Our readers have Dining questions all the time. When is the best time to eat? Quick Service or Table Service? Dining Plan or No? Ask ten people how they eat when they are at Walt Disney World and you will get twelve different answers! It all depends on how you like to do things at the parks. I’m going to give you a rundown of how we plan our meals at Walt Disney World with two kids.
1. Disney Dining Plan: We always do the Disney Dining Plan (especially when it’s free). There are debates on whether you are saving money, but we like the convenience. I like being able to budget most of my expenses ahead of time. Children under 3 are not required to purchase a Dining Plan, so they can eat off of your plate. There is so much food, this is never an issue.
2. Plan your Advance Dining Reservations. Yup, we love to eat at Disney and have our favorite places to go. So after consulting TouringPlans.com for their crowd calendar, we decide which days we will be at which park. Then we map out our Advance Dinning Reservations (ADR’s). With the dining plan you get one Table Service, one Quick Service and one Snack per person, per night of stay. You can use in any order or combination and we do!
3. Bang for Your Buck: If you are using the Disney Dining Plan, get the most out of your money. Plan character meals, which are often very expensive. Check out the menu’s ahead of time and make sure you go somewhere special, that you might not go to otherwise. If you are looking to do Le Cellier for a romantic evening, or Cinderella’s Royal Table for your Princess, plan on 2 Table Service Credits.
4. Space out Meals: When planning our meals we try to stick to one Table Service per day. It is a lot of food and two Table Service meals is also more time away from the parks. We do a combination of dinners and Character buffets. We rarely do a Table Service Lunch unless there is somewhere we really want to go and the ADR works out that way. Too much food + too many rides=disaster.
5. Timing is Everything: This is where you need to do a little thinking. Depending on what you are doing at the parks and your family needs, reservation times can vary. Ours vary from day to day on our trips. If we are having a resort day/afternoon, we plan our dinner later so there is plenty of time for clean up or napping. If we are having a Table Service breakfast we go as early as possible. If you get a reservation before the park opens you have the place to yourself! If we know we are going to push through the day with minimal naps, then an early dinner is on the menu.
6. Grocery Shop: Don’t waste your cash or snack credits on bottled water. If you have a car, head to a local grocery store for Breakfast items, Snacks, Bottled Beverages, Milk, etc. If you are not renting a car, then use a grocery delivery service like Garden Grocer. For us, snack credits are for Mickey Ice Cream Bars!
7. Be Nice and Share: This applies to snacks and Quick Service meals. For breakfasts we often have items on hand from Garden Grocer for quick eats before we head out. But if we decide we want a hot breakfast, we use one or two of our Quick Service credits and share among the four of us. If you are staying at the resorts you have your refillable mug for coffee, so get a drink for later. Children’s Quick Service credits do not need to be used on kid meals, so we plan on sharing with them an adult portion. Then we share a lunch later on in the day. This way we all have more room for Table Service Meals!
8. Save for Later: Save your Quick Service dessert or sides for a snack later. Obviously this doesn’t work for ice cream, but there are plenty of other things to throw in the backpack for later. For our Table Service meals we are often full by dessert. Ask your server to pack your dessert for later. After you’ve walked around a bit, or returned to your room you have a treat.
9. Park Hop: We utilize the Park Hopper option for the sole reason of being able to have flexibility. If we want a relaxing night at Epcot’s Le Cellier after a day at the Magic Kingdom, no problem. remember, even if you have a reservation for dining, you need a ticket to get in the park.
10. Airplane food: Is horrible and expensive. Save a quick service credit or two for your last day. Purchase a sandwich or salad and ask for ice if necessary. Maybe even have a small collapsible cooler bag. With the exception of liquids, you can take your meal on the plane. A last bit of Disney for your way home.
By no means is my way the only way to dine at Disney. You need to think about what works for your family. I like to plan ahead, so this works for me. We like to have nice sit-down dinners as a family, but you may want to have more park time with each other. Key is to have a great time and enjoy all that Disney has to offer!
Share your dining tips in the comment section below, we love reader tips!
Mickey Mom is Mom to Two Disney eaters and her favorite Character Meal is Breakfast at Tusker House.
- Best of Walt Disney World – Dining Edition (chipandco.com)
- Mickey Check for Kids’ Meals Debuts at Disneyland and Walt Disney World (chipandco.com)