Your bags are packed, your flight booked, your dream hotel is reserved, and your fast passes reserved for all the hottest rides leading the way to a trip of a lifetime. But wait,there’s one thing that you may have completely forgot – THE FOOD.
Yes it may seem weird but believe it or not, one of the most anticipated parts of a Disney vacation is the food.
And strangely (or not so strangely for us Disney food fanatics) more planning goes into eating at Disney than actually riding the rides. And trust me this is no understatement.
From character breakfasts with Mickey Mouse and the gang to AAA Five Diamond dining at Victoria & Albert’s, Disney World has some of the best and unique dining experiences around, all of which can cater to whatever cuisine, experience, and food you desire.
But the Happiest Place on Earth can soon turn into the most disappointing place on earth if you don’t plan your meals and dining experiences properly.
Because I mean think about it, how mad would these scenarios make you?
- ‘Ohana could be all booked up because you didn’t use these tactics (or they might have that one time slot at 9:45 that no one wants).
- Be Our Guest’s wait times could be 2 hours or longer.
- You could be missing out on some of the tastiest hidden gems across Disney
- You go to the wrong restaurant for breakfast that doesn’t have Mickey Mouse and the rest of the Fab Five
- You use a snack credit for a bottled water ($3.50) when you can get a Dole Whip Float for ($4.99) using that same credit
- And so much more…
As you can see, nothing can dampen a great vacation than poor planning. I know, it’s sad just thinking about.
But thankfully there is a solution!
After years of dining across Disney, I put together an expert guide of Disney dining tips, secrets, tricks, recommendations, and more, all of which will help you make the most of your Disney vacation.
Below, you’ll find 120+ of my best Disney dining secrets. From the tastiest foods you absolutely must eat, to scoring a table to ‘Ohana at prime time 6:00, all the way to eating more food than what you pay for, you’ll find everything in this comprehensive Disney dining guide.
Disney Dining Tips, Secrets, and Recommendations
So with that being said let’s dig in!
1. Make dining reservations 180 days prior to your visit
The last thing you’d want to do is get within 2 weeks of your trip and every restaurant that you dreamt about eating at is completely booked. That’s why is’t so important to make advanced dining reservations as soon as it’s 180 until your trip.
And if ‘Ohana is on your list, I got you.
2. Make dining reservations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Just because some restaurants are emptier than others in the morning doesn’t mean that you can just walk in. Now don’t get me wrong it does happen, but since time is usually your most precious asset, the last thing you’d want to do is wait 30 minutes for a table at Captain’s Grill as opposed to making a breakfast reservation for 10 minutes beforehand and walking straight in.
3. Know before you go. Research your dining options.
The last thing you’d want to do is show up at a restaurant and find absolutely nothing that’s edible on the menu. That’s why I truly recommend doing your research so that you can find the perfect restaurant that fits yours and even your party’s dietary preferences. This applies to both snacks and full meals.
4. Consider the dining experience type when making a decision.
Do you prefer buffets? How about character meals? Or maybe a romantic dinner looking out to the Seven Seas Lagoon. You will truly find something for everyone. The hardest part is just making your decision amidst all the choices.
5. Avoid the crowds by eating at off times.
Let’s face it, crowds suck, especially at restaurants. That’s why it’s smart to eat during off times. Now, although slow times are becoming more and more rare at Disney you can still find times that are a lot lighter than usual. Anytime between 2-4 pm is always prime time for emptiness.
Early mornings, not too much, since most kids and parents are up pretty early.
6. If the restaurant you really want to go to is completely book, be sure to check out an equally good alternative.
A lot of people assume that thee are only a few good restaurants at Disney and that they are always 100% booked everyday.
But believe it or not, there are actually some other equally as good restaurants and alternatives that people should check out. And best of all, these restaurants are basically hidden gems meaning that they are always emptier than most.
For example, some people go to ‘Ohana just for the bread pudding. But did you know that you can get an individual portion from Tambu Lounge, right in front of ‘Ohana?
(You can also avoid this situation entirely by using these surefire tips to get an Ohana reservation)
7. Eat at the resorts for lighter crowds.
Resort restaurants are usually always emptier than the ones at the parks especially if they aren’t character meals.
You’ll have better luck just walking up to the check in counter and getting seated immediately. Or worse case, maybe a 5-10 minute wait, max.
