When you are unable to get a reservation for the nights you want at a particular resort and/or room category - Disney gives you the ability to waitlist a reservation. Each member account can have up to TWO active waitlists on their account. If you have more than one use year/member account - you will have an additional 2 waitlists for every different account you have. Two contracts at the same resort and use year will only give you the 2 waitlists.
Note that the 2 active waitlists are also PER use year. So you could have more waitlists across multiple use years.
The Waitlist can then be set up on line to cover the dates, resorts, and room category that you desire. The two waitlists can have the same dates and resort and just different room categories, or everything can be different.
No, you can set up a reservation for any time, day and room you want - as long as you have enough points in your account to cover the waitlist.
When setting up a waitlist, you can select it to either be a new reservation OR you can replace an existing reservation. If you link it, when the waitlist comes through, it will cancel your original reservation and use the points or a portion of the points to fill the new reservation. Again, you must still have enough points in your account to fulfill the waitlist if it's more points than the original reservation.
Then you need to be sure to book that original reservation as two separate reservations, OR call member services and have them break the reservation in two. The waitlist when fulfilled will replace the entire reservation. So if I have seven nights in a Poly standard view studio, and I waitlist 5 nights in a BLT lake view studio - in the end you will end up with only five nights, not two nights at the Poly and 5 at BLT.
When you have a waitlist come through - Disney will cancel any waitlists that are for the same time window, so if you still want to have a waitlist - you will have to start a new one.
No one can answer that question. Waitlists involve luck in that (a) you don't know how many people have some or all of those same nights reserved for a waitlist and (b) how many of them put in a waitlist ahead of you.
An excellent yet hard to answer question. We've tried to attempted to answer it with what we KNOW is true, and what we THINK is true.
1) Set up the waitlist as early as possible. If you are looking to change resorts at 7 months, set it up at 7 months to the day at 8 AM. If you book at your home and it is full, set up the waitlist even earlier. We do know that waitlists are filled in order of when they were put into the system, so if I put in a waitlist today, and you put in the same waitlist tomorrow - my waitlist with definitely come through first.
2) Pick room categories that have a lot of rooms available. While you can't control how many other people are waitlisting, you can improve your odds by picking categories with more rooms. For instance - if booking a studio at Boardwalk Villas, you can waitlist Pool/Gardenview or Boardwalk view studio that would cost the same number of points. But there are only up to 29 Boardwalk view studios while there are 165 potential Pool/Garden view studios. Which one would you think is more likely to open up for your dates?
3) Shorter stays leave better odds. If you think about it, for a seven night waitlist to come through - you need someone to cancel those seven nights all at the same time. If six of those nights come open, it won't pick up for your waitlist. This is why we always recommend for stays longer than 4 nights to use your two waitlists to break up your stay in two. For instance, my seven night Boardwalk stay above, split it into a 3-night waitlist and a 4-night waitlist for improved odds. If all 7 nights come up available, both reservations will come through. I have had much better luck waitlisting short stays than long stays. (This of course cannot work if you are trying to replace an existing reservation, but if you break that original reservation in two and replace it in two partrs, you can still make it work.)
4) Call Member Services. Some people swear by this one but myself have not seen it work. Call in to member services to check on your waitlist. The theory is there are sometimes rooms that get held for various reasons, and if you call then the MS cast member they will be able to get your room. I have seen the case where the computer has pulled the waitlist reservation, but it has not yet been converted to an actual reservation. The CM sees this, and then is able to put it through the rest of the way.
5) Stalk the RAT (Resort Availability Tool). Sometimes you can find room availability on the RAT before your waitlist comes through. It's possible you are catching days that are available that would have filled someone else's waitlist, or perhaps you are just catching the rooms you would have gotten before they filled your waitlist. Either way, it also gives you an option to potentially pick up alternative versions of your waitlist. (Let's say you waitlist 7 nights, and 6 become available - you could use the RAT to take the 6 nights, and then limit your waitlist to one night.)
The reason one option is 31 days before arrival is because as a DVC member if you cancel a reservation with 30 days or less before arrival, the points go into a holding account instead of you regular account. The same would occur if you were replacing an existing reservation and the replacement waitlist used LESS points than the original, those unused points would go into a holding account. Points in a holding account can only be used for reservations made less than 60 days in advance, and cannot be banked or borrowed. For this reason, Disney gives you the option of canceling your waitlist at 31 days out so that you do not end up with points in holding. In addition, it's also fairly rare for people to cancel a reservation less than 31 days out because of this.
However, if you are not worried about points going to holding, then the 7 day option may work for you. The 7 days out date is a bit arbitrary, but the assumption there is that if you cannot find a waitlist 7 days out you are not likely to find it.
Boo hoo for you. Waitlists are automatically filled, so if you decide you do not want a waitlist, you should cancel it. Once it fills, you will not be able to go back to your original reservation.