Dining without any reservations?

We are going to spend 2.5 days at WDW Dec 19-21. I have been looking at dining reservation options for the different parks. I’m having a really hard time getting myself to book these table service restaurants that are $30-$40+ per plate. If my husband and I were doing a nice date night, sure…but with 2 middle school boys at a theme park, we’d rather spend $150 on something more fun than a meal. (Especially since it looks like we’ll be spending some money on a couple $Lightning Lane$ rides) My kids are 12 and 14, so they couldn’t care less where/what we eat. So my question is, is it difficult (or even possible these days) to just figure out our meals as we go about our days at the parks? We’ll have a car with us, so we can even hop somewhere offsite, as long as that’s not hassle.
We don’t really want to drop a lot of $$$ on food at a theme park, but we also don’t want to end up wasting 3 hrs just trying to find a place to grab dinner and regretting not having reservations somewhere.
(Sorry if this question has gotten asked a lot.)

You don’t need to have an ADR to eat in the parks. There are a lot of QS options everywhere, some are better than others. You can even grab QS at all the resorts too. If you are just looking to eat and then continue w/ rides I think you’ll be fine staying in the parks and grabbing a QS. If you are only going for 2.5 days I wouldn’t waste time driving on/off property to eat.

2 Likes

We went in April with our three kids and did the following: breakfasts in the room of cereal, fruit, bagels. Lunches all quick service. Dinner a combination of quick service, Disney Springs table service.
Saved time and money when we really wanted to do more things at the parks!

1 Like

I think you’re only really going to have a problem if you want to do a sit down table service meal without reservations, and even then it can be done if you’re not picky.

2 Likes

There will be some disagreements as to which places are good choices, but for us, Flametree BBQ is a great QS location at AK, and Backlot Express is good at HS.

MK is a bit more hit and miss. We like Pecos Bill, but others hate it. And EP has a variety of decent QS options in World Showcase.

You don’t have to get Table Service at WDW. In fact, traditionally, we’ve only had one single TS meal for our entire trip to WDW when we take the kids.

2 Likes

yup, that’s why I didn’t suggest any place. I didn’t got to FTBBQ this last time b/c I’ve been so disappointed w/ their food the past few visits. I tried Walt’s Chicken Sandwich at Resurantous and it was pretty good. The seating at FT is the BEST but the food (bbq) is meh anymore.

2 Likes

We have ordered QS at Yak and Yeti and carried our food to eat at the waterside areas near Flametree.

1 Like

You absolutely can. Last trip we booked 2 character meals to get the princesses and the fab 5 in (kids were 4 and 6) but other than that, we did breakfasts in the room and QS at the parks. Lots of good options. Around holiday time I’d say just do some research ahead and make sure to get your mobile orders in as it will be busy and you don’t want to be waiting around forever.
Next time we go one of my kiddos is going to be a 10 year old “Disney adult” (covid killed our 9 year old trip!) so I expect we will take the same approach and rarely do TS. I will miss trying some things but the adult prices for her would just be silly.

1 Like

I will say grabbing mediocre QS for $80-$100 for 4 “adults” can be annoying and I would often rather pay ~$150 for a table service with better food and a more relaxing atmosphere. QS has its place and some places are quite good, but it is not exactly cheap. For us we tend to use TS meals as a rest point as well and kind of a forced relaxation as it is a longer experience that we cannot rush through on our own just to hit the next ride as we often would do at QS meals.

Just some thoughts on the merits of TS. For QS Docking Bay 7 at HS is quite good, Columbia Harbor House is probably the best at MK, Flametree BBQ & Satu’li Canteen have the best reputations at AK & Sunshine Seasons has something for everyone at Epcot. Those would be my go to choices if eating QS at a park - lots of resorts have decent quick serve as well and can be a fun diversion to monorail over to the Poly for Captain Cook’s.

8 Likes

this is very true. Why we stopped TS was being tied down to getting to an ADR. We didn’t like having to constantly watch the time and stress out about getting to the TS on time.

3 Likes

It is worth mentioning that at QS, you can ALWAYS order from the kids menu if you want, even for the adults. There is no check/enforcement. Generally the options are more limited…but if you want to save even more money, buy kids meals instead when you can.

In practice, even when we do this, generally I’ll still end up ordering at least ONE adult meal.

