Understanding the Disney Dining Plan and Where to Eat at Disney World

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You’re going to Disney World and you’ve got to eat right? Like any theme park, the food at Disney is expensive and in many places the quality is just OK. But if you do a bit of research and make some plans ahead of time you can avoid any hangry meltdowns (by both you and the kids).

If you are planning on visiting Disney for multiple days we would recommend you plan where you are going to eat beforehand. Yes, it takes some of the spontaneity out of your days, but really, as parents, how spontaneous are we anyways?

Good to Know: This is not a drill—Disney now serves Starbucks coffee in the parks so you can look forward to getting your caffeine fix to keep you going throughout your day.

If you are staying at a Disney hotel, you can make your dining reservations 180 days before you first arrive and for up to 10 days at a time. (Yes, you read that right.) So if you plan to arrive on July 2, and are staying for the next six days, you can make all reservations at once. If you are NOT staying at a Disney hotel you will have to make reservations for each day, one day at a time.

How to Make Reservations:
You can make your dining reservations either by phone or online. The website opens to reservations at 6:00 am ET and phone lines open at 7:00 am ET. Obviously we prefer using the website because you get a one hour jump on the visitors using the phone. Regardless of how you choose to make your reservations, we would suggest that you have a plan before you call. You will want to know which restaurants you want to eat at for each day, plus around what time you want to eat. Map it out before your 180 day mark arrives so that you can easily hop online, make your reservations and go back to bed.

What is the Disney Dining Plan?
The Disney Dining Plan is a great option for people who are going to be staying on the Disney property. It makes your vacation feel more like an all-inclusive vacation because you don’t need to pay out of pocket for many of your meals. We suggest you take a look at the amount of days you are going to be visiting Disney and which restaurants you plan on eating at. That way you can price out what meals would cost you out of pocket versus what it would cost using the dining plan. There are three different levels to the Disney Dining Plan (DDP), but we would only recommend either the Quick Service Dining Plan or Disney Dining Plan (which is probably the most versatile).

Disney Dining Plan
Includes 1 Quick Service meals (think of this like a fast food counter service restaurant), one Table Service (sit-down restaurant) and one snack (anything from popcorn to cupcakes to ice cream are available) per person per night.

Quick Service Dining Plan
Includes 2 Quick Service meals and one snack per person per night.

Tips

  • Planning ahead where you are going to eat each day is really helpful – it can save you from wondering where to eat and wandering around (wasting precious park time) looking for somewhere to eat.
  • When possible, try and eat in your room for breakfast, that way you can save your pennies (or dining credits) for lunch/dinner.
  • If a meal is going to be relatively inexpensive (say at Earl of Sandwich at Disney Springs—which is delicious and highly recommended), consider paying out of pocket for it so that you can save your credits for pricier meals.

Character Dining
Kids (and adults) will love the opportunity to dine with their favourite characters. Everyone from Mickey and Minnie to Cinderella to Winnie the Pooh and Friends are available to dine with—for a price. Character meals are often the most expensive dining you’ll do at Disney, but the pictures are well worth it.

Here are some of our Table Service Disney Dining Picks:

Cinderella’s Royal Table
The grand dame of Disney dining sees lucky princes and princesses in training eating in the presence of royalty. You’ll find yourself enjoying delicious eats in the unforgettable dining area of Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World. Many of your favourite princesses circulate the room, enchanting their royal subjects and posing for pictures. This special experience doesn’t come cheap, but if you have a princess lover in the family (or if you love eating in a castle setting) this one is not to be missed. Good to Know: If you are using the Disney Dining Plan to pay for this meal it will cost you two table service credits. Extra Good to Know: If you book an early breakfast here you can enter the Magic Kingdom before it opens. It’s a thrill to get to walk down Main Street USA while it’s practically deserted…and also makes for some great pictures!

Chef Mickey’s
Located in the Contemporary hotel, this meal is a ton of fun for kids and how we like to kick off our Disney vacation. The food is served buffet-style but is really quite tasty, however the highlight of the meal is meeting the Fab Five—otherwise known as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and Goofy, all dressed up in their Chef uniforms. Kids will get a kick out of being greeted by each character and enjoy the dessert buffet (and ice cream sundae bar) too!

Hollywood and Vine
Located in Hollywood Studios, this is the only place at Disney to meet some of your kids’ favourite Disney Junior characters. Here you can be greeted by Jake (from Jake and the Neverland Pirate), Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First and Handy Manny. This meal is hosted by a group of entertainers who get the kids up dancing and singing along. Good to Know: The food here is a buffet but when we ate there it was unfortunately not very good. We do recommend it because of the character interaction, despite the subpar food.

Be Our Guest
One of the newest restaurants in the Magic Kingdom, Be Our Guest is a top choice for the incredible atmosphere and the delicious food. Some visitors have found that the food is more sophisticated than what they might want from a theme park, but we have made it a priority to eat here several times on each of our trips. Good to Know: Be Our Guest is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and reservations are available for all meals, however breakfast and lunch count as counter-service credits on the DDP and only dinner counts as a table-service meal.

Epcot World Showcase
One of the coolest things to do at Epcot is explore all the countries in the World Showcase. In one day you can visit the United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico, Norway and more (including Canada!). Each ‘country’ not only has shops, entertainment and displays exhibiting the best the society has to offer, but they also have restaurants. You can try teppanaki in Japan, tacos in Mexico, pizza in Italy or fish and chips in the UK. So give the globe a spin and see where you land—we’re confident wherever you wind up it will be delicious. Good to Know: For the less adventurous palate, there are children’s menus available at all the restaurants.

 

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