The only times that I’ve noticed when restaurants are more crowded besides dinner and breakfast is during a really rainy day, since most people tend to hang out at the resorts as opposed to venturing out to the parks.
8. Walk up to Be Our Guest (or any other popular restaurant) and request a table.
Okay let’s be honest. It’s impossible to get a Be Our Guest reservation for dinner within 175 days (I say 175 because you can actually find times 176-180 days out, usually). You can check your app everyday to see if there’s any openings but it’s SO HARD. That’s why I recommend you just walk up and ask to put your name on the list. You may luck out and get a table within 20 minutes. It happens. So don’t get discouraged and have faith!
9. However, don’t always believe that a restaurant is completely sold out.
People bail on their dinner reservations without canceling. By walking up to a restaurant, you might luck out and get seated very quickly. However, this all depends on the time and season.
Beaches and Cream, for example is perfect for late night walk-ins despite the fact that there’s like 3 tables and a barstool inside (jk they just did a remodel and it’s so much bigger).
So when in doubt take a leap of faith and see if a restaurant can accommodate you in a timely fashion.
10. Visit offseason to ensure emptier parks, cheaper hotel rates, and greater dining options availability.
Coming between Christmas and New Years will be the worst decision of your life. You’ll rarely find any good restaurant openings and wait times will be insane. That’s why I recommend you come to Disney during the offseason or if that isn’t possible, at least the weekdays so that you can avoid some of the local crowds too. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to the parks on the weekend. It get’s a little too crazy for me sometimes.
11. Book a character meal to bypass lines at the theme parks.
Want to have some 1 on 1 time with Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Lilo and Stitch, Goofy, and Tigger? Book a character breakfast! This is the best way to meet all the characters that you want and get your pictures take and autograph books signed without booking a fast pass at the parks. This is by far the easiest most stress-free way to meet characters. And best of all, they come to you, so just sit back, relax, and enjoy the company.
12. Make sure you choose the right character meal that suits you and your group.
The last thing you’d want to do is book a character meal with Lilo and Stitch, when really you (or someone in your party) wanted to see Tigger and Winnie the Pooh. So make sure you do some research so that you can find the best character meal possible.
13. Always check restaurant hours.
Although most restaurants are open late at Disney, some places operate under seasonal hours or worse, completely random hours. For example Tortuga Tavern at Magic Kingdom is only open from 11 am to 3 pm. Also some menu items are only served at certain times, like the Sweet and Spicy Chicken and Waffle Sandwich from Sleepy Hollows which is only served until 5 pm.
14. Menus change, so always check out the restaurant’s menu often beforehand.
Menu items come and go. Your heart might be set on one menu item and poof, the next day it’s all gone. The last thing you’d want to be in for a unfortunate surprise.
15. Try underrated restaurants.
Okay so you’ve probably heard about ‘Ohana, Be Our Guest, Chef Mickey’s, Boma, and California Grill.
But what about Cape May Cafe, 1900 Park Fare, Tusker House, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Artist Point, and Trail’s End? These restaurants are so underrated, yet offer some of the best, sometimes unique dining experiences across Disney World.
There are a lot of great places to eat that don’t get a lot of hype. You’ll be surprised at some of the goodies you’ll find at lesser known eateries.
16. When booking a dining reservation, call instead of going online.
There’s no better way to get a hard to get dinner reservation than talking to a real human being. Sure technology is great, but sometimes calling 407-939-3462 and talking to a Disney representative can give you better luck. Plus, the representative is usually more willing to find you a reservation spot and do whatever it takes.
But of course, I still recommend to always check for dining reservations during every free second you have.
17. Be flexible with your dining times.
Usually the best times to eat are always the ones to be booked up first. But if you’re totally fine with eating dinner at 8:30 pm or breakfast at 11:00 am, you’ll be surprised at how many places you can eat. At Disney, flexibility is key. I like going to Beaches and Cream for a really late night snack. 10pm or later and it’s sometimes pretty darn empty.
18. Eat your meal early.
At least when it comes to quick service restaurants, most are pretty empty when they first open up, which means shorter lines and quicker food.
19. Eat your meal late. And I mean late.
Quick service restaurants are typically lighter anywhere within 50 minutes of closing time. That’s why if you want to eat somewhere without hitting all the crowds, you should go right before closing.
