Updated for 2016!
If you ever tried to sneak food into some sort of establishment, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess! Most Walt Disney World visitors are aware that you no longer have to sneak your food into the theme parks, because the rules have changed from years past. I have a mini-anxiety attack every time we go through Security, because my dad snuck food during every trip we made to Disney as kids. I call it “Post Traumatic Cheapskate Syndrome.” Even the most well-traveled Disney visitors could use a refresher on just what you can bring with you and what to transport your food in.
What can you bring?
The Walt Disney World website states that you are not permitted to bring alcoholic beverages or glass containers into the parks. Glass baby food jars are allowed.
Staying hydrated in the park is really essential to having a great trip. You are welcome to bring in your own beverages or food in a soft sided cooler. You can also get water for FREE at any snack or counter service restaurant that serves fountain drinks. Just ask for an ice water!
What if I forget and bring my Coke in a glass bottle?
On our last visit, we watched a man seven people in front of us try to bring in two glasses with him through the Magic Kingdom Security checkpoint. I could not determine if these were for a proposal or he had just purchased them as a souvenir. I do know they were not colorful Disney coffee mugs but clear glass. Security said he could throw them away. He said no, so they radioed for another Security Cast Member. And he was still waiting five minutes later when we walked off. Forgetting the glass rule can cost you money and waste your time, which can directly and indirectly costing you money.
Little Mickey’s glass baby food jar is still OK.
What kind of food should I bring?
Holy cow, is it hot in Orlando during a large portion of the year. I’m not sure you’ll want to eat that Tuna sandwich that came out of the fridge at 6 a.m. for dinner after it sat in a backpack all day. If you bring cold food that should remain cool, you’ll need a way to keep it cold.
Disney World offers no facilities to heat food inside the parks. The WDW website specifically mentions “snacks or foods that do not require heating” as permissible carry-ins. Sandwiches, dry snacks (like crackers, cookies, fruit bars, and chips) and cans of soda and bottled water tend to work best, though you can also bring in cold food such as potato salad if you have a proper container for it. I like to avoid sodas that can get shaken up transporting them to and from the parks, but many people bring sodas along with no issue.
How large can my cooler be?
You might want to re-think that Thanksgiving Day spread you had planned for the “Greatest Disney Picnic Ever.” While Disney may not care what food you bring with you, they do care how big your cooler is. If you have ever seen the drivable cooler, you will know why this rule made me chuckle a bit. No bags, boxes, coolers, or any other container larger than 24″ x 15″ x 18″ is allowed into the parks, no matter what you plan to use it for.
Most Disney planning sites suggest you bring a soft-sided insulated bag. You can buy these for $10 and up, depending on where you purchase it.
Also, other than strollers, you may not bring any wheeled conveyances into the parks. This means no rolling coolers or wagons to transport lots of smaller coolers.
Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to drive a cooler into Disney World. I couldn’t resist finding a photo, as I wondered if at some point, if someone really did try to drive their lunch into the Magic Kingdom…
How do I get my food past security?
This part is easy. Smile, have your bag checked, and walk through the gates. I have overheard many security Cast Members ask about specific food items, but this is just small talk. One Cast Member held up my son’s bag of Cheese Nips and stood there. My son looked at him like he feared being arrested. The Cast Member said,”What, no chocolate?” As long as your Cheese Nips are not enclosed in glass, you are good to go.
Those Security Cast Members are checking bags for weapons and other illicit items, not your Twix chocolate bars. It’s a good idea to pack your food in your bag/cooler so that security can search through it quickly and cleanly, and then simply repack it once you get past the check point.
Now I have to haul my food around with me all day?
No, but you might want to. Kids get hungry, as do adults, often in what seems to be the worst time.
You can rent a locker for the day, although they are subject to availability on first-come basis. Key deposits are refunded when the key is returned.
- Large Locker: 17.5″h x 12″w x 16″ deep. $10.00 per day with a $5.00 key deposit.
- Small Locker: 11″h x 9″w x 16″ deep. $8.00 per day with a $5.00 key deposit.
You must return your locker key no later than one hour after park closing to receive the deposit refund.
While I am inherently cheap, this is not a bad deal considering the cost of a bottle of water rings in just under $3. But if you are walking upwards of 10 miles a day, walking back to get your food may be just more miles piled on your poor feet, and then you still have to hike to where you want to eat. But the locker rental option is there for those who need it.
Will having a picnic scar my kids for life?
A Cheapskate Princess would say, “Definitely no, not if you’ve raised them right!”
Whoops, what about Animal Kingdom?
Having just said all that, you need to know that Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park doesn’t allow coolers at all, unless you need one specifically for medical purposes. Animal Kingdom also prohibits juice boxes in the park, because the plastic straw wrappers on such drinks constitute a hazard to the animals.
A vacation to Disney World is expensive, and with our current economy, many people are struggling to make ends meet, much less take a vacation. The price of food for a family of five adults (three kids over the age of 15) really affects my vacation planning. If taking snacks, drinks, and even meals into the Disney parks will help you stay for an extra day or two, then not only are you smart, but you just might be a Cheapskate Princess.
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you in Wal-mart shopping for a soft sided cooler.
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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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