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More Great Disney Dining Tips from the Experts!

A while back, we polled Disney Food Blog readers — Disney fans who have been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt — on their top Disney Dining Tips.

Not surprisingly, the top tip mentioned was the advice to make Disney Dining Reservations, since you don’t want to be shut out of your favorites or from the most popular restaurants. So this time around we thought it would be fun to ask about their SECOND best Disney Dining Tips!

Read on to see what our Disney Food Blog twitter followers shared as their second best Disney dining tips, and be sure to share in the comments whether you agree or disagree! Share YOUR tips to help your fellow Disney lovers!

Enjoy Some Disney Snacks

We LURVE our Disney snacks around here! And so do our readers! Many of the tips we received were about the favorite classic pre- and post-meal goodies we all love to tuck into in the Parks.

While Brian C. had a unique, sweet option on the mind (“Try the beignets!”), Twitter pal Amber B. writes, “Do NOT skip the Schoolbread!” We can heartily agree!

Norway School Bread

Whether you prefer a sweet or salty treat, there are plenty of cupcakes, cookies and specialty pretzels to choose from.

And if you need a little help selecting the treat you’ll try first, make sure to download our DFB Mini-Guide to Epcot Snacks and our DFB Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks.

Eat at “Off Hours”

Disney vacationers cannot live on snacks alone, though—there are too many great Disney restaurants!

Several of our twitter friends recommended taking advantage of “off” meal times by enjoying a late breakfast/early lunch, or a late lunch/early dinner! This is when the restaurants are less likely to be packed with families sticking to the traditional meal times.

Coral Reef in Epcot is even more serene during non-traditional dining hours!

Paul B. tweets, “Off hours eating leads to taking advantage of shorter attraction lines during the normal meal times.”  So while everyone else is waiting in the lunch line, you’re able to hop onto Splash Mountain with a much shorter wait.

And when you are ready to enjoy your late lunch, not only will you have a quieter, more intimate meal, but you’re more likely to get a coveted window seat or other special seating area (like a car-booth at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater). Dining bonus!

Awesome convertible car booths at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

Visit the Resorts for Meals

If you’re not able to take advantage of less-busy meal times, you should consider resort dining during peak meal times for the same effect. While everyone else is in the Parks, you’ll be enjoying calm, quiet, air-conditioned comfort. (I’m feeling more relaxed just thinking about it…)

The Bacon and Blue Burger at Beaches and Cream in Disney's Beach Club Resort is a great mid-day getaway meal!

Reader Mandy B. was especially in favor of this strategy when you’re touring the Magic Kingdom: “Except for snacks, don’t eat at the MK. Take a boat or monorail to one of the hotels for a low key, seated meal.”

Try the Dessert Sampler at the Grand Floridian Cafe!

If you’re willing to step out of the Parks for a meal, we enjoy Trail’s End Restaurant at Fort Wilderness Resort, The Wave at the Contemporary Resort and Grand Floridian Café at the Grand Floridian Resort for delicious, less crowded dining.

Disney Dining Plan

Not surprisingly, Disney Food Blog readers on Twitter mentioned the Disney Dining Plan frequently, but their advice was divided.

“Don’t waste your money on the Disney Dining Plan,” tweeted Carrie H‏. Several others, including Amy Beth C., chimed in their agreement, arguing that the price is too high and the benefits too slim.

Appetizers, like this Antipasto Platter at Mama Melrose's in Disney's Hollywood Studios, aren't included on the Standard Disney Dining Plan

Some readers were more positive on the subject, like Dominique B., who replied with a resounding: “Noooo! Definitely get the dining plan. It makes life sooooo much easier!” It’s hard to argue with the idea that the all-inclusive nature of the dining plan makes things easier both as you’re budgeting for vacation and in the Parks.

But is the dining plan worth it for you? Our best suggestion is to crunch the numbers. There is a full chapter in our DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2013 e-Book, complete with sample budgets and in-depth analyses that will help you figure out the bottom line for your family.

So, it’s time for YOU to chime in! What’s your second best Disney Dining tip? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks to everyone who shared their awesome tips!! We know every family has their own secrets and tricks for making the most of dining at Disney World — why not share your secrets and help your fellow Disney fans on their trips?

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23 Comments

  1. Wes Faulk says:

    I would suggest that you go to the resorts even if you are on the QS dining plan. On our last trip my wife and I decided to leave the parks to eat and eat at the monorail resorts. Instead of searching for a table at cosmic rays, we had a relaxing dinner at the Grand Floridian.

