10 things you need to understand about Disney dining

1. Different levels of dining – Disney dining comes in a few different forms. There are sit down restaurants (table service) and quick service. Table service restaurants will offer you a typical sit down restaurant experience where wait staff will serve you at your table. This can be a great option if you are looking for a way to relax and get off of your feet for a while during a busy Disney day. Quick service restaurants give you the opportunity to grab a bite on the go. These are locations where you can usually mobile order from so that you can arrive, pickup your food, eat and get on with enjoying your park day.

2. How to find the right restaurants for you – Have no fear, there are tons of amazing places to eat at Disney World. When trying to find the right place for your crew, consider things like how much time do we want to spend eating, do we want to experience character dining, what type of food will my family enjoy. For example, my crew is not big on character dining and are also pretty adventurous eaters, so we steer away from those expensive, hard to get character meals and lean more towards unique dining experiences like Tiffins in Animal Kingdom.

Meet Daisy in her safari gear at Tusker House character dining in Animal Kingdom.

3. What is character dining – Disney’s character dining allows you to interact with some of your favorite characters while enjoying a nice meal. There are lots of different character dining options and a wide variety of characters that you can meet. Giving some thought to which characters your crew will enjoy meeting will help you find the right character meal. These meals can also be a great way to save time because you can skip waiting in line for characters and knock out a meal at the same time.

4. Mobile order – The mobile order feature of the My Disney Experience app is an incredibly convenient feature. Using this feature, you can basically schedule when you want to pick up your food order. On your way to pick up your food, you use the app to tell the restaurant to prepare your food and then when you arrive you just go to the pick-up window number in your notification and you’re good to go!

5. Adults can eat off of the kid menu – In need of a meal, but want something small? Have a picky eater in your group that is looking for a basic option? Have no fear! You can meet both of these needs by ordering off of the kid’s menu. All Disney dining locations will have a kid’s menu and it will typically consist of smaller size portions of basic items like chicken tenders or peanut butter and jelly. This can also be a great option if you are looking to save a little money or you have a heavy sit-down meal scheduled for dinner that you are saving room for.

6. All you care to enjoy comes in two forms – Disney calls their all you can eat meals “all you care to enjoy.” These meals come in two different forms. The first is your typical buffet format where you can make as many trips back as you like. The second form of an all you care to enjoy meal is a family style meal. For these meals, a portion of all of the menu items are brought to your table and then you can ask for more of any item. The family style option is great if you are looking to satisfy a big appetite but don’t enjoy a buffet set up.

7. Check menus ahead of time – Want to try a restaurant but worried if it will have something to satisfy all the tastes of your group? Check out those menus before you select your restaurant. Most restaurant menus can be viewed through the MDE app. All you need to do is search the restaurant you are considering and then you should be able to view the entire menu. This is also incredibly useful if you are concerned about food allergies or if you are looking for vegan or vegetarian options. These menus on the app will typically have designated sections for both allergy friendly and vegetarian.

8. You don’t have to have dining reservations – There is so much buzz about Disney dining reservations but guess what? You don’t have to have them. If that level of planning just isn’t your thing, that’s ok. You can still go to Disney, not starve and have an amazing experience. Our first trip I didn’t make a single dining reservation because I didn’t want to be tied to any timeline. We found places at our resort to eat and ate at quick service locations in the park and everything went just fine! If you don’t want to make reservations, you still have a few options. You can eat at quick service locations or take a look at that MDE app to see what same day reservations are available, or if anything near you has a walk-up waitlist available. With the walk-up waitlist option, you can add your crew to the waiting list and then go enjoy the parks until your table is ready. You will receive a text telling you that your table is ready and then you head back to that restaurant.

9. You can bring your own food – One of the things that surprises people most about Disney and food is that you can bring whatever food you want into the parks with you. The only restrictions to this are that you can’t bring in ice and there won’t be a place for you to heat things up. If you don’t want to pay theme park prices, are worried about finding things for your picky eater or just want to make sure no one in your party ever gets hangry, load up that bag and head into the parks with your own goodies.

10. Your choices aren’t limited to just the parks – Leaving the parks for a meal can give you lots more options and be a nice way to get a break from the chaos. If you are at Magic Kingdom, you can hop on the monorail and try out those monorail loop resorts. Great options for this are Steakhouse 71 at the Contemporary or Kona Cafe at the Polynesian and so many more! If you are in Hollywood Studios or Epcot, try the Boardwalk restaurants or something at one of the Epcot area resorts. Dining at the resorts is also another way to check out other resorts to see if you might want to stay there in the future. Another great option away from the parks is Disney Springs. Disney Springs isn’t something that I would try to squeeze into the middle of a park day but is great for either non-park days or at the end of a park day. The variety of restaurants at Disney Springs is incredible! There is truly something for every taste there. Some of our favorites are The Boathouse and Wine Bar George. If you are looking for a faster option at Disney Springs, try Chicken Guy or D-Luxe Burger.

Disney dining planning is something that gets so much attention but don’t let it intimidate you. There are tons of options! Have questions about finding the right dining for your crew? Shoot me an email! I’d love to help you find your perfect Disney dining fit.


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