20. You don’t always need a reservation for a fantastic meal.
There are quite a few delicious restaurants that you can just walk up to and get a great meal, especially at Epcot’s World Showcase. Best of all, these restaurants post their menus outside their doors so you can evaluate their options.
21. Avoid certain over-hyped restaurants or foods.
Just because a restaurant is super hyped up doesn’t mean you’ll like it. Always check out their menus and look up restaurant reviews online.
‘Ohana, worth it. Be Our Guest, incredible atmosphere, expensive foods.
Everyone has their own opinions so make sure you truly want to go to a restaurant and are not basing your decision off of what your friend is telling you. For example every blog I read talks so highly about the school bread from Kringle Bakery at Epcot’s Norway Pavilion. I think it’s overrated. (Yeah, that’s right, I said it. Fight me!)
22. Try the food even if the review says “NO”
Just because a certain food that you wanted to try get’s a bad review doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it. I mean honestly, are you going to trust a complete stranger? (like me lol) Give it a shot because you might be that 1 out of the 2300 people who actually loves it.
23. Ask cast members what there favorite restaurants are.
Cast members usually know all the ins and outs of some restaurants, that’s why I suggest you ask them and see what there favorites are. Sometimes, their recommendations are spot on.
24.Book a dinner show for a one of a kind experience.
Whether if you like luau’s or Wild West revues, a dinner show is a one of a kind experience that you absolutely don’t want to miss out on. Plus, the food ain’t half that bad! (Unfortunately, Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue is close permanently due to the pandemic).
25. Time your restaurant reservation times at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom for the perfect parade view.
How awesome would it be to watch the Festival of Fantasy at Magic Kingdom (3 pm) while enjoying some Italian food from Tony’s Town Square? Talk about magical!
26. Eat during a parade for a shorter wait time.
Okay so maybe you don’t care about that parade, or maybe you already saw it. You should eat during this time instead because it’s generally the lightest moments at the restaurants as most people are starting to head over to the parade route.
27. Try to plan your trip during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.
If there’s one tip that you take from this listing, it must be this one. If you love food and want to try some of the most delicious dishes and wines from over 25 different countries and regions, you MUST come during the Food and Wine Festival. It’s incredible! Usually runs from mid-September to early November.
28. Come during the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
If fresh foods, vegan eats, and veggies are your thing, then the flower & garden festival is just for you. Usually runs from early March to mid May.
29. Book your meal during Happily Ever After or Harmonious for spectacular views.
Imagine enjoying some delicious California cuisine while being serenaded by Disney tunes and colorful fireworks. By planning a meal during the fireworks, you’ll experience one of the most memorable moments of your trip.
30. Don’t have a dining reservation? visit the World Showcase at Epcot because most are slow enough for walk-ins.
Restaurants at Epcot during the weekdays are generally great choices for walk-ins. Wait times are moderate and most of the time you’ll be seated immediately. Plus, this gives you the option to check out all the other countries and see which choices you prefer best.
31. If dinner reservations are sold out, try lunch.
Lunch reservations are sometimes easier to get since most people don’t want to make a reservation mid day because their schedules can sometimes be unpredictable. That’s why I recommend you try a lunch one because it’s generally easier to score. Especially for places like Be Our Guest, Biergarten, and Le Cellier.
32. Eat a few meals at other resorts, or better, your resort.
You actually might find a hidden gem in your resort. Plus since most people are probably at the parks, chances are your resort restaurant might be emptier. This is especially good for walk-ins.
33. Plan the right meals for arrival and departure days.
You might not give this much thought but planning your meals on these days are sometimes pretty tricky. If you don’t have park tickets for these days I recommend you check out Disney Springs or Disney’s Boardwalk for good eats. And of course you can also check out those cafeteria style restaurants at Disney resorts like Pepper Market (Coronado Springs) or Landscape of Flavors (Art of Animation Resort).
34. Ask a cast member for nutritional information if you’re trying to stay healthy.
Some of Disney’s food is pretty unhealthy (delicious, but unhealthy) so if you’re on a diet, be sure to ask for calorie and nutrition info before ordering your food.
35. Order Mickey Check Meals for your kids.
If you want your kids to eat healthy, Mickey Check Meals are perfect for highly nutritious meal options.
36. Bring your own Pepsi.
Disney is a 100% Coca Cola property so be sure to bring your own bottles of Pepsi if you need your daily fixin’.
37. Bring you own gum.
You won’t find any gum on Disney property so be sure to pack your own.
