I don’t know about you, but eating at Walt Disney World is one of the many highlights of my Disney vacation. I am up and out of bed as soon as my Advanced Dining Reservation opens, ready to book these meals for my upcoming trip. I love trying new places, and being sure I am going to get a table at some of my long time favorites. And from there…of course there is the never ending tweaking of meals, park days, etc. But, I have learned, and sometimes the hard way, that Disney Dining isn’t anything to mess around with, and avoiding Disney Dining mistakes is essential to having a smooth Walt Disney World vacation. Today, I want to share my TEN Biggest Disney Dining Mistakes that Guests Make, in hopes that you will have a smoother trip and a stress free time enjoying some amazing Walt Disney World food!
Disney Dining Mistake #1: Not knowing that you can book your entire length of stay when your dining window opens. True! If you are staying on site at Walt Disney World, you can book dining when you are 180-days from arrival for your WHOLE stay! A lot of guests think they need to book their meals one day at a time as they approach each individual 180-day mark. Not so! Before your dining date opens, have a general idea of where you want to eat each day, so you can book your meals accordingly.
Disney Dining Mistake #2: Not making Advanced Dining Reservations at 180-days in advance. Of course, there is always the exception to this. But, this is crucial if you are going to book some of the very popular meals at Walt Disney World. These include Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest, and California Grill, amongst others. This can be overwhelming, because sometimes I don’t even know what I am having for dinner that very night, let alone 6-months in advance.
To make this a smooth process, research some Disney Dining locations ahead of time, and have a general idea of which meal you’d like at each location, and when. You will need a credit card to guarantee your Disney Dining Reservation, so have it handy or stored in your My Disney Experience. It’s not a terrible idea to book a few extra, or alternative times, for some locations. You can cancel most places 24-hours in advance without a penalty. And it’s much easier to cancel, than to try and scramble at the last minute to get a reservation you REALLY cannot live without.
Disney Dining Mistake #3: Not prioritizing your Table Service meals. What does this mean? It means that you don’t book the hardest to get, or most important ones to you first! A little trick…..try to book some of the harder to get locations for later in your trip. Sometimes, there is more availability than at the beginning of your stay. If Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest, or California Grille are on your list, try to book those first. Just because you want to eat at Tony’s Town Square earlier in your trip than you want to eat at Akershus, doesn’t mean Tony’s needs to be booked first. Go for the more popular location first!
Disney Dining Mistake #4: Not being prepared with My Disney Experience. This is a huge part of being successful with Disney Dining! Before you can even book your meals, you need to have your resort reservation linked in your account. Otherwise, the system won’t see that you are 180-days from arrival. Also, store a credit card in your account so you don’t have to enter your information every.single.reservation. Finally, try booking a few dining reservations as far out as you can, to get a feel for how it works. Just be sure to go back and cancel them!
Disney Dining Mistake #5: Not reserving character meals. Character dining is NOT just for kids. Some of the best food is found at character dining locations, such as the Bon Voyage Breakfast or 1900 Park Fare dinner. It’s easy to think that meeting characters is just for kids, but I am almost positive that when you get up close with your favorite princess or the big Mouse himself, a small childhood piece of you is going to come out! Working in one, or two, is a smart idea. Plus, if you have children, it is even smarter! This saves you a lot of park touring time, as you don’t have to go from character to character and stand in line to see them. On top of that, your kids get a good meal and everyone gets a rest from the parks.
Disney Dining Mistake #6: Not eating at a Walt Disney World Resort. Even if you are not staying at that particular resort, you can still eat there! This goes for all things….table service, quick service, and snacks! Do you need the campfire cupcake from Wilderness Lodge? Certainly! Just hop a boat, or a bus, to Wilderness Lodge, and you’ll be eating one in no time! Some of the best Disney Dining is found at the resorts. Art of Animation has a FANTASTIC quick service selection at the Landscape of Flavors. You can find beignets at the Port Orleans French Quarter, and of course amazing signature and character dining at the Deluxe Resorts.
Disney Dining Mistake #7: Not taking into consideration the timing if your meals. Did you know that booking a pre park breakfast for Garden Grill at EPCOT puts you in a perfect position to be one of the first on Soarin’? Or an early morning meal at Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom will give you the chance to take some photos on Main Street when it is almost empty?! Also, if you want to have breakfast at ‘Ohana before heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, plan your Fastpasses for late morning/afternoon. There is no way you will make Rope Drop or an early Fastpass when going from a resort meal to a park that is not in that immediate area. While the resorts do make a good break from the parks, keep in mind the travel time to and from as well.
This also goes for quick service meals. Try to eat at the “off time”, and this will help you avoid the meal time crowds. Plus, for even more time saving with Quick Service, you can now use Mobile Ordering through My Disney Experience!
Disney Dining Mistake #8: Not researching the actual location of the restaurant. Why is this important? I am of the mindset that I want to avoid as much travel time as possible when getting to and from my meals. So, if I am planning to be in EPCOT, I am not going to go to Chef Mickey’s for a brunch as a midday break. It just doesn’t make sense. Don’t get me wrong, Chef Mickey’s is a classic. BUT, a meal at Trattoria Al Forno for the Bon Voyage Breakfast, or even at Cape May at the Beach Club makes far more sense for a break from EPCOT than going over to a Magic Kingdom resort.
Also, if you have base park tickets, you can’t have breakfast in Magic Kingdom and dinner at EPCOT. You need a park hopper for that. I have seen this mistake over and over again, especially with guests who don’t understand what type of ticket they have. Both base and park hopper are great options, but be sure to plan your dining accordingly. Just because you have a reservation in a theme park, does not mean you automatically have entry to that theme park. You must have a valid park ticket to enter, even if it is just to eat.
Disney Dining Mistake #9: Not planning your Quick Service Meals and snacks. Now, you don’t need to plan every bite that goes into your mouth, not at all. However, there are SO many amazing quick service meals and snacks at Walt Disney World, it is smart to have an idea ahead of time where you may want to eat on the go, or get a snack. For example, I don’t love a lot of food at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. So, on our Hollywood Studios day, I plan on a meal at Beaches and Cream over at the Beach Club Resort. OR, plan to go to Disney Springs or a resort for dinner, and just make due with a small snack or QS meal in the park.
If I have a craving for a Night Blossom, I know the ONLY place I can find that is at Animal Kingdom. So, that means I plan to have this as a snack while I am there. Or, if we have an early park breakfast booked, my plan is to do a snack for lunch and a quick service for dinner. This is especially important if you have the Disney Dining Plan, so you aren’t leaving food behind.
Disney Dining Mistake #10: Not researching the cost of food at Walt Disney World. There are some great sites that have dining calculators, that can help you estimate the cost of food on your Disney trip. My Disney Experience also has the cost of each location and item on their site. Finally, if you call Disney Dining and give them the table service location, date, and your dining party, they can tell you the exact cost of this meal. This is how I budgeted for my past trip. I wanted to know just how much I need to take with me for food money, and having the cost of each TS meal was SO helpful.
You can pay for food at Walt Disney World with cash, a credit card, or Disney gift cards. I have preloaded Disney gift cards with money for food. I have also used a Disney Dining Plan. Either way, there are ways to have a general idea of how much food will cost, what meals and snacks you may be able to share, and how much to expect to pay for a sit down meal All of these are a good idea to consider, so you aren’t caught off guard. It also helps you gauge if the Disney Dining Plan is right for YOUR trip and your travel party.
I know that there is A LOT to think about when preparing for meals at Walt Disney World. With a little research, some planning, and flexibility, Disney Dining can be one of the highlights of your Walt Disney World vacation! What tips can you add to the list?