Things People Don’t Tell You About Dining At Disney

Intermission Food Court
Photo credit Disney

Walt Disney World is home to a variety of quick and full service restaurants. With international cuisine, buffets, and character dining there is truly something for everybody. Navigating the never-ending options can be tricky, especially as a first time visitor! Here are a few things people don’t tell you about dining at Disney:


1. Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) are a must!

To partake in table service dining, you need to make reservations. These reservations are known as Advanced Dining Reservations or ADRs for short. For resort guests, these reservations can be made up to 180 days before your check in day. While sometimes it is possible to get reservations the day of or shortly before it is recommended that you do it in advanced in order to get the restaurants and times you want. However, if your restaurant of choice is not available be sure to check back from time to time, cancellations do occur!

2. Know The Menu Before You Arrive

Before making your Advanced Dining Reservations, be sure to check the menus of the restaurants you are thinking of. Each restaurant has a unique theme and serves a different style of food. Menus for each restaurant are listed online which will allow you to see which option is best for your family.

Sci Fi Dine In
Photo Credit: Disney

3. Do Your Research

Disney offers a variety of dining plans to resort guests. These are pre-purchased plans you can add to your stay and then when the time comes to eat you just scan your magic band to pay and go. Each plan includes a different number of quick-service meals, table service meals, and snacks. Due to this it is important to read up on which meals will best serve your travel party’s needs. If you just eat at just quick-service restaurants then the quick service plan will suit you best. If you enjoy eating at a table service locations look into one of the higher dining plans. The standard and deluxe plans have a higher cost associated with them so it is also important to make sure the dining plan you pick works in your budget.

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4. Children 10+ Pay Adult Prices

When calculating dining plan costs, it is important to remember that children over ten are considered adults in Disney and thus must pay adult prices on the dining plan. Children three to nine will pay children’s prices and children under two do you not need a dining plan.

5. Tips Are Not Included 

An important thing to remember when using the Dining Plan is that tips are not included at tale service restaurants. When it comes time to pay your bill, if using the dining plan, your server will scan your magic band then come back with your receipt. The receipt will give you the cost and have a line for you to put down your tip. Thus be sure to budget in the cost of tips when figuring out meal budgets. You do not have to tip at quick-service locations.

Prime Time Cafe
Photo Credit: Disney

6. Give Yourself Time To Arrive

Many people misjudge the size of Walt Disney World and thus underestimate the time it takes to get from Point A to Point B. Thus be sure to give yourself plenty of time when travelling to your dining reservations, especially if you are utilizing Disney transportation. If you show up late you could potentially lose your reservation. It is important that, if your reservation is at another resort and you do not have your own transportation, be sure to leave time to travel to a park to catch another resort’s bus. I personally like to leave an hour before my reservation to ensure I arrive on time.

7. Not All Table Services Are 1 Credit on the Dining Plan

Another important consideration when looking at dining reservations is how many credits certain restaurants are. A credit on the meal plan equals one meal per person. Each meal plan comes with a certain number of credits you can use on meals. Most table service locations are one credit per a meal but there are some locations that require two credits per meal such as Cinderella’s Royal Table, Le Cellier Steakhouse, and Hollywood Brown Derby. If dining at one of these locations be sure to plan accordingly so you do not run out of dining credits.

Cinderella's Royal Table

8. Note Food Allergies On Reservations

Disney is excellent at accommodating food allergies. They will have a chef come out to your table upon arrival and discuss what they can make for you that will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable dining experience. In order for the restaurant to know it is recommended that while booking your reservations you mention the allergies so the restaurant is prepared.

9. Alcohol Is Included in the Dining Plan

Each Quick Service meal includes an entree and a drink. If guests are over 21 they may choose one single-serving of beer, wine, or cocktail. Beverage choices vary by location. A valid ID must be presented upon ordering.

10. Not All Characters Appear

Character meals are a great dining experience in Disney. They allow for one on one character interaction and pictures without the long lines. Disney offers several different character dining meals across the resort each with a different set of characters and costumes. However, there is never a guarantee that a character will be at a meal. Sometimes Mickey has to take Pluto for a walk and might not be able to make it to dinner. If this is the case, please do not get mad at the cast members. They are doing the best they can to give you an enjoyable dinner experience.

Chef Mickeys

Dining at Disney can be overwhelming, but with these tips you’ll be dining like a Disney pro in no time!

BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best Walt Disney World deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!

About Kylie

Kylie is a college student studying psychology and living in New England. She first fell in love with Disney World on her first trip at age ten, where she vowed to be a cast member one day. Ten years later she achieved that dream as a Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 Disney College Program participant. After graduation she plans to return to Disney World as a cast member again and move to Florida permanently.

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