you least expect it or if you are not used to it, like us. We have never traveled with 12 people so this was a first for us.
Depending on the circumstances, you may get a special treat, for free, while waiting for your reservation. We were early for our reservation at Crystal Palace. They were running behind and it was cold and windy. They were so sweet to provide hot chocolate for those waiting to dine. While we are supposed to arrive early to check-in, it appears there could be an occasional incentive depending on the weather and crowds. It was so yummy.
Have your autograph book, pen and camera ready before you walk in the door at Akershus. It was a great surprise to walk in and be brought to a small room to meet and greet a princess before you go to your table. The entire vacation party can get in the picture, too, because they have a Disney photographer. But, only in that room. The rest of the pictures with the remaining princesses that come to your table will be up to you to take the pictures.