For many people traveling to Walt Disney World, the restaurants and dining they plan to experience are nearly as important as the attractions in the parks.
Because food can be such a huge portion of the budget, the more tricks and dining hacks you have the more bang for your buck you’ll get.
Ready to find out more?
Check out our huge list of tips for dining at Disney World.
Tips for dining at Disney World
The most popular Disney World promotion by far is Free Dining, but it’s gotten harder and harder to get over the years and a lot has changed.
Just about anywhere at Disney World (including small kiosks) will give you cups of ice water for free. Consider this as an alternative to carrying water bottles which can be heavy, especially if you need several bottles of water for your family.
Adding a Disney Dining Plan to a reservation is usually something you can only do if you purchase a package, but you can add it to a room-only reservation if you call Disney or book through a travel agent. People who rent points can also add a dining plan to their reservations.
Check your receipt during your Disney World trip to see if a coupon has been included. For instance, there’s often a discount of 10% off of Disney Springs merchandise that’s included on receipts at Magic Kingdom Quick Service restaurants.
To increase your chances of getting the dining reservation times you want, when prompted to enter when you want to dine, select a specific time and not a meal.
You can find Starbucks locations inside of all 4 parks as well as in Disney Springs.
But, the trick is that many of the locations aren’t called “Starbucks” so you may not even know they are there (even though they are full-service locations).
You can order whatever you want at restaurants that aren’t buffets or fixed price meals, such as just having dessert or an appetizer. Don’t feel like you have to order an entire meal.
Refillable mugs can be purchased at Disney resorts. They come in 4 colors, but if you have more than 4 people, it might be handy to mix and match lid colors to create new color combos that will help you tell them apart.
There are many Landry’s restaurants nationwide and 4 located at Disney World – 2 Rainforest Cafe locations, T-Rex Cafe, and Yak and Yeti. If you sign up for Landry’s Select Club, you get extra perks such as a $25 credit during your birthday month, priority seating and 10% off merchandise. It does cost a one-time fee of $25 to join, but you get that amount back in restaurant credit within 24 hours of signing up.
Although early morning breakfast reservations in the parks have long been a good idea, we’re hesitant to suggest them. Disney has been changing park hours so the parks (especially Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios) often open up earlier than originally scheduled. Instead, we’d suggest booking a later time or booking 2 sets of reservations – 1 at 8 a.m. and another around 10:30 a.m. As your trip dates get closer, you can cancel the one you won’t be using once you know what the schedule will be.
If you are on the Disney Dining Plan and have planned more meals than you will have credits, figure out which meals will be the least expensive (typically breakfasts or lunches) and pay out-ot-pocket for those.
When you are planning where to eat, make sure you’re also planning on how to get there – especially if you’re planning to dine at a resort. Our WDW Prep School Navigator is a free tool that will show you how to get around the entire Disney World Resort.
If you are using the Disney Dining Plan, consider taking your refillable mug to a Quick Service restaurant at your resort to use for your drink and get a bottle of water (to use later) as the beverage that is included with your meal.
Many/most Quick Service restaurants at Hollywood Studios offer specialty cupcakes that are usually delicious and count as a snack credit if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, or they cost you around $5-$7 if you’re not.
When booking dining reservations, you can save time by bookmarking the restaurants you wish to book in your browser (or even by having multiple tabs open). Just a reminder that you should always make dining reservations in order of difficulty, not chronologically.
If you’re staying on-site and hoping to book a Cinderella Royal’s Table/Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique combo, consider booking it toward the end of your trip since both are available 180 days before your trip begins. Doing it this way will make it easier to get the times you want.
You can cancel almost all dining reservations by midnight the night before without any penalty (though Disney officially says it’s 24 hours ahead of time). For more info about when all reservations can be made or canceled.
Character meals are a great way to meet lots of characters without having to wait in lines at the parks.
To avoid carrying your refillable mugs into the parks, take your mugs to the food court to fill them up. After that, return to your room and pour them into the disposable cups in your room so you can take the disposable cups to the parks with you. This will keep you from having to carry around your refillable mugs all day.
Consider splitting or sharing meals so you won’t be lethargic after meals and to give yourself a chance to try more restaurants.
When you’re planning where to dine, you should always try to eat near to where you’ll be to avoid spending lots of time on Disney transportation.
Use snack credits for Starbucks drinks. Adding extra syrups and espresso shots is included and can make a snack credit worth $8-9.
