Bringing Food into Disney World Theme Parks: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

yummy snacks to bring to Disney World

Updated for 2018!

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 in food during every trip we made to Disney when I was a child. I call it “Post Traumatic Cheapskate Syndrome.”

Even the most well-traveled Disney visitors could use a refresher on just what you can bring and how to transport food for a day at the parks. [Read more…]

Disney World Food Tip #10: When to Schedule Table Service Meals to Save Money

Updated for 2018!

Headed to Walt Disney World? Chances are, you have several special restaurants you want to visit for a memorable meal. Table service meals, where a Cast Member brings food or drinks directly to your table, are a great way to add to your Disney dining experience, but it doesn’t come cheap. Table service meals are more expensive than counter service meals, sometimes by a rather large amount, and that’s before you even add in the tip.

Let’s say you ate breakfast in your room. Do you schedule your table service meal at lunch or dinner? 

[Read more…]

Disney Food Tip #1: Share This Meal!

sharing food on a Disney World vacation

Updated for 2018!

Food is a hot topic among Disney vacation planners. People online are raving about their favorite restaurants and special meals. But food is also pricey, and if you’re on a limited food budget, character meals and Disney Signature Dining meals may not be on your trip itinerary.

Budget WDW trips often call for counter service meals. Counter service is simply where you walk up to the restaurant counter and order your meal, take it back to your table yourself, and clean up your own mess. There is no wait staff at counter service restaurants like there are at table service locations, and this meal will be less expensive than table service.

You can save money by choosing counter service meals over table service, and then save even more by sharing, because who says you have to eat the whole meal by yourself?

Remember when mom said, “Sharing is caring.” Well, it’s also cheaper…

[Read more…]

Disney’s Famous Kitchen Sink: The Cheapskate Princess Guide

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop, what is Disney's Kitchen Sink, the best Disney dessert, Disney ice cream

Updated for 2018!

When they write a guide for a vacation dessert, you know it has to be a big deal. Ever heard of Disney’s “The Famous” Kitchen Sink? It’s one of the most unusual dessert experiences found in all of Walt Disney World, and it feed upwards of four people. Rumor has it this is probably the largest dessert you will ever lay eyes on, and that’s really not a big exaggeration. I’ve poured some big bowls of cereal before, but this thing is crazy!

Welcome to our Cheapskate Princess Guide to The Kitchen Sink!

[Read more…]

The Top 20 Best Disney Restaurants, So Says the Fans!

where to eat at Disney World

Updated for 2018!

Ever feel like you eat at the same restaurants all the time? I fall into that category when we head to Disney, because I don’t like stepping out of my foodie comfort zone. I really dislike taking a gamble with my vacation dollars. There are over 140 restaurants at the Walt Disney World Resort, with over half of these taking Advance Dining Reservations 180 days before people check in at the resort front desk. That’s a lot of choices, and to get a table, sometimes you have to make those decisions months in advance. This sort of pressure can take the fun right out of your vacation planning, but not planning can literally take the yummy Disney food right out of your mouth. [Read more…]

Tipping at Disney World Restaurants: A Cheapskate Guide

Updated for 2018!

Like to make your Disney friends jealous? Just tell them that you booked your next vacation already. Like to make them turn green with Mickey Mouse envy? Casually mention you qualified for their Free Dining Offers. I am probably a shade of Mike Wazowski green, because I can never get to Orlando for the free dining promotion.  And make no cheapskate mistake, some Disney fans report that free dining is one of the best deals Disney ever offers. Depending on how many people you are feeding and the length of your stay, you can save hundreds of dollars.

One thing you should keep in mind though is that Free Dining does not include a tip for your server. How much should you Cheapskate Princesses be prepared to pay? [Read more…]

Disney World Must Eat: Beaches & Cream Soda Shop for Ice Cream Fun!

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop, what is Disney's Kitchen Sink, the best Disney dessert, Disney ice cream

Updated for 2018!

If you ever cooked dinner at home for months and brought your lunch to work for weeks, in order to pay for some fun on vacation, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess. When you take those savings and spend more for ordinary items on vacation than you do in real life, then we call that a Cheapskate Princess Splurge.

This WDW food tip won’t save you any money. In fact, we’re going to encourage you to make a pit stop here just to spend more money. But it won’t be a tremendous amount, when you compare under $10 to character buffets and park tickets.  

Welcome to Beaches and Cream Soda Shop, where you will certainly pay more for ice cream than simply buying your own gallon container at Walgreens, but what you are splurging on is the ice cream experience.  [Read more…]

Disney World Food Tip #6: To Save Money, Order This Drink for Free!

how to save money on drinks at Walt Disney World

Updated for 2018!

It can get crazy HOT in the Disney Parks. Summer is brutally hot, but this is Florida, so it’s not like fall and spring are chilly.  You will get thirsty, regardless of the season.

Lots of people bring their own water bottles into Walt Disney World, which is definitely O.K. Years ago, you were not allowed to bring outside food or drinks with you, but now you are in the clear. I had a Cast Member doing bag checks shake a box of snacks and look at me funny, with a rather unsettling face. I just smiled, like somebody sneaking snacks into a theme park. He said, “No chocolate?” So you can relax and bring in your plastic bottles, snacks, and picnic meals. [Read more…]

FREE Drink Refills at Disney World Theme Parks: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Where to find free refills at Disney World theme park restaurants

Updated for 2018!

