What Do I Need to Know about Disney Dining in 2022?

Vacation season is almost here, and it’s time to brush up on the fundamentals.

Plenty has changed at Walt Disney World since the last time you visited. Yup, you’ve missed some stuff.

Here’s what you need to know about Disney Dining in 2022.

How Reservations Work

Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) have definitely changed during the pandemic.

Historically, guests could book ADRs up to 180 days before their Walt Disney World vacation started.

However, Disney faced constant criticism from tourists. Many felt that Disney trips required too much planning. They pointed to the 180-day window as Exhibit A.

That’s a realistic perspective. After all, knowing where you’ll eat in six months is weird. People WILL look at you funny when you say it. I’m speaking from experience.

So, Disney modified the process. Now, you’ll book ADRs 60 days before your trip.

Topolinos

(Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Let’s say you arrive at Walt Disney World on December 20th. Your 60-day window would start on October 1St.

On that morning, you’ll have two options to book dining reservations. At 7 am, you can call the Walt Disney World dining hotline.

Mickey cell phone

Honestly, the phone call is an outdated method of communication these days, though. You must wait for a customer service agent, and you may face busy signals and/or significant hold time.

The better, faster way involves My Disney Experience. Disney opens this system for new reservations at 6 am each morning. Yes, that’s earlier than phone support.

My Disney Experience dining

So, this system sometimes opens even early. Most people aim for 5:45 am So you could feasibly get the jump on people who don’t know this per tip.

By the way, you’ll benefit from longer Walt Disney World vacations. When your ADR booking window opens, you can make reservations for the length of your stay.

Disney Magic Mobile

Let’s say that you’re staying for a week. You can book your last day at the same time as your first. This strategy effectively stretches your window to 66 days.

Finally, please understand that Disney charges a modest fee to guests who book ADRs but then no-show the meal.

How Quick Service Meals Work

I won’t say that Disney requires guests to use Mobile Ordering now. Let’s just say that the parks strongly encourage you to do so.

Not that long ago, Disney introduced Mobile Ordering via a modest rollout, one that reflected modest expectations for the service.

mobile order

Once the pandemic occurred, well, you can figure out the rest. One of my favorite local restaurants designed a mobile order app during the pandemic. It’s Commodore 64 tech.

The people who waited too long for smartphone meal orders got left behind. Disney got ahead of the curve on this one, and it saved the company’s bacon.

Mobile orders

Still, you can enter a line and order food at some places. So, if you miss that sort of thing, A) you and I are very different people B) the option remains.

Presuming that you use Mobile Ordering, you’ll discover a streamlined process at the parks.

Mobile orders

Photo: Disney

You won’t have to interact with anyone at the cash register or in the kitchen. Instead, cast members place Mobile Orders in a special holding area.

You’ll signal when you want Disney to prepare your meal. Then, you’ll enter the restaurant and (usually) find your dinner waiting for you.

Mobile orders

The other change to know involves tables. Some places at Walt Disney World require you to show that you have a Mobile Order before you take a seat.

This change works in your favor. You’re exponentially more likely to get a table at popular Quick Service restaurants now.

Disneyland young adults

Credit: Disney

How Table Service Restaurants Work

The theming at Table Service restaurants will blow your mind. Some places provide such immersion that you may forget to eat at times.

You’ll be too busy spinning your head around to admire the splendor that Imagineers have created.

paddlefish

Photo: paddlefish

Some Disney restaurants also host character meals. These are services where beloved Disney characters roam from table to table to greet guests.

Perhaps no restaurant embodies the character meal more than Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Mickey Mouse wears an adorable chef’s costume and proudly interacts with his customers.

Then, places like Coral Reef Restaurant will seat you beside a full-sized aquarium, where sharks frequently swim toward you.

Photo: Disney Daily Dime

During the pandemic, the significant change at restaurants is the seating process. You check in online now via the My Disney Experience app.

Once you signal that you’re ready to eat, a host/hostess will call out your name and direct you toward your table.

There, you may discover a QR code rather than a menu. Disney introduced QR codes during the pandemic, but many places still use them.

You know the deal here. Once you scan the code with your smart device, the menu displays on your phone.

Otherwise, service works just as you remember.

Where is the dining plan?

I don’t have good news on this front. The answer is that I don’t know. I wrote everything I knew about the situation in early March.

The gist is that Disney promised to bring back the dining plan in 2022. In past years, a free Disney dining plan option debuted in January.

This free version of the plan usually involved park visits in April and beyond. So, I think it’s not a huge stretch to believe that won’t happen. ahem.

I’m still operating under the assumption that Disney will keep its word. At some point in 2022, the dining plan will return.

We just don’t know when, or what, if anything, will be different about the program.

Where Should I Eat?

I recently started a new series of articles about the best places to dine at various Walt Disney World theme parks.

Frankly, the answer is ever-changing. Chefs come and go, while managers change menus to keep them feeling fresh and exciting.

Still, many Disney restaurants have established reputations for excellence.

Here are what I’d consider the elite places at various parks:

MagicKingdom

  • Be Our Guest
  • Casey’s Corner
  • Columbia Harbor House
  • Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen
  • Liberty Tree Tavern

EPCOT

  • Le Cellier Steakhouse
  • Regal Eagle Smokehouse
  • Rose & Crown Dining Room
  • San Angel Inn Restaurante
  • Space 220
  • Sunshine Seasons
  • Teppan Edo

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • Flame Tree BBQ
  • Satu’li Canteen
  • Tusker House
  • Yak & Yeti

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • 50’s Prime Time Cafe
  • ABC Commissary
  • Backlot Express
  • Ronto Roasters
  • Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
  • Woody’s Lunch Box

Please understand that I’m not basing these suggestions on anything other than my own opinions.

I’ve excluded several places like Biergarten Restaurant, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chefs de France, and others that many would suggest.

Something else to keep in mind is that Disney resorts often host some of the best restaurants at Walt Disney World.

Also, plenty of people would argue that Disney Springs serves food that rivals or surpasses EPCOT’s offerings.

So, those are the two places to prioritize if you’re a foodie.

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