Part One – Reservations
We aren’t leaving for six months, why does it matter where we are going to eat? It doesn’t, unless you want character dining or you want to eat somewhere specific. Last trip, we tried three different times to eat at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. Every time it was an hour or two wait. We got so sick of picking up quick service food down the hall, but we never committed to making reservations. We like to have freedom to come home when we want or eat when we come to food on vacation. So if you want certain dinners, make reservations as soon as you pick your dates. I mean it. Chef Mickey and Cinderella’s Royal Table fill up fast. Make reservations here. You will put them on your credit card, and if you have the dining plan, you can tell them that at dinner and they won’t charge it to your card.
Part Two – Character Meals
We didn’t do any character dining or restaurant meals our first trip. It was a quick two-day trip for work, and we had a toddler. I was trying to go as cheaply as possible, so we didn’t do any bells or whistles. Our second trip was a four-day adventure with a Kindergartener. We had one character meal at Epcot, and I thought that you only got one character meal on the dining plan. I was wrong. You can have as many meals as you can schedule. Some places cost two dinner credits and others that include characters only cost one. This time we ate three character meals, and three was plenty.
Character meals are time-consuming and while it is wonderful to get to see a princess or Mickey up close, it isn’t a fun meal. As a mom, I was busy jumping up and taking pictures. I left the meals exhausted. By the third meal, even the kids were over it. The nice thing was after seeing Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger at Pooh’s Crystal Palace, we never had to wait in line to see them.
We have dined at 1900 Park Fare for breakfast, The Crystal Palace for dinner, and Cinderella’s Royal Table for lunch. Our last trip included dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. We enjoyed all of these places. Akershus’s menu was my least favorite. The positive about the dining plan is that you have these meals alloted to you regardless of cost. Character meals, and meals at Disney aren’t cheap. At Akershus, breakfast and lunch run from $15-$36. I think kids are $15 and adults are $36. Dinner is priced from $36-$60, and it really adds up if you want an adult beverage or your kids spot the glowing Tinkerbell punch at $6.50 a glass. Alcoholic drinks and Tinkerbell punch aren’t part of the dining plan, so even with it you might have a $50 bill with a drink and tip. Don’t forget about tips when planning your trip. You might think you bought the dining plan, so I don’t need a food budget. All sit-down dinners have wait staff, and all wait staff are tipped. Look at food costs online to budget tips.
Part Three – Scheduling Reservation Times
When scheduling meals, do not do resort meals at resorts you aren’t staying at if you don’t have a car first thing in the morning or late at night. It is really difficult to get to resorts early in the morning, and who wants to leave a park mid-day to go eat lunch. Most Disney transportation is not from hotel to hotel, so you will have to get to a park and take transportation back to a resort. Allow enough time to do this, and ask at the front desk which park is closest to you or the resort you where you are eating. We went to Epcot instead of Magic Kingdom because that bus showed up first and added about 30 minutes to our trip.
Consider your family. If you are a bunch of early risers, an early breakfast is a good idea, but an 8:00 dinner isn’t a good idea if that is past your child’s usual bed time. My husband doesn’t like to wake up early any day he doesn’t have to, so we did more lunches and dinners. or a 10:30 breakfast. We had just gotten up and ready. Most families had been at a park for two hours by then.
Is your time a good fit for that park. Sure you can get a great 7:45 dinner reservation at The Crystal Palace, but did you consider that you will miss the fireworks due to dinner. I know this gets complicated, and that is why you should ask lots of questions to friends that have done this before. 😉
Do you have a park-hopper pass? If not, were you planning on going to that park on that day? You don’t have to have a ticket to dine at resorts, but you do use your tickets to eat in the park. I would hate to have reservations at Animal Kingdom on a day it closes at 5 when all the other parks are open late.
Don’t make too many reservations. Did you really want to plan your vacation around eating? You can go first thing in the morning and get in some places or ask your concierge once you get up and decide where you are going for the day. There is also plenty of quick service fast food that tastes great. I have heard the restaurants at the value resorts leave a lot to be desired, so you might eat at the park or go to one of the nicer hotels around you. Just realize at some point all transportation stops so don’t get caught out. We have had the dining plan two times, and really enjoyed it. Both times it was free. I would be interested to see what you think if you had to pay for it.
Ok, enough rambling for now. Any questions?