Do you have questions? We have answers! Each week, a diva or devo will share some of our best tips with you as we answer five of your questions. This week, Fairy Diva shares with you her tips on five of your questions regarding dining.
1. I would love to see a list of places/entrees that are large enough for two people to split. We find that most of them are, but I’d love to know more specifically. Resorts too…
There are lots of options available when considering splitting a meal. I will say that my husband doesn’t share well! He usually finishes his meal on his own, and I end up sharing with one of my children when portions are large. Splitting a meal is a great idea because it not only saves money, but also leaves you room to have one of the many fantastic snack options offered at Walt Disney World (my favorites are the cream cheese filled pretzels and Dole Whips!). Here are a few meal ideas at both Quick Service and Table Service Meals that you may be interested to try splitting on your next trip.
Quick Service Meals
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, located in Magic Kingdom- 1/2 Chicken and Rib Meal (offered on dinner menu only)
Columbia Harbour House in Magic Kingdom- Fried Shrimp meal with sides
Pinocchio Village Haus in Magic Kingdom- Flatbread Pizza (can be split or you could add on some Garlic Bread Knots to fill out your meal)
Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom- Ribs and Chicken Combo
Tangierine Café in Epcot- Shawarma Chicken and Lamb Platter
Wolfgang Puck Express at Downtown Disney- Pizza (a single order is quite large)
Various Walt Disney World Resort Quick Service restaurants- Build Your Own Pasta meals (Usually very large portions of pasta dish, prepared to your liking)
Table Service Restaurants
Via Napoli at Epcot- Pizza
Yak and Yeti in Animal Kingdom- some dinner courses are large enough for sharing
The Plaza in Magic Kingdom- generous portions of most meals
50’s Prime Time Café in Disney’s Hollywood Studios- some dinner courses are large enough for sharing
Kona Café at Disney’s Polynesian Resort- Tonga Toast (a delicious breakfast!) can be shared and dinner portions are large
2. How much time should you show up for an advance dining reservation?
The recommended time to arrive is 15-20 minutes prior to your advance dining reservation. This will allow you extra time to sign in with the hostess. Lines to sign in at each restaurant may be lengthy depending on the time of year you are traveling and crowd levels. Arriving 15-20 minutes early should give your travel party plenty of time to sign in and be seated closer to your advance dining reservation time.
3. If you have two different families on the dining plan- one is a party of 4 and one is a party of 2- but you want to sit together, how do you get around paying the 18% gratuity, especially if you are at a buffet and the only thing the waitress did was bring a drink (not worth a $50 tip)?
We had a group exactly like this on our trip last year! Our family of 4 joined another family of 2 at Walt Disney World, and we all wanted to have our meals together. To ensure our groups were seated together, we had to make our advance dining reservations for a group of 6. Per Walt Disney World policy, an automatic 18% gratuity is added to parties of 6 or more seated at the same table.
From personal experience, the waiters/waitresses at Disney restaurants go above and beyond to ensure a pleasant dining experience, and we have felt they deserve the 18% gratuity, and have actually tipped more on a couple of super magical experiences! The wait staff at buffet meals, as well as other Table Service restaurants, always do a fantastic job of keeping our glasses full, our table clean of extra/used plates and trash, our special occasions celebrated (such as a birthday or anniversary), and our meal experience great for both adults and children.
Of course, if you feel the service you receive falls beneath the Disney standards, you can always ask to speak with a manager at the restaurant and have the gratuity amount reduced. Dinner shows (Hoop Dee Doo Revue, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, and the Spirit of Aloha Luau) and Cinderella’s Royal Table include the gratuity in your meal price.
To absolutely avoid the 18% gratuity, you can reserve separate dining reservations for your group of 4 and the other group of 2 at the same time at the same restaurant. At restaurant check in, you could request to be seated at tables beside one another within the restaurant, but there is no guarantee your requests would be met.
4. How does free dining work at Disney?
During certain times of the year, Walt Disney World will sometimes offer a free dining promotion for guests planning to stay in select resorts on Disney property. For 2015, free dining is offered select weeks from August 28 through December 21. Your arrival date must fall within the dates specified with the offer, and you must plan to stay at one of the participating resorts, as well as purchase tickets. This year’s offer requires you to have a Park Hopper option or a Water Park Fun & More option on your tickets. Reserving the package will allow your travel party to have free dining added onto your package. Specific dates and resort options for free dining can be found under the Special Offers tab on the Walt Disney World website, by calling 1 (407) 827-7181, or contacting a travel agent. If you choose to stay at select Value Resorts, each member of your travel party receives a free Quick Service Dining Plan.
The Quick Service Dining Plan includes 2 Quick Service meals, and 1 snack per person per night, as well as a resort refillable mug for each person within your travel party. Staying at select Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villas will give each guest in your travel party a free Disney Dining Plan. The Disney Dining Plan includes 1 Table Service meal, 1 Quick Service meal, and 1 snack per person per night, as well as a resort refillable mug for each person in your travel party. Our family loves the convenience of the Disney Dining Plans and getting this offer for free is a real treat!
5. Are meals with characters worth the price?
In one word for our family, yes! We absolutely love character meals at Walt Disney World. Yes, some of them are a bit pricey, but we make sure to budget accordingly (or use our dining credits wisely if we have the Disney Dining Plan). Having a great meal, while having the characters come to us at our table, is truly a magical experience. I do not hesitate to pay for a character meal when I think of waiting in long lines with my two little ones to meet their favorite characters. It is just a great, convenient way to have a tasty and satisfying meal while meeting our favorite Disney characters!