Do you really have to plan dining in advance?

I’m marginally traumatised by all the planning you have to do for a WDW trip. I’m wondering how much dining planning is really necessary.

I’m going 24-29th August. I like nice food, but I’m not coming to WDW for fine dining. Plus this trip is already expensive, without spending big dollar on food!

How easy will it be to think “Hmm. I’m hungry now” and go get wings/ribs/pizza/burgers (and vegetarian food for my friend).

What about at the monorail hotels, which I thought we might visit in the afternoons.

Do I really have to schedule everything in advance like a military operation, lol.

Oh, and how much should I budget per day for food (of the sort I’ve mentioned), drinks and snacks?


How easy will it be to think “Hmm. I’m hungry now” and go get wings/ribs/pizza/burgers (and vegetarian food for my friend)

Answer - VERY easy, especially for qs/cs food.
Better answer - exceptionally easy, if you figure out where you will be at a time you will assume you’ll be hungry, OR, if you have a general idea of what places you’d like to eat at, and then have all of those places in your mental rolodex.

Best answer: If you know you’ll be near a place you’d like to eat, and if you plan to be near that place at a time you should be hungry, make an adr. Walk right by all of the ppl not knowing where they are going, or what they are doing, and go straight to your table.

What about at the monorail hotels, which I thought we might visit in the afternoons.

Answer: They all have cs/qs places, and they all have ts places as well. You can search for tables if you’d like. More than likely, you can just search for a table at a time you’d like to eat, and then just pick from whatever is available. You can’t expect a table for the place you really want, but you can cross your fingers. If not, just pick from what’s available.

Do I really have to schedule everything in advance like a military operation, lol.

Answer: Not at all. It helps some ppl to do it that way, but if you’re more of a go with the flow type, do what works for you.

Oh, and how much should I budget per day for food (of the sort I’ve mentioned), drinks and snacks?

Answer: Just a suggestion on how to budget - you have to look at menus and find out the prices of what you would eat. I would pick a few menus items, and then figure out much you would really eat - some of the combo meals are a lot of food. YOu might want to searcch around or ask about the portion sizes of what you think you would order. So, for example, if BBQ would interest you - I’d suggest Flame Tree BBQ if you were to go to AK. ( It’s not GREAT BBQ, but it’s great for WDW bbq.) However, one of their combo platters can easily feed two ppl for around 20 dollars. I’m a total pig, and I would never order one of those and expect to finish it, so I’d budget 20 dollars for lunch for my wife and I at Flame Tree. I’d also want a dole whip from Tamu Tamu, and the wife would want a rum drink. SO, for me, at AK for lunch, snack and a boozy rum drink, I’d expect to need about 35.00 for mid day food/snacks that would carry us until dinner. BTW - We are water drinkers, so add in if you like soft drinks or adult drinks accordingly.


I would plan the 180 Day if there are particular places you want to make sure you get in. Last February I planned a trip and didn’t book any thing until almost 60 days out- gasp!- but was able to secure everything I really wanted. There wasn’t anything at BOG or CRT, but we got Ohana and TH lunch.

As far as cost of food- you can spend as much as you think is frightening or less (it really is that big of a range). This trip in August we have the dining plan, but in November and last February no DDP. Last year I spent four days in the park with a teenager, and we spend about $450 on food- including two character meals that are arguably more expensive. Though in the interest of disclosure we stayed off site and brought in sandwiches for lunch a few days. QS will give you plenty of options, just go through the menus to get ideas of what you’d like.


That’s tremendously helpful – thank you both.

I agree that you will have no problem eating at any of the quick service aka fast-casual restaurants on the property. That includes at the resorts and at the parks. If you want to know ahead of time what you’re going to spend you might consider the Disney Dining Plan.

The Quick Service (QS) plan is $48/per adult/night and includes two meals and two snacks per day plus a refillable mug.

Are you aware that Disney is has a “free dining” special offer during your travel dates? Not sure which hotels are available but you might want to check it out to see if it makes sense for your group.

The excessive amount of planning has slowly sucked the fun of WDW from me. Food in WDW is very expensive and at a lot of places not so great. There are some really good places and as long as you aren’t “I HAVE TO EAT HERE” type of person - you can certainly find something at any time.

The planning makes the trip an absolute breeze. No wondering where we’re going next, or what to do next, or where we’ll eat. MDE will even tell me where to walk so I can just enjoy the time with the family, and take it all in without worrying if I’m headed in the right direction. I know when we should all be thinking about having a meal, so I just pick the places that I’d want to go to, and either make an adr if it’s ts, OR if it’s qs, have an idea of which qs (that I’d want to eat at) should be close at that time.

For the OP, I’d really also suggest researching what qs places you’d want to try. The quality control is all over the map. 14.99 at one place might be fantastic, while 14.99 at another might be complete garbage. Just Sayin’.