3 Likes

Many times you can also order a kid’s meal at a TS restaurant, just not for ones w/ buffets, prix fixe, or all you care to eat.

I have a picky eater that is now almost 16yo. He often ordered from the kid’s menu …far after he turned 9yo! Sometimes they would increase the size to an adult portion (and increase the price) but most times if we ordered the kid’s meal that is what he got.

2 Likes

Good to know!

At TS restaurants for those newly adult and seniors we often order appetizers as entrees. DH is happy with a bowl of soup. Or we’ll split an entree. At non buffet restaurants, of course.

1 Like

I’ve ordered appetizers for entree too. I don’t need the larger portions or a lot of food. I prefer TS that is ala carte and not the pixie fare.

2 Likes

That’s a good point, and the portions are sometimes huge at QS. I remember once I split one adult platter at Pecos Bill with both the kids. At those ages it was more than enough. They eat more now though!

1 Like

So, this is part of the reason why ADR’s and Mobile Ordering times exist. A decent amount of ppl know where they want to go in order to avoid going where they don’t want to go, so there is demand. If the kids “couldn’t care less,” then I would suggest that if YOU care, then do a little research, and figure out what place might make the most sense in the area you will be at a mealtime, and lock it in - in order to avoid wasting time and money. When it comes to Wallyworld, I research food and snacks in order to avoid overpaying for trash, and to not be looking around because I don’t know where I’m going to eat. Avoid being the family walking around looking at a map. Know where and what time you’ll be eating, that way it’s not any kind of hassle. In my book that’s is just so much easier than, “Anyone hungry? Where should we go?” Just take the reigns if nobody else gives a hoot, and have it set in stone, and let the fam know about it, “We’re having lunch at 11:15am, and here’s where we’ll be eating feel free to look at the menu.” IMO, it’s just less stuff to worry about. Plenty of threads on things that folks think are decent values for food - cheap and not cheap. Also - Dec 19-21 has the possibility of being kinda crowded - I wish you the best of luck, of course, but, I hope you are not setting yourself up for a big letdown when it comes to meals. If you don’t plan your meals, and the parks are crowded, at least try plan to have your meals a little bit outside of “normal” meal times to avoid being stuck in a line for a hot dog with 50 of your closest friends.

This is just a suggestion on how I would try to plan meals:
If I’m at MK, and knew I was going to have lunch at MK, at 11am, my best option would be Insert Restaurant name here based on location, and food quality, and if you want TS or QS. Factor in what breakfast would have been, and what dinner will be, and what snacks you’ll also be having. It might seem WAAAY too complicated, but IMO it seems so, so, simple, and helpful. WDW is not a small place, and food quality is haphazard AT BEST. Some QS places are way overpriced, and other QS places will have you wondering how they are so good compared to others for the same price.

Ultimately, the choice is yours, and you don’t have to plan on anything, and hopefully it will work out great. But if the park is busy, and you wind up waiting 30 minutes for a cold 15.00 cheeseburger, when you could have had something better…

Maybe check out DFB - Disney Food Blog videos on youtube, there aer plenty of websites with lists, and also, ask here - plenty of people will be happy to give opinions once you figure out what you’d like to do in each area - onsite or offsite. There are some gems here and there.

P.S. - you can pawn all this stuff off on the kids, too. All the menus are online, and they can do their own research on youtube - they might have fun doing it, too!. Heck - they might even work together as a team and it’ll keep them busy with something productive.

6 Likes

I ordered kids meals at a few different places, never an issue. I don’t have kids. As per above, it’s only if it’s Prix Fixe or Buffet. Disney kids meals can feed multiple kids. Who wants that much green beans?? :joy: This was at Kona Cafe.

We usually do lunch reservations for a sit down break to the day, but Quick Service also works well. At AK I like Restaurantosaurus. MK Columbia Harbour House. Or we will escape from the park and go to a resort. Like Boardwalk Bakery. We were at Epcot and it was nuts, lines everywhere, so we left the park and went to BB.

1 Like

This! It will be 1000% easier if you can have 2-3 places to suggest to your family that you’ve already looked at the menus for and know where they are. Mobile ordering is also a godsend, just try to do it at least an hour before you actually want to eat. Just in case it’s busy.

3 Likes

Always check wait times at restaurants. We walked in to two table service, last minute. One resort and one park.
It was last December. Week before Christmas. Not many restaurants open.