38. Bring your Starbucks gift card.
You can use your Starbucks gift cards at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney Springs thanks to brand new locations. So put those Christmas and birthday presents to good use!
39. Bring your own snacks, drinks, or even meals.
If you’re on a budget or just want to munch on your favorite snacks, be sure to pack your own. Plus, you can even bring your own drinks (minus alcohol). Disney won’t stop you.
40. Florida water smells, so bring or buy bottled water.
Living in Florida, I’ve gotten used to it, but the water here smells like eggs (they say it’s because of the high sulfur count). So if you can’t stand the smell and taste of smelly water, be sure to bring your own.
Or you can also use a Mio or any other flavored packet like Liquid IV.
41. Consider a refillable resort mug if you’re an avid coffee, tea, or soda drinker.
Refillable mugs are perfect if you’re staying at a Disney resort and want to fill up often. Just remember, these mugs can’t be used at the theme parks and water parks.
42. Get groceries delivered to your hotel room with Garden Grocer.
If you have a villa or suite with a kitchen and want to cook your own meals in your rooms, but don’t have a car, you should use Garden Grocer which will deliver your goods for you.
43. Buy a Disney gift card.
By paying for your meals and snacks with a Disney gift card, you’ll be able to budget your money better. Plus, it’s a great way not worry about taking out your wallet every time to pay since some of these gift cards can go around your wrist. This is perfect for Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival.
44. Ran out of baby food? Disney Parks got you covered.
Babies gotta eat too so if you run out of baby food or formula, you’ll find a baby care center at all the parks. Plus, you can always go back to the general store at your Disney resort.
45. Don’t miss out on free chocolate from Ghirardelli. (gone due to pandemic)
By visiting the store portion of Ghirardelli at Disney Springs, you’ll get a free sample of one of their square chocolates, usually filled with caramel.
46. Get free caramel corn from Karamell Kuche. (gone due to pandemic)
One of my favorite places to snack. This German caramel influenced bakery has some of the best treats in Disney, plus they even sometimes give out free samples of their delicious and chewy caramel corn.
47. Never buy water again. Get free iced water from all quick service restaurants.
Iced water is always free at Disney and they’ll even give you a big cup with a lid and straw. Not too shabby if you ask me. Just remember, it is Florida water, so it’s “different.”
48. If you’re celebrating something, make a note on the reservation
You’ll generally receive some candles or even a complimentary dessert.
49. Restaurants around Magic Kingdom are better than those found in the park.
Now don’t get me wrong, the restaurant in MK aren’t horrible. It’s just that there’s better options just a monorail or boat ride away like the Grand Floridian Cafe, Kona Cafe, and even the Wave for a quiet meal.
50. Book a Club level resort room and get free continental breakfast, drinks, wine/alcohol, desserts, and hors d’oeuvres.
Want to save on breakfast and drink costs at your resort, while living it up – go Club Level. (And yes, I understand that the costs are factored in, but there’s no harm living like a King.)
51. Skip the citrus swirl and opt for the Dole Whip.
The Citrus Swirl sucks. Dole whip is far superior so don’t waste your time or money on that bitter garbage.
52. Take a free restaurant culinary tour and get free samples of their popular selections.
By taking a free food tour at select restaurants like Jiko, Boma, and Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’ll get free samples of their popular foods.
53. Ask for the prices of “entree-only” at quick service restaurants.
Generally at quick service restaurants you can order your meal without any sides. The prices on the menu generally reflect the combo price so be sure to ask the cast member (cashier) about their entree only prices.
54. Eat breakfast as your biggest meal.
If you’re on a tight budget, be sure to eat breakfast as your biggest meal because it’s generally the cheapest meal. So be sure to opt for a breakfast buffet to truly get your money’s worth.
55. Snacks can be an alternative to meals, especially breakfast.
You don’t necessarily have to eat a traditional breakfast to get filled up. The parks usually sell fresh fruit, muffins, and breakfast pastries which are perfect breakfast substitutes.
56. Replace dinner with a meal at a lounge or bar.
Some bars and lounges found at most resorts actually offer some really tasty options and bar snacks. So if you’re not looking for a traditional meal but instead want to to snack on tasty goodies, give this a shot.
Wine Bar George at Disney Springs for example has insanely tasty small plates. Pair it with a wine and you’re golden.