If you’re using the Disney World site to search for restaurants on the Disney Dining Plan for the following year and seeing that many aren’t included, you should know that it takes awhile for the full list to appear as restaurants renew their contracts at the end of each year. Instead, select the current year as you search since the list usually stays the same from year to year.
Bring rubber bands or Ziplocs to store/close unfinished bags of snacks.
You can make note on your reservation if you are celebrating something special like a birthday or anniversary. You aren’t guaranteed anything extra, but some restaurants will try to do something special for you.
When traveling in a large group, make separate dining reservations if you can’t find one for your entire group and then check-in together. While it isn’t guaranteed that you will be seated together, there is a good chance you will at least end up side-by-side.
Many of the restaurants in Disney Springs have limited reservation availability through Disney. If you can’t find what you want check out OpenTable for additional dining times.
Book your dining reservations online 180 days before your trip begins because the website is available 1 hour earlier than the phone lines (the website is available at 6 a.m. vs. 7 a.m. for the phones). We recommend having your My Disney Experience account setup before this day and have your credit card handy for those reservations that require it. We would also suggest having the phone number on hand (407-WDW-DINE) in case the website is having technical issues.
Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club owners, and Florida residents are eligible to purchase the Tables in Wonderland card which can save you up to 20% on both food and beverages (including ones with alcohol).
Disney World is known for being a great place to travel if you have food allergies. The most common allergies can be noted when you make your reservations, however, if yours isn’t listed you can contact Disney for assistance.
People who want to try to get in the line to sign up for Jedi Training Academy can get a jump start on the line by making an 8:00 a.m. breakfast reservation at Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood Studios.
When planning your dining and food budget, don’t forget to include tips for table service restaurants, including buffets and character meals.
For people staying on-site who want to make dining reservations 180 days ahead of time for their whole trip, we recommend logging completely out of the Disney website and then logging back in to make sure the dates for your whole trip are available to you.
To make sure the Disney Dining Plan makes financial sense, you should review info on maximizing Disney Dining Plan credits.
Call The Boathouse directly (407-939-2628) if you’re having trouble finding reservations in the Disney Dining system or on OpenTable.
If you are traveling during the hot summer months or during the busiest times of the year (like the holidays), consider booking Table Service meals for lunch. They can be a great respite from the heat and heavy crowds.
If you need to cancel a dining reservation, you can try to reschedule it for 2 days later so you can cancel it without a penalty.
The festivals at Epcot (like the highly popular International Food & Wine Festival) offer lots of opportunities to sample a wide variety of culinary treats. And, if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, you’ll also find that there are lots of items are included as Snack Credits.
Consider going to Contempo Cafe or The Wave at the Contemporary Resort on your Magic Kingdom day for good food and atmosphere that’s only a monorail stop away.
Bringing groceries like breakfast items or snacks or having stuff delivered to your resort is a great way to save some money on your food expenses.
You can modify dining reservations online (such as number of guests and the reservation time) by clicking “Change Reservation” in My Disney Experience.
If you have trouble trying to find dining reservations for your party, try adjusting the number up (for example, from a party of 2 to a party of 4). Sometimes that will open up additional time slots. You can then adjust the number of guests down later.
Try to use Mobile Ordering whenever possible. It can help save time plus it often makes the ordering process easier for families and small groups.
Be Our Guest is one of the most popular restaurants in all of Disney World, but there are some things you can do to maximize your chances of snagging a reservation.
Some restaurants will do take-out meals, so if you grow tired of the Quick Service options, try asking a Table Service restaurant if they offer take-out instead.
Whenever possible, to save yourself extra steps try to plan your FastPass+ and dining reservations around where you expect to be in the park at that time. For example, if you have a 12:30 pm dining reservation at Garden Grill at Epcot, try to book a FastPass+ for Soarin’ for directly before or after you eat.
If you’re on the dining plan and are too stuffed for dessert, ask if you can get a fruit bowl to go. This is an especially useful tip if you have a stroller where you can easily store a small lunchbox sized softsided cooler.
If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, some locations will let you swap out 1 Quick Service credit for 3 snack credits. Check at the register if you are interested and keep in mind that you have to do the swap all in one transaction, but sometimes the snack options sound better than the meals.
Some pre-park opening breakfast reservations will allow you to visit an attraction before the park opens. It isn’t a guarantee, but it can be a very nice perk when it happens.
If you enjoy popcorn, consider purchasing a refillable popcorn bucket. Prices for buckets start around $12 (and go up for specialty designs) but you can refill them for around $2.00 the entire length of your trip.
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