One of the most exciting parts of planning a Disney World vacation is making your Advance Dining Reservations! With hundreds (yep, you read that right, HUNDREDS) of restaurants to choose from and many of those requiring reservations, it can be an overwhelming decision to make at times, and you could wind up making a few mistakes along the way!
Today, we’re going to point out a few common mistakes people make that you should avoid when booking your next meal at a Disney World restaurant.
Booking too many Advance Dining Reservations
Our eyes can sometimes feel bigger than our stomachs, and that’s especially true when booking your Dining Reservations! Your time in Disney World is precious and you want to see and do all that there is to see and do during your trip — however, over-planning and over-booking can cause more harm than good.
For starters, reservations at Disney’s Table Service restaurants can take up a considerable amount of time, especially if you’re booking multiple reservations on the same day. That time adds up quickly, and it could take you away from riding your favorite rides or experiencing other beloved attractions.
Not only does the time add up quickly, but so does the cost. You may encounter a bit of sticker shock when you discover just how much it costs to eat in Disney World. And don’t forget to add in the expected gratuity, which is now traditionally 18%. If all of your meals involve sitting down at a restaurant, you could wind up spending more on food each day than you do on your hotel room!
You may also find that you’re spending an awful lot on food that you wind up not finishing. Portion sizes at Disney World restaurants are on the larger side (though Disney has suggested this may change in the future), and if you’re a lighter eater, a lot of that food could end up going to waste.
There are many alternatives to booking Dining Reservations for every meal. Disney World is full of fantastic Counter Service restaurants with menus featuring lower price points. If you happen to visit EPCOT during one of their Festivals, you’ll be able to dine around World Showcase by purchasing bite-size savory and sweet dishes.
Not booking enough Advance Dining Reservations.
On the flip side, Dining Reservations are a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks while giving your family a chance to sit for an hour or two! You may find that Dining Reservations are just what you need to dine on some great food, enjoy some air conditioning, and give your feet a break from pounding the magical pavement.
They’re also useful if you’re traveling during a busier time of the year, like the holiday season or summer. Rather than search high and low for a table to sit at, your meal and your seat are “guaranteed,” so to speak, when you book a Dining Reservation.
That “sweet spot” amount of Dining Reservations is unique to your family’s needs. Maybe you only need one sit-down meal per day, and you can snack the rest of the day!
Only booking Advance Dining Reservations for restaurants in the theme parks.
Disney World’s theme parks are known for many things, including their famous restaurants. While guests will often set their alarms early in the morning to book Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom or Le Cellier in EPCOT, if you’re only considering restaurants in the parks, you’re seriously missing out on some spectacular restaurants in the resorts!
All of Disney World’s Moderate and Deluxe resort hotels have at least one Table Service restaurant to choose from, and many hold a special place in our hearts for some of the best dining options in Disney World. For example, Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is not only one of the top-rated restaurants in Disney World, but it’s also one of the top-rated restaurants in the entire state of Florida! It is set to reopen in 2022.
There are far too many spectacular restaurants to go into detail about today, but depending on what kind of cuisine you’re looking for, check out Jiko, Sanaa, Beaches and Cream, ‘Ohana, California Grill, and Roaring Fork, just to name a few!
Picking the wrong time for your Advance Dining Reservation
Booking Dining Reservations has more to do with where you’re dining and how many reservations you make. A lot of thought should be given to exactly when you’re planning on dining!
Of course, there are the conventional breakfast, lunch, or dinner dining times. But if you want to, say, check out the fireworks, then you want to budget that into your schedule when picking dinner time that particular day.
If you miss your Advance Dining Reservation, Disney will charge you per person fee if you are a no-show or need to cancel at the last minute. If you think there will be any issues with your reservation time, contact Disney as soon as possible to cancel in advance or reschedule.
Not reading the menu first!
The great thing about Disney World dining is that there is a wide variety of cuisines to choose from. The trouble that can cause, however, is that you need to do a bit of research first to make sure the menus will have everything that your party needs!
For example, everyone might tell you to check out Le Cellier, but if your family isn’t full of heavy-duty meat-eaters, you may have a hard time dining there! It’s important to read those menus ahead of time before you make your dining reservations to make sure there’s something for everyone!
In general, Disney is wonderful at making accommodations for allergies or dietary restrictions, but if your family is not full of adventurous eaters then you may have a less than stellar time at Tiffins. Disney has restaurants for every palette, you just have to do the research to make sure you’re getting the experience that fits you and your family.
If you or anyone in your party has an allergy or a dietary restriction, make a note on your reservation about your needs, and ask your server when you arrive to take a look at an allergy-friendly menu or if you can speak with one of the chefs!
Picking the wrong restaurant.
Picking the wrong Disney World restaurant goes beyond just the menu. Every place in Disney World has a theme, a story, or even a history. The restaurants are included in this extension of storytelling and the immersion into Disney’s magic. The entire vibe and environment in a particular restaurant may not be what your party is looking for, and the wrong vibe can, well…totally kill the vibe.
If you’re just traveling with your partner and are looking for a romantic meal, character dining may not provide the atmosphere you’re looking for. On the other hand, taking the whole family, babies included, to a Signature Restaurant may be more trouble than it’s worth. Read up our restaurant reviews to know what experience each restaurant has to offer to make sure you’re selecting the right spot for the experience you’re looking for!
Take a look at where the restaurant is located, too, in proximity to where you’ll spend the majority of the day. If you need to Park Hop in order to make it to dinner, make sure you give yourselves plenty of time to travel from Point A to Point B.
Not reading up on character dining.
We briefly mentioned character dining above, but we wanted to give it its own designated section as well. If seeing the characters is high on your to-do list, character dining is a great way to check it off! As of this writing, traditional character dining is starting to return to many restaurants so you can once again hug your favorite characters and get their autographs. You can see the full list of restaurants that have returned to “normal” character dining here.
Before making your selection, be sure to read up on which restaurants offer character dining and who you will see at which restaurant — not every character restaurant has Mickey Mouse! Some favorite character dining spots have no characters whatsoever as of this writing, like ‘Ohana and The Crystal Palace.
You don’t do the math when booking the Disney Dining Plan.
After a long hiatus, all signs point to the Disney Dining Plan returning at some point in the future. Therefore, we wanted to make sure we briefly mentioned the pros and cons of the Disney Dining Plan before you add it to your vacation package and start booking all of those Dining Reservations.
In general, it is very difficult to actually SAVE money on the Dining Plan. It offers you convenience in that your meals a “pre-paid,” but the math doesn’t typically add up to any sort of savings. You would need to book Dining Reservations at the most expensive restaurants and order the most expensive meals in order to make it worth the added cost, and you’re likely better off paying out-of-pocket for your food (tip/gratuity is NOT included in the Dining Plan).
The Dining Plan comes with a LOT of food, so you definitely do not need to worry that you won’t have enough to eat on vacation. If you do decide to go with the Dining Plan, make sure you look at how many meal credits you are allotted daily when booking your Dining Reservations. You have to carefully track those credits because the Dining Reservation system won’t do the math for you!
We hope this list was a helpful introduction to the mistakes you should avoid making when booking your Advance Dining Reservations! Dining at Disney World is one of the priciest line items of any vacation budget, so it’s important that you’re making smart choices and pick restaurants that fit your family’s needs.
What is your all-time FAVORITE Disney World restaurant? Let us know in the comments!