57. Have picky eaters, go to a buffet!
There’s no better place for everyone to eat whatever they want. Plus, unlimited food ain’t too bad either. Hollywood and Vine is a pretty good choice if you’re looking for traditional American buffet fare (carving station, salad bar, etc). But my favorite is Trails End! All you can eat barbecue ribs, brisket, fried chicken, and strawberry shortcake. Mmmmm.
58. Ask, ask, ask.
Got a question about what’s on the menu? Need help finding a restaurant? Need wine pairing suggestions? Don’t be afraid to ask. Cast members are always there to help.
59. Wash your hands.
It’s common sense I know but trust me, after hours of running around the parks all day and grabbing on to those dirty safety bars on rides, you’ll forget how nasty your hands truly are. Stay clean my friends!
60. If you have food allergies, alert the restaurant that you have special dietary needs.
Disney Chefs are well trained to accommodate guest with food allergies. They’ll literally come out to your table and ask you what it is you can and can’t eat and will whip you up something special. This is especially true if you’re gluten free.
61. Scope out the best places to eat for vegetarian and vegan options.
Finding vegetarian options is really easy at Disney especially with how popular the vegan and plant based diet has become. It get’s more complicated when it comes to vegan, however it still can be done. That’s why you should always check the menus first before you commit to a restaurant.
62. Order a cake to celebrate a special occasion.
Looking to celebrate someone’s birthday at Disney, surprise them with a Disney birthday cake.
63. Celebrating a birthday at Disney World but need a gluten free or vegan cake, Erin McKenna (used to be Babycakes) got you covered!
You can order gluten free or vegan cakes and treats and get them delivered to your resort. And if you want gluten free cupcakes, Sprinkles has you covered there too.
64. Buy a tables in Wonderland Card.
If you’re an annual pass holder, Disney Vacation Club member, or a Florida resident and want to save 20% off al food and alcohol at almost all Disney restaurants, you must get this card.
65. Use your annual pass holder card for food discounts at select eateries.
If you’re an annual pass holder at Disney World or Disneyland, you can get anywhere from 10%-20% off your meal at select restaurants.
66. Don’t forget to try some delicious food options at Disney Springs.
Good food doesn’t end at the resorts and parks. Disney Springs is home to deliciously unique restaurants that you’ll absolutely love. Here are my all-time favorites.
67. You can get some good eats from the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.
Located right next to the Boardwalk Inn and Yacht Club, the Swan and Dolphin have some really swanky and tasty restaurant options. Check em out, you might be surprised what you find.
68. If you’re in the military and have a car during your trip, eat at the Shades of Green buffet.
Looking to save some money on food. Go to the Shades of Green for their breakfast or dinner buffet. It’s cheap and pretty tasty. Plus they even have a fresh seafood buffet!
69. Don’t underestimate how magical Disney dining can be.
Yes the parks are magical, the parades spectacular, and the entertainment is world class, but dining can be just as magical. When I think about my favorite moments at Walt Disney World, dining a certain restaurants and those experiences associated with them are easily in my top 5.
70. Go to an entertaining restaurant without characters.
You don’t need to go to a restaurant with characters in order to have a great time because there are plenty of other options that are just as fun. For example, you can sit in a retro car and watch classic sci-fi flicks at Sci-Fi Dine-In, or you listen to and participate in traditional German folk songs at Biergarten, just to name a few. The options are endless.
71. Be bold. Try something new.
It’s time to experience the world with your tastebuds. Disney World is a place where you can be adventurous, and that applies to food too. I recommend you try new foods that you never would ever think about trying. The World Showcase at Epcot is the perfect testing ground. Who knows, you might surprise yourself.
72. Don’t buy desserts at Table Service restaurants during dinner.
So I’m going to be honest here. Table service restaurant desserts are pretty pricey and frankly, some aren’t as unique as what you’ll find elsewhere. That’s why I recommend you just skip the dessert and get an appetizer with that money instead. Or better, you can go out and grab a dessert from one of many delicious eateries across Disney property.
73. If your kid doesn’t like the kid’s menu selections, ask for a kid sized portion of an adult entree.
Sometimes the options on the kid’s menu aren’t that great, so if your child prefers something on the adult menu but doesn’t need such a large portion, ask you server if you can get a kid’s sized portion of the meal.
74. Room service can be your best friend.
If you don’t want to eat out and maybe you just want to hang out in your room and chill instead, one of the best things to do is order room service, or better, order Disney pizza!
