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DFB Reader Questions Answered: How Can I Buy Dinner for Someone During Their Walt Disney World Visit?

We’re delving into the Disney Food Blog mailbag today for another reader question. You guys ask some thoughtful things, and we figure if one person is asking about it, a lot of others may be looking for the answer as well!

Today, our question is all about giving the gift of good food!

Our reader asks:

How do I purchase a gift card for dining for my sister and brother-in-law when they go to Disney World?

What a completely amazing gift to give somebody! Just imagine, having a meal at your favorite Disney Signature restaurant, and it’s paid for in full! Awesome!

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Treating Someone Special to Dinner at California Grill Would Be an Amazing Gift!

There are actually a couple of different ways that you can pay for someone’s meal at Walt Disney World. Let’s talk about both.

Purchasing Disney Gift Cards for Dining (And Everything Else)

If you’re looking to treat someone to a special dining experience — or to at least pick up the tab — the easiest way is to purchase a Disney Gift Card.

These versatile little tools are very handy when it comes to paying for things within the Disney Universe. You can use them just about anywhere within Disney — including most Disney restaurants.

There are exclusions, however. For instance, Disney gift cards are not accepted at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resorts, and you can only use them for Disney locations in the U.S. Be sure to inquire before assuming that they’ll be an acceptable form of payment at the spot that your loved ones plan to dine.

Chef Mickey

Celebrate with Chef Mickey!

Our suggestion? Find out where your sister is planning to book an advance dining reservation, check out the menu, and then purchase and load your gift card accordingly for what you think they might spend.

Gift cards come in a wide array of styles, so you can find just the right one to commemorate the special occasion. If you order them online, they can be loaded with amounts ranging from $25 to $500. Purchase them at a store or within Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resorts, and they can be loaded and reloaded with amounts of $5 to $1000. You can even personalize your gift card with your own photo!

Paying in Advance for Dinner

We have also heard from several readers (Thanks, Readers!) that you should actually be able to pre-pay for someone’s meal by calling the Disney restaurant directly where they are dining, ahead of time, and giving them your credit card information. While this has been known to work at various Disney Signature restaurants, we don’t have an official word from Disney on it. Be aware that it may work for you, however.

Do you think gifting someone with a meal at their favorite Disney restaurant is a terrific way to celebrate their special occasion? Leave a comment and let us know!

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15 Comments

  1. Mandy says:

    This is possible! We went on our honeymoon in Disney. Had dinner reservations at Citricos at the Grand Floridian. Had our whole meal and when the bill came my brother in law and sister in law had paid for the meal! They must have given the restaurant their credit card and they charged it right to the card.

    It was such a nice treat. We also took a personal pontoon boat ride that night my husband had set up. They leave from the Grand Floridian give you a tour of Seven Seas Lagoon and then watch the fireworks. I would highly recommend that for anyone who wanted to purchase something special for a trip to Disney!

  2. Brooke says:

    Mandy — How cool! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Nita E. says:

    When we honeymooned at WDW in 2009 (it looks like the program is still available online: http://www.disney.honeymoonwishes.com/ ) we actually were able to register through Disney Honeymoons and wonderful friends and family gifted us everything from Bride and Groom Ears to a Segway Tour to a wonderful dinner. We were able to send photos and specifically thank our family for the experience they gave us at Disney.

  4. Essie says:

    I think that this would be a lovely idea for a gift. It’s something that they will enjoy and it shows both thoughtfulness and creative thinking on your part.

  5. Brenda says:

    This is totally possible! My brother and I used to take our yearly vacations together throughout our 20′s (before the spouses and children came now we all go together). On one of our trips, we were doing the gourmet tour – which we created (remember Harry’s Safari-the Caesar salad there MMM, the Wildhorse Saloon….) and we were going to splurge at Victoria and Albert’s. So we entered the restaurant, did the wine pairings and enjoyed our wonderful dinner and at the end, they brought me my rose and our menus and a note from our parents. The staff loved it and so did we, it was a great treat! They called the restaurant itself and set it up. :)

  6. Mary says:

    This is such a nice idea! My husband and I celebrated our anniversary at the California Grill last spring. When we arrived at our table, there was a bottle of sparkling wine and a note from my parents. It was really delightful. They had called the restaurant directly. Disney will do pretty much anything for you!

  7. Natalie says:

    I used to work at a signature restaurant and someone would be able to call the restaurant and leave their credit card number and the meal would be charged to that. It happened quite often! Especially for special cakes and what not. So you can do it!

