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Things to Know About Disney Dining

Whether you are traveling on your first Walt Disney World vacation or your fifth, it’s important to understand all of the nuances of Disney Dining. From the Disney dining plans to the character meal experiences, there are so many options and choices that it can get confusing. Here are some important things to know about Disney Dining, including the Disney Dining Plan.

Disclosure: Affiliate links within. Purchasing and/or clicking on some of the links in this post can result in a commission paid to us. All opinions are my own. We’ve been on some complimentary press trips at Walt Disney World and some trips at a discounted cost through Disney Social Media Moms.

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Disney Dining can be complex - there are various types of restaurants to understand, advance dining reservations to be made, and the Disney Dining Plan to purchase. Read all about Disney Dining so that you are prepared for your next family vacation to Walt Disney World.

Things to Know About Disney Dining at Walt Disney World

Types of Disney Restaurants

There are a variety of different restaurants and eateries that you’ll encounter at Walt Disney World.

Quick Service Restaurants are the type of restaurant where you order at the counter and then sit down at a table to eat. These restaurants are generally less expensive than the other restaurants and don’t require reservations. They are great options if you aren’t sure which park you are going to be in.

There are so many different quick-service restaurants to choose from, in a variety of different themes. See our favorite Walt Disney World quick-service restaurants here. You’ll find quick-service restaurants in every theme park.

At table service restaurants, you’ll be seated with a server. You may order from a menu, get served family-style, or choose your food from a buffet.

These restaurants require reservations, and are generally very popular. You’ll need to do a little more planning when dining at a table service restaurant because you need a valid park ticket in order to dine at a restaurant within a theme park. Because of what, you’ll want to know which park you are going to each day.

The Hollywood Brown Derby

Disney Signature Restaurants are also table service restaurants but are more upscale. These restaurants are more expensive than standard restaurants. There’s also a separate dress code that applies. If using the Disney Dining Plan, you’ll need to use two of your table service credits for that meal.

Of course, Walt Disney World dining is unique because they also offer character dining experiences. These meals are a great way to see your favorite characters. Again, you’ll want to book these reservations in advance because they are extremely popular.

You’ll find Disney restaurants in all four theme parks, in the Disney resorts, and at Disney Springs. There are also various kiosks throughout the parks, that offer snacks and beverages.

Advance Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World

Advance dining reservations (ADRs) can be made 180 days in advance at Walt Disney World.

Either go online (starting at 6am ET) or call (starting at 7am ET) to make your reservations. And yes, many of them DO need to be made that far in advance, including popular options like Be Our Guest, Ohana, and Cinderella’s Royal Table. You can view reservations on the My Disney Experience app.

Onsite guests have a slight advantage when making reservations

Onsite guests can book all of their dining reservations (up to 10 days) 180 days from their check-in date, rather than on the specific date. Book the more popular places at the end of your vacation to get better availability.

Restaurants charge a no-show fee if you don’t cancel 24 hours in advance

Each Walt Disney World restaurant has its own policy. Some meals and shows require a full upfront payment, and if you don’t cancel in the time frame, you forfeit the entire amount. Others have a cancellation fee. This relatively new policy helps prevent guests from making multiple reservations for the same meal so they can choose the most convenient one at the time.

Research restaurants in advance – before your booking window opens

Speaking of research, there are lots of sites to use. My favorites are the Disney Food Blog and the Disney website. You can find menus and other information about every restaurant at Walt Disney World.

You may luck out even if you can’t get reservations right away

Keep trying! Guests DO cancel and you are still very likely to find the perfect reservation. Resort concierges can also help you check for availability once you are on property. Use the app to keep searching on the go. Don’t give up, but be willing to be flexible. This may mean eating dinner at 4 pm.

Enzo's Hideaway at Disney Springs

The Disney Dining Plan

There are three primary Disney Dining Plans

Walt Disney World offers a dining plan that is available for purchase by guests staying on-site at the Disney resort hotels. There are three different options. Note that these are subject to change annually, so you’ll want to find out the latest information.

The quick-service plan offers 2 quick service credits and two snack credits per person per day. The quick-service meals include an entree and a choice of beverage (including alcoholic beverages for those over 21).

The deluxe plan offers three quick or table-service credits and two snack credits per person per day. Quick service meals include an entree and a choice of beverage (including alcoholic beverages for those over 21), while table service meals (lunch or dinner) include an appetizer, entree, dessert, and choice of beverage (including alcoholic beverages for those over 21), or a buffet meal.

The standard plan offers one table service, one quick service, and two snack credits per person per day. Quick service meals include an entree and a choice of beverage (including alcoholic beverages for those over 21), while table service meals (lunch or dinner) include an appetizer, entree, dessert, and choice of beverage (including alcoholic beverages for those over 21), or a buffet meal.

All three offer a resort refillable mug for each person over the age of two on the plan. These mugs can be refilled at the resort with coffee, iced tea, tea, and soda.

Snack credits on the Disney Dining Plan

The dining plans all offer snack credits, which can be used on many different snacks including popcorn, ice cream, rice crispy treats, and water. Be sure to strategically plan out your snacks so use credits for more expensive snacks and pay cash for cheaper ones.

Disney dining plan credits can be used in any order on any day of your trip

Optimizing the Disney Dining Plan

Even though you get the credits allocated per person per day, they do not need to be used that way. You can use all of your snack credits in one day, for instance. Credits are loaded onto your MagicBands.

You are likely to need to purchase some food out of pocket, even with the dining plan. Do some research in advance to figure out what the least expensive meals are. The Disney Dining Plan can be a good value, depending on your family’s dining habits. But you’ll want to make sure you do your research and calculations.

In general, I find that the standard plan is best for most families. If you are going to eat mostly at the signature restaurants, you may prefer the deluxe dining plan. Keep in mind that you can always pay a la carte, so plan accordingly.

Disney Free Dining

On occasion, Walt Disney World will offer a special promotion where guests receive a free dining plan with the purchase of a vacation package. In the past, these deals were typically offered in the fall. Keep an eye on the Disney site for more information about these packages.

mobile ordering

Mobile Ordering

Mobile ordering is available at many of the quick service restaurants at Walt Disney World. This can be a great way to save time in the parks. Just pull up the My Disney Experience app, and find the mobile ordering section. Then, you can proceed directly to the mobile ordering area (as pictured above) to pick up your order.

I’ve used mobile ordering for everything from breakfast at the All-Star Movies food court to a bottle of water at Toy Story Land. It really does help you save time.

Dining at Epcot Festivals

Depending on when you visit Walt Disney World, you may be able to dine at the various festivals and events in Epcot. There are currently three festivals held at Epcot throughout the year:

During each of these festivals, you’ll find kiosks throughout the part selling sample-sized bites of different types of food. In some cases, you’ll be able to use your dining plan snack credits to purchase these. When I visit during a festival, I typically try to have at least one of my meals there.

Read reviews of Walt Disney World restaurants on TripAdvisor.

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