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Disney Dining On a Budget – 5 Ways to Save Money on Meals at Disney Parks

Eating on a Disney vacation can be one of the highest line-item totals for a family’s trip. And while no one is likely to tell you that dining at Disney is cheap, there are ways to cut the cost of dining significantly. Here are five sure-fire ways to keep your dining costs from breaking the bank!

5.Pack at least one meal a day

If you think about the fact that an average adult meal will run between 8 and 12 dollars at a counter service restaurant, you could save a significant amount of money over the course of a week by just bringing one meal per day worth of food into the parks with you. For my family, this meal is always breakfast. We eat granola bars, fruit (apples or bananas), yogurt, oatmeal or bagels and cream cheese each morning and save our money to spend on lunch and dinner. We often drive, so it’s no problem to purchase these items at a grocery store on our way to Disney and store them in the hotel mini-fridge. If you fly, there are several grocery delivery services in the area that will shop and deliver your order to any Disney Resort hotel for a small premium. Utilizing these services will still result in a significant savings over buying food every morning in the parks.

4.Bring your own snacks and water bottles

Six days worth of buying three dollar bottles of water and three dollar Mickey Mouse pretzels and ice cream bars for a family of four can really add up. I’m not saying you should totally deprive your family of these quintessential Disney snacks, but buying three or four of them each day of your trip may cost money you’d rather spend elsewhere. It would be wise to carry some snacks into the parks with you. Single serve bags of pretzels, dry cereal, fruit snacks, or Goldfish crackers make great snack options for kids and grownups between meals.

3.Always order water to drink in restaurants

The minimum cost of any drink of any kind in any Disney restaurant is $1.79 (for milk or Nesquik at the counter service restaurant). Coffee or tea will run you $2.29 and fountain drinks will cost $2.99. For a family of four, purchasing beverages will add an average of eight to ten dollars to the cost of any meal. That could end up being as much as $180 over the course of a six day Disney vacation. My advice: if you’re trying to save money on dining bills, ONLY order water. H2O is the best thing you can drink for rehydration purposes in the hot Florida weather anyway. If you’re not a big fan, you can always carry those little flavor packets with you in your Disney touring bag.

Bonus Tip!

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2.Share large meals

There are plenty of locations in Disney where the meal portions are large enough to share. The combo meals at Cosmic Ray’s in the Magic Kingdom are definitely large enough to split between two people with moderate appetites. Portions at Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney are also very large. Sunshine Seasons in Epcot is another counter service location where you should be able to share a meal. If you are concerned about not having enough to eat, you may want to add a dessert to your meal, or pick up an additional “side” item like french fries or any appetizer. It will still cost less than two complete entrees.

1.Order from the children’s menu

This may be one of the best kept secrets of Walt Disney World insiders. Any counter service location in any theme park or resort hotel will allow adults to purchase a meal from the children’s menu. Are the portions smaller? Yes, but not by much. Kid’s meals always include some type of drink (it may be milk, bottled water, juice, or a fountain drink, depending on meal type and location) and generally two “side” items. On a hamburger meal, for example, fries, a drink, and some kind of dessert item are included. You can substitute the standard “cookie” dessert in most kids meals for a healthier menu choice like carrot sticks, grapes, or sliced apples. The cost of a kid’s meal can often cost less than half of an adult meal of the same type (comparing a children’s burger to an adult burger at the same location) and INCLUDES a drink, which most adult meals do not. If you are a grown-up with a smallish to moderate appetite, this tip could save you BIG money.

Do you have any money-saving tips for dining in Disney? Leave us a comment below!

BONUS TIP: For more Disney dining tips consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best price for your vacation, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!

About Jessica Brosnan

Jessica is a mother of one and an elementary school teacher in New Jersey. She enjoys musical theater and loves to cook. Jessica is a Disney Vacation Club member and is perpetually planning her next Disney vacation.