  8. Tina says:

    I know that it IS in fact possible to prepay for anything you’d like in Disney. However, please do your research and make sure up until the day of, even hours before that you follow up to make sure everything is in place. I did all of this, and still had a big issue back in the beginning of April. My best friend and her new husband were honeymooning in Disney World, and my Wedding Gift to them was a Fireworks Cruise on the Grand 1. I’d booked the boat, gotten gifts from the Floral Dept. and placed an order with Private Dining. Private Dining, as per usual, always comes through with flying colors. I’d booked the Grand 1 for my parents’ 30th Wedding Anniversary this past Christmas Eve, and Pat Anderson is the best. She gets things done, and makes sure everything is perfect. I cannot say the same thing however for the Floral Dept. and apparently The Reservations Dept. at Disney. The only thing that gets charged to your card upon ordering is The Floral Dept., so since you have to and can prepay, you’d think they’d make sure everything would be perfect. In December the Delivery was late to the boat and almost ruined the surprise, even though I’d paid extra for speedy delivery. Thankfully I was there to run interference. Then I heard the Delivery Woman laughing about the fact that it was late to one of the Cast Members at The Grand Marina. The Cast Member proceeded to tell the Delivery Woman that I was the person who booked the cruise. Needless to say she turned around and looked a bit uncomfortable. You’d think she would’ve went out of her way after that to make sure I was a happy customer, but sadly, not the case. I asked her if she was going to place all the flowers and gifts on the boat for me to set things up nicely, as I’m not an interior decorator. (Private Dining of course did this for me with all the drinks and desserts) She told me that she doesn’t do that, and it’s not her job to put the items on the boat, just deliver them. Perfect. I’ll remember that for next time. Needless to say, she did not receive a tip. The people at the Marina were nice enough to help me in setting up. Anyways, cut to April, which is the reason I’m writing this post in the first place. As I’d said I’d booked the Grand 1 surprise for my friends. As I’d said earlier, the only thing you prepay in advance are the Floral & Gifts. For Private Dining and the Cruise, they keep your card on file and charge the day of. This apparently has always been policy and they can’t charge it prior. (They should probably re-think this policy at this point.) That was fine with me. I’d made sure several times that they’d had my card information on file, and followed up many times after that. Even THE DAY OF, as soon as hours before, I’d called to make sure this was all point in place. Like I said, back in December, I was there to run interference and actually pay cash in person. In April, I was not. I had to depend on all the Disney Cast Members to well, do their job. My friends had their car with them, and were staying at The Boardwalk. They had NO idea what their surprise was, just that they had to be at The Grand Marina at a specified time for their gift. That afternoon, my best friend called the Disney Reservations Dept. to see if there would be buses back to the boardwalk for them from MK at the end of the evening, or if they should take their car. They stressed to the agent that it was a surprise, and they don’t know anything about it, but just wanted to see if her question could be answered. The agent proceeded to ask her for the confirmation #. She said she didn’t have it, but could give her my name to look up the reservation. Till this day, I’m not sure why she had to look up what the gift was to answer a question about buses. The agent looked up the reservation and started FLIPPING OUT at my friend. “Oh, omg! Wait a minute, this is just a BIG MESS! You can’t prepay for this. Hold on, I have to see something. I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS! You’re gonna be charged $800 to your room. This isn’t something you can prepay for!” and ON AND ON, ETC… Then she said “I know you don’t wanna know, but you’re ..” and proceeded to spoil the entire honeymoon surprise that I’d spent MONTHS planning. I was completely devastated. My friend called me afterwards and told me what had happened. She felt so bad, and didn’t want me to have to deal with all this, but I certainly had to call and make sure no one was gonna charge anything to their room. I don’t think I’ve ever been SO COMPLETELY FURIOUS in my life! I was flipping out. She also knows I’m not someone that would take this lying down. She’d even said to the agent, as she was BERATING her on her honeymoon, was she sure? Because if she had to call me, and tell me there was an issue, it wasn’t gonna be good. SO naturally, I’d called back the Tours and Recreations Manager who I’d spoken to once that day already to make sure everything was set. I’d explained to her what happened, and said you’d assured me that my credit card information was on file. That you had it AND the marina had it. She was completely appalled and apologetic about the surprise being ruined. She’d said the reservations agent was completely wrong and that I was right, that they did have my info, were actually about to take care of it and send me my receipt and invoice. I just couldn’t believe that this had happened. I’d said to her I understood it wasn’t her fault, but that I was so severely angry, upset and disappointed in Disney. My mother and I are season pass holders. My mother, father and I are DVC Members and the three of us plus my boyfriend go AT LEAST twice a year to Disney World. This is so completely unacceptable and so not up to what the “Disney Standard” is supposed to be. I’d told her that I didn’t understand why a Reservations Agent, someone that has absolutely NOTHING to do with Private Tours & Recreation to it upon herself to make sure she received payment for something was COMPLETELY OUT OF HER JURISDICTION! She’d said she would help me get to the bottom of it. I thanked her and even though the surprise was spoiled, the cruise ended up being lovely. Private Dining came through with flying colors, and the people at the marina still treated the cruise as a surprise even though it wasn’t anymore. They’d set up all the desserts, champagne, flowers, gifts and drinks perfectly for when they arrived. Of course, the Floral Dept. messed something up. I’d ordered the bride and groom mouse ears and paid extra for them to have their names embroidered in script on them. The ears came, without the names. A tiny mishap compared to everything else that had happened earlier that day, but still, another thing I was annoyed about. I was so happy that the cruise itself ended up being an amazing evening, but I just couldn’t get over the fact that something I’d planned for so long that I wanted to be special, was spoiled. On top of the fact that my friend had been SCREAMED at by the reservations agent. I’d thought about it a few days afterwards, and decided this was something that I really wanted to speak with someone about. I’d emailed Susan Deily, the Tours & Recreation Manager who’d been helpful on the day of the event. I told her all of my concerns and that this wasn’t something I could let go of. We all know the Grand 1 is not free, and I’d booked it twice in less than 6 months. I told her I wanted to take this as high up as I could go, and would appreciate it if she could get back to me with a name of someone I could talk to about it. She’d emailed me back and told me that she understood and had to make some inquiries to get me to the right person and apologized again. Said she’d be in touch soon. That was at the end of April, and as of today, June 4th, I still haven’t heard anything. I actually just e-mailed her today to see if she’d had any new information for me. I honestly expected to be given something to apologize for all the trouble they’d caused, but to be honest, it’s about principal at this point. I’m sure this reservations agent has just gone on, kept her job, and had no consequence whatsoever for what she’d done. That really drives me crazy, and at this point, I just want to make sure this never EVER happens to someone else. Oof, I know that was a lot. But if you bared with me this long to read all of this, please ALWAYS make sure you follow up on a gift or prepay. Hopefully this post will help someone else in the future. Thanks for reading! :)