75. Keep an eye out on limited time only eats and drinks.
If you’re like me, you probably come to Disney World for the food (okay the rides too, but mostly the food). But at some time, you’ll get to the point when you already tried everything noteworthy and instead want to try something new. That’s why I recommend trying to come to Disney during a holiday season or a major event time period. Whether if you like new Pixar movie themed cupcakes or candy corn Dole Whip for Halloween, you’re bound to find some tasty seasonal treats!
76. You can get a Dole Whip without having to go to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, or Epcot.
If you’re craving a Dole Whip but don’t have a park ticket, you’re in luck – Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian Resort has just what you’re looking for. And unlike Animal Kingdom, they actually have Pineapple Vanilla swirl which tastes a lot better that way.
77. Plan a magical picnic at your resort.
You probably paid a lot of money for your nice Disney hotel room but haven’t really been able to enjoy all the amenities it has to offer, especially if you’re on a time crunch. That’s why I recommend that if you have some spare time, that you plan a picnic at your resort with your party. Some resorts have great spots for picnics like the beaches Disney’s Beach Club, Polynesian, Wilderness, and Fort Wilderness Lodges. You can easily grab some sandwiches or hot dogs and set up camp for a nice relaxed day.
78. Always bring your i.d. especially if you want to drink alcohol.
Yes I know, it’s common sense but trust me, they’ll typically ask for your ID no matter how old you look. I’m not the youngest looking dude, but I still get carded.
79. Understand that the countries in the World Showcase enforce the U.S. drinking age of 21.
I’m going to be honest, I was pretty hesitant adding this to the list. But believe it or not, some people actually think that you can drink at 16 (or 14 and 18) if you’re in Germany, because that’s how it is in the real Germany . Trust me, a guy behind me in the line at Sommerfest asked the cashier that. It was pretty awkward.
80. Cancel your dining reservations 24 hours in advance before your meal.
Nowadays in order to reserve a table at any disney restaurant you have to leave your credit card on file. Back in the olden days you could reserve as many places as you want and not show up with penalty. Now you’ll be charged $10 per person for any missed reservations. It happened to me and it sucked. So with that being said, only reserve a restaurant that you really know you’ll want to eat at.
81. Running an hour late for your dining reservation, make sure you have a good excuse.
Let’s say you’re a hour late for your reservation at ‘Ohana. When checking in, tell the hostess about the reason why you’re late (no details left out) and they may seat you. This totally depends on you and the hostess. So all I can say is smile and be as honest as possible. But honestly, if you’re can’t make your reservation you should try to get there at least within 15-20 minutes of your reservation time.
82. Dropped your ice cream or pretzel on the nasty ground? Ask and get a free replacement.
Ah, the magic of Disney. They got you covered. Just tell a cast member and they’ll hook you up.
83. Don’t worry about dress code.
You’re at the parks all day, Disney gets it. That’s why it’s usually 99% fine to eat in the same clothes you’ve been wearing all day. So yes, shorts are totally fine, especially during the month of July. The only exceptions are for fine dining restaurants which enforce a stricter dress code.
84. Download the My Disney Experience app.
This app allows you to make dining reservations, secure fast passes, check ride wait times and so much more, all from the palm of your hands. If you don’t have it yet, download it for free asap!
85. Brace yourself for food costs.
Disney is expensive. All I can say is that you must brace yourself for sticker shock. $5 pretzels and $11 turkey legs are the norm. So brace yourself and budget to the best of your ability. Or better, since you’re on vacation, splurge a little. You deserve it!
86. Research meal prices ahead of time.
If you know you’re on a budget, it’s best to always check out the restaurant menu prices before you go. This way you can plan accordingly based on your budget.
Because worst case, if a meal is too expensive, just go off-property.
87. Eat off property.
Living 6 minutes outside Disney property has allowed me to truly experience all the non-Disney restaurants around the area and I must say, some are pretty darn good. If you’re looking to just spend a day at Outback Steakhouse and the Premium Outlets or just want to get a milkshake from Chick Fil A, you’ll find everything you’ll ever think of just minutes off property. My advice, if you have a car is to go to Yard House. This is easily my favorite chain restaurant outside of Disney. Plus, White Castle and Portillo’s are coming soon!
