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Top 11 Rookie Walt Disney World Dining Mistakes

Some people are Disney pros. They visit Florida at least once a year and can navigate the parks without a map. They can tell you where every restaurant is and what to order there. Others are not there nearly as much. A Disney vacation happens once every few years, if that often. They still know the parks fairly well and have a decent working knowledge of the restaurants. Then there are people who are planning a first trip to the parks. They have no idea how large Walt Disney World really is or how many restaurants there are. While this list is meant to benefit anyone who may read it, it has been compiled with Disney rookies in mind.

Dining mistakes at Disney can be costly. If you do not plan carefully you will waste precious time on your vacation. You can also end up spending too much money. If you’re planning your first trip to Walt Disney World take the advice given here to heart. These few tips might help you to better figure out where to dine, when to dine, and what to dine on. Dining at Disney can enhance your vacation. Avoiding the mistakes listed here will help you to have a magical first trip.

11. Not Looking Into the Dining Plan

This tip is meant for those who are staying at Walt Disney World resort hotels. Read about the Disney Dining Plan. There are times when the plan is offered free of charge (restrictions apply) but even when it is not you will want to consider adding it to your package. The Disney Dining Plan might save your family money but not everyone is a fan of it. Read about the different options and make an educated decision on whether or not it is something that you want to add to your vacation package.

10. Dining at the Wrong Times

The time of day that you eat can make a huge difference while in the parks. People are naturally wired to eat at certain times of the day. The counter service restaurants will be packed at traditional lunch and dinner times. Plan your day so that you will not be standing in line or fighting for a table at noon or 6:00pm. Bring snacks to fight off hunger and then have a late lunch or an early dinner. You will spend a lot of time at Walt Disney World waiting in lines, you do not want to wait too long to order your meal.

9. Not Knowing about Mobile Ordering

No table service reservations? Needing to dine at a peak traffic time? 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 at a special Mobile Order window. It’s incredible and easy to use. Quick Service locations accepting Mobile Ordering are located throughout Disney World property from the parks to Disney Springs, and even making their way to Disney Resorts.

8. Eating too Much

The food at Disney is delicious. There are mouth watering appetizers, filling entrees and scrumptious desserts. Resist the urge to try everything, especially if you are eating at a buffet restaurant. Skip the appetizer and split a dessert. If you are walking around a park in the heat and you’ve eaten too much you will be miserable. You will also be wasting time because you will not want to take a spin on the Mad Tea Party ride if you are stuffed. Try ordering some lighter foods, for example get the apple slices instead of the fries, which will still fill you up but won’t weigh you down.

7. Leaving the Park to Save Money

You’ve been saving for your first Disney vacation for years. Even if money is tight, do you really want to take time away from your vacation so that you can find the nearest Burger King? Let’s say that you’re spending only one day of your vacation at the Magic Kingdom. You’ll need to leave the park, catch the monorail, find the right tram, locate your car, drive off property, find a restaurant, order and eat, drive back onto Disney property, wait to show your parking receipt, park your car, catch the tram, wait for the monorail again, and go back through bag check and the turnstiles…all to save a few dollars. That is not the Disney vacation that you’ve been dreaming of. If money is really tight on your vacation, bring snacks with you into the park. Make a lunch out of peanut butter and jelly and order only one meal at a Disney restaurant. The meal might cost more than it would have at Burger King but the amount of time that you save will be worth it.

6. Not Asking Questions

Asking questions can enhance your dining experience. If you are eating at a full service restaurant, your server will make recommendations and be able to tell you about anything on the menu. Ask about the dish that you are thinking about ordering. If you are not a fan of peppers, for example, ask if the item can be made without them. (If you have special dietary requests, such as a food allergy, you need to inform the restaurant when you make your reservation.) Don’t complain that a dish was too spicy if you did not ask which entrees toned down the heat. You should also not assume anything about a dish that you have never tried before. Ask about it so that you will know what you are getting. It is easier to ask questions at the full service restaurants, but don’t hesitate if you’re at a counter service option. The cast members are trained to help.

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5. Ordering the Same Thing

In all four parks, the water parks, and Disney Springs you’ll find plenty of places that serve pizza, burgers, chicken sandwiches and other basics. There is no reason to dine only on these choices while at Disney! Try something new while on your vacation. You’ll be glad that you did.

4. Trying too Many New Things

Flipping that coin, it is possible to try too many new things while at Walt Disney World. Sometimes a burger or pizza is exactly what you want. If you feel like you need to order something different and exotic each time you have a meal you will get sick of different and exotic. Make sure that you find the right balance of new and familiar. If you’re looking for incredible pizza, try Via Napoli.  If you want a meal that feels familiar you are sure to find something tasty to fill you up and satisfy you.

3. Not Making a Reservation

It does not matter what time of year you’re planning your vacation for, if there is a must-try full service restaurant on your list you need to make a reservation. You can reserve a table up to 180 days in advance and some restaurants will fill up that quickly. Do not expect to walk up to Cinderella’s Royal Table and be seated, it is extremely rare that there will be an opening. The only way to guarantee that you will be able to try a special restaurant is to call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) or visit http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining. If there is no opening, keep trying, especially as your desired time grows nearer. It could be that someone has canceled and you might be able to get a spot.

Please remember to cancel your reservation if you can’t make it. You will receive an email as the time is growing near. Canceling will open a spot for someone else. Some reservations now require a deposit, which you will lose if you do not cancel in time.

2. Overdoing the Reservations

Believe it or not, you can make too many reservations. While Disney dining is incredible, you do not want your entire vacation to revolve around it. You don’t want to miss riding Space Mountain because you have to be at Tony’s Town Square in 30 minutes. Make all of the important reservations ahead of time but then play it by ear a little bit. If you need another reservation stop by Guest Services or see what it is available on your smartphone once you’re getting hungry. You do not want your reservations to control your vacation.

1. Ignoring the Hotel Restaurants

Disney veterans will tell you that some of the best restaurants are not located in the parks. If you do not venture a little bit outside of them you will be missing out on some incredible food. Take the monorail from the Magic Kingdom to eat at Disney’s Contemporary, Disney’s Grand Floridian, or Disney’s Polynesian. All three have impressive choices. The Epcot resort hotels also offer some wonderful dining and you can walk there from Epcot or take a boat from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge also has some unforgettable restaurants. You’ll find the best dining at the Deluxe Resorts. Look over the menus and make a reservation. Even though it will take time away from the parks you won’t be disappointed in the food.

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.