Disney may be the Happiest Place on Earth, but nothing can spoil the happy Eaters than poor dining planning.
Today, I am sharing my 20 Must-Read Disney Dining Tips to ensure that you have the magical visit of your dreams!
So Let’s get started!
1.My number 1 tip is make dining reservations.
Even if you don’t follow any other piece of advice, I can't say this strongly enough, you must make advanced dining reservations. If you wait until you arrive at Disney World to make table service arrangements, you may miss out on many of your top picks because they will be booked.
There are some great Restaurants at Disney World & they do get fully booked.
So If you are staying on property, book that Restaurant or Restaurants when they become available at the 180 day mark. ( the earliest you can book a table is 180 day's in advance).
2.Do Your Research.
The variety of Food & Restaurants available on Disney World can be Confusing.
From Character meals to Signature meals, quick service meals & snack kiosks there are over 200 options.
So use social media like YouTube videos to research the different places you can eat.
Trip advisor for reviews on the Restaurants from people who have ate.
Other Disney food blog sites like WDWINFO or the DFB (the Disney food Blog) Allears.net.
Which ever site you use they will have some great reviews.
3. Eat during the off hours. If your not a fan of the crowds, or looking to get into a booked up restaurant? Consider eating during the off hours. Like Booking a very early or late meal, or taking in a counter service Meal between traditional meal times can greatly reduce your wait, and you might even get to try a few restaurants that you thought you’d have to skip. ( my Sister in-law & her husband did this in 2015 & managed to get Be our Guest reservations for 10:00pm).
4. . Get to the resorts for meals. Consider booking meals at nearby resorts. Places like Kona Cafe at the Polynesian or The Wave at the Contemporary or the are a convenient monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom, and can even offer a respite from the heat and crowds. Trails end at Fort Wilderness or the new Geyser Point at Wilderness Lodge are only a short boat Ride away from the Magic Kingdom.
5. Research the Disney Dining Plan to see if it meets your needs. There are some divided opinions on blogs regarding the value that is offered by the Disney Dining Plans. My suggestion? Research it. If you always like to eat the most expensive foods, it may just save you a considerable amount of money. Or the convenience of having much of your food paid for ahead of time may be of more valuable to you. For more advice, check out advice on pros and cons of the Disney Dining Plan.
6. Free Disney Dining?.
Disney love promoting offers at off peak times. One of the most popular is Free Disney Dining.
We have had this a few times over the years & would advise trying to get it for your Holiday.
I have link here to my Disney Dining Explained
7.Book a character meal. If character photos and autographs is a priority for your family, then be sure to book a character dining experience, this is a meal that does double duty you get to eat & meet the characters. And instead of you waiting in long lines in the Floridian sun, the characters come to you. Don't feel you have to skip this option if you’re kid-free — adults-only parties also have an awesome time at character meals!
Our Favourite Character Meals are all you can eat buffets ( this is a bonus).
8.Be prepared for cost & Tipping.
Disney is not cheap. But that’s fine it’s a vacation, and you’re getting a lot more for your money than just food. Take into consideration the service, as well as the atmosphere, your surroundings and theming, and expect that you will pay more for a meal here than off property. Understanding this ahead of time could avoid some the shock when the check comes.
Remember if your from Europe especially the UK prepared to tip at Table service locations. It's the norm in the USA & the average cost for tipping is 18% of the check.
So if your check is for $50 dollars give $9-10 for the tip.
9. . Fill up at a buffet. Buffets can be some of the best value meals at Disney, because they are always all-you-care to eat. They’re a great option for groups whose members have wide variations in taste, or for picky eaters.
For these reasons, a breakfast or dinner buffet can be a great choice if you’re looking to get the best out of your budget, or if you appreciate meals that offer a great variety of foods. In addition to buffets, there are other family style restaurants, like ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort and dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom or the Trails End at Fort Wilderness which also offer an all-you-care-to-eat .
