Dining – it seems like such a simple thing. But at Walt Disney World, there are more dining options than any foodie could wish for! And along with these options come many do’s and don’ts that can make or break your Disney meal experiences. From reservations to meal planning to mobile ordering and hidden extras, here are 12 ways to avoid rookie mistakes at Disney restaurants – and maximize every meal!
1. Waiting Until the Last Minute
Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to make dining reservations in Walt Disney World! Guests can start booking their dining reservations 180 days before they arrive, and we definitely recommend this. The most popular restaurants are booked well in advance, so to avoid being disappointed, snag spots for your favorites early!
2. Giving Up
If you aren’t able to reserve a spot at a coveted restaurant, don’t give up! Occasionally, there are cancellations, so make sure you check back regularly to see if a spot has opened up that works for you. If all else fails, you can check in at the restaurant the day you wish to dine there, and ask if there’s any way they can fit you in. There’s no guarantee that this will work, but it’s worth a shot!
3. Not Using Mobile Ordering
More and more quick service restaurants on property offer Mobile Ordering, and it’d be a mistake not to take advantage of it! It’s simple to use your My Disney Experience app to make your food selections and pay in advance, and then all you have to do is pick up your food once you arrive at your quick service location. It couldn’t be easier – or faster!
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4. Not Planning for Tips
Even if you’re using the Disney Dining Plan, tips aren’t included. It’s a good idea to budget for tips for each table service meal, as these can certainly add up during a vacation! The service at Walt Disney World tends to be stellar, and planning ahead makes it easier to give cast members at Disney restaurants the gratuities they deserve!
5. Filling Up at One Restaurant in Epcot
One mistake that we realized the hard way in Walt Disney World’s Epcot is filling up at just one spot. This is a definite no-no! Epcot’s World Showcase is full of various offerings from around the globe, and many of these are available at quick service restaurants, shops, or small food booths in the various pavilions. So dine like a pro by snacking around the Worlds and experiencing as wide a variety of deliciousness as possible!
6. Failing to Plan
Eating at Walt Disney World is a bit of a science, and it’s imperative to plan out your meals throughout your vacation to avoid some common pitfalls. Make sure that you plan to dine in the same area that you have a FastPass+ or a show, to avoid running all over the park and potentially missing either a reservation or a FastPass+. If you’re dining at a buffet for a late lunch, don’t schedule a sit-down dinner for a few hours later – we can guarantee you won’t be hungry! Try booking a reservation at a restaurant on the parade route for the same time that the parade goes by, and ask for a patio table so you can watch the parade from your table. It’s all about planning!
7. Forgetting About Fireworks
When making your dining reservations, don’t forget about the nightly fireworks at Walt Disney World theme parks! If you time your dining reservation just right, and choose a restaurant with the right view, you could find yourself being serenaded by a fireworks show while you dine. Try Cinderella’s Royal Table, California Grill, Narcoossee’s, and Spice Road Table for some great fireworks views.
8. Not Checking Menus in Advance
Menus for all of Walt Disney World’s restaurants, even snack booths and quick service restaurants, are online. It’s a good idea to peruse these before making your dining reservations, to make sure there’s something for everyone in your party. Plus, it’s just plain fun to discover the mouth-watering selections awaiting you during your vacation!
9. Assuming the Menu is the Final Word
If you have made the mistake listed above, and find yourself at a restaurant that doesn’t have much to offer to a member of your party, don’t worry! In addition to the posted menu, Walt Disney World restaurants typically have other dishes for vegetarians or those with dietary restrictions that aren’t always listed on the menu. So if you don’t see something that works, don’t be afraid to talk to your wait staff to see if they can bring you something else!
10. Hitting All the Buffets
Ok, so you’ll probably want to hit a character buffet for the experience, and it can definitely be fun having Disney characters visit your table to pose for photos and sign autographs. But these meals are much more expensive than other meals in Walt Disney World, and as a result, guests often stuff themselves to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth. To save money, and save your appetite for other exciting dining options later in the day, we’d recommend minimizing your buffet reservations while in WDW.
11. Buying Water Bottles
This is a mistake we admittedly have made many times at quick service restaurants. But on a recent Disney vacation, a cast member tipped us off to the fact that every quick service restaurant on property will provide guests with ice water in cups, for free – even if you’re not ordering anything else! This can be a life saver on a hot Florida day, and it will save you a lot of money over the course of a vacation.
12. Playing it Safe
It’s possible to stick to comfort food while vacationing in Walt Disney World, but eating only familiar food at Disney restaurants is definitely a mistake in our books! There’s a fantastically wide array of food available at every theme park and resort, and it would be a shame not to try as many as possible. We love the Moroccan ambiance and authentic food at Restaurant Marrakesh, while Yak and Yeti will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a restaurant in the Himalayas; Animal Kingdom Lodge has plenty of options with African offerings, and don’t forget Disney Springs, where a world of food awaits!