Updated for 2014!
Meal time can be what I call “crazy time” at Disney World. Do you want to dine at a resort restaurant or one of the food courts? Were you able to snag Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) far enough in advance to book the actual restaurant where you really wanted to eat? Did you wind up standing in line at Casey’s Corner with 100 people after a Main Street, U.S.A., parade? Did you have to leave your kids at a table by themselves so you could order the food?
Some of the best advice I can give you on meals, (well, except vacation in Orlando when the food is free, duh!) is to avoid eating when everyone else is hungry.
Disney World Food Tip #5: eat before or after the “normal” meal times.
Most people will start to get hungry for lunch around say 11 a.m. to one p.m., and thus counter service lines will be long. Most people will start to get hungry from 5 to 7 p.m. for dinner, and lines to order and pick up food will be long. By long, I mean five to ten to fifteen people in front of you. We walked in Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios once about noon and walked right back out when the lines reached the door.
What’s the best way to avoid yet another line? Eat before or after these peak rush times. Head over for lunch around 10:30, or eat a huge breakfast and eat lunch after 1:30. If you eat at a character meal, you may not be hungry for lunch until two anyway.
This seems like an easy concept, but it can take some planning.
If you eat at the same time every day, your body will tell you its hungry, and this may not be the best time to avoid crowds. And if you are traveling with toddlers and small children that regularly eat their meals during these busy times, you all might need a snack or a mini-meal to hold you over until the crowds clear out or at least subside.
The big trick is to make plans to eat meals when the whole world isn’t hungry, and like Disney magic, the counter service lines will be shorter, and you will be in and out before you can say Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo! Plus you will have a better table selection. And if you were hoping to pop by a table service restaurant for a last-minute reservation, you will have a better luck when hundreds of your closest Disney friends didn’t show up to do the exact same thing.
My kids are between thirteen and sixteen-years-old, and it still makes me a little nervous to leave them at a table while I go stand in a counter service line at noon that is ten people deep. It made me really nervous when they were younger, and Disney is a safe enough place, but what if they wander off, or fall off a table, or start to cry or fight?
During really busy holidays, some restaurants will not let you be seated until you have your food on a tray. During high crowd volume times like Christmas, Pecos Bills Tall Tale Inn has Cast Member standing by to make sure you have food in hand before you try to snag a table. I once got stopped twice within seven feet while returning from the restroom to my already occupied table.
My children (who, like me, hate waiting on anything) have waited outside counter service restaurants while we waited inside on food so we could all be seated together, and how’s that for vacation bonding? I can’t imagine standing in a 20-30 minute ordering line with hungry toddlers or three tired and fussy teens.
If it’s a popular time to be eating a meal, like noon or 5 p.m., then you’re going to be standing in line for a while. Try lunch at two or dinner at four, and you will notice the lines are shorter.
Last summer, my children and I got a late 6 p.m. start on the Magic Kingdom. We somehow got distracted riding rides and looked up to realize it was 9:25 p.m., and we had completely missed dinner. We ran into Cosmic Rays, where we had an entire section to ourselves. We were also starved, so the food tasted extra good. My sons said it was the best meal they have ever eaten.
The year before, we ate dinner about 8:45 p.m. in the same place at almost the same table and watched several large families enjoying a late dinner/snack. Several of the adults had fallen asleep in their chairs, which proved to be extremely funny to the family members. When and where else can you pass out during dinner and nobody get angry?!
Of course, eating a counter service meal at 10:30 a.m. or 4 p.m. won’t save you any actual cash. Counter service meals are priced the same all day long. But you save valuable time by not waiting in lengthy food lines, which gives you time to stand in line for roller coasters. To me, not waiting 20-30 minutes to get food is saving money, because that’s time better used enjoying a ride.
Now choosing certain times for select table service restaurants can save you money, actual real money. Check it out:
Thanks for stopping by for a quick Disney food tip, and we’ll see you in line for dinner about 4 p.m.
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