by JollyFrogger Diva
Navigating the world of Disney Dining can be overwhelming, so we at Tips from the Disney Diva are here to help. Here are the answers a few questions that are commonly asked in regards to dining at Walt Disney World
1) Do I have to make dining reservations ahead of time?
Yes and no. Although table service restaurants do not officially require a reservation, they are strongly encouraged. It might be possible to walk up to a table service restaurant and get a table, but it’s not guaranteed. Dining reservations can be made 180 days before the first day of your stay at Walt Disney World, and some restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest are very difficult to reserve if you don’t call right at that 180 mark. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth making reservations as soon as you can, especially if you travel with a large party like I do. For counter service dining, you generally do not need a reservation. There are countless counter service options in all 4 parks and at Disney Springs that provide a wide range of food options from burgers and fries to more exotic options like shawarma, so everyone can find something they enjoy. The only exception is Be Our Guest- they offer counter service for breakfast and lunch and both of those meals require a reservation just like their table service dinner option. Darlin Diva’s article “Be Our Guest – Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner?” gives a great description of each meal to help you with your planning.
2) How do I decide if the Disney Dining Plan is right for me?
This is a really personal decision. The first step would be to educate yourself on the Disney Dining Plan and what it offers. You can learn about the current 2017 Dining Plan here. Daisy Diva did a very informative 4-part series all about the Disney Dining Plan that I highly recommend (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) . Military Diva has a great article all about the 2018 Dining Plans so you can see exactly what’s included and example pricing and she also wrote “How to Make the Most of your Disney (Standard) Dining Plan” to help you figure out how to get the biggest bang for your buck when using the Dining Plan.
Personally, I find great value in using the dining plan. My family loves to eat while at Walt Disney World and most of our favorite restaurants are table service. We love to take a break in the air conditioning and enjoy a great meal. The nice part about having the dining plan is we can order anything on the menu that strikes our fancy without having to worry about budget, since we’ve already paid for dining credits. It also allows us to indulge in dessert, which is something we might not order if we were paying out of pocket.
3) I’ve been trying to get reservations at a certain restaurant but haven’t been able to. Any suggestions?
Patience is a virtue. Sometimes, even when you call at 180 days, you can’t get some of those most coveted reservations. Just because you don’t succeed right away does not mean all hope is lost. My first suggestion would be to set yourself a daily remind to visit Disney’s Dining Reservations to check if anything has become available. My second suggestion would be to be flexible. Sometimes if you’re willing to eat at a time that isn’t traditionally considered meal time, you may have more luck. My third suggestion would be to use a service like Touring Plan’s reservation finder. You can create a free account with them to use this service, then have them check for availability for up to 2 reservations at the dates and times of your choosing. Be sure to set your alerts to something you access frequently (your options are email, text, or both) because an alert only means one is available through Disney’s Reservation page, they are not able to hold it for you so you need to act quickly. I have personally had success using Touring Plan’s reservation finder- we made our last trip less than 180 days out and were unable to book Be Our Guest right away. Thankfully, after a few weeks of patience, I was able to snag a reservation for dinner after receiving an alert from Touring Plans that one was available.
Finally, if all else fails, I have heard from lots of fellow Disney lovers that they’ve had luck snagging reservations for the next day because Disney’s cancellation policy requires guests to cancel their reservation 24 hours prior or pay a fine.
4) Is character dining worth the price?
Absolutely! My family loves character meals, as some of our most memorable moments have come from dining with our favorite characters. I’ll never forget eating at Chef Mickey’s as a teenager Chip kept grabbing my hand making kissing noises at me the entire meal. On our last trip, my husband had a wonderful discussion on how to celebrate an actual birthday, since the Mad Hatter is always celebrating un-birthday (the Mad Hatter told him he’d be cured of that condition in 24 hours!). Character dining allows us to have a great meal and visit with some of our favorite friends without having to stand in line. My personal favorites are 1900 Park Fare (you can read Fairy Diva’s review here), Crystal Palace (you can read Daisy Diva’s review here), and Hollywood & Vine (you can read my review here). There are a lot of options for character dining- buffets are the most popular but there are some non buffet options as well.
5) I’m on a budget and not on the dining plan, any advice?
One of the nicest things about Disney dining is that they have something for every budget. Disney Magic Diva proved it was possible to dine at Animal Kingdom for under $40 a day and Daisy Diva was able to dine for under $40 a day at EPCOT. Passholder Diva wrote a great article with tips on dining quick service on a budget. It’s totally possible to eat like a king without emptying your wallet.
Need help planning your dining reservations or resort reservation? Contact Patricia Payne with All for Dreams Travel, our trusted Travel Agent here at Tips from the Disney Diva.