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11 Dining Tips For Walt Disney World

There’s no doubt about it, finding the perfect restaurants for your trip to Walt Disney World can be confusing, especially if you have never been before. There are so many restaurants that you might not know which ones to try. That’s the point of this list. While it is not going to choose your restaurants for you, it will give you advice on taking some of the confusion out of making your choices. Dining at Disney is special, having a plan will make your meals even more spectacular.

11. Make Reservations Early

The easiest way to end up disappointed is to not book your meals early enough, especially if you want to try one of the more popular places. You can make your reservations 180 days in advance. While most restaurants will not require that much notice, some will, especially during the busier times of the year. You want to be sure that you will get a table. Remember, though, that if you are not going to use your reservation to you cancel it. That will open a spot for someone else. Some of the restaurants require a deposit when you make your reservation and if you don’t cancel within one day you will lose it.  Visit http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining to make your reservation online, or call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463). To cancel a reservation visit the My Reservations page at http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/, or call  407-WDW-CNCL (407-939-2625). Instructions for canceling online will also be in your email confirmation. Disney will email you again close to the day of your reservation, usually a little more than 24 hours in advance. If you don’t want the reservation any longer cancel it immediately when you receive the reminder.

10. Dine During Off Hours

Most of the restaurants get crowded around mealtimes, even on a day where the crowd is manageable. This is especially true in the parks. Plan your lunch and dinner either early or late, that will help to make sure that the restaurant is a little less crowded. This also holds true if you’re making a reservation. Even when you have one you won’t be seated until there is a table and you will sometimes wait if you’re dining at a traditional mealtime.

9. Use Mobile Ordering

No table service reservations or just want to avoid long lines? It’s super simple to use Mobile Ordering at numerous Quick Service Restaurants throughout Disney World Property. Order and pay for your food from the My Disney Experience app and pick up your food when you arrive. It’s awesome! Quick Service locations accepting Mobile Ordering are located throughout Disney World property from the parks to Disney Springs.

8. Switch Lunch and Dinner

Most people eat a lighter meal for lunch and the big meal of the day at dinner time. The full service restaurants are usually more crowded at dinner than they are near lunch. Several also have a dinner menu that is more expensive. If you switch things around and eat the larger meal for your lunch you will have a better chance of getting a difficult reservation. You will also often save money.

7. Save Room for Dessert

You will find a little bit of everything for dessert at the Walt Disney World restaurants. While most of the counter service restaurants have fairly standard choices the full service restaurants try to outdo themselves. If you are looking for a classic you will find it; ice cream sundaes, cupcakes and brownies can be bought at several different places. If you are looking for a new twist on a more sophisticated dessert you will find many different kinds of cheesecake, crème brulee and many unique cakes. Most restaurants have sugar free choices, if there is nothing on the menu that is marked as such just ask. You are bound to find something that you will wish you could make at home. It has been said that calories don’t count when you’re on vacation. While that’s not really true, with the amount of walking that you will do in one day at a Disney park you can afford a splurge or two.

6. Try for Cancelled Reservations

If there is a restaurant (Cinderella’s Royal Table, for example) that you have your heart set on but you couldn’t get a reservation, keep trying. If you keep checking back you just might get lucky. The best chance to grab a space is 24-48 hours before you want to eat at that restaurant. Remember that reservations that require a deposit need to be canceled one day in advance so you might find that someone has cancelled so that he or she won’t lose the deposit. Check for openings often, if something opens up you want to be the one who gets it. You can even check on your phone while waiting in line. If that doesn’t work ask at the restaurant when you are there. There probably won’t be an opening but if there is one you’ll suddenly find yourself on the list.

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5. Ask at Guest Services

If you arrive at a park without a dining reservation, head to Guest Services. Ask them which restaurants have openings and when. They will tell you where and when you might be able to get a table. While the choices will be limited the Cast Member will do his or her best to find you something that you will like. You can also ask about reservations at the front desk if you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel. Ask questions about the available choices, many Disney Cast Members are also Disney fans who have their own restaurant preferences. You just might find something special that you wouldn’t have tried otherwise.

4. Split Your Entrées

Ask your server to bring you a couple of extra plates. Then split the entrées that you order between everyone in your party. There are so many unique dishes at the restaurants, you’re going to have a hard time choosing what you want. If you split your orders everyone gets to try everything and your dining experience will have been enhanced.

3. Book an Early Breakfast or a Late Dinner

How would you like to see parts of one of the parks with few people around? If you book an early character breakfast you will be able to do just that. Of course you won’t be able to go on any rides but it will give you a chance to see the park in a totally different light. You can do the same thing for dinner. Check to see what time the park you’ll be visiting closes and book the latest reservation possible. Walking through the parks without being surrounded by a sea of people is something that you will enjoy.

2. Don’t Forget the Resort Restaurants

When most people think of Disney they think of the four main theme parks. When they plan a Disney vacation they plan their time in the parks. Some of the best restaurants are located in the Disney Resort hotels. Leave your car in the parking lot and take a bus to the hotel that has the restaurant of your choice. You will enjoy a bit of a break from the craziness and you’ll also have a great meal that you would have missed otherwise. When you’re finished, catch the next bus back to the park. It might take a couple of hours out of your day but you’ll be glad that you decided to take a breather.

1. Try Something Different

Where else can you enjoy a tropical paradise one meal and then the next day dine while looking over a savanna? Walt Disney World has well over 100 restaurants and all of them are unique. Step out of your comfort zone a bit and try something that you would not be able to get elsewhere. You don’t want to spend your entire vacation dining on pizza and burgers. Try traditional dishes at places like Restaurant Marrakesh or Bongos Cuban Café. You just might discover a new favorite.

About PaulaK

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. When I was nine my family went to Disneyland and I was hooked. I grew up, attended New England College in Henniker, NH and eventually moved to Virginia. I worked as a disc jockey, married and became a full time mom when our daughter was born. Fast forward several years. In 2010 we moved to Central Florida and my Disney obsession grew. I now work as a freelance writer and spend my spare time in the parks. Under the name Paula Brown I penned the novels Dream Wanderers and The Coffee Cruiser. I also am a co-author of Dining at Walt Disney World: The Definitive Guide. I'm obsessed with Star Wars, so this is a good time to live in Central Florida. I've been a vegetarian for well over a decade, a choice that my daughter eventually made as well. While my husband still hasn't joined us fully he has given up most meats except for seafood. I was relieved to find that vegetarian dining is not difficult at Walt Disney World.