When people first think of Walt Disney World, people will generally think about the rides. Kids will get excited about riding Space Mountain for the first time or to meet Anna and Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall, but a lot of times dining is an afterthought. Dining at Walt Disney World is part of the whole experience, so it is important not to make these mistakes when visiting for your first time!
8 – Neglecting to Make Any Advanced Dining Reservations – Disney allows guests to make dining reservations 180 days in advance. This is particularly important if you want to dine at some of the more popular restaurants. You can make these ADRs through the My Disney Experience App or by calling Disney Dining. Take note of your reservations because Disney will charge guests $10/person if you fail to show for a reservation or you do not cancel the reservation with 24 hours to spare!
7 – But….Don’t Make Too Many ADRs – Disney only allows guests to make ADRs for table service restaurants. It can be tempting to make ADRs for every meal, but you don’t need to. The food at Disney World is plentiful and filling, so three reservations a day is simply too much! Usually my family will select one dining reservation each day, and if we do make more than that, we make breakfast and dinner reservations to give enough time to digest our food!
6 – Failing to Account for Time – With the introduction of My Disney Experience and FastPass+, guests are able to plan a lot of their trip before leaving home. Don’t underestimate the amount of time you will be at a restaurant for your meal. A safe bet is an hour, but it certainly can be longer than that. Nothing can be more frustrating than either having to rush your meal to make your FastPass or to miss out on your selection completely because your meal took longer than expected.
5 – Neglect the Resorts – A trip to Disney World makes it easy to become laser-focused on the theme parks and experiencing all that they have to offer, but don’t overlook what dining options the resorts have to offer. For example, you can have a New Orleans delicacy at Port Orleans French Quarter at breakfast with an order of beignets, or try the delicious Tonga Toast at the Polynesian either at Kona Café or Captain Cooks!
4 – Overlook Lunch – If you’re trying to save some money on your trip, consider having your sit-down meal at lunchtime. At a lot of restaurants, the lunch menus are similar or exactly the same as the dinner menu and are cheaper! It can also be easier to get into some more popular restaurants at lunchtime than at dinner.
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3 – Ignore Discounts – Disney does offer some great options that may save you and your family money. Some guests utilize the myriad Disney Dining Plans that Disney offers. These plans allow you to prepay your food selections before your vacation, making the process somewhat easier. You can customize your dining plan based on how many table service or quick service meals you want per day. Additionally, if you are an annual passholder or a Florida resident, you can purchase a Tables in Wonderland card. This card allows you to get a 20% discount on your bill at most Disney World restaurants, including alcohol! Be sure to read our article about the Tables in Wonderland card here.
2 – Skip Quick Service Locations – Diners don’t always need to go to a table service restaurant. There are a variety of quick service locations that offer wonderful and creative selections! For example, my favorite quick service selection at the Magic Kingdom is from Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square: what isn’t to like about some savory sweet and sour chicken on a freshly-baked waffle? Or the wonderful and unique selections at Sunshine Seasons at Epcot?
1 – Failing to Do Your Research – Through the My Disney Experience, guests can view the menus at the restaurants throughout the parks. I like looking at the menus for the counter service locations to see what new selections have been put on the menu or to discover something new and different. It is also what I like to do to get excited for a trip!
All of the dining options available at Disney can be confounding! Be sure to take some time to familiarize yourself with the various options at each park and resort and to do your research on what you’d like to experience, but don’t over do it! Vacations are supposed to be relaxing and you won’t want to be worrying about running for dining reservation to dining reservation.
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!