Just like Lightning Lanes (aka the 2.0 version of the legacy FastPass+ system), Walt Disney World dining reservations can go quickly. Whether you are booking at the 60 day window for resort guests, or trying to “wing it” and find a reservation the day of, having a plan in place is important if you would like to save yourself sanity. No one likes dealing with “hangry” family members. Picture this: Members of your travel party dragging around the park and grumpy because the attraction wait times are long, there are no Table Service meals left… All you want is a place to sit, air conditioning and someone to take care of you. If you take anything away from this post, understand that Walk-Up Wait-Lists are often inaccurate, go quickly and it’s better to have a plan than no plan… Unless you are okay with eating the same chicken tenders from your resort Quick Service every day.
Now that we have covered that having a plan is important, let’s dive into the dining options at Walt Disney World and how to best leverage them!
Quick Service Mobile Ordering
Most all Quick Service restaurants at Walt Disney World Resort offer mobile ordering capabilities within the MyDisneyExperience app (MDE). Quick Service restaurants are similar to a fast casual or fast food restaurant you would have at home. While you can walk-up and order at most all locations, mobile ordering your Quick Service meals whenever possible is highly recommended. Especially during peak times (i.e. Noon-2pm, 5pm, etc.), the lines can get really long and they are completely avoidable (unless you are trying to do a food cart, which are usually walk-up only).
I highly recommend leveraging some of your time waiting at an attraction to plan your Quick Service meals. When you mobile order, you choose a return window time, you order the food and you pay! When your window opens, you open the Mobile Orders tab in the MDE app and hit the “I’m here, prepare my food” button. During this time, I highly recommend you scout a table, do your bathroom runs with your kids, grab any condiments, etc. Next thing you know, you will receive a notification that you food is ready and what pick-up window within the restaurant you need to go and pick it up. EASY as pie! Trust me, this will make dining so much easier and less stressful during even the busiest times of day!
Mobile ordering has significantly improved and is faster now than it has been over the past year. This is likely due to increased staffing and capacity at the Quick Service restaurants. Even during peak times, the food was prepared within 10 minutes, whereas earlier in the year, it would take 20-30 minutes at some locations. Be prepared that at some locations, during high attendance and peak meal times, you still may have to wait for a lengthy amount of time for your food to be ready. Thus, when this happens I suggest taking this time to refresh. Grab a table, use the restroom, drink some water. Just have some down time to reset everyone in your party. Taking the time to reset your mental and physical health while on a theme park vacation is crucial to your overall enjoyment of the experience.
Booking Potential Sit Downs
Table Service restaurants are those in which you are seated and are waited on by Cast Members. This is like your typical out do eat dining experience and the level of service and food greatly varies by the type of Table Service you book. Table Service includes Character Dining Experience locations, signature (aka fine dining) as well as casual sit down style restaurants (think your favorite local sit down dining). Sometimes, nothing is better during a long day in the parks than a shower and then heading to a great sit down meal!
If you are even remotely thinking you may want a dining reservation for a Table Service meal, I highly encourage you to make a reservation. You have up until the day before your reservation to cancel in the MDE app. On the day of your reservation, you can go to the restaurant and cancel in person if you chose not to dine. Often, the hotel front desk or the Guest Experience team can help if you experience any issues. Additionally, if it is the day of, you can often go into the MDE app and modify your reservation out to another date and then elect to cancel it. By pushing the reservation out by a few days, puts your reservation within the no penalty cancellation policy. If you just decide to cancel the day of, in the app, without any of my above mentioned tips, you will be charged a $10 per person no-show fee.
In theory, the “Walk-Up Wait-list” option inside the MDE app is a good option but unreliable. After having just returned from Walt Disney World, I experienced first hand the inaccuracy of this option. The MDE app will show you if a Table Service restaurant offers a walk-up list option and will tell you if the list is at capacity. However, during our stay, we had restaurants that showed availability and the app told us it would be an estimated 10 minute wait for our party size. It would say “walk closer to restaurant to join the list.” Once we got to the actual restaurant, we were told there was no wait-list option and we were turned away. In this particular case, we were at our resort and took the Skyliner to get to the restaurant, only to be turned away. This was a huge waste of our time. Moral of this story: don’t count on walk-up wait-lists. Look for actual available Table Service time reservations and book as soon as you know, otherwise, be prepared for eating Quick Service any meal you don’t already have a reservation booked.