I remember the good ol’ days when Disney Dining was just a matter of showing up. Always a table, minimal wait and you could eat where and when you wanted to eat.
Today? It’s a different beast entirely.
On a recent trip, I really resented having to plan 6 months in advance. I didn’t realize how much I resented it until I completely forgot to make dining reservations for the bulk of our trip. Crazy. I know! Because I am an uber-planner.
But on the 180 day mark, I got up early, snagged a Be Our Guest reservation (the “must eat” for that trip) and then sat there, staring at the computer screen, overwhelmed because I had no idea what to do next. Some schedules weren’t out yet and being the seasoned planner that I am, I know that Disney will predictably change hours and Extra Magic times. I wanted to be fully armed with all information before I made a plan. So, I decided to wait.
And then, about a month out from our trip (it was an incredibly eventful and busy time of year for our family) I gasped on our way to a swim meet (or track meet or Boy Scout event – there’s no telling).
“What is it?” my husband exclaimed.
“I never finished making our dining reservations for our Disney trip next month!”
My husband laughed, “Very funny.”
“No, I’m serious. I forgot.”
He looked at me incredulously. “What happened? Who are you? And what have you done with my wife?”
Thinking back, I think I was so resentful that I had to plan our every minute of every day that I just put it on the back burner, the way, way back burner. And conveniently, “forgot.”
Call it passive aggressive, call it old age – whatever it was, it was now a problem.
“Let’s just wing it,” my husband suggested. “We’ve never done that before.”
I smiled. Well, maybe he hasn’t, but I remember the days when you could. “We can’t just wing it! We’ll be eating counter service the entire trip!”
“Well,” my husband shrugged, “What can we do about it now?”
Whether it’s an impromptu trip or you’re new to Disney or you just plain “forgot” we found there IS a way to eat at Disney (and pretty well, I might add) “on the fly.” Here’s how….
- Be prepared to eat at the many counter service eateries in Walt Disney World. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing anymore. Gone are the days of just hot dogs and hamburgers. You can now get quinoa salads, sushi, butternut squash soup, veggie stir-fry, chicken flatbread, bbq, clam chowder. There is something for everyone, the quality is good and it’s super quick.
- If you know where you’ll be at dinner time (or lunch) and you’re craving a sit-down experience, check your My Disney Experience app first thing in the morning. Cancellations happen all the time. On the app, just click “dining” then the little “+” sign. Follow the prompts (size of your party, which meal of the day, etc.) and available options will pop up. We were able to get a reservation at California Grill this way, a highly sought after reservation at the Contemporary Resort. And speaking of resorts……
- Check out Disney resorts for dining options. You don’t have to be staying there to eat there and the Disney resorts have some amazing dining options. For starters: Whispering Canyon Cafe (Wilderness Lodge), Yachtman’s Steakhouse (Yacht Club), Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Resort) and Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge.) The resorts convenient to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios are your best bets because transportation is direct and easy.
- And then there’s the old fashioned “simply walk up and see” approach. We were able to eat at Chefs de France (EPCOT) and Tusker House (Animal Kingdom) with this strategy. Two very yummy scores!
You CAN eat, very well I might add, at Walt Disney World “on the fly.” And sometimes, it’s the only way to go!