10. Eat off property to save money.
When you’re in Disney World, food prices are going to be higher than they are in the surrounding areas. As a result, a great way to save Money on dining when you’re in Disney World is to get “out of the World”! Head over to a chain restaurant nearby to spend significantly less on your meal, or head to a grocery store like Walmart or Target to pick up grab and go eats.
11. Get free ice water during the really hot summer months. And any other time as well!
Most Disney counter-service restaurants will give you a free glass of ice water when asked.
This can come in handy when you don’t want to spend extra money on a drink with your meal, or when you’re really thirsty on those hot Floridian sunny Disney days!
12.Research your dining options. There is a huge choiceof dining options at Disney — everything from upscale haute cuisine, to restaurants offering incredible themed experiences.
Take your time and research all the options you have open to you & your party.
While you’re planning, take into consideration the park hours for the days of your Vacation as well.
Using the Disney Dining Restaurant Search Tool is a great way to ensure that your pick meets all of your needs
13. If any one in your party have special diets, have it noted on the reservation and then mention again at when checking in to your restaurant. Disney are the most accommodating of resorts when it comes to special needs diets. If you have any one who has food allergies to intolerances and beyond, let them know. Note it at the time of the reservation if you book by telephone, and mention it again at the time you check in. The restaurant’s chef will come out & talk you through the options available.
14.Save money by bringing your own eats. The easiest way to avoid the theme park food prices or to avoid the headache from a special diet is to bring your own less expensive food from home (or from your hotel)! Disney though does have rules and regulations about bringing food into the parks, but for the most part, bringing in snacks, small coolers, non-alcoholic drinks, and other treats are allowed.
15.Book a meal during Wishes or Illuminations for a great view of fireworks.
Booking your dining reservation to coincide with fireworks displays at Magic Kingdom or Epcot can make for an extra special evening.
For the best viewing of Magic Kingdom’s Wishes, check out restaurants at hotels bordering Seven Seas Lagoon. Narcoossees at Grand Floridian or California Grill at The contemporary resort.
The rose & Crown at Epcot The San angel Inn, all of these with the right seating can give a unique experience.
There are a lot more one you look into it further.
16. Consider booking a dinner that combines food and entertainment.
We have done this on several occasions.
Mickeys Back yard BBQ is a Great one.
The hoop de doo review is another.
The spirit Of Aloha.
They are expensive at 2 table service Credits but they are all you can eat buffets with alcohol included for those who don't mind a tipple. ( also the gratuity is included in the cost so no worrying about tipping).
17.Skip dessert at a Table service Restaurant.
Adding dessert for two to your bill can easily bump up the cost by up to $20+!.
If you’d like something sweet but are looking to save money, consider skipping dessert at the restaurant and grabbing a snack at a specialty store or kiosk.
From custom made ice cream cookie sandwiches to chocolate-covered treats, there are all sorts of sweet things outside of the restaurant for half the cost.
Make sure you purchase a re-fillable mug for the length of your stay.
If you are at a Disney World a re-fillable mug could save you an heap of money.
At $17.99 for 2 weeks that's around $1.30 a day.
With the average resort beverage at $2.49 the daily saving is huge.
Especially if like us you drop into the food court twice a day.
19.Take advantage of dining and merchandise discounts.
Through the year, dining at Disney’s counter-service restaurants outside of popular dining hours could merit you a discount coupon for a variety of merchandise locations.
For example, eat at Pecos Bill’s in the afternoon and you could land a receipt or a discount on Disney merchandise at the Emporium on Main Street and other locations. It’s another great reason to avoid the Disney restaurant crowds and dine at off-times. So keep an eye on those quick service receipts they could snag you a discount on a holiday souvenir that you are after.
20. Do you need to book a character dining experience to have fun?.
No you don't.
There are so many great places that you can eat & be entertained.
The Biergarten at Epcot has entertainment.
The House of Blues Disney Springs has regular Entertainment.
Raglan road Disney Springs has Entertainment.
The best thing you can do is research all the options open to you.
Take into account every one in your party & what they like.