When planning a trip to Disney World one of the most challenging and important questions you will ask yourself is “Should we do the dining plan?” If you are unfamiliar with Disney’s Dining Plan (DDP) allow me to [quickly] bring you up to speed. Disney Dining allows you to pay for all of your meals before your trip, make reservations in advance, and then once you arrive at WDW your meals are loaded onto your Magic Band and you are good to go. When you want to purchase a meal a cast member will scan your band and the rest is history. Stay tuned for a more a complete guide to Disney’s Dining Plan.
Whether you have to decided to partake in the DDP or not there are a few things you need to know to be successful and to get your moneys worth.
- Decide Early: You can start making dining reservations 180 days prior to your trip. In order to get restaurants like “Be Our Guest,” and “Cinderella’s Royal Table” 6 months is necessary to secure a table. Therefore plan to schedule your dining and your trip at least that far in advance.
- Secure FREE Dining: If you are flexible as to when you want to take your trip, Disney often offers FREE dining during non-peak weeks to guests who schedule a trip with at least 2 days worth of tickets. This makes all the difference in your trip! Make sure to frequently check the “Special Offers” page of DisneyWorld.com. That will give you all the information to score FREE dining at Disney.
- Know Before You Go: Take a look at all the different restaurant options that require reservations before you go. Sit down with your family and decide what places you want to eat at. This way when your 180 day mark hits you can go on and schedule times and days and not have to worry about looking through all the restaurants.
- Schedule an Early Breakfast: Restaurants like Crystal Palace offer breakfast options before the park opens. This allows for AMAZING picture opportunities of Main Street and Cinderella’s Castle without all of the people. Other park restaurants offer the same accommodations. Take advantage of these unique photo opportunities.
- Understand Dining at Disney is an Experience: There are restaurants at Disney that have INCREDIBLE food with world class chefs. However a lot restaurants are more of an experience with characters and shows, this means be patient with cast members, they are serving a lot of people and don’t expect a 5 star meal. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying, the food is marvelous but you are not at New York City’s Masa.
- Be Flexible: If you are willing to eat at unpopular times you are more likely to get a reservation at popular places. More often than not eating at a later time allows for flexibility with hard to get reservations. Breakfast at 10, lunch at 3 and dinner after 8 usually offer easier to get reservations and create a more relaxed dinging experience.
- Let Cast Members Know Your Allergies: Disney is outstanding at accommodating guests and dining is no exception. Be honest about your restrictions and Disney will do whatever they can to make your experience enjoyable. However if they don’t know you have a restriction please don’t be upset when they bring out your pizza with cheese on it.
- Try Something New: There are 100s of fascinating restaurants at Walt Disney World, take a break from [some of] the popular restaurants and try something new. If dining next to a live coral reef home to over 4,000 of Nemo and Dory’s friends, then give The Coral Reef restaurant a try. Now if dinging next to Nemo while eating Nemo is a little unsettling, you may want to try something else.
- Take Advantage of Your Refill Mug: If you purchase the Disney Dining Plan you receive a Rapid Refill Mug that can be used at any resort. If you decided to dine at your resort for lunch or breakfast or dinner even, trade in the drink your meal comes with for an extra dessert. The mugs also come in handy after your trip is over for coffee on the go, bring it to Starbucks and they will take $.10 off your drink order.
- Trade in Snack and Meal Credits: At the end of your trip trade in your leftover meals and snack credits for candy and treats to take home. DDP snack credits can be traded in at the end of your trip to bring home candy, trail mix, and a plethora of other goodies. Remember you have already paid for the credits you have so better use them and take advantage of all you get.