Updated December 2016!
If you can remember sneaking food into the Disney theme parks back before it was officially OK’d, then you might have grown up to be a Cheapskate Princess! Walt Disney World has some of the best food around, yet dining at Disney certainly doesn’t come cheap.
Children under the age of three can eat free from an adult’s plate at WDW buffets. But unless your children are still of the “Kids Eat Free” age, or you managed schedule an Orlando vacation during the Free Dining promotion, then you will spend a lot of money on food for you and your whole family. Because I complain constantly that food at Disney just kills my cheapskate budget, I’m always looking for ways to lower my food bill. I would much rather spend money on other things besides my breakfast, like jewelry, or Disney handbags…
Cheapskate Princess Disney Food Tip #2
For saving money in the Disney theme parks, adults should order this meal.
What Meal? The Kids’ Meal!
If you are eating a counter service meal, which means you picked up your food at a counter and a Cast Member will not be stopping by your table to refill your drink, there is no rule saying you have to order an Adult Meal. Kids’ Meal choices range from burgers and chicken fingers to ham sandwiches and hot dogs. Kids ‘Meals do not fall into the gourmet food category unless perhaps you are dining at a table service meal at one of the many fine dining experiences Disney has to offer, and because of the “9 and under” clause applies for those kids’ meals, you can’t order those for yourself anyway.
We asked our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans if they (adults) ordered from the kids’ menu, and their answers can help you plan your next vacation.
Christine, “I have done it for myself (one of the only ways to get mac & cheese!) and for my 13-year-old that would much rather have pizza or chicken nuggets. We’ve done it at resort food courts, many counter service restaurants, and at some table service places. Mind you, we always pay out-of-pocket just for this purpose.”
Why should an adult order the Kid’s Meal?
1. Portions are Smaller
Adult Meal portions are larger for sure, as is the price, but sometimes you don’t need to eat larger portions. Maybe you had a large breakfast and just need something to hold you over until later? Maybe the summer heat bothers your stomach, so you need a smaller portion.
Linda, “A Kid’s Meal is the perfect amount of food for me, otherwise I will get ill. Sometimes I cannot eat the adult choices due to the selection. There’s no point in getting sick at the Happiest Place on Earth!”
Mary Ann, “I do all the time. Adult meals are too much for me. Yes, there is a limited kids’ meal menu, but that’s better that than throwing food away.”
Robin, “I do. The regular meals are too much food, and I will admit, I love mac & cheese, and Disney has the best!”
Maybe you are one of those rare people trying to stick to your diet while on vacation? I know many people have returned from Orlando lamenting the extra weight they brought back. Kids’ meals will definitely have less calories than their adult counterparts.
Ann, “I had just lost 15 pounds before we went to WDW and didn’t want to gain any back the week we were there. So I bought kids’ meals sometimes and split a meal with my 13-year-old daughter sometimes. I found that the kid’s meal pork sandwiches at Pecos Bill are just a little smaller than the regular ones. I loved getting the grapes, carrots and milk as well–much healthier than fries! The kids’ meals are a pretty good value compared to regular adult meals, and I really didn’t need any more food than that.”
3. Saving Room for a Bigger Meal Later
Maybe you have reservations that night for one of those real gourmet meals and need to make sure you eat what you pay for? A smaller meal can help make sure you have room in the ol’ tummy.
4. Vegetarian Options
Sometimes it’s tough to find certain food choices that fit with your dietary restrictions.
Lisa, “I also do it because I’m vegetarian, and sometimes grilled cheese is the only option available that isn’t a salad and doesn’t have meat.”
5. Saves Money
Plain and simple, Kids’ Meals cost less money. Here are prices for four meals, two for kids and two for adults. The child’s meal will be smaller in portion size, but it’s still almost half the adult cost.
Where is the best place to Order Kids Meals for Adults?
We asked our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans to share where they bought Kid’s Meals to feed adults. This advice could be applied to kids as well, since it’s basically suggestions about restaurants that have the best tasting food.
Theme Park Suggestions:
Holly, “I get the Kids’ Meal cheese empanadas from La Cantina in Epcot. The kiddie portion is two, which is more than enough for me. The adult portion is three.”
Tammy, “Hollywood Studios’ Pizza Planet Kids’ Meal is $5.99 (small pizza, 2 sides and a drink). Also, I love the Power Pack lunches for a family snack. The Power Pack Lunch includes yogurt, apple wedges, carrot sticks, goldfish crackers, apple-cinnamon snack bar, and choice of low-fat milk or small water $5.49. You can’t beat that for a snack to share for the family!”
Julie, “I had a kid’s veggie sandwich in Hollywood Studios. The kid’s portion was half the adult portion and included a drink and fruit that my toddler ate. It was a good snack.”
Jodi, “Prime Time Cafe in Hollywood Studios has large portions and it’s a great restaurant to split portions. My husband and I are planning on splitting an entree. That way we won’t be too full or wasting food, because we don’t want to carry doggy bags around the park.”
Carrie, “We do! I like kids’ meals at Sunshine Seasons in Epcot.”
Alexandra, “I got the kids’ mac & cheese at Pop Century Resort a lot because you get a bottle of water & grapes with it.”
Sara, “I actually bought the kids’ breakfast meals at Port Orleans Resort. Plenty of food for me and it was much cheaper!”
Maria, “I order from the kids’ menu at the Blue Bayou, the adult meal is way too much food for me.”
What About Table Service Restaurants?
Erin stopped by to comment on the rule that kids ten and up have to eat off the adult menu, “It is not true that kids 10+ HAVE to order off the adult menu. The restaurants are more than happy to let a kid over 10 order a larger portion of a kid menu item or will work with you to create a version of an adult entrée that your child will eat. We had one restaurant make a larger portion of pasta for my 11-year-old and another recreate a main dish to fit his tastes.”
I responded to Erin that she must have lucked out. I called Disney directly, and a Cast Member told me that people over the age of nine must eat off the adult menu at table service restaurants. Now, will they always catch you? No. But if you go to table service restaurants expecting for your children ages 10 and up to eat kids’ meals, you could have a big surprise headed for your wallet. And those of you using MagicBands, the ages of your party members are stored in the computer base. They will be expecting certain ages if you use dining plan based on the information you provided them when you booked your trip. Just because Johnny doesn’t look ten no longer means no one will notice.
With Disney Character Meals, which are more expensive than table or counter service meals by triple or quadruple, your child (age 10 and up) will be eating an “adult buffet,” almost guaranteed.
I would recommend you call 1-407-WDI-SNEY to double check the current rule, as you mentally prepare your vacation food budget.
Remember, counter service meals do not have an age requirement, so no one there cares what you order and who it is for.
As an adult, you’re probably not eating the kids’ meal for the experience like you would a character meal. You are eating the kids’ meal at Disney to cut back on portion sizes or save money in order to experience or purchase something else. But believe me, some of those kids’ meals are pretty tasty, especially if you are a burger or a mac & cheese fan!
So remember this tip the next time you are about to place your counter service order – order the Kids’ Meal. Adult Meals can sometimes cost up to twice the amount as the Kids’ Meals, so over the course of your vacation, you can save some money.
Where can you see more articles on Disney, food, and even saving money on food?
If I can save any money on vacation food, I am guaranteed to blow it on a snack, like a chocolate covered caramel apple. By splitting it in fourths, you save even more money!
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you looking over the kid’s menu…
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.
Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast.
We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Princess Travel Experts with Destinations in Florida travel, Erin, Julie, and Elizabeth. You can also e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.