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One of my favorite parts of vacation is eating. Well, actually, one of my favorite parts of life is eating, but it’s even better on vacation. Have you ever been to an amusement park, and the only thing to eat is burgers, hot dogs, and pizza? That’s fine if you’re visiting for a day, but if you’re going to be there for a week, you’re gonna want some variety! And you can find it at Disney restaurants!
You can enjoy cuisines from all over the world as well as some unique snacks that can only be found at Disney World! Like snacks, you will dream about when you get home again! I mean anything tastes better if it’s shaped like Mickey!
I may find this the most overwhelming parts of planning my Disney vacation. For one, there are way too many good choices. Add to that, some reservations have to be made SIX MONTHS in advance, and it can be enough to overwhelm even the most seasoned Disney traveler. Although I’m not going to give a review of every restaurant on Disney property (this post would be miles long if I did), I am going to give you a quick guide to understanding Disney restaurants so that you can make choices that will satisfy everyone in your party.
Understanding Disney Restaurants
Disney has two kinds of restaurants– quick-service and table-service. For the rest of the world, this means fast-food and sit-down. Quick-service at Disney does not just mean burgers, hot dogs, and pizza, although those things are certainly available.
You can get everything from Asian noodle bowls to ribs and chicken to fajitas. What quick-service really means is you can walk up to these restaurants and get food without a reservation.
They are often cheaper than a table-service meal and much quicker, helping to save you both time and money while at the parks. Probably my favorite part about is their mobile order feature. You can get a meal without even waiting in a line!
Table-service or full-service restaurants are meals you are going to sit down to and have a server. They are longer meals at a more relaxed pace.
You are usually going to pay a little more for these meals and you are expected to tip your server. Table-service meals come in several different varieties–Buffets, character meals, signature dining, and some even have an option to get a Fastpass+ to a nighttime spectacular.
If you want some quality food, a place to sit down, and someone to bring you a drink then table-service is the way to go.
ADR (Advanced Dining Reservations)
Here we go with the Disney lingo again. Disney restaurants have what are called Advanced Dining Reservations or ADRs. Simply put you can make a reservation at the restaurant of your choice up to 180 days in advance.
You may say, “That’s crazy! I don’t know where I want to eat 6 months from now!” Yea, I get it. The good news is you can cancel your reservation up to 48 hours before with no penalty. So it’s ok to book something you may want to try and change your mind later.
First, how do you go about getting one of these ADRs? You’re going to pull out your phone and download the My Disney Experience App. You will see an option to “Reserve Dining.” Click on that and you can add your party size and date you’re looking for, and all the available reservations will come up. Simply choose the ones you want, and you’re all set.
Like I said you can cancel if you change your mind, but if you do it after the 48-hour mark or don’t show to your reservation, you will be charged a $10/person fee so make sure you cancel in advance.
Finally, don’t get stressed about getting all your reservations. Yes, there are a few Disney restaurants that you have to get up super early 180 beforehand to get, but most places you can get even a few weeks out unless you’re looking for Thanksgiving day.
Even if a reservation isn’t available the first time you look, keep checking back because people cancel all the time and you may be able to snag something last minute.
Also, just because a place isn’t available, doesn’t mean you’re missing out on the best food. My favorite place to eat is Satu’li Canteen and that’s quick service so no reservation required.
Disney offers mobile ordering on the My Disney Experience App. Best thing EVER! As I mentioned before, mobile ordering is available at quick-service dining locations. When you open the app, click “Order Food” and select a restaurant.
From there, it’s as simple as choosing what you want and paying for it. Right now, they accept credit and debit cards, as well as the Disney Dining Plan. If you have gift cards or want to use a discount such as Chase Disney Visa discount, you will have to order at the window.
When you’re ready to go pick up your food, click the “I’m here” button. You’ll get a notice when your food is ready. How does mobile ordering help you? It saves one person trying to remember what everyone wants.
Each person can add their meal to the order so everyone gets exactly what they want. Second, it saves you from having to wait in another line at Disney. Let’s all agree that is amazing!
Choosing Disney Restaurants
So how do you go about choosing where to eat? Start by going to the My Disney Experience App and looking at menus. Get an idea of what looks good and what fits into your budget.
Remember more expensive does not equal better at Disney. Some meals are just as much about the experience as the food.
Be Our Guest Restaurant is a good example of this. It’s a hard-to-get reservation, and the atmosphere is awesome (you’re in Beast’s castle). The food was good, but not anything I couldn’t get somewhere else, and it was pricey.
Am I glad I did it? Yes, the experience in the West Wing was unforgettable, but when I want just a good breakfast, I’m going to head for a cheaper option.
Also, plan to eat where you are going to be. Plan meals in the park you plan to be in that day or book a character breakfast at the resort on an off day. Traveling between places can take a long time at Disney World.
You don’t want to lose precious park time on a bus trying to make a reservation. Find some good food where you already are, and save the time and headache. Plan some restaurants in advance based on your schedule. It will save you time and frustration. Trust me!
Finally, be honest with yourself. If you’re a picky eater, it’s ok. Eat what you want. If you’re willing to try something new, go for it. Most Disney restaurants have a nice variety of food. Both the adventurous and the timid can have a great meal.