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Top 11 Ways To Save Time When Dining

Saving time on a Disney vacation is essential. While in Central Florida you will spend a lot of time standing in lines or waiting for shows to start. You want to save time wherever you can. Dining at Disney can be another place where a lot of time is wasted, or you can save time by following a few simple suggestions. Your meals at Walt Disney World should enhance your vacation, not be a drawback. If you carefully plan your dining you will discover that you can enjoy your meals and save time while you are there. Put a few of these tips together and you will save even more time.

11. Book a Dinner Package

While this tip may not save you time during your meal, it will save you time later in your day. The perfect ending to a day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is of course seeing Fantasmic!, but the theater fills up early. The Fantasmic! Dinner Package will guarantee you a VIP spot or early entry to watch the show. You can dine at one of several popular restaurants and then see the show without having to wait as long as the other guests did. The show does not cost extra but you must specifically book the package in order to get the special seating. During the holidays a similar package is available at Epcot for those who want to watch the Candlelight Processional.

10. Dine Late

Is there a “must try” restaurant on your trip, but you’re worried that it will be crowded? Try dining late. This is a good idea for both counter service and full service restaurants. Since most everyone will have eaten already, the restaurant should be less crowded. If you made a late reservation for a full service restaurant your server should be more attentive because he or she will have fewer diners to wait on. The counter service restaurants are also often less crowded near closing time so you won’t have to fight for a table. Since you will have already hit all of the rides you will be able to relax and enjoy your meal. A nice meal can be the perfect way to end a busy day.

9. Eat at Non-Peak Times

Most of us have set times during the day when we eat our meals. Those times will be more crowded at the Walt Disney World restaurants. Near noon and again in the early evening counter service restaurants will be packed, even if they have adequate seating. The lines to order food will also be long. Reservations are harder to get during those times as well. If you plan your big meal of the day for the middle of the afternoon you will find shorter waits. Plan a late breakfast as well and you might even save money because you skipped a meal.

8. Use the Mobile Order Button

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 MyDisneyExperience app and pick up your food when you arrive. It’s awesome! Quick Service locations accepting Mobile Ordering are growing quickly and include numerous restaurants through Disney property.

7. Snack

One thing that is nice about Walt Disney World is that they allow you to bring food into the parks. If you’re following the above tip and eating at off-hours, you and your family might get hungry. Bring something into the park with you to keep the hunger away while you wait for a less crowded time. A box of granola bars or some homemade peanut butter sandwiches will keep everyone happy. If you don’t want to bring snacks into the park you can still save time by snacking. All four parks have plenty of kiosks where you can buy pretzels, popcorn, ice cream, and other goodies that will help keep hunger at bay.

6. Arrive Early

Just because you have a noon reservation does not mean that you can walk in at 11:59 and be seated a minute later. When you check in you might still have to wait. Arrive for your reservation a few minutes early. That will get your name on the list ahead of the other people who also have a noon reservation. There will also be people who had an 11:45 reservation who are late, you want to get ahead of them as well. Arriving early is especially important at the more popular restaurants during peak dining times. Showing up ten minutes before your reservation might save you a longer wait when everyone else arrives on time. If there is a table available when you arrive you will be seated early, which will also save you time.

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5. Fill Up at Each Meal

You will save time dining if you have to stop to eat less often. Make the most of it when you decide to take a break for a meal. If you are eating at a counter service restaurant, buy an extra side so that you will be full longer. You might also want to consider making a reservation for a buffet. That can be a great way to save time, you can eat all that you want and you do not need to wait to be served. Keep in mind the rides that you plan to go on after you eat. It may not be a good idea to stuff yourself at Hollywood & Vine half an hour before using your Tower of Terror FastPass.

4. Eat in the Park

Some people leave the parks to grab a quick meal. They figure that they can hit one of the many nearby fast food restaurants and make it back in no time at all. That might save you some money but it is going to waste a lot of time. Think of how long it will take to find your car, drive off property, find a restaurant, eat, drive back onto property, park again, and then head back into the park. Even if you plan to stay on Disney property leaving the park will waste a lot of time, especially if you’re spending the day at the Magic Kingdom. If you’re trying to make the most of your time it makes sense to not leave the park, even if the line for a restaurant is long and there isn’t a table in sight.

3. Leave the Park but Stay Close By

There is an exception to the above rule. If you are spending the day at Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios you are not far from the Epcot Resort Area. A short walk or boat ride from either park will take you to some great restaurants that will usually be less crowded during the day. You also will not need to move your car. Check out the restaurants at Disney’s BoardWalk, the Beach or Yacht Clubs, or the Swan and Dolphin Resorts. You’ll be surprised by the variety and you can take a short break from the craziness of the parks without having to go too far.

2. Skip Dessert

If you’re eating at a full service restaurant the extras take time. The more you order, the longer you will be there. If you skip dessert you will free up quite a bit of time. Do not look at the desserts as you enter the restaurant and do not let your server describe them to you, that way it will be easier to avoid temptation. If you don’t order an appetizer and start by ordering your entrée you will save yourself even more time. You should also have a good idea of what you plan to order before you arrive. Check the menus here at Disney Dining and decide what sounds good before you step foot in the restaurant. That way you can order immediately once you meet your server.

1. Make a Reservation

There is a reason that Disney starts accepting dining reservations 180 days in advance. People plan that far ahead, you need to as well. While you may not know your schedule that far in advance you need to make your reservations as early as you can. The full service restaurants get busy, especially during the summer and other peak times. You can show up at a restaurant and hope that you will be seated but they will give priority to diners with reservations. If you arrive at a park and do not have a reservation head immediately to Guest Services. They will tell you what is available. A reservation will get you seated sooner, which will mean less time wasted. You will be able to enjoy your time at the restaurant instead of waiting for a table and staring at the lobby walls.

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.