Avoid These Seven Mistakes When Planning Your Disney Dining!

We know planning your dining at Walt Disney World is increasingly difficult. With so many options and variables to consider, it’s really hard to get everything right.

And that’s where we come in! Disney Food Blog has assembled some of the most common mistakes made by guests when they plan their Disney World dining — and some tips and tools for how to avoid those mistakes.

So if you really want to eat this…

'Ohana Bread Pudding

‘Ohana Bread Pudding

Or this…

We'll review Homecomin's Fried Chicken anyday!

Homecomin’ Fried Chicken

…you won’t miss out!

1. Waiting too long to make Advance Dining Reservations

This mistake is easy to make — especially if you’re planning your trip within the 180-day ADR window. But if you do book your trip more than 180 days ahead of your arrival day, put that landmark in your calendar — and be ready to book any and every meal you want when it comes! (We’re looking at you, dinner at Be Our Guest!)

Be Our Guest is one hard-to-get ADR!

Be Our Guest is one hard-to-get ADR!

Why? Dining in Walt Disney World has expanded tremendously over the past several years (Disney Springs, hello!), and so has the popularity of table service dining. Add to that the Disney Dining Plan prompting more people to dine in a variety of restaurants and — voila! — you’ve got yourself a race to snag coveted dining reservations.

Booking your must-have ADRs at the 180-day mark gives you the best opportunity to book the restaurants you want on the days you want and at the times you want.

Via Napoli!

If you want to dine here, watch those ADRs! Via Napoli!

But if you miss that 180 day threshold, don’t lose hope! Plans change, and it’s not unheard of for ADRs to open up right up until the day you want to grab one. And if you’re flexible, you might be able to make an ADR for a time you maybe don’t prefer — like a late night dinner or a super early lunch. And if you do get one of those less-than-ideal times, be persistent and keep checking for different availability. It’s easy to change your ADR if you find a time closer to the one you really wanted.

And if all else fails, check out our advice for alternatives to the most popular dining in Walt Disney World! You might just discover a hidden gem! And don’t forget — you can always walk up and wait for a table!

The Plaza Restaurant sign

You might discover a hidden gem!

2. Skipping character dining because you don’t have kids

Think you need to skip character dining because your trip is adults-only? Think again! Character dining comes in many forms, and all of those forms are fun for guests of all ages! Whether you love princesses and want to dine at Cinderella Royal Table or you’re a life-long Winnie the Pooh fan, release your worries and just have fun!

Aurora at Cinderella's Royal Table

Aurora at Cinderella’s Royal Table

And trust us when we tell you that the characters are just as excited to meet big kids as they are to meet littles. But if you’re still apprehensive, try wearing a shirt that’s a conversation piece or be ready with a fun story or question about the character’s particular storyline. And use our tips for selecting the best character meal for you!

The Smolder

The Smolder? Don’t mind if I do…

3. Wasting Disney Dining Plan Credits

Unless you’ve managed to nab the elusive free Disney Dining Plan (and sometimes even then), you’re paying for those dining credits, so let’s be sure to get the most out of them! And now that alcohol is included with the 2018 plans, it’s easier than ever to really maximize your credits.

For one-credit table service recommendations, let us help! If you’re interested in two-credit Signature dining, check out our DFB Guide YouTube video ranking the best options. And of course, we’ve also got the skinny on the best uses of quick service dining credits, too!

Tiffins Sign, with tiffins on top

Scope out those Signature dining restaurants ahead of time!

And really take a look at the menus in our Disney World Restaurant Guide before you make your ADRs or your quick service plans. If you’re interested in the big ticket items, go forth and dine!

Oh, and don’t forget — when it comes to snack credits, well that’s where a LOT of money goes to waste. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone lamenting the fact that they didn’t use up all of their snack credits…well, let’s just say I could buy a LOT of Disney trips. So be smart about snacks! Research ahead of time to be sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. Check out the Disney Food Blog Snack Guides, and watch our videos about the best snacks to get ideas!

