This audio is from our free course that helps you plan a vacation to Disneyland. In this module, we cover the different types of dining options at Disneyland, how to book your reservation, and some tips with folks with food allergies.
Chapters and Time Stamps
Do You Need Dining Reservations?
Let's talk about dining and dining reservations at Disneyland. Now there's a lot of talk about dining reservations and how you have to have dining reservations. I will tell you that most of my childhood and young adult visits to Disneyland did not include dining reservations. You can have an amazing time without going to any of the locations that require reservation.
That said, in this section we're going to talk not only about the dining reservations and what kind of restaurants ask for reservations and if you really need them, but also the restaurants that don't require reservations and how you can find out more about those. There are locations at Disneyland that you can make reservations for.
Now, one thing that is not always well known is there usually are walk-ups available during the day. During the day at Disneyland, even for restaurants like Blue Bayou, Carthay Circle, places that can be hard to get reservations for, throughout the day there might be one or two spots, a canceled reservation, where somebody didn't show up for a reservation and so now they have additional room. So if you keep checking the app, there is the ability to get into those restaurants, even if you weren't able to make your reservation. However, those can be hit and miss and depending on how busy that park is that day, there might not be a lot of availability. So it's not a guarantee. So if you're really set that you want to go to one of the locations that has a reservation, I would highly recommend that you make a reservation.
It says in our apps, reservations are required because for the most part, the best way to get into those is to have a reservation.
What Does Quick Service (QS) Mean?
So we're going to talk about those reservations in a minute, but let's first talk about the other kinds of locations that there are at Disneyland. And those are quick serve locations. So anything that Disney calls quick service is basically you go up, you order at the counter and you take your food to the table.
Save Time in Line with Mobile Order
Now they've added this thing called mobile order where you can order everything on your app, tell them that you're on the way, and then they will have everything ready. You still might need to wait 5 or 10 minutes, but it will save you at least a half hour.
Each day you're planning to be in the park, you want to set an alarm for around 10 o'clock for lunch; and you're not going to eat lunch at 10, that would be way too early for most people. But what you are going to do is order your food then and schedule it for when you want to have your lunch. When you are ready to go pick up your lunch, you let them know that you're on the way. You do that through the app and then your food will be pretty much ready by the time you get there. This will save you a ton of time. Ordering at the locations, especially around the peak period of lunchtime, can take half an hour or more sometimes. So you want to make sure that whenever possible you're going to use mobile order. In the app, we have whether or not mobile order is available for each location.
Quick Serve Locations Offer Less Expensive Options
Some of the advantages for quick serve restaurants is that they are much less expensive. You can go for a quarter or a third of the price to be able to eat at some of these quick serve restaurants. There are some locations that have food that's shareable, that you could order two or three meals for four people and save money. Again, we want to recommend that you use mobile order and you want to book that out at least an hour to two hours ahead of time, especially at popular locations. Sometimes the next available slot on mobile order might be an hour or 90 minutes away. And if you're already hungry, then that will put everybody in a really cranky mood.
If you do get stuck in one of those situations where the food that you want is not going to be able to be available right away, there are a lot of snacks available around the parks; churros, turkey legs, corn on the cob, popcorn, all sorts of fun things that you can have a little snack to keep people from getting hungry.
I also usually keep some high protein snacks, like nuts and beef jerky in my backpack. For little ones that maybe aren't quite as good at being able to wait for food when they were younger, I would bring things like fruit roll ups and fruit snacks. Snacks that they were already accustomed to and I knew that they liked just in case they didn't like the meal at the restaurant.
Dealing with Multiple Food Allergies
If you have multiple food allergies, you can still get served at quick serve restaurants, but you are going to want to go and order in person and talk to the chef. If you let the person that's taking the order know that you have food allergies, they will bring a chef out. They will discuss what options are available. Even at the counter serve restaurants, they have a binder where they can go through every ingredient in every item, even if you have an uncommon food allergy.
Search for Allergy Friendly Option With Our Picky Mickey App
And if you're looking for something in particular, you're looking for pizza, you're trying to find where they serve alcohol, or where you can eat indoors, all of that is available within our app. You can filter by all of those different things, including allergies to find out what gluten-free options or what dairy-free options are available throughout the park.
Table Service Meals (Sit Down Restaurants)
Outside of the quick serve locations, there's also table service, and that's going to be where you order from a waiter or there's a buffet and you have a waiter to bring you your drinks. Pretty much all of the locations that you're going to talk to a waiter are going to require reservations.
There never used to be a big push for dining reservations at Disneyland because there's so many locals that come to Disneyland, I was one of them growing up, that don't necessarily do all of the dining reservations like they do at Disney World, then until recently getting a reservation at Disneyland was not very difficult but with the rise of TikTok and Facebook reels people showing about some of the amazing experiences that they've started to create in these dining locations, some of these places can book out pretty early, and so you will need to get those dining reservations as soon as possible.
