So, have you booked your vacation well ahead of time, or have you just booked at short notice? How on earth do you decide what restaurants to book, and at what time?
Quick Service or Table Service? Dining plan or pay as you go? Do I need to decide 6 months out (if I can)? What character meals? Princesses? Winnie the Pooh and Friends? Disney Junior? Are 2-credit dining experiences worth it?
So many things to think about.
However, my wife Kat and I have just booked our dining for our stay on property 6 months out (to make sure we get reservations we want). We have answered all of these questions, without too much pain.
We have both a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old girl. This is our 4th family Walt Disney World vacation since 2013. We are celebrating my 40th; hence, staying on property and taking the dining plan.
While there are a lot of restaurants we could have booked nearer the time, it was easier to plan ahead and book something for most days. We can always cancel and change plans for most restaurants with no charge, but planning our dining helps shape our vacation, in knowing what days to get FastPasses for which park!
How did we go about it?
We have gathered a lot of opinions from Disney "veterans”, discussed together, obsessively listened to all DIS Unplugged podcasts and the Disney Dining Show, and studied wdwinfo.com (all restaurant menus).
We would have found it useful to see a sample plan with direct links to the great info on the site, or a real life example (for table service at least), so I hope you find this article useful. We can perhaps cover the quick service plan and choices in another article.
Please remember — there is no right or wrong — just what’s right for your family (but take Dis Unplugged opinions seriously, especially Pete!) Check out this show for rookie mistakes. Time will tell how it works out!
We are staying 13 nights in summer at Disney's Beach Club Resort.
The (in) famous Grey Stuff at the Beast's Castle (Be Our Guest)
So how did we then decide? The principles behind our bookings:
- We are on the table service dining plan.
- We planned and booked all of our table service meals by using the My Disney Experience app, or the Disney website as soon as available. (First 11 days, 180 days from arrival; then Day 12, 179 days out; and Day 13, 178 days out.)
- We have chosen three 2-credit experiences.
- We therefore have seven 1-credit restaurants in our plan.
- We will use snacks and quick service to fill in the gaps.
- We booked quick service breakfast at Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom — the only quick service we had to reserve.
The Famous Bread Pudding at 'Ohana - a must!
So, what did we decide to go for?
- Family experience ahead of value — Dinners are the same credits as breakfasts, but as dinner costs more, it could be argued you should always use table service credits for dinner. Bear in mind, however, you tip on what out of pocket price would have been. Therefore dinner does cost you more.
- Dinner is not the best time for our children to eat their biggest meal on vacation, so we only have 4 dinners out of 13 nights as table service (and these are early evening).
- We don’t mix late nights and early mornings! Due to jet lag from UK, we do early mornings week 1 and later nights week 2.
- On previous trips we have done breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, Disney Junior at Hollywood and Vine (twice), Crystal Palace and Tusker House (twice), so we ruled these out.
- We wanted to do some dining around our own resort.
- We had to do a steak night!
- Cinderella’s Royal table was our number 1 priority on the dining plan (gratuity included for 2 credits) — for the castle experience for the girls.
- I wanted a special last night, so fireworks from California Grill it is. (I appreciate that the view of the castle for projections themselves is not ideal, but will be great for the fireworks part.)
- I wanted a special 1-credit dinner to celebrate my 40th birthday with my brother and his family, whose holiday overlaps with ours. There was only one contender based on a fabulous previous experience - 'Ohana!
- Yachtsman Steakhouse - Disney's Yacht Club Resort
- Cinderella's Royal Table - Magic Kingdom
- California Grill - Disney's Contemporary Resort
- 'Ohana - Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
- 1900 Park Fare - Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Boma - Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Chef Mickeys - Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Princess Storybook Dining, Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall - Norway pavilion, Epcot
Out of our 10 choices, we have 6 character experiences. Non-character meals are 2 credits or buffets: Boma and Ohana.
I could bore you with exactly why we chose each restaurant, but you get the idea; our choice is just based on our opinion anyway!
We can’t wait for our trip ! Let us know how you plan for you food, and what restaurants are must-do’s for your vacation
- Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast, Cape May Cafe, Disney's Beach Club Resort
- Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast with Rapunzel and Flynn, Trattoria al Forno, Disney's Boardwalk