I agree that you don’t HAVE to do much planning for dining, but you certainly need to read up on it before you go. If you want to avoid ADRs, then only eat at QS and snack places, or the very few TS places that might have walk-up capability (i.e. read up on those). QS (except BOG) do not take ADRs. Also, look at menus, reviews, and locations so you can be ready to make informed decisions when hunger strikes. Understand when peak meal times are so you can better avoid long lines that interfere with “hungry now.”

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We’ve also had good luck getting same-day reservations. There are always a handful of restaurants available the day before or the same day even. You just have to be flexible (i.e., not have your heart set on a particular restaurant or a particular time). I would also like to point out that using counter-service/quick service dining locations at peak times can result in waiting in long lines. So, we frequently make ADRs because we want some place to go sit with the kids and not have to wrestle hungry tiny humans through lines in the heat. Or we eat at slightly “off” times, like 10:30 or between 2:30-4:30 or after 8.

If you’re fine with walk-up counter Service dining, it’s easy - just go to one of your choice. Try to avoid the “primary” meal times if you want to avoid lines. If you want a table service, I highly recommend making ADRs; you might be able to do a walk-up, but it may take several tries, and you will probably have to wait for a table.

For an adult meal at a CS plan on around $15.00 per person. For table service about $30.00 - although this varies widely (and can be upwards of $50.00) and doesn’t include alcohol. “Fine” dining is in the range of $50-75, depending on where you go and what you have.

We usually end up canceling dining reservations as the trip approaches or while we’re there, and tend to regret the hassle of having to get to an ADR. It’s absolutely possible to visit with no dining reservations. Hollywood Studios is the one park where I’d seriously consider having a plan, though, we’ve always found the CS options to be terrible - leave for meals, made a res, or carefully plan your CS options.

It’s a good idea to know in advance what counter service places have decent food, especially if you’re looking for vegetarian. Check out the menus at the Disney site. My family of 2 adults, 1 child tends to share food, and we’ll eat more often to get more snack sized portions, a greater variety of food, and to just freewheel it and eat when we’re hungry. Keep in mind, though, that if you’re grabbing CS meals they are not necessarily balanced, and you might need to visit more than one place to pick up something like a reasonable alotment of fruit/veg for the day.

On a touring plan, i might put in a break around lunch time, and in the notes say “try Pecos Bill” or something like that, your pre-vetted options .

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Agree. I’ll get a cookie or a cupcake st DHS, but the CS there is all pretty dreadful. If you’re OK with Pizza Hut quality pizza, you might find Pizzarizzo tolerable. On the other hand, DHS had one outstanding and 3 very good TS choices.


Ditto. There was a period in the middle of planning where I just walked away and was like I am so sick of this. You would have thought I was studying for the bar exam. I felt like it. Now we’re 9 days away. Hope it’s worth it :flushed:

Last time we were there we had 7 pm reservations for Mama Melrose. At 4pm my wife said “I’m done” - so I called to cancel. I was “scolded” a bit. I told the person - “fine - we will keep our reservation. Someone in my party will be very cranky and may cry and by such disrupt those around me and not only ruin our meal but those around us - so if you are ok with that - I am ok with that”. Needless to say they allowed us to “break” the “unbreakable vow” and I wasn’t charged. But it is crazy. I would personally plan for any meals that you “MUST do” - such as “I HAVE to eat at California Grill” - but other than that - there is food all over the place.

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I know that planning is a hassle and it take a lot of time and thinking…and Disney does not make it that easy. BUT after everything was all planned out it made my trip so much easier. There was no down time in the park where our family was looking at a map and trying to agree on a place to eat for dinner. It was nice being able to know that at 7:00 we were going to BOG. Our QS meals we treated very differently. I asked everyone what their favorites were for each park on chat and made a list of 3-5 good QS locations to eat at. So when we were hungry we would pick the closest or whatever we were in the mood for. That narrowed down our choices and none of us were disappointed with the quality of the meal. Good luck!


It’s not an exact science, but in planning my own trip, I found out about a website (here, probably) that has been helpful to me when figuring out food stuff. It’s a Disney Dining Calculator at

You put in your info, and even if you select “Average Quick Service” for every single meal, it helps you to calculate the expenses as compared to the Disney Dining Plan costs. I like how you can input your preferences - like whether you anticipate having lots of snacks or always eating dessert, because I have two small kiddos and I think we’ll be eating a LOT of popcorn, ice cream & cupcakes! :slight_smile:

You will still need to look at menus yourself and I agree that a general knowledge of the restaurants and where they are located on park maps is going to be valuable to me. But the above link definitely gave me a bigger picture on the food process at Disney & has helped me figure out our own plans.


I love that dining calculator! Makes it great to budget for food for trips.

I’ve never been able to make the DDP work for me. I prefer two TS meals per day, but the DXDP is just too much. But I always study the menus to come up with my food budget.

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II remember when the dining plan was a no brainer - totally worth it - now - not nearly as much