1. Plan, and then plan some more! This is the single most important tip you’ll ever get about dining at Disney. If you have any desire whatsoever to have a sit-down meal on your trip you need to plan ahead. The dining reservation window opens 180 days in advance and reservations fill up fast! Especially for the popular restaurants (Be Our Guest, Ohana, Cinderella’s Royal Table, etc.) and at peak times of the year. Take some time to decide what restaurants you’d like to visit and get on-line or call early on the 180th day before your trip to make your reservations. You can cancel anytime up to 24 hours before the reservation time without penalty, so it’s better to have reservations and cancel or change them later, than to miss out.
2. Dining plan, or no dining plan? This is very much a personal choice and it depends on the type of experiences you want. The two most popular plans are the Quick Service Plan that includes 2 counter service meals and 2 snacks; and, the Disney Dining Plan that includes 1 counter service meal, 1 sit-down meal, and 2 snacks. If you plan to eat big, or fancy, or want to dine with characters at every meal, the Disney Dining Plan is probably the best bet for you. The plans cost a specific amount per person/per day and if you use them wisely you can get “more than your money’s worth.” However, if you don’t maximize your usage you can also lose money. The best way to decide is to wait until after you’ve made your dining reservations and do some math with the menus to determine approximately how much you’re planning to spend, then add up the total cost of what a dining plan would be for your party to compare. (Note: Disney requires everyone in the same travel party to purchase the plan for any given trip. You can’t buy it for just a few people in your party so you need to plan for that.)
3. Explore your options. This is part of the planning process from tip #1, but it’s definitely worth your time. Each park has several sit-down options with varied menus. EPCOT of course has the most variety, but there are options everywhere. There are also sit-down restaurants at most of the resorts that have delicious food choices. Take some time to explore to see what’s available while your deciding where to eat. It also helps to take note of the locations of the restaurants so you can plan your park visits around your dining reservations. Finally, do the same for counter service meals. Disney has a wide variety of options to suit every taste and you can find something for everyone if you take a bit of time to look.
4. In-room dining. Of course Disney also offers in-room dining for the times when you just need a break. The choices are somewhat more limited and vary by resort, but it is something to consider. There are also in-room options available with the dining plans. If you’re staying at a Disney Vacation Club resort, many of the rooms have full kitchens so you can plan in advance to cook some meals in your room. Those resorts also offer a grocery option for you to order food in advance and have it stocked in the kitchen, or if you’re driving you can bring your own food.
5. Snacks!! Everyone loves snacks and there is no better place than Disney to indulge. Each park has multiple snack stands with everything from the old stand-bys such as popcorn, soft pretzels (Mickey shaped of course), and cotton candy to specialty stands and stores with ice cream, candy, and pastries. There are some very Disneyesque specialty snacks that everyone should try at least once like Dole Whip, Mickey Ice Cream bars, churros, and giant cinnamon rolls at Gaston’s in the Magic Kingdom just to name a few. Look for our full post coming soon about snacks at Disney!!