  9. Wendy says:

    Tina,
    When I had a huge issue at the Pop Century Resort that left me crying in the lobby for over an hour, I didn’t let that go either. I wrote a six page letter detailing the issues and mailed one copy to the General Manager of the Pop Century resort and mailed the other to the President of the Walt Disney Resort. The letters were read and passed on to a wonderful woman named Joan. She is who you need to talk to. We talked for several days in a row and she made amends for my bad situation. I’m sure she could help you as well. I am going to look around to see if I still have her contact information.

  10. Wendy says:

    Tina,
    Correction, I sent the second letter to the VP of Resort Operations. His name is Kevin Myers. If you write to him, the letter will be given to Joan to call you. I can not find her number right now. Good luck!

  11. Brandy says:

    When we went on our honeymoon, we ate at the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater and the family that we shared a car with paid for our meal (I know, a little different than what’s being discussed) but we were really surprised! I’m still waiting to pay it forward.

  12. Dave says:

    There are also certain dining experiences that require full payment with a credit card at the time of booking. Gifting one of these ensures that everything will be taken care of, even without having to contact the restaurant directly. An excellent example of this is the Chef’s Wine Tasting Dinner at the Flying Fish. This is a five-course meal at the chef’s counter. There is a wine pairing with each course. The pre-payment even includes the tip.

    During Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, there are other specialty events that are also prepaid. These options would include the “Culinary Adventures in Signature Dining” series, or the French Regional Lunches. Again, these are completely prepaid at the time of booking, and include the tip.

    Other less-formal dining options would be one of Disney’s three dinner shows. Hoop-Dee-Doo, Spirit Of Aloha Luau, and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ are also prepaid and all-inclusive.

    For a less-expensive gift experience, consider a fireworks dessert party. Again, these are prepaid at the time of booking. Options include the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom, or Epcot’s IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party. If the timing is right, there is also the Feel The Force Premium Package that is available at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during Star Wars weekends.

  13. Brooke says:

    Dave — Thanks for pointing out another great way to gift a Disney fan with an unforgettable dining experience! Details for booking Signature Dining Events, such as wine dinners, can be found on our Disney Food News Pin Board. And, as always, we’ll provide all of the information you’ll need to book Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special Events as soon as it’s released.

  14. Brooke says:

    Brandy — How completely delightful! Thanks for sharing your special memory!

  15. Tina says:

    Wendy! I can’t thank you enough for this information. I’m going to get right on it today. I was kind of hoping for someone to see this and have a contact for me. If you find any phone numbers, or emails, that’d be lovely. But now that I have a name, I’m SURE I’ll find a way to get in touch. I’m so sorry for your mishap as well. We obviously all love Disney here, but sometimes unfortunate things like this happen. Thanks again!

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