Skip to Content

Disney Dining Experiences Within a Budget: 5 Essential Tips

Sharing is caring!

Over the past several years Walt Disney World has been increasingly about the food. Dining
experiences are just that… experiences.

But how do you find good Disney World dining and keep an eye on your budget?

The key is to narrow down exactly the kind of Disney Dining Experience that you want and then work this into your budget.

Save one day by having a quick service meal and even bringing food into the park. Then the next day splurge on a restaurant you really want to go to.

From Story Book themes to breathtaking views, a dining reservation can be your number one Disney attraction this year.

how to get from Epcot to Magic Kingdom
Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Whether you follow celebrity chefs or prefer a Disney-like out-of-this-world themed experience, there is nothing more essential to a good Walt Disney World vacation than enjoying the highly anticipated,
unique Disney dining experiences.

Disney World dining comes in all shapes and sizes. To have a well-rounded vacation you will want to
experience them all in some way.

No matter what kind of Disney dining experience you choose, or what restaurants you book during your trip, keep these essential ideas in mind so that you can make the most of your extraordinary meals at Walt Disney World.

While I tried to stay away from really pricey suggestions (aka not essential) I still highly
recommend some signature dining and virtually any restaurant on the Landing at Disney
Springs if it’s in your budget.

Don’t Forget to Use Mobile Order/Mobile Check-In at Disney World

The use of your mobile device in planning a Disney World trip and navigating your itinerary is

In most cases, it makes your vacation run even more smoothly than it ever could

There is room for improvement, but for the most part, the Disney World app and the Disney Genie tool do a good job of helping guests get a good idea of how to spend their time in the parks.

However, the best use I have found for my phone on Disney trips besides pictures is
the mobile order and mobile check-in functions for dining.

Disney World Animal Kingdom Starbucks

When you want to have a quick service meal, you can order and pay for your food before you
even get to the restaurant.

Then you can save time by skipping the pay line and picking up your food directly. This is a common practice we are all probably accustomed to by now, but it is absolutely essential for saving time at Walt Disney World.

It is still surprising that not all that many people seem to use Mobile Order to save a lot of time.

Mobile Check-in is another tool that lets you remotely check-in for your dining reservation.

Getting used to these features and understanding how to use them before your trip is an important part of making your vacation plans go more smoothly.

What’s The Signature Dish?

Nearly every restaurant at Walt Disney World has that dish that they are famous for. My advice
when going to a Disney restaurant for the first time is to find out what they’re known for.

There are exceptions of course, especially for personal taste.

However, for the most part, this is a really good approach if you want to experience the essence of a particular place.

Your dining experience in the Disney parks is just an extension of your overall day at the park, so it’s essential to have that experience blend well with the surrounding themes and highlight the meal experience

Some examples are the Cobb Salad at the Hollywood Brown Derby, the Lobster Roll at
Columbia Harbor House, or the Neapolitan Pizza at Via Napoli.

Be in on the Joke

Some restaurants are more about the fun than the food.

These places can be an excellent value or a more luxurious immersive experience, but as part of the meal, the servers dish out more than just the food.

If you can take it, let them bring you in on the gag at iconic Disney restaurants like 50’s Prime Time Cafe, Whispering Canyon, or Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd.Skipper Canteen.

The staff is entertaining while maintaining a high standard of quality customer service. Granted, the dining experience has lost some of its edge over the decades, but it remains a staple of the Disney dining experience for families.

Disney World Dining Package

We are all wondering when the very much missed Disney Dining Package will come back. Indeed, even if it ever will come back.

The Disney Dining Package allowed guests to pre-purchase a certain number of days dining at Disney World restaurants, quick service dining, and snack locations. Sometimes it was even offered free!

However, this has not been seen since the shutdown. There is a lot of talk about whether or not the Disney Dining Plan will come back, but at this point, no one knows for sure.

Epcot Italy Restaurants
Epcot Italy has some fabulous restaurants

There are other ‘dining packages’ around which are a different thing to the Disney Dining Plan.

Dining packages in some form or another exist in all the parks. They are a way to leverage the value of your mealtime experience by including reserved seating for one of the popular nighttime shows.

One example of a dining package at Disney World is the concert series package during festivals at EPCOT. Select restaurants include the dining package.

When you purchase the package, it buys you a seat in the American Gardens Theater for the
performance on that evening.

We expect the Fantasmic! dining package to return when the show does later this year. This very popular package allows you to book a dining reservation for a set price, and you will then get access to a specially reserved area for Fantasmic!

There are also fireworks dessert parties at Magic Kingdom, this is like a dining package, but
instead of a meal, it includes sweet and savory snacks with beverages.

Disney World Character Dining

Perhaps the best known of all the essential Disney dining experiences you can have is
character dining.

These Disney dining experiences take on many forms. Still, any character dining experience is sufficient for getting the most out of your Disney vacation.


Photo By Disney

One of the best types of character dining experience is called StoryBook dining. In these scenarios, the whole restaurant is suited to a particular character theme.

Even the menu reflects the characters and the stories they come from. The Snow White-themed restaurant at Artist Point is one of the first examples of this.

Located at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Artist Point is one of those lesser-known places to dine that many people overlook. However, it is one of the best opportunities to dine with characters at Disney World. And one of the few places where you can meet the Evil Queen.

If characters aren’t your thing, the rooftop dining experience is practically just as iconic. Try the
California Grill, Topolino’s Terrace, or Toledo for fine food and a fantastic view.

These are more expensive Disney dining experiences but they are also Disney’s trendiest restaurants at the

Other character dining restaurants that feature Mickey and friends are Garden Grill, Tusker
House, Chef Mickey’s, and Hollywood and Vine. Popular

Disney Princess meals include Cinderella’s Royal Table, Akershus, and 1900 Park Fare. Unfortunately, Akershus in Epcot is still unavailable but hopefully will reopen sometime in the near future.