Get the most bang for your buck with these 12 tips and tricks
When planning a visit to Walt Disney World, there are many things to consider when it comes to budgeting and allocating your funds. It’s understandably easy to get wrapped up in choosing a resort and planning park days, but many folks are caught off guard by just how much dining costs around the “World”. Whether it’s within the theme parks, around your resort hotel, or in Disney Springs, dining and food costs can add up quickly. Here’s 12 simple strategies to trim those expenses while keeping all of the magic!
1. Have groceries delivered to your resort.
Flying to Disney World? Limited trunk space in your already packed to the gills vehicle? You can have goods like bottled water, snacks, breakfast items and even sunscreen delivered to your Disney resort hotel to save big bucks. Favorite services for ordering groceries include Garden Grocer and Amazon Prime Now (included in your Prime membership). If using Amazon Prime Now, you’ll want to enter 32830 for your zip code. Other services you may want to consider include Instacart, Shipt, and Dizzy Dolphin. If you want bell services to deliver your grocery order to your room, there may be a $6 surcharge. Or you can always drive or Uber to a nearby grocery store. I highly recommend the Super Target at 4795 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee for a quick grocery run. Plus, it’s a super convenient since it’s practically behind Animal Kingdom theme park.
2. Bring your own snacks into the parks.
In my years as a cast member and now as a travel agent, this is probably the tip that surprises guests the most: you can bring your own food into the theme parks! A few rules to keep in mind: no glass containers except for baby food and medication and no alcohol. You can bring a cooler as long as it fits within the following guidelines set by Disney: “Suitcases, bags, coolers or backpacks, with or without wheels, larger than 24″ long x 15″ wide x 18″ high (61 cm x 38 cm x 46 cm) are not allowed in any theme park, water park or NBA Experience. Loose or dry ice is not permitted in these containers. Re-usable ice packs are recommended.”
3. Don’t pay for water.
My third tip builds off of my first two tips: deliver your own water and bring a bottle with you to the parks. If there are several of you in your family, you may not want to lug around half a dozen bottles of water (talk about a major backache from lugging around an overstuffed, heavy backpack first thing in the morning), not to mention you’ll need water continuously throughout the day in the Florida heat. You can refill your water bottle at refill stations throughout the park or get a free cup of water at any quick service location, whether you are dining or not. Concerned about the taste of Florida tap water? You can always bring some Mio drops or a packet of Crystal Light to improve flavor.
4. Have breakfast in your hotel room.
Save time and money by having breakfast in your hotel room instead of sitting down at the food court or in the theme parks, especially if you aren’t much of a breakfast eater. Every room on property has a mini-refrigerator so you can store some yogurt, milk for a bowl of cereal or fruit. If you’re staying in a suite at Art of Animation, All-Star Music, a cabin at Fort Wilderness, or any studio or villa, you’ll also have at least a microwave to cook a bowl of oatmeal or a heat and eat breakfast sandwich. Or you could toss some granola bars in your park bag and nibble on those later in the morning.
5. Booking character dining? Consider breakfast or lunch.
This tip also applies to any table service dining location, too. Typically, breakfast and lunch are less expensive meals than dinner but especially true at character dining meals. Pre-pandemic, character dining breakfast or lunch was around $40 per adult versus $60 and over for dinner. This adds up fast and would save at least $50 for a family of two adults and two children between the ages of 3 and 9.
6. Order from the kids’ menu.
In my opinion, Disney portions are HUGE–and this is coming from a major foodie that loves to try all the dishes I can when visiting Disney. Even I can’t always stomach the thought of a huge platter of chicken tenders and fries in the midday Florida sun. If you’re stopping at a quick service location, anyone can order from the kids’ menu no questions asked. Dining at a table service restaurant? You’ll need to ask your server as there aren’t any real hard and fast rules regarding this at most table service locations.
7. Share large plates.
So your table service location doesn’t allow ordering from the kids’ menu? Or you want something from the regular menu instead? You can always share a plate, especially for those larger entrees. Plate sharing is allowed at any restaurant with the exception of buffets and family style meals. Even some quick service meals are great for sharing, especially the rib platters at Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom.
8. Customize your order (AKA don’t pay for what you don’t want).
When ordering a combo meal at pretty much any counter service location, it will come with your choice of side dishes. You may not always have the appetite for the entree and a side, so if that’s the case, you can save a few dollars by asking to leave off the fries, coleslaw, etc. Or you can leave it off from your mobile order.
9. Pay with discounted gift cards.
Regardless of where you are dining, whether quick service, table service, luxurious signature dining or just a snack from a kiosk, save by paying with a discounted Disney gift card. Buy discounted Disney gift cards at Sam’s Club, BJ’s, or at Target with their RedCard and save an average of 5%. Since you’ve already bought the card, it’s nice to feel like you’ve “prepaid” for the expense since you’ve already bought the gift card and aren’t always having to shell out cash for every meal. Learn more about how to get Disney gift cards discounted up to 20% here or how to earn FREE gift cards for Disney here! If you’re planning a meal at Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex Cafe, or Yak & Yeti, pay with a discounted Landry’s gift card. Learn more about how to get discounted Landry’s cards here and how I paid less than $10 per person for a meal at Rainforest Cafe!
10. Crunch the numbers on the Disney dining plan.
The Disney dining plan is great if you do plan on buying lots of meals while in Disney World. If you’re someone who eats one large meal per day and eats fairly light the rest of the day, the dining plan may not be a good fit for you. If you are planning at least one table service meal or character dining per day, then the Disney dining plan is probably going to save you money since one character dining meal alone will just about be the same price as the dining plan itself per day, per person! Another factor to keep in mind is the ever popular “Free Dining” promotion from Disney. It’s one of their most in-demand offers that guests absolutely love–I mean, who wouldn’t love free dining at Disney, right? As much as I enjoy the dining plan, the free Disney dining promo isn’t always your biggest savings. Typically, there are ticket requirements such as a minimum four day ticket with park hoppers added, for example. If you’re already planning at least four days of park hopper tickets (or whatever their requirement is for the free dining promotion), check that against what would save you more money: a room discount or free dining. Break it down into individual components to see which will savings will benefit you more. (Side note: the Disney dining plan isn’t currently offered during phased reopening at Walt Disney World since all restaurants aren’t available. We look forward to when regular operations resume with the option to purchase the dining plan. We’ll keep you updated as to when it returns!)
11. Know before you go.
While we’re crunching the numbers, it’s also a good idea to get a realistic idea of how much dining costs in general well before you go so you know how much to budget for meals. Every dining location on property, including restaurants and snack locations in the theme parks, resort hotels, and Disney Springs are available on http://www.Disneyworld.com. or the My Disney Experience app under the “Things To Do” heading on the main menu. From there, scroll down to “All Restaurants” to get menus and pricing. It’s also a good idea to check here to help you decide what restaurants you may want to book in advance before your booking window becomes available. It’s a great planning tool for pricing, availability, and menus all in one place!
12. Consider buying a refillable mug.
Even if the dining plan isn’t for you (or is still unavailable), think about whether or not a refillable mug would be a good option for you. If you didn’t have groceries delivered and/or you love a good fountain drink, the refillable mug could potentially save you some money. The mugs are included with all levels of the Disney dining plan, but can also be purchased for $19.99 and is good for length of stay at your Disney resort hotel. You can get unlimited refills of coffee, tea, and fountain drinks at any of the resort hotels, not just the one you’re staying at. Considering each one of these drinks usually costs around $3, this adds up if you would be buying a coffee or soda a couple of times each day, depending on how long you are staying.