We are back with some great advice some of the best experts around when it comes to planning your Disney Dining — DFB Readers!
Seriously, you guys are the best, and I’m always excited to learn new things from your experiences! So when it came time recently to update our Top Tips for Disney Dining, we turned to you for input and advice. And you responded with tons of great suggestions.
Check out just a few of them below, as we offer you even more Top Disney Dining Tips from the Experts!
Have a Plan…and Don’t Blow Those Snack Credits on Things You Can Get at Home!
It was important enough for several different DFB readers to mention — and expound on! Do not waste those precious Disney Dining Plan snack credits on something as ho hum and common as a piece of fruit or a bottle of water.
Yep, they can sometimes pile up on you toward the end of the trip. So spend a little time planning beforehand so you don’t waste a single one. Here’s a TIP: DFB Snack Guides can come in handy for this endeavor; we have one for every park at Walt Disney World with our recommendations for the best snacks!
Get the Dining Plan…And Don’t.
One of the most interesting suggestions for stretching your Disney Food Budget came from @Greg_Crowder: he suggested that you go halfsies on the Disney Dining Plan. He writes: “2 of us had the free plan a couple of years ago and 2 didn’t. The snacks and counter [service] meals were plenty for all 4 people.”
It’s true that Disney portions can be pretty big, and eating lots of large meals and rich snacks and then walking 100 miles a day may be a tall order. So if you’re willing to share, this can be an excellent way to keep costs down. It also means that you pre-pay, so your spending money goes a little further.
Just note that if you’re all staying in the same room, you all need to be on the same plan; so this tip only works if your compadres are in a different room.
Don’t Forget About Resort Restaurants.
Many readers chimed in that visitors should never forget to check out resort dining options, saying that you should definitely venture out of the Park for incredible food. Resort restaurants offer some of the most amazing dining on property.
Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge was mentioned lots of times. For instance, reader David Mendoza says: “Whether you are staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or not, make the trip to the Sanaa restaurant. Wonderful food and such a picturesque setting, watching the beautiful animals as you dine on some of the most awesome food in Disney World! A real must see! And when you are done you can take a stroll and get even closer to the animals. Truly a wondrous place.”
I couldn’t agree more! (Read my latest Sanaa review here.)
Allergies and Food Sensitivities? No problem.
We’ve written about it lots of times — Disney is tops when it comes to serving guests with allergies, food sensitivities, and special diets. And our readers are eager to agree that Disney routinely goes above and beyond to ensure their guests have the best experience possible, regardless of their dietary limitations.
Ann Hooghuis Dealy weighs in by saying, “If you have food allergies or sensitivities
TELL THEM. They don’t advertise that they have a separate menu for this. I’m gluten, soy, dairy, tree nut, and I was able to eat in every park with very little problem. They have people assigned to come out and speak with you and go over the menu to help you choose the right food and adjust what they have to to make the meal work for you. Its a shame they don’t advertise this because I have heard from too many people that they didn’t know about this. [DFB Editor’s Note: Disney recently began rolling out special allergy friendly menus at counter service and table service restaurants in both Disney World and Disneyland.]
Selena Kurtz agrees: “If you have food allergies, do your research ahead of time but know that Disney can accommodate!”
Don’t Overbook in the Name of Savings.
Whether you’re dining with the Disney Dining Plan or paying for meals out of pocket, many readers caution not to overbook or get more than you’ll realistically eat, just because it seems like a good deal. A good rule of thumb is to make your plans based upon a normal day in the life at home.
Reader Jenny Flohre offers this suggestion: “Don’t overbook meals! If you don’t normally eat 3 huge meals at home, the deluxe dining plan may not be for you even if it’s a great value. You will spend the majority of your vacation running from restaurant to restaurant and not enjoying attractions…or scenery…or much of anything.”
While it may be tempting to grab for the gusto, balance is key. So plan accordingly.
Get What YOU Want!
When it comes to using the Disney Dining Plan, sometimes you feel like you must get the most expensive thing on the menu to make it “count” the most. But some of our readers said that their best tip was to abandon that way of thinking — and just enjoy yourself!