88. Invest in the Disney Dining Plan if you know that you and your family are big eaters.
Ah the Disney Dining Plan… Some people hate it, others adore, most just don’t care. But believe it or not, the dining plan could easily be the best way to save money on food, but ONLY if you do it correctly. You’ll learn more in the next section below.
89. Contactless Payment is the fastest, most hygienic way to pay at Disney World
Every booth, kiosk, Quick Service restaurant, and store accepts mobile payment.
90. Mobile Order is king
Ordering your dole whip, chicken nuggets, or any other snack on the My Disney Experience app and thus skipping the line is by far the quickest way to get food.
Disney Dining Plan Tips and Tricks
Here are some of my favorite DDP tips and money maximizing strategies.
91. Get the dining plan if you plan on eating more that $68 worth of food (per person).
The way the Disney Dining plan works is that you typically get a certain number of credits to use during your trip. These credits are for snacks, table service restaurant meals, and quick service meals. Most people tend to go with the Basic or Plus plan which gives you one snack credit, one quick service credit, and one table service credit. All of these credits will equal out to around $68 a day for food. If you know for sure that you can eat more than $68 worth of food, then get the plan. If not, it may not be for you. But also, don’t forget, Disney is pricey so $68 might be pretty easy to attain.
92. Quick Service meal credits are worth $20 so be sure to make the most of it.
Be sure to find the most expensive (and most delicious) options at quick service locations so that you get your money’s worth. Don’t go for the salad, go for the barbecue rubs and chicken combo (Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom)!
93. Table Service meal credits are worth $43 so be sure to make the most of it.
Since you need to make the most out of $35 I recommend that you order the most expensive things on the menu. Or better, go to some typically expensive restaurants like Ohana (dinner), Boma (dinner), 1900 Park Fare (dinner) and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (average meal cost is $44-$52 per person).
94. Snack credits are worth $5 so be sure to make the most of it.
Don’t worry, there are quite a few places that offer pretty pricey, yet extremely delicious snacks. Just don’t waste it on something cheap, like bottled water.
95. Use your table service meal credit at a character dinner.
Character dinners are generally the most expensive so be sure to book some of these. One of the best is Chef Mickey’s where an average meal costs around $43-45.
96. When in doubt, use table service for a buffet, especially something like ‘Ohana, Biergarten, or 1900 Park Fare.
Buffets, especially character buffets (for dinner) are usually the most expensive restaurants. It’s honestly the best value for your money.
97. Don’t ever use the meal plan when dining at Signature Dining restaurants.
Since these restaurants require 2 table-service credits ($86), you’ll never truly maximize your credit.
98. Use the dining plan (2 table service credits) at Cinderella’s Royal Table.
You’ll save more money going this route as opposed to paying out of pocket. This is the only exception to tip number 97 above.
98. Don’t go with the Disney Dining Plan if you don’t want to be forced to eat.
One negative aspect of the Disney Dining Plan is that it kind of forces you to eat. Since you have certain amount of credits each day, you have to use them all so that you don’t waste your money. And honestly, you might have times when it’s your last day at Disney and you still have 4 table service, and 5 snacks left over.
100. Use your dining plan snack credits during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival or Flower and Garden Festival.
You can actually use your snack credit (worth $5) on tasting proportions during the Food and Wine Festival. It’s a good way to truly maximize your credit.
101. Maximize every meal with the Disney Dining Plan.
Since you paid for the dining plan in advance, in full, your priority is to make the absolute most out of it. And don’t be cheap either.
102. Get an alcoholic drink with every meal
Since alcoholic drinks and specialty drinks are now included with a Table Service credit, there is no way to maximize your money than ordering an adult beverage with every meal.
103. Never buy water with your Disney Dining plan snack credit.
Your snack credit is worth $5, don’t buy the water for $3.50. Get the Dole Whip Float instead. Or better, go to Les Halles Boulangerie and Patisserie and get their most expensive French treat.
104. When at Whispering Canyon, opt for the bottom milkshakes as your “non-alcoholic beverage.”
There’s not better way to truly maximize your meal credit than opting for a milkshake instead of a soda, juice, coffee, or tea.
105. Don’t use table service or quick service meal credits on breakfast because it doesn’t include dessert. Lunch and dinner does, however.
Use your meal credits on lunch and dinner because you’ll get an entree, side, drink, and dessert. It’s such a better bargain.