Book Dining Reservation Early (Up to 60 Days in Advance)
There are a couple locations where if you want a reservation, you need to book it in exactly 60 days, first thing in the morning; we're talking like 6:00 AM or you need to use our friends at Mouse Dining which will send you an alert when an opening at one of those restaurants is available for the time that you're looking for.
All of the character meals and buffets, where Mickey and Minnie are walking around where you get to meet the princesses, all of those are reservation based restaurants.
The specialty bars like Trader Sam's, which is an amazing little tiki bar, usually you can get walk-up reservations to but on busy days it can be a little bit more difficult. Reservations for Trader Sam's do book out very quickly. At Ogas Cantina, which is the bar within Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars land, you can see Max, the DJ, and have some amazing off world drinks in Batu.
On all of the really nice sit-down meals in the parks and hotels, Blue Bayou, Carthay Circle, Cafe Orleans, all of those restaurants are going to require a reservation or for you to get a walkup spot off the app. Again, all of this is listed on what restaurants are available on Picky Mickey to help give you an idea of whether you need a reservation for a specific location.
Walk Up List for Last Minute Tables
It is possible to get a walkup, but it's not guaranteed. And if you want reservations for popular locations, you want to make sure that you set those reservations. If the location that you want isn't available when you go to book or it's less than 60 days out from your trip, don't stress out, there likely will still be a slot available for you.
Tips For Getting "Hard To Get" Reservations
Some locations do book up very quickly, but there are guests that like to book a lot of reservations and then cancel the ones that they're not planning on using as it gets closer to their trip. So even as close as the day before, you'll usually see new reservations open up. You can also use Mouse Dining and they will send you an alert when that spot opens up. And remember, the smaller the group, the easier it'll be.
Reservations For Large Groups
If you are having a hard time getting a reservation for a group of 8, try getting a reservation for four, and then try to see if you can get another reservation for four at the same time, or split up your group.
Severe Food Allergies at Disneyland
If you have severe allergies or multiple food allergies, I want you to know that Disney is one of the safest places to eat. As a mom with a child with food allergies, I have never felt more safe and more comfortable within the Disney restaurants. They take allergies, cross-contamination very seriously. They have really wonderful protocols, and I feel really good knowing that I'll be able to access food that's safe for my child, and they don't even charge extra for some of those gluten free options, so it can actually be cheaper to eat for me inside the park versus going outside of the park where they usually will charge extra for some of those accommodations.
If you have severe food allergies, always talk to the chef at every location, even quick serve locations, there will be things that are available that are not on the menu. If you ask a chef they will tell you whether or not they can make an accommodation. And sit down locations will have more options for people with multiple severe food allergies. So if you need to work around a lot of food allergies, sometimes those sit down locations have a little bit more flexibility.
You can email Disneyland's special dining department ahead of your visit. If you have dining reservations, include that in your email and they can tell you what's available at each location, what are your options, and they can help guide you towards locations that are going to be able to provide you the food that you're looking for. Emailing special diets ahead of time, making sure that you have a plan, can really help make the trip a lot less stressful, and Disney is a wonderful place because there's so many foods that normally my kids can enjoy that Disney has worked really hard to make sure that there's an equivalent option. And so it's one of the areas where my kids feel normal. They don't have to just have a hamburger, they can have lots of different foods that they don't normally get to experience, and they get to eat along with their friends without having to seem like the odd one out.
In our app, we have listed what items are available, gluten free, dairy free; all of the things that Disney has notated in their menus. We also can tell you where locations serve alcohol. Which locations have indoor or outdoor seating. And then you can search by food type or by name. So if you're just looking for a hamburger, you're trying to find a hotdog, we can tell you where in each park those are served.
Staying Hydrated Without Breaking the Bank
The last thing I want to talk about is water. Bottled water can be very expensive in the park, $3 to $8 per bottle so you want to make sure that you're thinking about how you're hydrating. One easy way is to bring a water bottle, here's lots of locations around the park where you can fill that water bottle up. But also in our app, we have notated all the locations where you can ask for a free water cup. Of course, any sit-down location, they're going to be happy to give you a glass of water, no problem. But most, not all, of the other locations that serve food, especially if they have fountain soda, are going to be able to give you a cup of water completely free. And so they can save you a lot of money for another special treat or another activity that you want to do with your family. If you see a location that has a free water cup you would go to where they deliver the food, so not where you order the food, but where they put the food out when the food is ready. And you would just say, can I please have a water cup or can I please have four water cups? And they're usually happy to help you. You might have to wait a second. Always be kind to those cast members, they have a tough job and usually people are very hungry by the time they get to those locations, and so they don't always get the happiest guests. So be sure to be kind and grateful for that water cup because it is a really wonderful thing that Disney offers.
So those are the big things that you need to know about dining. We have a lot more information, including the email to the special dining department further down in our course and links to other information about dining that we felt was important.