Updated for 2016!
When some people go on vacation, many times they don’t want to cook a thing. Vacations are for relaxing and having fun, and for most people, cooking doesn’t fall under either of those categories. This carries over to a trip to Disney World, because the majority of travelers have specific ideas about where they want to eat in Orlando. Entire books are dedicated to planning out your vacation, hour by hour, meal by meal, advising you to make all your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) months in advance. Let me concur that this is sage advice. When would I suggest you go against traditional wisdom and skip a Disney meal?
If you qualified for Free Disney Dining or purchased the Disney Dining Plan, with enough credits for breakfast, then schedule your ADRs ASAP. But if you are paying for your first meal of the day out-of-pocket, we highly suggest you think about just having it in your hotel room.
All on-property Disney rooms, from Value to Deluxe accommodations, now come standard with mini-fridges. Off property rooms often have mini-fridges as well, and if not, an ice chest from home is the perfect place to keep a full or half-gallon of milk for breakfast. With a gallon of milk and a box of cereal, you can feed the family for a fraction of the cost of a sit down restaurant meal.
My family started this in-room breakfast tradition at the All-Star Music Resort years ago before mini-fridges were standard. My husband stood in line for nearly 20 minutes for our first breakfast of the vacation, which is not an unusual amount of time to wait for breakfast at WDW. The All-Star Resorts are traditionally pretty busy in the mornings. During holidays, a 20 minute wait could actually be considered pretty quick.
When he made the five-minute walk back to our room with a tray full of waffles, my husband said, ”This meal was $50. At this rate, we could be spending up to $200 a day on food.” This was back when three of those five meals were kids’ meals. We are up to five adult meals per meal at this point, possibly six with two hungry, growing teenage boys.
Now I enjoy a good Disney waffle, but we were eating in the hotel room to save time for an early start to the theme parks. There was no special restaurant atmosphere in our room, and the cost of this particular breakfast wasn’t something that was adding anything pixie dust-magical to my vacation.
While the kids swam in the pool that afternoon, my husband dropped by Wal-mart and picked up milk and cereal. For the cost of one resort breakfast for two adults and three kids, we fed our entire family breakfast for the remainder of the vacation. There are lots of options besides cereal for hotel room breakfasts, including oatmeal, pop tarts, breakfast bars, etc.
Will breakfast eaten in your hotel room, probably sitting on the bed or the floor watching TV, be as fun as a character meal?
Is cold cereal on vacation as much fun as a warm Mickey Mouse waffle smothered in syrup with a side of bacon? No way.
But it’s definitely cheaper, and for what I will save eating breakfast in my room, I have enough money to buy my family of five several snacks in my favorite resort cafes when we resort hop.
Here’s another idea: Take your breakfast outside and find a table, and then you have a cheap breakfast with a view!
Have a full or mini kitchen in your resort room? Perfect. Whip up your own mini-Disney buffet with eggs, sausage, biscuits, and turn on some Disney music to add a little magic.
Have a half-sized kitchen in your resort room? Use that microwave to warm up some grits or oatmeal, with some buttered toast and orange juice. Chef Mickey may not be standing by your side, but with adult meals priced at nearly $50 each with tax for an adult character buffet, think of the money you will save. Our family literally saves $250 per skipping of character meals, which we use to splurge on various other amazing Disney experiences.
Or sometimes we just purchase tickets. Disney World is expensive.
Take that cash you save on breakfast and head over to the Contemporary Resort. Order a cupcake and watch the monorails zip through the building. Drop by the Wilderness Lodge and order a brownie, eating it outside at a table as you listen to the waterfall.
Suddenly, you may just feel grateful for cold cereal.
We asked our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans what they thought about eating breakfast in the hotel room; their answers can help you plan your next Disney vacation.
Amy, “Breakfast in the room saves time and money. My choices are instant oats, fresh fruit, Larabars. Yummy!!”
Penny, “We brought breakfast items with us, like Pop Tarts, cereal bars, milk, portable yogurt, and it absolutely saved us money.”
Morgan, “We always eat breakfast in our room, except for a treat at Chef Mickeys the very last day. We drive and bring fruit, granola bars, oatmeal, bagels, etc. It’s important to bring easy things to munch on as we wait for the boats or buses.”
