Walt Disney World has some excellent dining opportunities, but they can sometimes get a little pricey. If you aren’t careful, you can spend more than you intended on food alone. That’s why it’s a good idea to create a dining budget. Once you do, you’ll have to stick to it, and here are a few tips to help you do that.
8. Avoid Boxed and Bagged Treats in Gift Shops
Disney World likes selling candy that you can find in any pharmacy or supermarket throughout their parks and hotels. Because they have the Disney logo and perhaps a picture of a Disney character on them, the gift shops raise the prices. The snack items themselves aren’t even Disney themed. They’re the same treats you can find anywhere else. Avoid getting these and stick to the freshly made treats that are unique to parks.
7. Don’t Get The Souvenir Cups
Some snacks and beverages come with a special souvenir container or cup. While the picture on the menu will show the food or drink item with the souvenir, you can purchase the same thing without it. For example, when ordering Lefou’s Brew in Gaston’s Tavern at New Fantasyland, you can choose to have it served in a Belle goblet or a Gaston stein. However, you can bypass both options and the added expense and just get the drink in a disposable plastic cup. Chances are you won’t really use the souvenir again and won’t enjoy having to carry it around with you the rest of the day.
6. Visit Buffets
Most of the Disney parks have restaurants that offer an all-you-can-eat buffet. Pay one flat rate and go back for second or thirds without worrying about the cost. Then there’s the dessert buffet if you still have room. With all the walking you do on a Disney vacation, you’ll need your energy, and buffets provide you with a way to try different flavors without committing to purchasing the entire entree. If you choose this for you lunch option, you may find that you can get away with a light dinner as you may still be full.
5. Free Water/Club Cool
Don’t waste your money on bottles of water. Counter service food vendors will offer guests free cups of tap water upon request. You can also bring your own refillable bottle and take advantage of the water fountains scattered throughout the parks. For something with a little flavor to it, be sure to visit Club Cool in Future World at Epcot. Here you can sample Coca Cola products from around the world in small sample cups. It’s completely free.
4. Bring Food
If it’s not in a cooler, a glass container, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated, you can bring food items into the parks when you visit. This can help cut back on food costs as you can find items like bagels, Rice Crispy Treats, and other baked goods in your local supermarket without playing the inflated price at Disney. Some families even bring cereal so they can enjoy breakfast at their hotel, only paying for milk and coffee, before starting their day. This also helps if you have picky eaters who want something they’re more familiar with.
Another great money-saver is to combine snacks to create a meal. Portion sizes can be huge. Sometimes all you need is one snack split between two people instead of each getting their own. For example, Sleepy Hallow in Magic Kingdom serves waffle sandwiches with fruit for $6 or with your choice of chicken or ham for $7. They can be quite filling and often take more than one person to finish. Pay attention to portion sizes and when possible, share.
2. Choose Counter Service Over Table Service
Even though Table Service restaurants are in high demand due to the meals, the atmosphere and the character greetings, they can also be a huge expense. Not only the food itself, but the tips. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, opt for the Counter Service venues as they offer a more affordable option with great meal choices. And no tips are involved.
1. Get The Free Dining Plan
If you want to be able to over-indulge without breaking the bank, pay attention to the Disney World website and look out for special offers of free dining plans. You’ll get meal credits for snacks, Counter Service meals and Table Service meals to use as you choose. Since it’s free, you won’t have to worry about splurging on a reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. This special offer requires guests to stay on property at a Disney Resort Hotel.
However you choose to dine, be sure to take advantage of these tips and you’ll find it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to experience Disney World. Be prepared, have a plan, and be open to trying new things.
BONUS DINING TIP: 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!
Kristina is a freelance writer and full-time marketer who is a loud and proud Disney fan. Besides Disney Fanatic and How To Disney, she has also written for Examiner.com, Disney Avenue, and XOJane. A frequent visitor to Disney World, she enjoys trying something new each trip and experiencing all Disney has to offer. She lives in New York with her cat, Lizzie.