The Delicate Art of Disney Dining Decisions

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Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Snacks, snacks, snacks!!! Oh the plethora of culinary options. While there are definitely snacks I think you should make a point to hunt down at WDW, and quick service options I recommend over others, only your table service meals really need planing. We usually have 1 table service a day, and typically it’s dinner. This is for a couple of reasons:

  1. Mornings are the best time to be in the parks. If you arrive at rope drop you can enjoy 2-3 hours of reduced crowds before the late sleepers start arriving.  It’s also cooler in the morning. I don’t like to waste that time eating breakfast. An apple & trail mix on the go, or a cinnamon roll and coffee from Joffrey’s works for me.
  2. Table service meals tend to be more filling. It’s harder to run around enjoying attractions in the hot sunshine with a full belly.

Andy and I love food. Maybe we’re even “foodies.” Trying new flavors and textures of cuisine/wine/beer/cocktails/coffee excites us and we love sharing these experiences together, as well as with our family and friends. Our passion for food and my desire to plan a fluid vacation mean I spend a lot of energy considering our table service reservations during our trip. (Andy would probably claim I obsess, but isn’t planning half of the fun!?)

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Confession: I have trouble committing to my dining plans at Disney World. There are so many choices! I make initial reservations as soon as I can.  (180 days out if you’re staying at a WDW resort hotel.) Planning is essential and you’ll hear me say that one million times over. But, I often end up tweaking and changing what I have – chasing the dream of the perfect dining reservations combo. (Is this zeal or obsession?)

It’s a game of strategy. Sort of an algebraic equation:

cuisine type preferences + dining time + restaurant performance + location ÷ favorite must haves + new experiences   = PERFECT DINING PLAN!!

Eureka!

You must balance the type of cuisine you enjoy with the reservation time making sure it’s in the park you’re visiting (or not visiting) that day. I’m constantly combing my favorite Disney sources like Disney Food Blog, for their latest opinions which influence my decisions. Which restaurants are performing consistently high? Which offer amazing service? Finally there’s the pull of old favorites, or forgoing somewhere I had a positive experience a couple of years ago to try something new.

I realize that for some people table service restaurants aren’t that important. Plenty of people are happy to grab quick service for their entire trip. I’m not judging! There are plenty of delicious quick service options. Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom, for example. Or, Earl of Sandwich in Disney Springs. Yummy. (And many more!)

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But if you’re going to make dining reservations, and you’re like me, you want to make sure your choices are optimal. So how do you apply that magic formula to your planning? I let the Extra Magic Hours guide when I visit what parks. Depending on the park and its proximate locations (i.e. The Contemporary is just outside Magic Kingdom), I decide the best cuisine location in that area. It’s hard to curtail Epcot and Disney Springs restaurants because of their numerous choices. That’s when I turn to sources like Disney Food Blog, who are eating in the parks frequently, to assist in my decision.

Sometimes I still end up changing my mind. For example, we were planning to dine at Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom on our upcoming trip where dinner is sort of Thanksgiving traditional. Liberty Tree has a fantastic reputation for consistently delicious food. Though it has great ratings, there’s something about the pot roast, turkey and stuffing vibe in June we couldn’t get past. So we opted to try out the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen instead, Magic Kingdom’s newest table service spot. The Jungle Cruise theme has high appeal and the food is reportedly pretty good.

And don’t get me wrong – most table service spots are going to provide you with some tasty chow.  I can’t recall a truly lousy meal on any of my trips. But each trip some spots stand out above the rest.

So my advice? You do you! If you want to go crazy and research – go for it! Or perhaps you want to just roll the dice and choose a spot. Either way, here are the ESSENTIAL THINGS you should do:

1.) Make reservations!! I really can’t say that enough. And make them as early as you possibly can. Trust me.

2.) Ensure your location is convenient. Due to the size of Disney World it can take a couple of hours to get from one point to another. Don’t pick a restaurant in Animal Kingdom if you plan to spend the day in Magic Kingdom.

3.) Make reservations a time that works for your schedule. If a big lunch makes you uncomfortable, skip table service then. Don’t schedule dinner at 5:00 if you normally eat late. Do what makes sense for you and your family.

4.) Have an open mind. Remember you’re on vacation. Wherever you end up dining, relax, enjoy, and savor the experience!

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See ya real soon!

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