If you’re confused about the world of Disney Dining Reservations, you are not alone! There are a lot of things to remember and keep in mind. Table Service, Quick Service, Counter Service, ADR’s, mobile ordering, oh my! And since some things need to be done before you arrive we’re gonna dive right in. Know that everyone will have a different idea of what is good and bad about what we’re about to share. So here it goes.
Disney Dining Options
Okay, so if you’ve ever been to Disney you know they have tons of food options! There is no chance of going hungry. Here’s the lineup of Disney food options so you can make the best choice for you and your family/ travel mates.
Snack Carts (S)
If you’re not thrilled about using your theme park time at a restaurant or at anything that requires more than 30 minutes without rides the Disney Snack carts littered throughout every park are a good option. And they do offer real food. You could grab Egg Rolls in Epcot, a Turkey Leg in Magic Kingdom, Fried Rice at Animal Kingdom and Crab Cakes at Hollywood Studios
Otherwise known as Counter Service, Quick Service is set up like your basic fast food joint. Wait in line, order from a menu hanging over the counter and get your food without waiting too long.
Table Service (TS)
Table Service usually requires a reservation and some advanced planning. A table service reservation requires that everyone in your party be present at the time of your reservation, and it also requires you to cancel at least an hour if not 24 hours ahead of time if you change your mind.
Types of Disney Dining Experiences
On the Go
This is the “just get food when you’re hungry” plan, from where ever you are at the moment. It includes snack carts and Quick Service restaurants.
Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan comes in three sizes; Disney Quick Service Plan, Disney Dining, Disney Deluxe Dining. There are pros and cons to all of these, and the price per plan varies so check out the disney website for cost details.
Disney Quick Service: 2 quick service meals and 2 snacks plus refillable mug
Disney Dining Plan: 1 quick service, 1 table service, 2 snacks plus refillable mug
Disney Deluxe Plan: 3 meals (QS or TS) and 2 snacks
Note: All your table service meals include dessert.
Still in the beta phase mobile ordering is perfect to get basic items from the most visited restaurants. Mobile ordering is like a fast pass for your dining. But keep in mind that lines at counter service restaurants aren’t usually that long anyway. Only select restaurants offer mobile ordering at this time. Order thru the My Experience App.
Reservations for Disney Dining Timeline
Disney Resort Guests
If you’re staying at a Disney Resort you can make dining reservations 180 days in advance of your first day of arrival. You can make up to 10 dining reservations on that day. It’s best to do this online, that way you can keep track of your itinerary right in the Disney My Experience App and make sure you’re in the right park with the right restaurant each day of your vacation.
If you’re staying Off-Site you can make dining reservations 180 days in advance of your first day of arrival, but only one reservation at a time. So at your 180 day mark you can call and make 1 reservation for 1 restaurant. The next day you can make the next reservation for the next days restaurant. Again all of this is best done online, unless you really love the phone.
Note: You can make a Disney dining reservation at any time within the 180 day window before your hoped for dining experience. Just know that Disney restaurants fill up quickly with not only vacationers but also passholders, visiting highschools and Florida residents. Reserve early.
Cancelling Disney Dining Reservations
Yes, you can cancel your dining reservations. But be aware that since you need a credit card to make your Disney Dining reservation that if you cancel or don’t show you may be charged. Some restaurants require more notice than others and cancellation fees vary. If you don’t think you’re gonna make it, just call the WDW Dining line at (407) 939-3463. If you know far enough in advance you can also cancel reservations in the App.
Do I need a Park Ticket to Dine at Restaurants in Disney?
You will need a park ticket if the restaurant is located in a one of the parks. You can however dine at any Disney Resort Restaurant without park tickets.
What if the number of people in our party changes?
You will need to call and adjust your reservation or modify the reservation in your app. Disney does have a pretty strict rule that they cannot seat you until everyone in your party arrives at the restaurant. So if a rogue family member decides to spend dinner at flying dumbo you could be up a creek! You won’t get charged no-show fees, but you may not get seated or may have to wait until an appropriate sized table for your new party numbers is available.
Do I have to make reservations to eat at Disney Restaurants?
No! Disney has many many Quick Service Restaurants and those are always available without reservations or advanced planning. If you’d like to eat at a Table Service Restaurant we highly recommend getting reservations! Even if you’re just taking a last minute trip to Disney, it doesn’t hurt to check which restaurants have availability in the App. You might get lucky! If not you can always head to some of the better Quick Service Restaurants to eat.
What About Disney Free Dining?
We love the free dining offers. But…it’s not for everyone. Some don’t think the cost is validated and others can’t live without it. Decide for yourself! Check out our Free Disney Dining Plan info in this post.
What’s the Best Way to Pay for Food At Disney?
So, this will be a different answer for everyone. For us, we’ve tried multiple dining options and have opinions to share! You will surely feel the bias here, but know we’re just giving it to you straight!
Disney Dining Plan
This is pre-paid with your vacation and gives you dining credits per person in your party to use throughout your vacation. A favorite option, if we can get it for free, is to take advantage of the Free Disney Dining Plan and upgrade to the second tier plan which gets us a quick service and table service for lunch and dinner each day. Then we just pack little breakfast bars or buy yogurt with cash for breakfast. We of course also get 1 snack each day on that plan so could also find a snack to have for breakfast if needed, but then we do like our snacks, so we usually save those for treats. This choice is one that i like best for peace of mind. I know what I’ve paid, can eat what I want, and won’t face a high credit card bill when I get home.
Pay For Each Meal With Cash/Credit
We’ve also just paid for food in the moment while combining table service and counter service meals throughout our vacation. But I have to say the illusion of free food or even pre-paid with your vacation food is much better in my opinion than paying for things in the moment. A Disney trip at its best is paid for completely when you get there so the only financial decisions you have to make are involving souvenirs. When you’re at the table post amazing meal and get that check for 300 dollars you start feeling bad about a lot of things… that shouldn’t be part of your vacay.
Now, if you’re traveling with a smaller group or don’t really eat much this cash option could be your best choice if you’re good at self-restraint, won’t buy every amazing food item you see and can keep yourself on a budget. We’d recommend buying disney gift cards with your food budget money to keep it in check.
Add your Credit Card to Your Magic Band
Another option is to add a credit card to your magic band. While convenient, this is another one I wouldn’t highly recommend. The illusion of food being included in your vacation is real because you just charge it to the magic band, but instead of having that 300 dollar let down from one meal you now have a full vacations worth of charges you’ll have to reconcile when you check out of your resort. Not great.
Quick Guide to Disney Dining Wrap Up
So that’s it! Our quick guide to Disney Dining options. Remember, your Disney experience will be full of many surprises and hopefully lots of fun. Things like where to eat lunch or dinner, or how to pay for them shouldn’t consume your day. Make these decisions in advance and you’ll be able to enjoy your trip so much more because when lunch time rolls around… all you’ll have to do is show up! 🙂