Dining at Disney World: Dining Plans, Picky Eaters, & Bigger Appetites

Giant Cupcake at Hollywood Studio's, during Star War's Weekends (May)

It is that time of year again; people are in full “family vacation planning mode.”  We recently noticed a few comments/questions about the Dining Plan, picky eaters, and kids who have “adult” appetites.  Fortunately we are experts at all three of these things and can cover them all today.  We have utilized the Quick Service Dining Plan (QS) as well as the regular Basic Dining Plan (DP) in the past.  Both were amazing, but each have some drawbacks.

Let’s chat about the Quick Service Plan first.  With this Dining plan you have 2 QS meals and 1 snack per day, per person.  Children under three years old do not have access to the plan because they are not required to have a park ticket.  The QS plan is nice in the sense that you do not have to worry about making, keeping, or arriving at set reservation times like you do for a Table Service meal.  You can eat when you want to and picky eaters have much to choose from.  Many QS locations have walk-up windows/counters so the picky member of the party can order something then the rest of the party can go someplace else. 

When in Epcot we have been known to get the BLT Chicken Sandwich and an order of Chicken Fingers from American Adventure to go for the kids, and then the Norwegian Club for us adults.  We then eat at the outdoor, covered seating in the Norway Pavilion.  For those who have kids with larger appetites the QS plan works just as well too.  When your QS meals are totaled for you on your receipts, you have a running total of the amount of QS meals left.  For example, when the five of us went last year for our family vacation our slip said “35 QS meals remaining” when we checked in (5 per day for 7 days).  When we ordered our first lunch, it then said “30 QS meals remaining.”  Unlike the DP, where you have a running total of adult Table Service (TS) credits and child TS credits, the QS plan is just a running total of how many are left, no matter how many adults and children are in your party.  At several places we ordered 4 regular meals and 1 child’s meal, depending on what was available on the children’s menu.  This can help when you have a “tween” traveling with you that may want more variety or more food in general. 

When it comes to the regular Dining Plan your party generally has to agree on, at least, one meal a day and you should expect to make reservations for that Table Service (TS) meal.  Dining reservations open 180 day’s (6 months) in advance….and for the most popular places like Be Our Guest, you will need to reserve at that time in order to get a reservation.  We have never planned a Disney trip that far in advance, except in our minds, so have been fortunate to get what we wanted 2-4 months beforehand.  Many people dislike the Dining Plan or Table Service meals in general because you have to have the reservations.  We have heard that you can get tables without reservations on a walk-up basis in the off-season, but we have never attempted to do this. 

When we have had the DP we allocate $20/day for breakfast (and always have money left over) along with protein bars, pop tarts (a special treat the kids get when on vacation), individual boxes of cereal, apples, and bananas that we have brought with us.  Then we use our QS meal for lunch and our TS for dinner.  We feel this gets us the maximum for our money spent on the DP.  Over the last few years we have traveled with an infant (less than 3 years of age per Disney standards), a couple of extremely picky eaters, and a tween who has nights where he eats much more than a child (ages 3-9 on Disney’s standards).  We have generally booked reservations at a buffet and/or all-you-can-eat locations.  This covers our picky eaters and those with larger appetites. 

As for the snack credits we all have our favorites.  So many times we use our snack credits as well, however it never fails a few are used for Cinnamon Rolls, muffins, or bagels for a breakfast or some fun, Disney themed snack bags or candy the kids want to take home with us.

We are about to go on another, week-long, Disney vacation and are not utilizing any of the Dining Plans.  We will keep careful track so we can relay how it goes to our readers.  We have added up our meals with and without the plan several times and are not sure, at this time, it would pay for us to get it.  With the warmer weather, we don’t seem to eat as much.  We also will be traveling with one kid who doesn’t eat enough to fill a bird in an entire day and another kid that is so picky he is barely eating five different food items right now. 

Just because we love trying all foods at Disney World here are a few of our family’s favorites:

Magic Kingdom:

Dole Whip Float with Pineapple Juice at MK

Lee & Abbie: Dole Whip float with Pineapple Juice at Aloha Isle (snack credit).

Abbie: Nutella & Fruit Waffle Sandwich at Sleepy Hollow (snack credit, good for breakfast or lunch, HUGE portion).

Ethan: Giant Cinnamon Rolls at Gaston’s Tavern (snack credit, good for breakfast as well).

Hollywood Studios

Lee: 1/3lb Cheeseburger with all the fixins, comes with 3 GIANT fried shrimp on top with yummy dipping sauce (ABC Commissary, QS credit).

Abbie: Giant, delicious Cupcakes at Starring Rolls Café (QS credit).

Ethan: Hollywood & Vine (TS credit, buffet).

Emalie & Lucas: Pizza Planet (QS credit).

Dessert Sampler at Princess Storybook Dinner at Akershus

Epcot Center:

Lee, Abbie, & Emalie: Norwegian Club with the Schoolbread at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe (QS and/or snack credit).  We also love the Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (TS, all you care to eat, character dining), both in the Norway Pavilion.

Lee: Fish & Chips with a Bass Ale at Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom Pavilion (QS credit).

Abbie: Sweet & Sour Chicken with the Vegetable Stir-Fry Noodles at Sunshine Seasons food court in the Living with the Land Pavilion (QS credit)..

Ethan: Grilled Chicken BLT Sandwich & Funnel Cakes (QS and snack credits) at American Adventure Pavilion.

Animal Kingdom

Lee, Ethan, & Emalie: Pulled pork and ribs at Flame Tree Barbeque (QS credit).

Abbie: Sweet & Sour Chicken at Yak & Yeti Counter Service (QS credit).

The hand-dipped all you can drink milkshakes come inchocolate, strawberry, or vanilla at Whispering Canyon Cafe

Resort Dining: 

Lee & Abbie: The entire meal and dessert at Ohana (TS credit, all you can eat), as well as, Macadamia Nut Pancakes and Tonga Toast at Kona Café (TS credit), both at Polynesian Resort.

Amazingly, delicious Bread Pudding at Ohana

Abbie: Crème Brulee French Toast at Coronado Springs for breakfast (QS credit).

Ethan: Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge (TS credit, buffet) and All-You-Can-Drink Milkshakes at Whispering Canyon Café at Wilderness Lodge (TS credit, AYCE).

Emalie: 1900 Park Fare dinner with Cinderella and friends at the Grand Floridian Resort (TS credit, buffet, character dining).

Lucas: Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort (TS credit, buffet, character dining).

Downtown Disney

Lee: Ghiaradelli Soda Shop (Not included on any of the DP’s, however, completely worth it).

Ethan, Emalie, & Lucas: The Holiday Sandwich and Pizza Sandwich at Earl of Sandwich (QS credit).

 I hope this has helped anyone who is in the process of planning their magical, Disney vacation right now.  

Until Next Time, Lee & Abbie 

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Lee & Abbie are originally from Greenwood, Indiana but are now located in sunny, warm, Tampa, Florida where they were relocated with Lee’s job last summer. They have three junior Mousejunkies: Ethan (13), Emalie (7), and Lucas (4) who love all things Disney as well. Abbie has always been a Disney Fanatic however Lee didn’t catch the bug until he and Abbie took their first family trip in 2011. They both thoroughly enjoy every aspect of Disney and all the magic it has to offer, especially the food. Lee has become more of a food critic since being married to Abbie who loves to cook and try new foods. Now they spend much of their free time finding new things around the Happiest Place on Earth to try and see.

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