We return with the ever so famous TADA method of planning your Walt Disney World vacation. Being the experts, we know you have many decisions to make when planning. While we hope that you pick us to coach you in your planning, we also love to share some tips with you just in case!
Do you know what you’re having for dinner tonight? As I write this, it’s morning. I don’t know what I’m doing for lunch today let alone dinner. I’m sure you can relate, right?
What if I told you that while I don’t know what I’m eating in 2 hours, I can tell you that on November 28, 2016 I will be eating an early dinner at Ohana at the Polynesian Resort in Disney World. How about that I have known this since June 1, 2016?
I’m going to quote our newest princess Rapunzel – “Don’t freak out.”
Walt Disney World allows guests to make dining reservations starting at 180 days out from the reservation. Yes, six months ahead of time, you can book a meal.
Deep breaths all, I am here to help! (flashback to Playhouse Disney Koala Brothers there..whoa)
Let’s back up a bit. WDW categorizes dining experiences. Table service, Counter service and Carts. Quick definitions as follows. . .
Table service is any restaurant that has wait staff to serve you. Table service restaurants include full service, buffet, family style and any dinner show experience.
Quick service is cafeteria style or fast food restaurant style dining. If you place an order or choose items at one spot and pay at another, that is quick service.
Carts are usually outdoors throughout a park. A cart can be as simple as a beverage stand to as complex as an outdoor market selling snacks, fruit and drinks. Carts have limited items and usually do not have seating available.
In this article, I do not intend to talk about specific restaurants. Instead, I’d like to help you decide HOW you want to dine in Disney. I am also going to skip the Dining Plan. You can find information about that other places!
The most frequently asked question I receive about dining is:
“Are there any kid-friendly restaurants?” I assume the word restaurant means table service. When I hear this one, I smile…I might pat them on the shoulder reassuringly and say. “It’s Disney, almost ALL restaurants are kid friendly!”
Let’s discuss table service restaurants.
Table service restaurants are in every WDW park and in all deluxe resorts. Any resort designated as Value will not have a table service restaurant. You can find character dining and show experiences within this category of dining. Table service restaurants tend to be more expensive, but you can get the same quality experience by eating lunches instead if you would like.
These are your character dining options. You’d like to eat with princesses, Cinderella’s Royal Table and Akershus in EPCOT. You want to have breakfast with Mickey and the gang, Chef Mickey’s. Looking for a luau? The Polynesian has one. Prefer a good old fashioned country hoedown? Disney has that too.
Are you looking for a romantic dinner for two somewhere in the “World”? Don’t worry! Disney has you covered with several options that don’t dis-allow kids…the atmosphere isn’t AS kid friendly, so kids don’t come! OR – if you book your reservation late enough in the evening, you won’t run into many kids!
My trips as a child rarely included table service restaurants. My family of five stuck to Quick Service Restaurants. Again, without reviewing all the options, let me offer a general opinion. Quality of food at Disney fluctuates. Quick service dining does follow dining trends in general. As Americans tend to go healthy, menu choices at Disney follow.
Here is a perfect example. In the Magic Kingdom, Columbia Harbour House is a staple dining spot for my family. The menu recently changed and below are photos of the meal you USED to get (note the fried fish and french fries) and now the options are steamed broccoli!
In the parks, many traditional quick service systems still exist. You walk up to the register, order and pay, then move forward to receive your meal. Please note – you can line up on BOTH sides of a stand alone register! Some areas provide cafeteria-style meal building. You can choose whatever you’d like and bring it up to a register. EPCOT’s The Land pavilion has an excellent example. This option works for diners of varying tastes.
What about carts? These are great for quick snacks. I generally would not suggest these spots for a meal -even the controversial turkey leg. These little spots are scattered throughout the parks. Mobile carts will not appear on any maps. Permanent structures may pop up depending on size. In Frontierland, Westward Ho Refreshments only offers corn dogs and beverages, but you could see it on the map.
Let’s go back to the 180 day reservation issue. As a seasoned Disney traveller, I have to abide by this rule. Popular restaurants do not have walk in seating. Some difficult restaurants are Cinderella’s Royal Table, Akershus, Le Cellier, Ohana, Crystal Palace, Chef Mickey’s. If you are thinking of any of these, look at your vacation dates and count 180 days back. Get on the phone as early as you can that day and have back up plans ready. Having said this….
Do not over do your table service dining.
I’m going to say it again. Do not over do your table service dining. Table service will take at least an hour but count on closer to two. As you look at your in-park time, these are hours you are losing from seeing attractions. While losing two hours in one day is fine, a table service adventure every day adds up in terms of time lost. Also, unless you have booked breakfasts, your park attendance will revolve around your dining.
Let me explain – you have table service at Akershus in Norway for 12:15 on the second day of your trip. It would make perfect sense to start your day in EPCOT and make your way over for lunch. No problem there. Day three you have a reservation for dinner at Le Cellier (lucky family) at 4:50 because that’s what was available. EPCOT was fun so you can have a nice breakfast at your hotel and then saunter over to EPCOT and get to Canada in time. Day three you have lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table at 1:30 so you start your day at Magic Kingdom but tonight you wanted to see Illuminations so you’ll head back to EPCOT to catch that and grab a quick service meal in China before watching the show.
There is one other issue that I have heard from so many guests…when they do a table service every day – they get burnt out on the experience. I have friends that do character dining every day….after that trip they were sick of characters!
One year my husband and I went to Universal (ssshhhh don’t tell Disney I cheated on them). We got there right at open and headed to the Dueling Dragons roller coaster. There was NO line. We rode that coaster SIX TIMES IN A ROW! Then we looked at each other and said “I can’t do this again. I’ve had it with screaming and the rush and it’s getting kind of boring.”
Same holds true for dining. Let’s recap
- Vary your category – don’t overdo the table service
Vary your location – make sure you are eating at enough places that you don’t get pigeon-holed in one park
Line up on EITHER side of a quick service cash register – it’s not cutting
Carts are for snacks, not meals
Mark your calendars at 180 days out to get your prime, most important reservation
Look at that, it’s time for me to figure out lunch! Good thing I know what I’m doing in November!
Contact us today to begin planning by calling 877-825-6146 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be honored to help you plan!