Walt Disney World in Florida is one of the most visited vacation destinations in the world. There are so many exciting experiences including new exhilarating rides, fantastic attractions, entertaining stage shows, fanciful parades, spectacular fireworks extravaganzas, and uniquely themed Disney Resorts. It takes researching and planning to plan a Disney vacation, and for a lot of guests, a vacation budget is a necessity. We have some suggestions and tips on how to budget your dining costs!
Bring Your Own Snacks — One way to cut down on meal costs is to bring your own groceries. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Ramen noodles, lunchables, fruit and yogurt cups, fresh fruit, juice boxes, sodas, etc. are excellent snack or meal fixins’. If you are renting a condo or other off-property accommodations, a full kitchen will help cut down costs by fixing your own meals. Many of the Disney Hotel Resorts provide full kitchens or refrigerators and microwaves in the rooms. If you have traveled to Orlando by plane, there are several grocery delivery services that you can take advantage of.
2. BYOS/Theme Parks
Bring Your Own Snacks to the Parks — Guests are allowed to bring outside food and non-alcoholic beverages into the parks provided they are not in glass containers and do not require heating, reheating, processing, refrigeration, and do not have pungent odors. Coolers are allowed with certain specifications (cannot be larger than 24″ by 15″ by 18″) and they cannot be pulled behind you. No loose ice in coolers is allowed, but ice in baggies or freezer gel packs are okay. **Most quick service restaurants allow guests to use their indoor or outdoor seating area.**
3. Picnic at the Parks
You can actually enjoy a picnic lunch at several of the theme parks at Walt Disney World. Here are a few choices: Magic Kingdom–Tom Sawyer’s Island, the Hub at Main Street, Rapunzel’s Village where you can enjoy your picnic on barrels and tables beneath some beautiful shade trees; Epcot’s World Showcase, where along the walkway and near many of the pavilions you will find out-of-the-way seating areas with awesome views of World Showcase Lagoon; Animal Kingdom–Flame Tree Barbeque Restaurant has four shaded pavilions with plenty of tables and chairs; Hollywood Studios–Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner–in front of this iconic diner are plenty of chairs and tables. **Benches and tables can be found at all of the theme parks and you’re welcome to eat at any table at a counter or quick service restaurant, indoors or out.**
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4. Quick Service Restaurants
Most of the quick service restaurants offer combo meals which come with side dishes. You can share these plentiful combo meals. You may even want to order a couple of different meal combos and have a smorgasbord, saving money and trying out new menu items. Most of the quick service restaurants also offer individual side dishes, if you’re not ready for a full meal. The great thing about quick service and counter service restaurants is the variety of menu choices.
5. Quick Service Meals/Children’s Menu
There are so many quick service restaurants at all the WDW theme parks and Disney Springs, and one way to save money is to order from the children’s menu. Some of these choices are better for you than a full meal, especially on a sultry, hot summer’s day, and the price is right for your budget. You can substitute a soda for the beverage.
6. Snack Carts
Disney snack carts are an excellent way to cut down on your food budget. These handy carts can be found around all of the theme parks, water parks, Disney Resorts, and Disney Springs. Order hot dogs, Mickey pretzels, frozen treats, chips, fresh fruit or fruit cups, popcorn, egg rolls, giant turkey legs (big enough for two), and many other choices. These snack carts are a great way to satisfy your midday or evening craving without putting a big dent in your budget.
7. Disney Food Trucks
Food trucks are more popular now than ever before. Disney has several Food Trucks parked at Disney Springs. Some examples are the Taco Truck, Mac & Cheese Truck, Fantasy Fare Truck (offers variety of menu items, like corn dogs, sandwiches, gyros, etc.), and the newest arrival, the Cookie Dough and Everything Sweet Truck. Here again, you can pick a few food items and share with friends and family. It’s fun and won’t hurt your dining budget.
8. Counter Service Restaurants
There are many counter service venues at all the theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs. Much like the food trucks, most counter service dining venues have ample seating, usually outdoors, or you can always find a comfortable bench to enjoy your snack. Many of these eateries offer side dishes, like French Fries, soup, chili, frozen treats, etc. Some counter service venues have seating and some don’t, but you never have to walk very far to find a bench or vacant tables and chairs nearby.
9. Disney Resort Hotel Food Court
If you are staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, another great way to cut down on your food costs is to take advantage of your Resort’s Food Court. There are many snack items and the meals offered are usually reasonably priced. In addition, you can purchase a refillable mug that you can use every day at your Disney Resort. Finding a table is never a problem at most Disney Resort Hotels.
10. Fast Food Options
If you have driven to Walt Disney World, you can always find a fast food restaurant nearby. Sometimes a McDonald’s burger and French fries will satisfy a craving without breaking your food budget. If you have traveled by airplane, there are delivery services that will deliver your food to your room. I know this is not the best choice for a meal at Walt Disney World, but most fast food entrees are satisfying and cheap. Speaking for myself, there have been times I have visited Disney World and by the third or fourth day, I find myself craving McDonald’s French fries.
Dining at Walt Disney World can be a major or minor part of your overall Disney vacation budget. Cut down your meal costs by creative dining choices and bringing your own snacks and beverages. I know when we visit Walt Disney World, we like to try new restaurants and new menu offerings, and there is a way to enjoy a new dining experience by using some of the tips above without blowing your budget. BON APPETIT!