Vacationing at Walt Disney World takes lots of energy! To paraphrase the famous saying, a vacationing family moves on its stomach. To nourish and refresh guests, Disney World has 300 dining locations, plus portable food carts, offering a grand total of 6,000 menu choices.
Even so, the question of what’s for breakfast and lunch and dinner and snacks can be daunting. Is it in our budget? Is the line too long? Can we be seated? Will everyone like it? Can we eat with the princesses or other Disney characters?
Here is a four-step guide to finding the food and dining source that is right for your family. Find the sentence that best describes your group, then read suggestions to plan your food and dining.
Option 1: We want to save as much as possible, including quick meals in our room.
If your family is on a tight budget, you will need to plan your meals carefully. Plan to brown-bag a few meals, such as eating cereal in your room and carrying your own snacks. You can still enjoy a wide variety of fun and interesting foods.
– Buy packaged food at the resort shop and food court. A package of muffins costs about $3, compared to $1.50 for one muffin in the theme park.
– Eat at counter-service restaurants at your resort and in the parks. Most adult meals are around $5-7, with children’s meals around $4-5. You will find traditional fast food like burgers and pizza, as well as an appealing variety of ethnic foods.
– Bring food from home or stop at an Orlando grocery. You will find many stores within 20 minutes of Disney World.
Bonus: Look for special packages that offer the Disney Dining Plan for free. Keep reading for more about the Dining Plan.
Option 2: We are willing to splurge on a few meals, but want to save money when possible.
If your family is cost-conscious but would like a few splurges, plan to eat at counter-service restaurants and use the tips under “Eating on a Budget.” Select one or two table-service restaurants or perhaps a character dining experience for a special treat.
– Eat most meals at counter-service restaurants at your resort and in the parks.
– Decide together what special restaurant will be most appreciated by your group. If you want to dine with the Disney princesses or other characters, you may prefer
a character meal, which costs about $15-25 per person.
– If you are comfortable following a few rules, consider the Disney Dining Package. Keep reading for more details.
Option 3: We want hassle-free dining and are not too worried about cost.
If you want worry-free dining, most Disney World dining options are open to you. Some table-service restaurants are very crowded, so be sure to make advance dining reservations beginning 180 days before arrival.
– Add the Disney Dining Plan to your vacation package. In fact, this program was designed just for guests like you who want the greatest convenience. It includes one table-service meal, one counter-service meal and one snack for each day of your vacation. You have to go by the rules to use your dining credits, but you will find many options and an overabundance of food offered. The cost per day is $38.99 per person age 10 and older and $10.99 for each child age 3-9.
– If you haven’t made advance dining reservations before arrival, contact Guest Services at each park or your resort for assistance.
Option 4: Fine dining is most important.
If you prefer unique and special dining, you will find a wide variety at Walt Disney World. Make your advance dining reservations up to 180 days in advance to be sure that you can be seated at your choice of restaurants.
– Choose restaurants from the restaurants that Disney classifies at Signature Dining and Special and Unique Dining.
– If you want all meals included in your vacation package, consider getting the Magic Your Way Premium Package. This package includes breakfast, lunch and dinner at the 100 participating restaurants plus other recreation and entertainment benefits.
Whatever your budget and dining preferences, take time to learn about the restaurants and other dining options at the Disney theme parks and resort hotels. Get a travel guidebook or two, and check Internet resources for more information. Make notes on restaurants that seem interesting. Call for reservations for table-service restaurants in advance; Disney accepts reservations beginning 180 days before your arrival. Being prepared will make your Disney World vacation less stressful and more fun.
Anne S. Easterling is the author of the EZ Fun Guide to Walt Disney World (ISBN 0-9768890-2-1), a unique travel guide that features color-coded park maps, easy-to-read checklists that cover resort hotels, recreation, restaurants, shopping and more. The 15 planning sheets help you personalize your vacation plans. She also hosts an online resource at http://www.ez-wdw.com, where visitors can download a free ebook titled “The EZ Fun Guide to the Magic Kingdom,” a 10-page PDF travel guide to the happiest place on earth. The book is available on Amazon.com and direct from the publisher at the web site above.
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