4. Forgetting the budget

Y’all, a Walt Disney World vacation ain’t cheap, and dining can easily push a person’s budget to the max! Ignoring your budget — or not coming in with one at all — is a surefire way to add too much stress to what should be a fun vacation. In order to stay on track, plan ahead. Use our Restaurant Guide to learn about your dining options and to check out menus and prices.

Smoked Chicken and Pulled Pork

Sharing a platter of eats at Flame Tree Barbecue can help you stay on budget!

Read our reviews to find out where you might be able to share meals or make substitutions to maximize your dining dollars. Our Restaurant Search Tool also gives you a way to pinpoint dining that will work for your price point. So with a little legwork before you leave home, you’ll be able to identify the dining that’s just right for you and your crew!

5. Missing out on unique dining experiences

Walt Disney World dining has come a long way from burgers and fries. And while we love a good French fry as much as the next guy, we also love to explore the breadth of dining options the World has to offer. Don’t miss out on unique dining opportunities!

Learn from the Chefs at Victoria & Albert's Chef's Table

Learn from the Chefs at Victoria & Albert’s Chef’s Table

First up is unique food. Walt Disney World has a ton of international and rare food options. Whether you’re looking for decadent Japanese Wagyu beef at Morimoto Asia or an African-inspired buffet at Boma, there is no shortage of unique eats on property.

Other restaurants have a unique atmosphere that you just can’t find anywhere else. Cinderella’s Royal Table lets you dine like royalty in Cinderella Castle. The Edison drops you in the middle of steampunk fantasy. Coral Reef Restaurant is literally dining in the middle of an aquarium. Whatever your atmospheric desires, Disney World dining has you covered.

Coral Reef Dining Room

Coral Reef Dining Room

Finally, some restaurants offer an overall experience that goes way beyond food. The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue is dinner and a show — plus a lot of laughs! The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show transports you to a Polynesian luau, complete with fire dancers and hula! And the unique dining experiences don’t stop there! Our Restaurant Search Tool even has a “unique experiences” filter so you can see all of your options!

The Pioneer Hall Players

The Pioneer Hall Players at Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue

6. Over-planning

This one might be the trickiest of them all: there are too many dining options to choose from, so you pack as many in as you can. Hey — we totally get it! A Walt Disney World vacation is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience — and even if it isn’t, you could never fit everything in. Fight the urge to over-plan. A buffet breakfast at Chef Mickey’s is terrific, but if you’re following that up with a big lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern and an ADR at ‘Ohana that night, you’re going to explode (or over-spend on food you can’t eat!).

The Full Spread!

The Full Spread at Liberty Tree Tavern!

Consider booking just one big meal per day, or spread your hefty table service ADRs out by having an early breakfast buffet and a big dinner. You can eat a lighter lunch or a bunch of snacks in between and keep your waistband and your wallet a little happier.

Dole Whip at Aloha Isle

Dole Whip at Aloha Isle is the perfect mid-day snack!

7. Missing the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

This mistake might be a little controversial, so hear us out! The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is a unique opportunity to try some of the most innovative and thoughtful dishes that the chefs of Walt Disney World can devise. In fact — it’s so popular that we write a whole book about it every year! And it’s a fun excuse to spend a lot of time in World Showcase. ;)

 

Chef Noah French and a Tropical Indulgence at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Party for the Senses

Chef Noah French and a Tropical Indulgence at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Party for the Senses

And there are some Epcot Food and Wine tips for beating the crowds and truly enjoying the festival. Plan to arrive as soon as the booths open — when World Showcase opens at eleven each morning. And attend during the weekdays; weekends tend to be way overcrowded and can be chaotic. Finally, scope out all of the food booths and menu items ahead of time — because if you know what you want and where to find it, you can avoid some time-consuming wandering through the masses. We update our Epcot International Food and Wine page with these details as soon as information is released, so keep an eye on that page and join our newsletter for details to be delivered right in your inbox when they happen.

We hope these tips and tricks can help you avoid the seven most common mistakes visitors make with regard to their Walt Disney World dining. And as always, for all things Disney World dining, the DFB Guide is there for you!

Don’t Miss Out on Any Disney Fun!

