The Secret To Dining On A Budget At Disney Without Reservations

When you visit a Disney theme park, there are many ways to spend your day. Guests could pack their day with as many rides as possible. They might decide to take in the various stage shows and spontaneous performances throughout the day. Some might even go hunting for the latest collectible drop or elusive character autographs. Although, if you'd rather chase the perfect meal, an entire day could most definitely be dedicated to finding the best food on the property.

However, not all foodies have the time to pre-plan or the funds to go all out with fancy reservations every time they step foot in the House of Mouse. Regardless of the reason, sometimes character breakfasts or sit-down service doesn't always fit our budget, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Luckily, the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts offer a number of options to eat at various price points that often don't require a reservation. And though you're certainly welcome to, we're not just talking about bringing food with you to the parks either. 

Be Our Guest

After the Disney Parks reopened after the COVID-19 lockdown, booking Advance Dining Reservations (or ADRs) was essentially the only way to secure a spot in a full-service restaurant. ADRs can be booked up to 60 days in advance through the Disneyland or the Disney World apps, and you can peruse the menus in the days ahead to know what a meal at Blue Bayou or Be Our Guest could set you back. However, with the rise of mobile ordering and the abundance of quick service options and snack carts, you've still got a chance to have a magical culinary experience even if you can't score a coveted reservation.

Disney Trippers and Inked With Wanderlust have excellent lists of the best places to eat without reservations in Walt Disney World and Disneyland, respectively. But regardless of whichever coast you're visiting, there are a few tips and tricks that could work at either location. For instance, if mobile ordering is available, place the order as early as possible so your food is ready to pick up when you want it. And if you're still willing to gamble with table service, go to these restaurants to add your name to the wait lists off peak hours. The majority of guests will want to eat lunch around noon or dinner around 6:00 pm, so if you visit a few hours before or after those peak times, you may have a better chance of obtaining a table.

Dig a Little Deeper

Now, there's still an ultimate tip for those looking to have the table service experience without the reservations or the steep price tag. As TikToker DisneyFoodBlog points out, many of the most popular restaurants on a Disney property will have lounges attached to them that will sometimes offer food, which end up being smaller servings or alternate presentations of what you would order in the sit-down restaurant.

For example, Ohana in Disney's Polynesian Village Resort has the Ohana Dinner Skillet, which features beef, shrimp, and chicken with chimichurri sauce, 'Ohana noodles, and vegetables as part of the All-You-Care-to-Enjoy options. But if you go to the nearby Tambu Lounge, you can order the noodles by themselves, as well as the restaurant's signature wings and dumplings, without committing to the prix fixe price for the full dinner.

This also works for drinks at one of Disneyland's most beloved watering holes. Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel is basically what would happen if The Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland sold alcohol during their world-famous floor show instead of just Dole Whip. But since everyone would love to see that, every seat is typically spoken for during peak hours — although, the attached Tangaroa Terrace also serves some Trader Sam's signature drinks. Sure, you don't get the same atmosphere as you would in the bar, but you can still enjoy a delicious tiki drink by a fire pit in the lounge area or next to the pool.