“Ignore “best bang for buck” and go with what sounds most appealing,” says @EddieMcGarrigle on Twitter. Get what you want and forget about being a slave to prices! @JPetticrew seconds that emotion! “Ignore the prices on the menu and get whatever sounds the best!”
I love this. Because at the end of the day, sure, it’s nice to save money. But really, a Disney trip should also be about checking all of that bookkeeping at the door! So if the chicken sounds better than the steak, then get it! Or vice versa!
If You Have a Toddler, Buffets Are Your New Best Friend.
While buffets can be a bit of a trick to manage if you have toddlers, there’s no denying that they can offer terrific value. Because for the under 3 crowd — they’re free! Reader Doug Williams Jr. has found this to be a good fit for his crew. “Buffets are your best friend with kids under 3. No worrying about what they may eat, and free.”
So be sure to fuel up at least once at a buffet meal. Make it a character dining experience at a spot like Chef Mickey’s or Crystal Palace, and you’ll kill two birds with one stone. Toddlers will eat for free and get to meet some of their favorite characters. You’ll save money and won’t have to wait in horrible lines in the Orlando heat…WITH YOUR TODDLER!
Use the My Disney Experience App to Your Advantage.
Reader Denise Stockwell thinks it’s a great perk for scoring a last minute Advance Dining Reservation: “My Disney experience app is great for checking for last minute reservations. We were at Disney for a dance competition, so our schedule was tricky to schedule around. Even around the 4th of July with huge crowds I was able to book Tusker House and Crystal Palace three hours ahead of time.
“Keep checking if there is a place you’d really like to go! We also were able to book some last minute fast passes to coordinate our plans. We had two great evenings that were spontaneous!”
And Speaking of Last Minute ADRs…
…Don’t rule out scoring a table at the last minute, even at the hottest spots. Take the advice of reader Dana Laz Birch: “Looking for a last minute ressie? Many people dump their hard to get ADRs before the 24-hour mark. Check less than 24hrs before and you’d be surprised what you can get!”
Clare Clouts agrees! “Don’t give up if ADRs are not available at the 180-day mark. We recently got despondent because there was nothing at Magic Kingdom on my daughter’s birthday. 2 weeks later and voila heaps of ADRs have opened up — including Cinderella’s Royal Table! I think people or travel agents must book them all up then later cancel once plans have been firmed up.”
Bottom line? Don’t give up! FYI — This goes for Anna and Elsa Fastpasses, too.
Don’t Forget About Disneyland!
But our readers were also quick to remind us that there are plenty of awesome dining options at Disneyland too! And so they offered some advice for dining there.
Tami ‘Beech’ Bastiaans Mine offers this word of wisdom: “Don’t settle for the obvious. There are so many hidden gems at the Disneyland Resort! I’m afraid to tell them because I don’t want them over-run, but try Alfresco Lounge and White Water Snacks to name a couple. And you can get great light meals in the lounges!”
Catherine Knight and Carmen Bradley Theel don’t want you to miss Blue Bayou Restaurant in Disneyland Park. “But don’t just walk up to the Blue Bayou, make a reservation!”, Knight cautions.
Combine Planning and Flexibility FTW.
With the advent of MyMagic+, I gotta admit it: the days of flying through Disney by the seat of my pants are pretty much over. But still, it is possible to combine a certain amount of planning ahead with staying flexible. In fact, many of you recommend that approach to keep it light and fun.
Sharon Gilroy-Dreher suggests that you stick to only making one ADR each day. “You will need the break to recharge, either at lunch or dinner. Having that pre-booked meal will relieve some stress each day.”
Joanna Caves agrees. “By doing only one sit-down meal per day, you save more time for spontaneous fun.”
And there you have it — some invaluable tips for planning your next Disney trip with less hassle, less stress, and more fun!
Want More Expert Disney Dining Tips?
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While we love all of these amazing ideas, we just know you have even more to share.
So now, let’s hear from you — What’s Your Best Disney Dining Tip? Leave a comment and join the conversation below!