Heading to Disney and want to make THE MOST out of your dining experiences?! Dining at Disney is incredibly memorable for everyone in the family but, in order to get your money’s worth, you need to do it right!! So, I’m giving you the BEST secrets to eating during your Disney stay! *If you can’t read now, make sure to pin the image at the bottom of this post for later!! You won’t regret it!
Reservation Grace Period When making a reservation for any table service restaurant, you have to first confirm your reservation with a credit card. For most reservations, you will not be charged UNLESS you are a no show for your reservation. The no show charge is $10 PER person in your party (yes, including infants!). If you’re running late, especially for those dining locations inside of the parks, there’s no way to call the restaurants and let them know you’re running behind BUT, I have THREE solutions to keep from losing that money you could otherwise use towards your meal OR somewhere else in the parks!
- Arrive within 20 minutes of your reservation time
- Arrive at ANY time during that dining period *From the words of a Disney Cast Member and from personal experience, you will not be charged unless you are a complete no show for the day! You may still have to wait for your table but, the cast member at your check in will usually try to get you seated as soon as possible without referencing the fact that you are 3+ hours later than your scheduled dining time! **Exception: Signature dining like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest may vary for seating late reservations.
- MODIFY your reservation time via the My Disney Experience App! Either choose a new time for that day or modify your reservation to 2 days after your current reservation and then cancel after you have successfully modified and saved!
Disney Dining Plan The Disney Dining Plan itself is no secret but, there are some things about the DDP that many do not know! To utilize your DDP to it’s fullest, make sure to save this post or come back closer to your Disney Vacation for a refresher!
- DDP Deluxe Credits are pooled If you’re thinking about going Deluxe (our personal favorite) you should know that adult and kid credits are all pooled! This may come in handy if you are doing more meals as adults or have more adults than kids in your party!
- Snack credits can be used for meals You read that right! There are SO many snacks available through the dining plans that are HUGE enough to feed not only one person for breakfast or lunch but, TWO. Things like the mickey cinnamon roll at Gaston’s Tavern or Chili Cheese Fries from Cosmic Ray’s!
- Swap snack credits for additional sides If you are dining at an a la carte location and would like extra sides with your meal, swap a snack credit for a side salad or extra fries!
- Share Credits with others This is one of my favorites, especially since we usually have someone dining with us who is not on the dining plan! One of my parents will come out to dine with the boys and I if James is off on some other grand adventure and it’s as easy as your server just scanning your magic band to share your credits with those who are not on the DDP! Since you don’t have to put a name with each credit being used at each meal and as long as you have enough in your account, you could even share with a stranger you’ve decided you want to randomly have a meal with!
- Share a Meal If you are dining at a location other than a buffet (or any other meals with price per person pricing), you are free to SHARE an entree with someone else in your party and ONLY use one credit! This goes for Table Service ad Quick Service dining! Your server may not bring the meal split between two plates but, they will be more than happy to bring an extra plate if you request one!
- Kids Eat Free Kids under 3 always eat free, regardless of the dining selection you have chosen! Which means if your two year old wants a full size meal at a table service restaurant or even at a character buffet, they get a full size meal WITHOUT having to use one of your carefully planned out DDP credits!
- Use Credits for Souvenirs Don’t let those let over snack credits at the end of your trip go to waste! Use them on your last night in the parks to scoop up dry snacks, candies, and treats OR head to the gift shop at your resort on your way to check out!
- Fill Your Mugs At ANY Resort During our last visit, we spent a lot of time on the Disney Boardwalk traveling to and from Epcot and Hollywood Studios! So, by the time we made it from inside of the parks back to the Boardwalk, our refillable mugs were empty BUT, we were able to fill our mugs at the little fountain stop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort! Some don’t realize that you can fill your mugs at any of the Disney Resorts, not just the one you’re staying at!
- Alcohol If you select a plan that has alcohol included, the best way to get the best bang for your buck is to make sure to utilize it to it’s fullest! For the Deluxe DDP you get an acoholic beverage with every meal. Not to say that I am encouraging you to drink at every meal with kids in tow butttt, if you can handle it, don’t let it go to waste!
Upgraded Special Seating If you have a dinner reservation for a location that has windows with firework viewing, will be dining somewhere with a patio in one of the parks, or would just prefer a booth in a location that has them, arrive approx. 20-30 minutes early to request special seating! When dining at places like The Plaza and Tony’s in Magic Kingdom, patio seating is IDEAL for parade viewing! The same goes for a late reservation at The Crystal Palace to see the fireworks OR even some of the Epcot and Magic Kingdom resort restaurants that have viewing as well!
Free Hydration That’s right! You can get FREE water anywhere on Disney property at any time! (Not bottled water of course) Ask for a cup of water at any dining location and use it to fill your personal bottles or refillable mugs!
Getting GOOD Reservations Late in the Game Did you have an alarm set for 180 days out from your trip and STILL miss some of your favorite dining reservations? DON’T be upset! There is plenty of time left in your planning calendar to snag those up! Make sure to keep checking reservation times, even for those signature restaurants, UP UNTIL the day before your trip and even on the days after you have arrived! People are constantly changing their plans and making arrangements and plenty of reservations drop even at 10PM the night before! Make sure to continuously check those reservation times for your MUST-DINE locations! *To reassure you that even THE MOST sought after reservations are possible when making those late reservations, I JUST scored a lunch and dinner reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest for 12 hours from the time I am writing this! Literally, one day before our day in the parks I scored TWO of the most popular dining experiences! WOOT! And I am also maybe crying a bit…but, that’s just between us!
My Disney Experience App This is something that is a bit newer to the dining game but, totally awesome! If you haven’t downloaded the MDE app, pause where you’re reading and do it now! No longer is this just an option for Disney goers BUT, a necessity! Not only can you get into your resort room, plan your fast passes, and renew your annual passes through the app but, you can also get your meals through it too (among other things)! You can now SKIP THE LINE and place mobile pick-up orders on the My Disney Experience App for places like Woody’s Lunch Box, Pecos Bill, Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, Pinocchio Village Haus, Columbia Harbour House, Aloha Isle, The Lunching Pad, Casey’s Corner, and more!! Get to know the app before your trip! There’s nothing like feeling like a pro when you’re using all that the app has to offer and saving precious time during your Walt Disney World vacation!
There you have it! Seems pretty simple right?! That’s because it IS!!
If you loved this post, head HERE to get even more Disney tips and secrets to give your family the most magical experience of a lifetime!!