  2. Diane says:

    At counter service restaurants, always ask if a meal/platter can be altered to suit your needs. Our picky son wanted pizza but not the side salad that came with it at Pizza Planet a few years ago. Not only did asking to just get the pizza save a wasted salad and make my son happier, it cost less as well (not sure this will always be true, but it’s worth asking!). More recently, he got a bacon cheeseburger without the cheese (heresy, I know, but what can you do?) at Cosmic Ray’s. No difference in price, but it satisfied our picky diner.

  3. Marc says:

    The DDP is great if you a) eat three full meals a day or b) have many ADRs. We tend not to when we go, so no DDP for our family. We don’t eat appetizers or desserts, so that’s pointless for us, and we eat one sit-down or CS meal a day. The rest is share a pretzel here, or a bagel there, have some fresh fruit and go about our business.

    Point is, for the DDP, you have to know how your family will want to eat before springing for it. We don’t, because it wouldn’t work for us. For others, it works fantastically well. So that’s the rub.

  4. Tricia says:

    Love the dining plan for us, but we like a nice sit down meal once a day on vacation. Pair that with a quick service or snack around and the regular dining plan works great.

  5. Becky Rodrigue says:

    We have always done the Dining Plan. It is so much easier since we like to do Character Meals. A Character Meal for a family of 4 plus tip will cost at least $150.00. With the dining plan we can do a charater meal a day and it taken care of. We have done the dining plan since the 80′s when they gave you a ticket book for your meals. We are pro’s at planning out our meals.

  6. Bridget says:

    If you have the DDP, use your snacks for breakfast items. My family uses the DDP and we’re not huge snack people throughout the day. We stay at the Polynesian, and we use our snacks for breakfast items from Captain Cook’s. They don’t last the whole vacation since we’ll usually get 2 items per person per day, but it at least cuts breakfast costs for 3-4 days.

  7. Beth says:

    I agree with Bridget’s comment. We’ve done the Dining Plan (both QS and Regular) and we wouldn’t go without it. We use the one snack per person/per day for breakfast items at the resort we stay at. This last trip, we stayed at the Art of Animation Resort. With the refillable mugs for coffee, milk, etc., we were able to get a delicious cinnamon roll, bagel, croissant or muffin each morning for breakfast. That was plenty for us as we aren’t big breakfast eaters. That way, we had one QS and one TS meal left for the day. It works out great!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    If you are going at a very hot time of year schedule lunch for your leisurely sit down meal. It often gets you out of the blaring sun as well as the surge of noon crowds and occasionally you will time it just right to skip the afternoon thunderstorms. This frees you up for the evening and gives you good energy while people around you are getting hungry, hot and cranky.

  9. Miranda says:

    Totally agree with others about snack credits for breakfast goods. I think my second-best dining tip would be to read the online menus of a few counter service places before you head off each day. If I know that (say) Columbia Harbor House offers fish and sandwiches, and Sleepy Hollow sells waffles-to-die-for then I am less likely to get bored with yet another burger & fries.

    I try to choose 3 places that have interesting things I would like to eat in each park, so that there is always one within a reasonable distance for whenever we feel hungry. This also means that we can be flexible if one area of the park is crazy busy – I can go and get a pulled pork sandwich in Cosmic Rays instead!

  10. Janice Dion says:

    We have used the Disney Dining Plan on our annual trip to WDW practically since it began. We would not think of visiting WDW and not taking advantage of the Dining Plan. We save all of our receipts for food and add them up when we get home. We avarage about $600 in food savings. Also, we eat at restaurants that we probably would not consider without the DDP. I do wish that Disney would go back to including the tip. I think that also you should have a choice of either an appetizer or dessert. this would allow sharing amoung family members or a chance to have a favorite treat later in the day or evening instead of being “forced” to eat dessert with a meal.

  11. Sarah Smith says:

    Sci-Fi and the words “off hours” and “quieter, more intimate meal” don’t go together! I had to laugh when I read that part. We’ve eaten there several times….at different lunch times, and that place is always packed. There’s no slow time for this restaurant. No “quieter” early lunch, or late lunch. Those times are just as busy as the rush hour lunch period. In fact, it’s impossible to do a walk-in. I know, we’ve tried.

  12. Shawn says:

    I used the dining plan on my 10day trip. Since I too was skeptical about the plan I kept all my receipts to figure out if it’s worth the price. Well after day 8 I got my monies worth so the next 2 days was like eating free. Yes you do have to make advanced reservations for but I feel with WDW being so big you need to have a plan of attack or much of your time their is wasted. I also like the character meals so it’s more then worth it. If you don’t like to make reservations then the counter service meal plan is probably for you. That too will bring you ahead of the game in foods since you can actually share a counter service meal between the kids if they are not big eaters.

