1. Decide if the Disney Dining Plan is right for you
The Disney Dining Plan has the potential to save you up to 35% off the cost of dining during your Disney vacation, but is it really worth it? To some guests it is, but others not so much. If you’re vegetarian for instance, it probably isn’t worth it because vegetarian options tend to be cheaper than everything else on the menu anyway. If you like to try lots of different things and are trying to budget the easiest way to pay for a large group it may very well be worth it. Figure out what will work best for you by reviewing menus ahead of time and comparing an estimate of what your dining budget would cost with the cost of the plan.
2. Know how to get the most out of the Disney Dining Plan
If you do go with a dining plan, know how to get the most out of the plan. For instance, skip bottled beverages with your snack credits, and save them for more expensive and filling items. Don’t use the dining plan for two-credit table service experiences, as they are often cheaper when paid for out of pocket, and stay on top of what you’re ordering to ensure you’re getting the best value for the plan.
3. Skip alcoholic beverages
If saving money on eating out in Disney is a priority, skipping alcoholic beverages can help you allot more of your budget for food. If you do plan to indulge at least a little bit in alcoholic beverages, be sure to get the best possible value for what you’re ordering. For instance, if you’re going to pay inflated prices for beer in the parks, don’t order a Bud Light. Try a craft beer that you can’t typically get from restaurants in your hometown.
4. Order off the kids menu at quick service restaurants
This doesn’t work in table service restaurants, but in quick service restaurants adults are able to order off the kids menu. Whether you’re looking to save some of your appetite or some cash, ordering from the kids menu can be a huge help. Entrees are smaller, but they also tend to come with an extra side and a drink, and many quick service restaurants have kids menu items that are the same as their adult counterparts only smaller.
5. Share with another adult
Another easy way to save money on dining is to share meals. Since you likely will not have a way to take food to go and reheat it, there is no reason to order food you know you won’t be able to finish (or to pay for food that you don’t need to). Many portions are totally shareable among two adults, and your wallet will thank you the more you split meals with a friend.
6. Budget dining spending on gift cards
This may not necessarily cut down on the amount you spend during your trip, but it can help you budget better. Save money on Disney gift cards leading up to your trip, and you’ll find that spending the extra cash on dining will be much less painful since you’ve already “paid” for it in advance. While doing this, just remember to bring some extra cash along for gratuities as those would not be paid for on gift cards. (You can also charge meals to your MagicBand and use the gift cards to settle your bill at checkout.)
7. Review menus before your trip
You can better plan your dining experiences around more affordable restaurants if you review all of the possible options in advance of your trip. Prices vary based on the restaurant and dining experience around the Walt Disney World Resort, and if you let your stomach speak for you when you’re in the parks and hungry you’re going to find yourself at the closest but not necessarily the most affordable restaurant.
8. Bring your own food
Did you know you’re able to bring your own food into the parks with you at the Walt Disney World Resort? The absolute cheapest way to eat in Disney is to bring food with you--if you’re not into packing full meals, bringing snacks especially for the kids is never a bad idea. It’s convenient to have some snacks in a bag and ready to go when the kids want them and it will help save you money over snacking throughout your trip.
9. Skip the water bottles
Instead of buying disposable water bottles throughout your trip, bring your own refillable bottle or ask for a cup of water at quick service restaurants. Buying water bottles (especially for the whole family) can really add up, and you’ll save lots of money by sipping on free water instead.