One of the most exciting things about planning a Disney Vacation is deciding where you are going to eat. There are hundreds of dining locations on Disney property. Before we start talking about all of the options I want to go over some basics.
Walt Disney World offers many dining options to their guests. Whether you are looking for a quick bite between rides or you prefer a quiet dinner for two you will find what you are looking for. There are many places to eat within the parks but you might also find something wonderful at the hotels or Disney Springs. Walt Disney World dining does not have to be confusing, you just need to know what you are looking for and the basics of the various options.
Disney categorizes it’s dining locations into categories.
- Cart/Kiosk- these are the little stands offering quick snacks. Whether these are legitimate rolling carts or permanent structures this is where you can get snack items, drinks and bottles of water.
- Quick Service – this is where you walk up to a counter, order from the posted menu, wait for your food, find a seat and eat. This is a great option if you want to grab something quick in the park. The resorts also all offer options which are great for breakfast or snacks after a long day in the park.
- Fast Casual – this is the newest category for Disney, this is where you walk up to a counter (or pre-order online,) find a seat and someone brings your food out to you.
- Table Service – this is a traditional restaurant. You make a reservation, a hostess seats you, they take your order, etc. At Disney dining is more than just a meal, all of the restaurants are elaborately themed and deliver great experiences.
- Character Dining – these are typically buffet style meals with your favorite Disney characters walking around to each table. This is a great way to see your favorites without waiting in long lines.
- Signature Dining – these are the high end restaurants. While all Disney restaurants are kid friendly with the price tag on these restaurants you may want to save them for a romantic night out. Disney made the distinction back when they created the dining plan. More expensive and require 2 table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan.
- Dinner Shows – Disney currently offers three dinner shows that offer fun for the whole family.
For Table Service you will want to make reservations in advance. Disney calls reservations, advanced dining reservations or ADRs.
The booking window to make ADRs opens at 180 days prior to your trip. If you have your heart set on a popular dining location or are traveling at a peak time, it is highly recommended you make these the first day you are able. You can make these online at My Disney Experience, by calling 1-800-WDW- DINE or using a travel agent. One benefit to staying on property is that you are able to make reservations at 180 days in advance for the length of your trip (up to 10 days.)
When you make a dining reservation Disney will require a credit card. This is a part of their cancellation policy – they will use your card to place a hold on your reservation. Disney holds your reservation with a credit card guarantee, and if you do not show up to your reservation or cancel within 24 hours of your reservation, you will be charged $10 a person. Disney does not charge you in advance for your meal unless you are booking a dinner show, dessert party, or Cinderella’s Royal Table. This is to ensure that people do not make multiple reservations and not show to one or more of them leaving open tables.
Some things to think about before making reservations
Develop a loose park plan. This is something your agent can help you with. You will want to look at park hours and expected crowds to determine which park to visit on each day of your trip so you can make your dining reservations at or near the park you plan to be at. The Disney property is so big you don’t want to spend your valuable time getting from place to place.
Don’t Make Too Many Reservations. While at home you may eat 3 sit-down meals a day this is going to be a LOT of food and a lot of time away from the attractions. I recommend making one dining reservation for most days with two on select days of your trip. Don’t overlook Disney’s quick service locations, it’s not just hamburgers and chicken fingers any more you can get great food here.
If you are averse to making dining reservations six months ahead of your trip, or you plan a last minute trip, you should understand that walk-ups to most Disney table-service restaurants are rare. You would probably have better luck making reservations a day or two out than doing a walk-up. However, you’re not totally out of luck. Try these tips: Do a walk-up as soon as the restaurant opens or try for a mid-afternoon walk-up. Consider one of the less-popular restaurants such as Restaurant Marrakesh or Nine Dragons in Epcot. Another option is to ask to sit at the bar. Restaurants that have a bar will usually let you order from the menu.