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One of the best things about vacationing at Disney World is the food! In this post I’ll recap all the meals we ate during our January 2021 trip to Disney World. During our 5 night stay, the Disney Dining Plan was not available so we paid for our meals out of pocket.
I’ll give you the pros and cons of each restaurant we visited. At the end of the post I’ll wrap it up with my best money saving tips, tell you how much we spent for the week and answer the question “Do you prefer the Disney Dining Plan?”
Magic Kingdom – Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe
- Pros: Lots of indoor and outdoor seating, menu options offer something for pretty much everyone in your family
- Cons: The music in Tomorrowland drives me nuts. 🙂
Coronado Springs Resort – Three Bridges Bar and Grill
- Pros: Stunning water views, great service, delicious food, prices are reasonable
- Cons: The menu doesn’t have any basic entrees for super picky eaters
Hollywood Studios – Galaxy’s Edge – Ronto Roasters
- Pros: The perfect place to grab breakfast after riding all the Star Wars rides! We love the Ronto Morning Wrap. You might also be able to watch the Storm Troopers across the sidewalk!
- Cons: It’s usually really busy in Galaxy’s Edge so it might be hard to find a seat. We ate quickly and gave our table to another family.
Hollywood Studios – Hollywood Brown Derby
- Pros: Elegant Old Hollywood atmosphere, delicious food, great service and a great place for an adults only meal!
- Cons: The menu is pricey and doesn’t offer much for picky eaters.
Coronado Springs Resort – El Mercado De Coronado
- Pros: Easy to grab a quick meal after returning from the parks
- Cons: The offerings are currently very limited (pizza, subs, chicken tenders) and are not a good value. This could change any day as things continue to reopen and expand. On our 2019 trip, this was one of our favorite restaurants!
Epcot World Showcase – UK Pavilion – Yorkshire County Fish Shop
- Pros: Delicious fish and chips, great value, lovely view of the pavilion
- Cons: They only sell fish and chips so it might not be for everyone, and there is not indoor seating.
Tip: Stop at the bakery in the France pavilion!
Epcot – The Land – Coral Reef
- Pros: The atmosphere is really fun – one wall of the dining room is the aquarium! Good menu options, delicious food and good table service.
- Cons: None
I didn’t get a picture of our food here, but we always stop at Gaston’s Tavern (in Magic Kingdom) for a warm cinnamon roll. They are so good!
Magic Kingdom – Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
- Pros: A nice option for something other than typical park food, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (the Princess calvalcade went right past our table outside the restaurant!).
- Cons: None!
Disney Springs – Raglan Road
- Pros: Delicious food and a really fun nighttime atmosphere
- Cons: It’s a pub, so it’s very loud and hard to have a conversation (which isn’t necessarily a con if you’re there for the atmosphere).
Tip: Arrive before 5:30 to get a table near the stage. We saw this band + 3 award winning Irish dancers!
They were all good experiences, but my favorites from this trip were The Hollywood Brown Derby, Three Bridges Bar & Grill and Pecos Bill.
Rounding up a few tips for you:
Menus are really limited right now, in terms of what’s available to order and what comes with your entree. I assume that menus will continue to change and expand, though!
Mobile ordering is great! Most of the quick service restaurants have this in place, meaning you must order through the Disney app and cannot enter the restaurant until your order is ready to be picked up.
This keeps it from getting too crowded at the counter, which is really nice! We usually ordered lunch around 11:30 and never had to wait more than 5 minutes for our food.
There is ample seating at quick service restaurants, both indoors and outside. It’s all spaced out with some tables blocked off for distancing. As I recall, I believe some table service restaurants have outdoor seating options as well (I don’t think Coral Reef or Hollywood Brown Derby had outdoor seating).
Masks can be removed as soon as you sit down at a table. You do not have to wait for your food.
Money Saving Tips:
- Carry a few water bottles with you – if a restaurant doesn’t offer cups of water, you’ll save almost $4 a bottle by carrying your own!
- Use your Disney Visa card to receive 10% off your meal at select table service restaurants. We did this at Coral Reef and The Hollywood Brown Derby.
- Use the Disney Visa card for daily purchases in the months leading up to your trip to earn Disney Rewards Dollars. These can be transferred to a gift card that can be used in all the restaurants and gift shops!
- Bring your own breakfast. With one exception, we ate all our breakfasts in our room. I brought fruit, yogurt, donuts, Naked smoothies, breakfast bars, milk and orange juice. There’s a small fridge in the room that held all of my cold items, including a gallon of milk and a large coffee creamer. The rooms are stocked with K-cups but Disney only offers plain Coffeemate. I need flavored creamer so I always bring my own. 🙂
Do we prefer the Disney Dining Plan?
My answer is yes – but with an exception. Our two previous trips were during a free dining promotion, which is the only way it’s a good deal. The dining plan gives you meal credits which mean that you can order whatever you want without it impacting the overall cost of your meal (except for the tip). I love that the meal credits give you an entree and a beverage, and if you’re at a table service restaurant you also receive an appetizer and dessert.
I love the luxury of ordering whatever I want without worrying about the cost – a total 180 from my normal frugal mindset. I also love that our vacation is completely paid for before we arrive (except for tips and shopping).
We spent just under $375 for the meals you see in this post. Purchasing the Dining Plan would cost (roughly) between $550-$780. There are a lot of variables here, but I think it’s safe to say that for us it’s cheaper to not purchase the Dining Plan. Would I book a trip during a free dining promotion in the future? Absolutely.
I’m not a Disney expert – that’s why I never book a Disney vacation without using a Disney travel agent! Amy Jackson from Magical Moments Vacations has helped me with our last two trips and has been a tremendous resource. It doesn’t cost anything to use her services. Send her an email (A.jackson at mmvagent.com) and she will help you put together the best vacation for your family’s needs!
If you want more Disney dining info, you can watch today’s YouTube video with footage from our meals! This will give you a good idea of crowd levels, restaurant atmospheres and seating availability.
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