  13. Maria says:

    If you are a Florida Resident or Annual Pass Holder look into purchasing the Tables in Wonderland. It can pay for itself and then some in one trip (if your group is large enough it can even pay for itself in one meal).

  14. CanadiansLoveWDW says:

    if you plan on eating at alot of sit down meals its a good idea to get the park hopper pass so that you dont have to spend every day at epcot…. we will be there 7 nights and 5 of or ADR are at epcot

  15. Anne says:

    My husband and I save money by having breakfast in our room. On our last trip Feb. 2013 we brought along instant oatmeal packets, to go sized containers of peanut butter, crackers in a plastic container, a box of cereal and packable applesauce. We made oatmeal with hot water from the coffee maker and we bought milk at our resort. Our “bowls” were the coffee cups in our room. Saved us time and money!

  16. MeLissa fetty says:

    We always pre-order groceries from gardengrocer.com. In our order, I always include some breakfast essentials like granola bars, milk, oj, cereal, etc. But the best thing we order is 2 cases of bottled water. We pop them into the hotel freezer the night before, and take them with us into the parks the next day. As a family of 4, it saves us a bundle. And I would never dream of wasting a snack credit on bottle of water! (Oh, and I always take along a French press to have “real” coffee first thing without leaving the room :)

  17. Marnie says:

    We like to take advantage of the free dining plan. I know it’s not technically ‘free’, but that’s the offer we always watch for. The reason being, we’re very cheap. So normally when we go out to eat, I will look closely at the prices, skip desserts, often order water instead of a soda, etc. I really like the idea of prepaying for basically my whole trip, and not having to even think about money once I’m there. We all go into our favorite restaurants, still look at the prices, but order the most expensive thing on the menu. Pair that with a drink and a fantastic dessert and just really splurge. Maybe I’m not really saving that much money, but I know that if I went in and paid for each dining experience seperately, I would not enjoy it nearly as much.

  18. Marmorgan says:

    The Disneyland version of Maria’s good advice is to crunch the numbers to see whether you’ll save enough money on dining discounts to justify buying an annual pass, even if you don’t plan to return to Disneyland again before the pass expires. Disneyland doesn’t have Tables in Wonderland; the dining discounts are in the pass itself (15% for premium and 10% for the other passes). The discount applies to your entire party unless otherwise specified, so if you’re going with a big enough group and will eat enough meals in the parks, buying a pass might be a good deal for you.

  19. Kelly says:

    The standard dinning plan works great for me and my fiancé one of the days we split two counter service meals, like the chicken and rib combo at flametree for lunch and for dinner, the fish and chicken combo from Columbia harbor house in MK. We save our sit down meal from that day for a special two credit dinner our last night in disney (we love Narcoossee’s during wishes). We always have snacks at the end of our trip left over too, so we like to go to Karamell-Kuche and get treats wrapped to go home, I love the dark chocolate seasalt caramel……I think iit’s time for us to plan our next vacation :)

  20. Kerry says:

    I’m in complete agreement with the statement Janice made about being able to swap an appetizer for a dessert. So many people these days are trying to eat healthier, that it seems this would be a very popular option. IF you think this would be a good idea, let’s rally and let the powers that be at Disney hear our roar.

  21. Bev F says:

    My second Disney food tip is to revisit faves, but try at least one new restaurant per trip. We tried more than one this trip and I totally fell in love with Sanaa and the Butter Chicken. I had it one night and was cvraving it by the next day!

  22. Greg says:

    As a DVC member we purchased the dining plan once, I’m not sure of any savings (might have ended up spending more since we probably would have eaten lighter without it. With that said it served the purpose for us since we our teen and her friend with us. They could go out for the day and we knew they could eat without feeding them cash each day. They had some adds separate from us and we had a few couple nights. We also dined together.

    This year we are using Tables in Wonderland, which suits us better, since for us offers more flexibility ( just an appetizer at a lounge, and you get a 20% discount! not to mention it includes alcohol!). Bottom line I don’t think there is one right or wrong answer.

  23. Jan says:

    We are older, and thought we would try the dining plan. Normally, we are very frugal people, but we ignored the cost this ONE time. We found ourselves traveling to different resorts (4 ) and DTD for meals, and eating fabulous food in places we would never normally go, and it all proved to be our favorite experiences ! We are planning two more trips in the next 3 years, and will do the dining plan both trips.

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