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11 Rookie Mistakes While Dining At Walt Disney World And How To Avoid Them

With so much planning going into a Walt Disney World vacation, it is not surprising that many guests experience a couple of hiccups with their dining plans. Check out our tips for avoiding these pitfalls below, and start planning your Disney dining adventures today.

1. Failing to make reservations in advance

The worst mistake you can make when it comes to dining at Walt Disney World is failing to make dining reservations before your trip. Many Disney restaurants are so popular that they book up months in advance. To avoid disappointment, book reservations for all your favorites as soon as you know you’d like to dine there.

2. Using the Dining Plan when you don’t need to

As advertised, the Disney Dining Plan really can save you up to 35% off the cost of dining in Walt Disney World. While this is a great savings, and it is very true for some guests, it just doesn’t work for others. Before adding the dining plan to your reservation, compare how much you would spend on meals by paying out of pocket vs. the cost of the plan. If you find yourself thinking about ordering the most expensive item on the menu despite wanting something else to get your money’s worth, the plan may not be for you.

3. Forgetting that discounts may be available

While there are not tons of discounts available for dining, there are some that you should be aware of and remember to use if you can. Annual passholders, Disney Visa cardholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, members of Tables in Wonderland, and more are eligible for discounts are select dining locations. Another tip to remember is to check for discounts at non-Disney operated locations that sometimes offer additional savings for AAA, Disney cast members, military, and their own rewards programs.

4. Ordering too much food

One of the easiest ways to waste a dining budget on vacation is by ordering too much food. At times this is inevitable when portion sizes are unpredictable and you want to try a little bit of everything. You can at least curve this dilemma in a way that will give you a greater value for your money and allow you to try many different things. In most cases, you will not finish all of the food you order– so rather than ordering the same things as your friends and family, order something different and try a little bit of everything.

5. Paying for water bottles

This mistake primarily applies to quick service dining locations, where you may find yourself ordering bottles of water. Instead, order a cup of water, which is free (and filtered as it comes through the soda machine). While buying a bottle of water may not seem all that expensive every once in a while, it can really add up over the course of your vacation.

6. Dining at chain locations

To get the most out of any vacation, I would always avoid dining at chain locations that you can enjoy at home. Of course there are exceptions to this, perhaps if you have certain dietary restrictions and are comfortable with something familiar, or if you’re visiting with picky eaters and know which chains they like. But on the whole, you’ll get the most out of your Disney dining experience by trying restaurants that you can’t find in your hometown.

7. Not budgeting for tips

As anyone who has worked in the service industry will tell you, tips can go a long way in showing your appreciation for your servers and bartenders and for making up a sizeable amount of their income. Even if you’ve pre-purchased the dining plan, it is important to remember that gratuities are not included, and you should plan a budget for tipping before your trip.

8. Getting less than your money’s worth at all-you-care-to-enjoy meals

Disney is full of all-you-care-to-enjoy dining experiences, where for a typically higher price point you are able to eat as much food as you’d like. Whether it be a buffet or family style option, or even opting for a bottomless milkshake be sure to get your money’s worth for the experience. Of course, we don’t expect you to make yourself sick if you’re feeling full, but rather just be sure to have a small taste of all of the options so you will have been able to try everything you paid for.

9. Dining during special events

If you happen to be visiting Walt Disney World during a special event (especially a ticketed event like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party), be sure to spend your time enjoying the event-specific festivities. Disney’s restaurants will always be there, but the limited time experience you’re there to enjoy will not. Instead, snack on event-specific items and spend your time enjoying the event. Still need to visit a favorite restaurant? Plan an early lunch or a later dinner before or after your event.

10. Skipping breakfast

Disney is full of wonderful breakfast options that many guests avoid in favor of either sleeping in or hitting the parks right away. Take at least one day on your trip to slow it down and enjoy a relaxing breakfast, and be sure to at least eat a small breakfast on the go throughout your trip to keep yourself energized in the morning and early afternoon.

11. Not Using the Mobile Order option

No table service reservations? 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 My Disney Experience app and pick up your food when you arrive. It’s awesome! Quick Service locations accepting Mobile Ordering are located throughout Disney World property from the parks to Disney Springs.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a graduate of St. Anselm College, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in History. She completed two Disney College Programs, one at Dinoland U.S.A., in Animal Kingdom, and one at Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios. She is the author of “Brittany Earns Her Ears,” a memoir about her experiences on the college program, and she currently resides in Massachusetts.