While the trip itself is fun, and some even enjoy the planning, putting together a Walt Disney World vacation can be a bit overwhelming. There are park reservations to consider, flights, and other kinds of transportation to arrange, and some even go so far as to schedule out their rides each day, creating a detailed touring plan.
Another thing that must be planned? Dining.
There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to dining in Walt Disney World Resort. Not only do you need to make a Disney dining reservation for every table service meal, but you also have to budget for food (the current lack of a Disney dining plan doesn’t make this easy), pick the best restaurants for your family, and make sure you leave enough time to fully enjoy your meals.
All of this might seem like a bit much, but it doesn’t have to be totally stressful. There are a number of Disney hack secrets that can help make things easier and ensure you get the most out of your Disney World dining experiences.
Our favorite Disney World dining hacks are listed below and are sure to improve your Disney experience.
Make Reservations 60 Days Out
The first and most important of all the Disney dining tips and tricks? Make an advanced dining reservation for every table service restaurant meal you want to enjoy, both at theme park locations and at Disney resort restaurants, as well as in Disney Springs. Not only that, you should make those reservations at 6:00 AM ET — 60 days out from when your trip begins if you’re staying on property, or 60 days out from the day you’d like to dine at any given restaurant if you’re staying off property.
Making sure you jump on reservations as soon as you’re allowed helps ensure you snag the reservations you really want. That said, if you don’t get exactly what you want, don’t worry too much. You can sign up for services like Mouse Dining to receive alerts when times do become available, but be aware, some sites charge a fee for their services. Besides, there are plenty of other dining options, and some people go without table service meals entirely.
Buy a Popcorn Bucket
Popcorn is one of our favorite Walt Disney World snacks. The stuff is crunchy, buttery, and fresh, and is one of the easiest snacks to eat on the go. While the small boxes of popcorn are a bit overpriced, popcorn can be a super affordable snack if you invest in a popcorn bucket at the beginning of your trip.
Disney World popcorn buckets come filled with delicious popcorn and can be refilled in any Disney park or Disney springs for the duration of your trip for only $2 per refill. This makes it an excellent budget option and a great way to fill in gaps between meals.
Note: Popcorn buckets are also great for holding partially eaten turkey legs and other unfinished snacks.
Stock Up on Gift Cards
Buying gift cards before your trip can actually help save you money on dining in Disney World. How? Disney gift card packs are often sold at a discounted price at bulk stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club. Additionally, you can buy Disney gift cards with a Target Red Card and save 5% on each card. These savings add up, making gift cards an exceptional Disney World hack.
Besides Disney gift cards, we also recommend stocking up on discounted Starbucks cards if you see them (occasionally Groupon offers such discounts). These can be used at all onsite Starbucks locations for coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and more.
Finally, we highly recommend signing up for Landry’s Select Club if you’re heading to Disney during your birth month. This will give you a generous birthday reward to spend at places like Yak and Yeti, Rainforest Café, and T-Rex Café. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for discounted Landry’s gift cards.
Drink Free Ice Water
Staying hydrated is crucial because it is incredibly easy to become dehydrated during a Disney vacation. That said, nobody likes spending large amounts of money on bottles of water. Fortunately, when you’re at Disney World, you don’t have to. You see, every single Disney quick-service restaurant with a fountain will happily hand you a cup of ice water at no charge, meaning you can stay hydrated without spending a dime.
Grab Some Drink Mix
Of course, drinking plain water can get old after a while, and to be honest, Disney World water isn’t the best tasting out there. For this reason, we recommend carrying some drink mix around with you. Water drops or individual pouches of flavored powder mix both work well for giving your free water some flavor and making it more enjoyable.
Drink mix isn’t the only food item you’re allowed to bring into the Disney theme parks. In fact, Disney allows pretty much any snacks as long as they are non-alcoholic and aren’t packed in glass containers. This means you can pack nutritious and filling snacks such as cheese sticks, peanut butter crackers, fruits, and vegetables to snack on between meals. This will stretch your food budget farther, possibly even allowing you to cut down to two big meals each day rather than three.
Speaking of carrying food for snacking, we also highly recommend keeping a few zipper baggies in your park bag. If you have leftover pastries on the table after a table service breakfast, or if your kid doesn’t finish their sandwich at lunch, you can pack up the food to snack on later.
Note: Baggies are also super handy for water rides, as they allow you to protect your phone, wallet, and other things that shouldn’t get wet.
Adjust Your Meal Schedule
Disney World restaurants get super busy at regular meal times. Not only that, the lines for rides tend to get significantly shorter during these times. For this reason, it can be highly beneficial to adjust your eating schedule, dining during off-hours, and hopping in line for rides while everyone else is eating.
Mix Things Up
Disney might serve a snack a certain way, but that doesn’t mean it has to be eaten that way. We love mixing snack options up to make something even more delicious. A great example of this is mixing the green and blue milk served in Hollywood Studios. We’ve also seen people buy chocolate dipping sauce from churro stands to dip their Mickey pretzels into. Get creative and see what ideas you can come up with!
Order from the Kids Menu
If you just want a light meal and need to save some money, keep in mind that quick-service kids’ meals can be ordered by anyone, regardless of age. Many of these kids meals are large enough to count as a meal for an adult, especially if you happen to be a light eater or aren’t feeling all that hungry.
…or Split Meals
Another option for those times when a lighter meal is in order is to split with a family member or friend. Most quick-service locations have some bigger meal options that are too large for most people but are perfect for those who want to share. Keep an eye out for those meals and find a friend to share with. You’ll end up saving money and won’t have to waste food!
Use Mobile Ordering
Finally, we highly recommend using the mobile order service whenever possible. Lines at quick-service locations can get extremely backed up. This is super frustrating when you want to eat quickly, so you can catch the next ride or show. Mobile ordering helps remove this issue by allowing you to order in advance and pick up your food without ever even queuing up. How’s that for service?