You will need to bring an empty stomach and a full wallet to Walt Disney World. Tickets, accommodations, food, travel costs, and souvenirs will all set you back a pretty penny. Over at Disney’s Cheapskate Princess, we look for ways to save you money for and during your long-awaited Disney vacation. Here is our guide to a multitude of ways to save some cash on your next vacation, even if it’s not exactly your first time to see the Mouse.
1. Order the Kids’ Meal
If you are ordering at any counter service restaurant, you are not required to order an adult meal. The opposite applies at table service restaurants, where a child over the age of 10 is considered an adult and will be dining from the adult menu. Kids’ meal are typically about 40-50% less than adult counter service meals, and if you are not tremendously hungry, they will definitely get you through to the next meal. For more information, use this link: Disney Food Tip #2: Adults, Go Order This Meal!*
2. Share an Adult Meal
Back to dining at a counter service restaurant, you are not required to eat the entire adult meal all on your own. So if you are not tremendously hungry, say having just eaten at a buffet for breakfast or a late lunch, then share an adult counter service meal with another adult. By the way, this also leaves room for sharing dessert.
3. Share Dessert
I don’t know how much sugar you are your family are ingesting on a normal non-vacation day, but Disney will surround you by sugary goodies. I’ve done this many ways, these yummy desserts that call my name. I’ve eaten the entire dessert, and it was yummy. I have split desserts in half, thirds, yes cheapskateing friends, even in fourths. I generally recommend sharing dessert. Just because you can eat the entire thing doesn’t always mean you should, especially if you will be walking outside in the heat. High concentration of sugar in little children’s tummies isn’t always the best idea either.
Just quote me, “This is a snack, not a meal.” And then grab a knife to do some dividing. Use this link for more information: Disney World Food Tip #1: Why You Should Share Dessert*
Bring in your own water to the theme parks. Not only is it excellent for you to drink while you are walking miles and miles through the theme parks, but drinking water you paid $.25 to $.50 a bottle for will save you a ton of money. You can buy from Costco or Sam’s Club for deeper savings on large quantities. Bring in your water bottles in a soft-sided cooler to keep it cold on a hot day. For more information, use this link: Disney World Food Tip #4: What to Do With a Water Bottle.
5. Hey… Free Water!
Some people don’t like to bring in tons of stuff with them to the parks they then have to drag around all day. You can skip hauling in your own water bottles and just drop by any quick service restaurant. They will happily give you a cup of ice water for FREE!!
How can you not like free? My only real issue with “free water” from restaurants is that you have to stand in line to get the free drink. This can take time, depending on when you get in line, and time is money at Disney. The more time you spend standing in lines, the less time you are sitting on rides. Decisions, decisions, but you definitely need to be drinking water, especially in the sweltering heat of the summer. I would actually suggest you concentrate on drinking lots of water from spring through fall; Orlando is pretty deep in the south, and temperatures can range from warm to hot just about all year.Use this link for more information: Disney World Food Tip #6: To Save Money, Order This Drink for Free!
6. Bring Your Snacks Too!
If you’re bringing in your own water, take your own snacks too. With water ringing in around $.30 to $.75 a bottle and finding a snack under $3 nearly impossible, buying snacks from Disney vendors will really add up. Compare that to $.50 bottles of YOUR water and $.35 for YOUR crackers, and wow, now you have saved up enough money to buy a Disney cupcake or ice cream dish and share with your friends and family.
Better eat quick, because snacks don’t hang around very long! For more information, use this link: Bringing Food into Disney World Theme Parks: A Cheapskate Princess Guide
7. Travel with Ziplocks
Many times, someone in your party will not finish a meal or a snack. To-go boxes are a pain in the patootie to carry around, so just slip the leftovers in a Ziplock and snack on your item later. Use this link for more information: Disney Food Tip #3: Bring These In Your Theme Park Bag
8. Eat at the Right Time…
Try to eat at sit down restaurants for lunch rather than dinner. Let’s use Chef Mickey’s buffet as an example, where lunch is $15 to $35.99 per person. Dinner is $36 to $59.99. Now the selections of food will be different from lunch to dinner, but judging by those numbers, you can pay half as much to enjoy lunch as opposed to dinner in the same restaurant. That’s a pretty big savings. Use this link for more information: Disney World Food Tip #5: Eat When They Are Not!*
9. Bring Your Lunch with You…
Make and bring in your own lunch in a soft cooler, put it in a locker, and come back for a picnic lunch later on. This will work for dinner as well. If you have a stroller or somebody willing to tote the bag, you won’t even have to pay for the locker. Sitting on a bench may not be the ideal spot to dine on vacation, but you can use those savings to splurge later on. If you look around off the beaten Main Street path, you will see a lot of families having picnics. This saves money for other things, like cupcakes and Mickey-themed jewelry.
10. Eat Breakfast in Your Hotel Room
Unless you are on or have paid for a dining plan, you are not required to eat breakfast in a restaurant. Resort rooms now come fairly standard with mini-fridges, so simply pick up some milk from a grocery store or gift shop (half gallons are not crazy unreasonable) and have some cereal, or oatmeal, or whatever your crew eats for an inexpensive breakfast. Meal bars are easily carried in park bags if eating first thing in the morning isn’t your thing.
Breakfast in the room saves time and money. For more detailed info., use this link: To Save Money on Disney World Food, Eat Breakfast Here!
11. Purchase the Resort Mug only if…
If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, a resort mug comes free for each person in your party as a part of the plan. I personally believe purchasing the resort mug is a great deal, but only if you will be eating meals at your resort. You can not use the resort mugs anywhere in the theme or water parks. So if you plan to eat at your resort food court for multiple meals, by all means, get a mug.
For more info. including cost and RFID details, use this link: Are Disney World’s Refillable Resort Mugs Worth the Cost?
12. Eat at The Restaurants for Free Refills
If drink refills are important to you, there are counter service restaurants that offer free refills from drink machines. Other counter service restaurants just give you one cup with no way to refill it. This list changes, so we try to keep it updated here: FREE Drink Refills at Disney World Theme Parks: A Cheapskate Princess Guide
12. Check the Menus Online
Man, I travel with a picky group. We still joke about the trip we had reservations to San Angel Inn at Epcot and once there, having waited in anticipation for six months, could’t find anything four of our five wanted to eat. So we wound up eating at a counter service restaurant across the park. While this saved money in the long run, it wasted valuable ride-riding time and wasted a lot of walking to our initial destination. Time is money on vacation. It’s really easy these days to read through the menus online before you decide to make a reservation: here’s all you ned to know to get started: Before You Make Your Disney World Dining Reservations, You Should Read These…*
Several more links that could come in handy…
Where are the best quick service locations? We asked our readers…
What are the best Character Meals? We asked our readers..
If you do schedule a Character meal, you could use some advice
To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.
Thanks for reading through out guide to saving money on food in the Disney parks, information that really could be applied to Disney World or Disneyland with several minor variations. Let us know if you have any money-saving ideas on snacks and dining we didn’t mention today, because you know, we can’t all get to Disney when they offer free Dining, and we would love to add in your suggestion.
Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!
Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel. She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17. We know our readers love free…
Give Erin a call at 214-697-7732, or send an e-mail to erin @ destinationsinflorida.com.
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you eating some of your own snacks on a bench, because you can’t beat saving a little money. Especially if later on, you spend that savings on a Dole Whip!
Disney’s Cheapskate Princess