You’re planning your ultimate Walt Disney World vacation, and we are thrilled for you! Of course, after “where are you going to stay?”, we want to know: What are you eating?! Disney dining is increasingly difficult to plan, so we want to help you avoid some of the common mistakes guests make when planning their Disney dining.
Not Making Advance Dining Reservations
Okay, this one is super important. If you’ve planned your trip 60 days or more in advance of your arrival day and you’re staying on-site, you’ll be able to book your Advance Dining Reservations for your full trip starting at the 60-day mark — and you’re going to want to do that! Some restaurants are notoriously difficult to book (think Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom!), with guests rising at the crack of dawn to nab their coveted seats at the table. (Please note: guests who are not staying in a Disney Resort hotel are able to book their reservations starting at 60 days out, so having the ability to book for your full trip starting at the 60-day mark is a bonus perk.)
But what if you forget to set your alarm or are planning your trip within that window? Fret not! With a little flexibility you might just be able to save the day. Be open about the time you want to dine (some of those late night spots might be available!), and be willing to consider some alternatives to the most popular Disney restaurants.
And if you’ve really got your heart set on one of those hard-to-get restaurants, be persistent! It is not unheard of for guests to find even same day availability on the My Disney Experience app. So if you absolutely must eat at ‘Ohana, check, check, and check again! (This is also true if you were only able to book a meal at a time you’d really rather not eat. You can change that time right in the app or online!)
Not Pacing Yourself
If your list of must-try dining spots is a mile long, we feel your pain! And we know it can be tempting to try to cram all of those spots into a limited-time vacation. But there are dangers to doing so (missing out on valuable time to enjoy attractions comes to mind!) — the greatest of which is that it can be easy to plan too many big meals in one day.
We know, we know. You want your steak at Yachtsman Steakhouse and your pizza at Via Napoli and your aquarium-side seating at Coral Reef — and they’re all super convenient because you’re already at EPCOT already, right? But unless you’re a world champion eater, it’s going to be nearly impossible to fit all of that in (and we do mean in your stomach).
One way to ease the pain on your waistband is to share meals. This is often very easy to do (restaurants will often split the meal onto two plates for you before serving), and it can save you not only the stomach space but also some money. You could also split up your bigger meals by scheduling your character buffet for the morning and your bread service spread at Sanaa for the evening. In between, we recommend plenty of strategic snacking!
Thinking You’re Too Old for a Character Meal
Disney World has a reputation as being a great place for kids — but we categorically disagree! And that applies to character meals, too! We know it might seem awkward at first; maybe you don’t want to jump into Goofy’s arms for a quick cuddle. But you totally can — and should! — if you want to!
And if you plan on meeting characters anyway, character meals are a great opportunity to do so! No waiting in the sun! Plus the offerings provide a lot of choices for a filling meal, with All-You-Care-to-Enjoy options making up the bulk of character dining service — and typically for only one Disney Dining Plan table service credit. Just do a little research to find out which character meal is right for you — and go for it!
Missing EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival
It might be one of the busiest times of the year to stroll around EPCOT’s World Showcase, but the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival is an exceptional food and drink experience. Disney dining pulls out all the stops to bring guests awesome eats, tasty drinks, and wonderful add-ons like demos and seminars for this annual autumn tradition. And we’ve got some tips, tricks, and info to help you make the most of your visit.
But let’s just say that your Walt Disney World trip doesn’t line up for the fall Food and Wine Festival months… well, we’ve got some good news for you! EPCOT hosts FOUR Festivals throughout the year! And while Food and Wine happens to be our personal favorite here at the DFB, guests can also enjoy the EPCOT Festival of the Arts (with dates falling in January and February), the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival during the spring, and the EPCOT Festival of the Holidays.
Selecting Locations Far from Your Park of the Day
You already know that we think of Disney food as a theme park unto itself — but we love us some rides and attractions, too! So we suggest avoiding one of the most frustrating Disney food mistakes of all: scheduling a meal that’s far from where you’re spending your park time. It can take up to an hour or more to travel from one location to another at Walt Disney World (and transportation can be infuriatingly unreliable at times!).
We recommend carefully planning your meals to minimize the amount of time you need to spend traveling to your meal and to maximize the amount of time you get to enjoy your meal and your park time. One way to do this is to use our Restaurant Search Tool. This tool has tons of parameters to help you narrow down your dining options — including location, location, location.
So if you’re going to be zipping around on Dumbo all morning, plan your lunch within Magic Kingdom or at one of the Monorail Resort Hotels! Falling for the Tower of Terror until after dark? Use a Friendship Boat to take you over to nearby Beach Club Resort for a late night snack at Beaches and Cream!
Disney guests may also opt to use a rideshare service like LYFT or Uber to get around property. So if you could only get your most-beloved ADR at Whispering Canyon Cafe in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge on a day when you’ll be trekking through Animal Kingdom, you still have options!
Not Reading Menus or Reviews Before You Go
Disney restaurants feature cuisine from — literally — every corner of the globe — it’s definitely not just burgers, fries, and Mickey Bars! So before you make your ADRs and commit your time, money, and taste buds to Disney World restaurants, you’ll want to check out some menus and reviews! We are always here for you when you’ve got Disney dining questions, and y’all know we love to give our opinions on… everything!
So avoid this mistake by letting us help you! Not only do we offer our Disney World Restaurant Guide, which provides links to over 300 pages of information and tips, but we also have lists of what we consider to be the Best Restaurants in Disney! From suggestions to Best Restaurants for Disney World First-Timers to the Best Places to Dine and Catch a Magic Kingdom Parade at the same time, we think you’re bound to find some helpful info. Know before you go — that way you can daydream about all that grub before you even eat it! You can even start by checking out some of my personal favorites, if you like, by watching our DFB YouTube Video below!
Forgetting About the Budget/Wasting Your Disney Dining Plan Credits
We don’t like to think about this any more than you do: the budget. But taking a vacation to Walt Disney World is nothing if not magical… and potentially crazy expensive. We get it. So before you fall into the realm of money monsters, plan ahead. Over on our YouTube channel, we have lots of videos dedicated to this topic. You’ll find the Top Meals Under $20 in Walt Disney World and the Best Disney World Restaurants When You’re on a Budget, plus tons of other info on quick service dining and snacks — which can really give you a lot of bang for your buck.
Our Best Restaurants Series also features links to info we’ve assembled regarding the Best Quick Service Restaurants and the best places to maximize your Disney Dining Plan credits! Because not all DDP credits uses are created equal!
So there you have it: some of the biggest Disney Dining Planning mistakes — and how to mitigate them or avoid them completely! Happy planning, Disney food fans!