106. Know that gratuity is not included in the dining plan.
Don’t forget to tip when at a table service restaurant. And don’t worry, you’ll get a receipt telling you how much your bill would’ve been without the plan, that way you can calculate an appropriate tip.
107. Don’t forget to get your free refillable mug.
Most dining plans will give you a free refillable resort mug which can be used on unlimited soda, tea, coffee, and water, but only at your resort.
108. Kid’s under 3 don’t need a dining plan.
At buffets, they’ll get their own plate, while at other locations, they’ll have to eat off yours.
109. If you don’t eat too many meals a day, skip the dining plan.
If you only eat one big meal a day, then the dining plan isn’t for you.
110. If you’re on the dining plan, be sure to eat at the most expensive restaurants.
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, Ohana, Garden Grill, 1900 Park Fare Diner, and Cape May Dinner are some of the most expensive 1 table service credit restaurants.
111. Use any remaining snack credits on pre-packaged goods for the trip back home.
You might find yourself on your last day with 3 snack credits, yet no space in your stomach to eat any more. That’s why I recommend you buy some prepackaged goodies like Goofy gummy bears, caramel corn, rice crispy treats, and fudge, just to name a few. These make perfect companions for plane or car ride back home.
112. You can break up your credit uses. Just because one person in your group eats at a certain restaurant doesn’t mean that you all have to eat there.
You can easily buy a meal from one place, and move on to the next eatery. This is perfect for picky eaters, especially at a place like the World Showcase at Epcot.
113. Share your meal with someone else in your group. Some restaurants actually offer meals that are big enough for 2 people.
If you or someone in your party aren’t big eaters, you can easily get one meal to share, and save that dining credit for another time. Some good quick service restaurants that offer big portions include Cosmic Ray’s (Magic Kingdom) and Flame Tree Barbecue (Animal Kingdom).
114. Bring your own drink when you’re at a quick service or table service restaurant if you have a toddler.
Unless if you’re at a buffet or family style restaurant, you will have to pay for a drink for your young child (3 years old or younger and not on the dining plan).
115. Spread out your dining plan credits.
Just because you have 5 days at the parks and 5 table service, quick service, and snack credits, doesn’t mean you have to use it everyday. You can honestly go to a character breakfast in the morning and use 1 credit and then go to a signature dining restaurant for dinner and use 2 credits, all on arrival day. The system is meant to be as flexible as you are.
116. If you’re a vegetarian or on a plant-based diet, skip the dining plan.
Okay so let’s be clear, the dining plan is truly meant for big eaters who have expensive taste. Unfortunately most vegetarian options are always the cheapest things on the menu. Investing in the dining plan would honestly lead to you losing out on a significant amount of money. So if I were you, I recommend skipping the meal plan and paying out of pocket instead.
117. If you’re getting a military room rate at any Disney Resort, you can actually get the dining plan too.
In case you didn’t know, in order to get the Disney Dining Plan, you have to buy a Magic Your Way vacation package which consists of your resort room, dining plan, and park tickets (only if you aren’t an annual passholder or Disney Vacation Club member). But if you’re in the military (or reserves, or retired) you can get military Disney tickets for ($180ish) as opposed to anywhere upwards $250). So when booking a Disney room, you can also opt for the dining plan minus tickets.
118. Come during “free dining” promotional season.
There are times when you can get a free quick service dining plan when you book a stay for a certain amount a days during the offseason. These promotions come and go but if it fits your time frame, you should definitely consider it.
119. Be sure to order your Disney Dining Plan before you get to Disney.
The Disney Dining Plan can only be added to your trip reservation prior to your trip (48 hours or more).
120. Consider a Deluxe or Plus Dining plan if you want to eat at signature restaurants.
These two dining plans proved too with enough credits to eat at Signature restaurants every day if needed.
121. For Disney Springs restaurant reservation, check Open Table
You can make reservations at a few Disney Springs restaurants using Open Table. This is very useful especially when the My Disney Experience app shows zero restaurant availability on their end.
122. And last but not least, MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY DAY
Be a kid, have fun, and eat delicious food!
Well that’s it!
Okay so hopefully you found some helpful Disney dining tips and secrets that will help you make the most of your trip to the most magical place on earth.
But I am human, so I may have missed a few.
So with that being said, please share your favorite or most helpful Disney World or Disneyland dining tip by leaving a comment below.
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Thanks again and if you loved this listing please share this with all your friends, families, and Disney fanatics alike!