The 2018 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining, is now available for Pre-Order!

2017 DFB Guide to WDW Dining Cover March 6

With more than 650 pages, the 2018 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining is full of tips and planning tools developed by Disney World experts over 20+ years of visits. We’ve done the research for you, so you’ll know just which spots will uniquely suit your family’s needs!

With mini-reviews of every single restaurant, bar, lounge, kiosk and more; an entire chapter on the best snacks in Disney World; full Disney Dining Plan analysis (and how to get FREE dining); and a full chapter on discounts and deals; you’ll have everything you need to plan your best vacation yet. Click here to pre-order your copy of the 2018 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining E-book with code WDW2018 to save 25% today!

But there’s MORE! Just like all DFB pre-order deals — when you pre-order your DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining e-Book, 2018 Edition today for 25% off the cover price, you’ll also get our fully updated 2017 Edition immediately for FREE immediately, so you can start planning TODAY!

Use code WDW2018 at check-out for a 25% off the cover price, AND get the 2017 edition for free!

Our guides are backed by a 100% money-back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose. :-)

ready-to-shop-button

But we also want to hear from you! What are some of the mistakes you’ve made when planning your Walt Disney World dining? Let us know in the comments — and share how you made sure not to make the same mistake again! 

Comments

  1. says

    This is a great piece! My boyfriend and I have annual passes now, and we are excited to try all of the restaurants and especially check out Epcot Food and Wine Festival! Thanks for sharing this :)

  2. says

    I’ve noticed that the disney dining reservation system has the most tables available for groups of 4, so even if i don’t quite have a party of 4 (like if it’s just the 3 of us) we’ll book a table of 4 and just tell them we only have 3 people when we check in. We don’t get charged the fee for not having the 4th person and I don’t feel bad because they usually sit us at a 4 person table anyway.

    Also, a good time to look for cancellations is the night before you plan to dine. Many people cancel their reservations the night prior when their plans change to avoid getting hit with the cancellation penalty

  3. Jean says

    I totally agree with all of these! Great tips! (I especially appreciate #6. One problem we’ve experienced in the past is TOO MUCH food. My husband and I coined the term “vacation hungry,” which means that if our stomachs have stopped hurting, then it must mean that we’re hungry again. Haha! I’ve learned to take it easy on reservations, because there are so many great, and smaller-portioned, and more economical, quick service options.)

  4. Sarah says

    Just FYI, Make sure you check on what is snack credit and what is now a quick serve credit because the Nutella waffle with berries in DW is no longer a snack credit. They also are looking at changing the Dole Whip. Per DW when we went 11-17.

  5. Lisa says

    I’m wondering about the dining plan for people who don’t drink? I have an 18 yo daughter (too young) and a son who prefers NOT to drink… can’t you take the booze off the tab, or is it built in?

  6. PegP says

    We actually made the mistake of going to Disney during the Food & Wine Festival. Never again! It was AWFUL! We ended up leaving an hour after getting to the park.

    If you like to drink and don’t have kids, it’s great. If you have young kids, it’s the WORST place to take them! From the t-shirts (Bibbity Bobbity Booze, Beauty and the Booze, and others turning Disney characters into drinkers) to the drunks, it was not a place for children.

    We went to Via Napoli. It was SO incredibly loud with the people yelling that my child was covering her ears because the noise level was hurting her ears. We couldn’t even hear anything the woman seating us at our table said to us. We were going to ask our server if we could move outside where it was quieter, but he never came to take our drink order even, so we left.

    And it’s pretty bad when you see a guy stumbling and spilling his drink all over the place because he’s too drunk to carry it and your 9 year old asks you, “Why are they still selling him alcohol? He’s drunk.” That’s when I said, “We’re out of here.”

    If you have kids, do NOT take them to Epcot during the Food & Wine Festival!

  7. DFB Sarah says

    Lisa, unfortunately, the alcohol is built into the 2018 Disney Dining Plan pricing, and they aren’t going to budge on that price. I’d suggest taking a look at the menus of the places you want to dine to see if they have specialty drinks like smoothies or milkshakes that can help to offset that for you.

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