Here's the deal, there are more than 100 restaurants on Disney property. This includes numerous resort restaurants, all of the eateries in the theme parks, character dining opportunities, quick service restaurants, and numerous snack locations. On top of that, Disney World is one of the very best themed locations in the entire world. And, yes, that includes the restaurants. Of course, price points vary widely as well. If that's not bad enough, many of the most popular places fill up months in advance, meaning that you've got to make your Disney World Dining Reservations early, really early!
What does all of this mean to you? Somehow you've got to choose restaurants that will serve food that you'll enjoy, fit into your schedule, offer the ambiance that you're looking for, and fit into your budget. It's actually much more difficult that it sounds!
Your first step should be to decide how many meals you'll be enjoying at Disney World. Break up your meals by meal type: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you are staying on site, chances are you'll be having all of your meals on park grounds. If you are renting a vacation home or staying off property, you may decide only to have lunch and snacks at the parks - and maybe a special dinner or two.
Now, start checking out the restaurants that are available to you. Set aside a lot of time for this step, you'll quickly find yourself lost in all the choices. The official Disney website is a great place to start. You can sort restaurants by theme park or resort, and you can also sort them to only find character meals or dinner shows. You'll get basic information about each restaurant using this method. Jot notes as you look through your choices.
It's time to dig a little deeper! Use secondary websites and Google searches to access menus, reviews, and photographs of the restaurants that you'd like to learn more about. You can get a plethora of information from people who have already dined at the locations you are considering. In fact, you can even find full menus and prices online, which will help with that pesky budget that you've got to keep in mind. This step should help you narrow your choices.
You're making progress! Your next step should be to plan your dining choices with your daily schedule in front of you. For example, if you plan to be at Hollywood Studios waiting for it to open, you may not want to make Disney World dining reservations at Chef Mickey's (a great character dining experience) on the same morning. Try to plan meals in the parks where you are visiting. If you don't have a park hopper ticket, you won't be able to gain access to another park to dine, so keep that in mind. If you are planning a meal at a resort, you'll also want to consider transportation, especially if you plan to dine and then return to a theme park after eating. It's best to plan this portion using a spreadsheet.
Now, step back and take a look at your plans. Try not to plan three sit down meals each day. Some of the character dining meals take a few hours to really enjoy, and planning three of them in one day can mean you'll spend all of your time eating! For example, if you are planning to go to a dinner show, you may want to eat at quick service restaurants for breakfast and lunch.
You're almost there! Now you just have to get your Disney World dining reservations, also called advanced dining reservations. You can begin making these reservations 90 days in advance, and if possible, it's extremely wise that you call exactly 90 days before your vacation begins. Disney has diferent policies for guests that say on-site and those that stay off site:
- On-site guests can book all of their dining reservations for up to ten days by calling 90 days before the day they check-in to their hotel.
- Off-site guests can also make reservations 90 days in advance, but will need to call back daily for each day that they require reservations.
So, mark your calendar and plan to call at 7:00 a.m. EST exactly 90 days before you arrive! When you call, have your list of choices in front of you. You won't need to make reservations for quick-service or snack locations - just sit down restaurants. Make sure that you write down your actual reservation times as you make them.
What if you don't get the reservations you want? If you can't get the reservations that you want, don't panic - it happens! You have two options at this point. You can choose another restaurant or you can continue to call back as your vacation gets closer. People's plans change so reservations are canceled. If you are persistent enough, you may get lucky!
A little bit of organization and a lot of research will get you a long way in choosing the right Walt Disney World dining reservations to make - and will ensure that you enjoy your meals as much as the rest of your vacation. Good luck!