There are so many different secrets and tips out there to help you get the most out of your full service dining experiences while dining at Walt Disney World. Disney dining is absolutely amazing, and we definitely recommend working some of these experiences into your itinerary. Here are some of my favorite facts and tips to remember when doing your planning:
10. Make reservations as soon as possible.
This may not be a secret for many of you, but it is a great reminder that you definitely should try to get dining reservations as soon as you possibly can. Many of the Disney World restaurants are extremely popular and book up very fast, especially during the usual dining times. Don’t give up if you don’t get your desired restaurants on the first try. You can still snag those hard-to-get reservations even up until the day before if you are willing to keep trying and checking!
9. Don’t pay for food you don’t plan to eat.
Just because a meal comes with various sides, doesn’t always mean that you have to pay for them. If you don’t want the sides, you can ask about just purchasing the entrée without the sides and they may be able to give you a price that will save you a few dollars and prevent food from going to waste. It doesn’t apply to buffets, and not all Disney restaurants, but it is worth a shot to save a few bucks. You can also consider having an appetizer for dinner instead of an entrée and that can also save a lot on your meal costs.
8. Don’t forget about resort full service restaurants.
The first restaurants to book up are usually character dining and the restaurants in the parks. Don’t count out all of the amazing restaurants at the many Disney resorts. Moderate and Deluxe resorts each have at least 1 full service restaurant, and the Deluxe resorts usually have a few options. These restaurants are also amazing and usually less crowded and chaotic than many of the restaurants in the park, so give them a try!
7. Research characters at the character meals.
If you only have the opportunity to do character meals, you may want to verify what characters are typically at the meals. You wouldn’t want to be disappointed if you or your kiddos were hoping to see a particular character and they aren’t there! Checking which characters are there may also help you make a decision if you are limited on the number of meals you have room for.
6. Note dietary needs on the reservation and remind again upon arrival.
Disney is absolutely amazing about accommodating dietary needs and working hard to ensure that you have a meal that is safe for you to enjoy, and still tasty. Be sure to note the allergy on your reservation when you first make it so that it is in the system. You can also email the special diets team ahead of your trip to give advance notice that way, which is a great idea to always do. Then when you arrive and are seated, your server will confirm your dietary needs. The chef will come out and discuss any concerns with you and either make recommendations or present options that can be tailored or made specifically for you. They put a lot of care into this, and it is very impressive!
5. Restaurant tours at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The restaurants at this resort offer tours if the restaurants every day at 4PM. You may even get to sample some of the items on the menu while you learn more about the theme and details that went into planning and creating the restaurants. These are some of the most unique restaurants on property and have amazing menus, so a tour will definitely have you ready to book a reservation, ASAP.
4. You could try to eat at the bar.
If you don’t have a reservation or want a little quicker in and out at the restaurant, you can always look for room at the bar. Many of the table service restaurants have a bar area that you can sit at and can order food there, too. It can be a way to bypass the need for a reservation, enjoy a delicious meal and get back out to enjoy the parks!
3. Consider fireworks viewing options.
There is something extra magical about enjoying the fireworks while you dine. There are also benefits to this in that you can get amazing views from the comfort of your table in the air conditioning rather than standing in the middle of the crowds for extended periods of time to hold the perfect place. If you are interested, you will want to confirm the planned fireworks time for Happily Ever After (Magic Kingdom) or Epcot Forever (Epcot) and what restaurants have great viewing opportunities. You should make your reservation at least 30 minutes prior to the show so that you are likely to be seated and ready when the show begins. You probably don’t want to make your reservation for more than an hour in advance or you may be waiting at your table for a while.
2. Celebrate special occasions.
If you are celebrating something special, you can definitely do this at the restaurant. Minimally you can tell your server and they may do something a little special for the guest(s) of honor. You can also purchase a cake in advance to have delivered to the restaurant. The Disney bakery has tons of themes, characters and sizes available and they will complete your custom order and have it delivered to the restaurant before your reservation. If you plan to propose and want to make it extra special, check into proposal packages that may be available. You can call the restaurant directly or call Disney dining to get more information on these packages and how you can coordinate the extra special surprise.
1. Leverage buffets to save on food costs.
The various buffets are a set price, which can help you budget accordingly. If you time them correctly, you can also save money on food by filling up at one big meal for the day. We like to eat a light breakfast to get through the majority of the day and then go for either a late lunch or very early dinner. We fill up at this meal, including getting your fill of tasty desserts. Usually this can keep us going into the evening without needing to eat again. If we do, we are usually fine with a smaller snack or splitting a quick service meal, thus saving a ton on the daily meal costs.