Krista, “We never have eaten breakfast in the room, but this year we decided to bring our mickey waffle iron, a small bottle of vegetable oil, and a box of mix to make waffles in the room. I can make them once or twice during the week and keep them in the fridge. My kids eat them like cookies anyway, so we can grab them on the way out the door and eat at the bus stop. We’ll see how it goes!”
Colleen, “We order cereal, bananas, muffins and milk from the Garden Grocer, and we eat while everyone is getting ready. Then it’s off to the buses! Saves time!”
Amanda, “We almost always eat breakfast in the room. We usually do one breakfast buffet per trip, just to get in to a park early. Other than that we like to buy things we wouldn’t normally get at home. The kids have fun picking out junk food for breakfast. Things like Pop Tarts, donuts, oatmeal packets, mini cereal boxes, etc. We are DVC members, so we also make eggs, toast, sausage, etc. I always get some fruit and some V8 Fusion to sneak a little nutrition into breakfast!”
Tips from Those Packing Food in Suitcases
Melissa, “We bring oatmeal packets, individual serving cereal (buy milk in the resort gift shop), granola bars, PB &J sandwich fixings, 100% juice boxes and fruit. We’ll fill up our mugs 1/2 way with free coffee, add our own hot cocoa, then fill with hot water to make cafe’ mocha. My hubby gets the first cup of mocha and brings it back to the room. Then we refill our mochas for on the bus ride to the park. We usually fly to WDW so everything is under three ounces and fills a carry-on bag.”
Cassie, “We pack the big cereal bag. We like almond milk and can put it in the suitcase. We bring Styrofoam bowls and plastic utensils, plus cereal bars, granola bars, and we order a case of water with the stroller we rent. This works out well. We also love Port Orleans Resort food choices; we bring our mug and drink that with our meal there. We get a beverage with our meal and place it in our fridge for our day in the park. Then it can be refilled with water. This way we never have to purchase a beverage separately.”
Melanie, “Even though we get the dining plan, we always eat breakfast in the room. We bring mini bagels, oatmeal, Pop Tarts, and cereal bars. Sometimes we get fresh fruit for dessert and bring it back to the resort for the next day’s breakfast. We fly, so I have to pack those bagels carefully so they don’t get crushed. We like to save our snack credits for the good stuff like carrot cake cookies and Dole whips!”
Naomi told us exactly how she has saved money during several trips – “We always fly so our checked bag generally has a 24 pack of water from Target and breakfast and snack odds and ends. On our last trip, my carry on also had some packaged carrots, veggie bag, dip cups and apples slices. I pack rice dream boxes, mini boxes of cereal, granola bars, dry snacks or dried fruit, etc.
We eat very early in the room and head to the park of the morning with chilled water bottles in our bag to stay hydrated. By the time we’re hungry for lunch, we’re sitting at a character dining. We eat either a later breakfast/brunch or lunch, and then we can relax, eat, take a break from the parks. We skip waiting in ride lines for characters autographs and pictures. Then we make time for a mid-afternoon snack around 3 to 4 p.m. Usually we share a quick service meal and a sweet snack somewhere else, then eat a later dinner. This leaves plenty of time for the parks, and we don’t feel like we’re missing a regular meal while still indulging in all the different amazing foods Disney has. (We make a list of out must haves and new tries before we go). On one trip I know this saved us several hundred dollars, because we used the meal plan and I priced out what our meals would have cost us, along with if we had purchased other meals or snacks.
On another trip, it was a “budget trip,” and our plan not only accommodated my picky eater, but we really just ‘snacked’ our way through Disney with only a few sit down or counter service ‘full meals.’ With the cost of what I paid for the breakfast and snacks I brought, I stayed under $50 per day for food for a mom and daughter, which that included a couple of character meals. Buffets and all you can eat really fill a person up. The only time we haven’t done this is during Free Dining when we had the Deluxe Dining Plan. We felt we couldn’t eat that much and had credits left over (Yay for snack credits being redeemed for take home treats for Disney movie night!)”
Your Cheapskate Princess tip for the day… Save money by eating breakfast in the room, and then use that savings for a Disney experience. This can save you both time standing in a food line and cash for later on.
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you in the grocery store before your trip, picking up some boxes of Mini Wheats or Raisin Bran.
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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.
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