Vacations to Disney World sure are pricey, and many families struggle to keep their costs down once they arrive in Orlando. Travel costs, tickets, accommodations, souvenirs, and buying theme park food will cost you more than one pretty penny.  How can you keep counter service drink costs down, especially when the weather is hot and your family is extra thirsty? You simply have to locate the Disney Parks “Free Drink” refill stations. [Read more…]

Save Money on Food at Walt Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

save money at Disney World and Disneyland on Food
Updated for 2017!
 
If you ever ate half a Disney kid’s meal for lunch to save money for a character meal for dinner, then you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!

You 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. To help save you money both for and during your long-awaited Disney vacation, here’s our guide to a multitude of ways to save some cash, even if it’s not your first time to see the Mouse. [Read more…]

Is Your Starbucks Coffee Habit Taking Money Out Of Your Disney Vacation Fund?

Walt Disney World coffee mug, Disney mug, Mickey Mouse mug, coffee mug, I drink coffee, Starbucks coffee at Disney World

Surely by now you have heard that Starbucks has landed at Walt Disney World. For a while, Starbucks was a huge topic of conversation on the Internet in the Disney community, because many life-long Disney fanatics do not handle change very well.  Starbucks has taken the Main Street Bakery over in the Magic Kingdom.  The shop closed in January of ’13 and re-opened open in early June of this year. Over at Epcot, Starbucks is now inside the Fountain View.

It’s not surprising that people have been worried about change, given that the Main Street Bakery is about as American as apple pie, or at least it’s a favorite spot to pick up a snack that has nothing to do with a “big corporation” company like Starbucks. Disney locations that are inhabited by Starbucks are expected to serve all the general items that Starbucks usually serves. Additional Starbucks locations for Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom should be announced soon. [Read more…]

Can a Cheapskate Princess Afford the Disney Dining Plan?

Disney Dining Plan

Updated for 2017

Free Disney Dining has almost taken on a life of its own. If you planned your entire vacation around qualifying for free food,  then you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!  Travel agents stay tied up for days to get their clients the accommodations and Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) they have requested to get those free meals. People go crazy for Free Disney Dining, and why not? Traveling during those certain dates can save you a lot of money. Those of us who are DVC members or cannot leave work to travel during  the free dining dates, we just sit around and mope that we don’t get to eat for free.

Free Disney Dining…Is It Really Always Free?

But, uh oh, what if you don’t qualify for the free dining and have to pay for your dining plan?  Is it worth the money? Let’s take a look at how the Disney Dining Plan works.

The Quick Service Disney Dining Plan

For each person on the room reservation, the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • Two quick service (counter-service) meal credits per night including non alcoholic beverage;
  • Two snack credits per night; and
  • A refillable drink mug per stay.

The current 2017 daily price of the Quick Service Plan is $48.19 per adult and $20.88 per child ages 3-9 for a stay during regular season. This is the lowest level for the dining plan.

Read: To Save Money on Disney World Food, Eat Breakfast Here!

Disney Dining Plan

 

The Disney Dining Plan

For each person on the room reservation per night of package stay, the Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • One Table Service Meal credit per night including entree, dessert, and non alcoholic drink or full buffet;
  • One Quick Service Meal credit per night;
  • Two Snack credits per night; and
  • One  refillable drink mug per stay.

The current daily price per night for the Disney Dining Plan is $69.35 per adult and $24.95 per child for most times of the year. Children under three eat free from an adult’s plate. Your gratuity is not included for table service meals. Be sure to include this in your food budget as some guests get a surprise while on vacation. Two table service credits can also be used for signature restaurants, dinner shows, private dining, or pizza delivery.

Read: How to Score Free Drinks at Disney World’s Epcot!

Deluxe Disney Dining Plan

For each person on the room reservation, the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • Three meal credits at your choice of Quick Service restaurants or table service restaurants per night. When using the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan, a Table Service Meal consists of an appetizer, entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage or one full buffet or family style meal;
  • Two snack credits per night; and
  • One refillable drink mug per stay.

The current daily price of the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is $106.68 per adult and $38.75 per child during regular season. Children under three eat free from an adult’s plate.  Two table service credits can also be used for signature restaurants, dinner shows, private dining, or pizza delivery. Gratuity is not included for the table service meals.

Disney Dining Plan

Should You Bring Your Own Snacks to Disney World to Save Money?

Want to see if the Disney Dining Plan is a good fit for you? Click HERE.

Lots of people describe “ease” as one of the main reasons the Disney Dining Plan is the route to go. Here are several reasons purchasing the DDP will make your vacation easier.

  • Simply present yourMagicBand  to your server or cashier just before you order. Your Magicband electronically monitors the meals allocated for your group.
  • You can track your meals with an easy-to-read receipt your server will provide you, which will display your remaining meal balance.
  • You can redeem your meals in any order throughout your package stay until each person’s meal total is complete.
  • There are over 100 select restaurants available throughout the WDW resort and Downtown Disney to choose from that accept the DDP.
  • The Dining Plans can save you money if you plan to eat at the parks or resorts for every meal. Unless you plan on bringing food into the park or eat meals in your room then the dining plans will save you money.
  • A positive reason to get the dining plan is that you can pay for your meals ahead of time. This helps guests be able to save and budget for their meals while on vacation. You will already have everything paid before your vacation even starts. This helps you to not hemorrhage money while eating on your vacation.

We ask our  Facebook fans what they thought of actually paying for the Dining Plan. Here are their thoughts.

Samantha Berry said, “Our family uses the dining plan for every trip! It is the best choice for our on the go family and offers the most flexibility and convenience for our stay at Disney World. It allows us not to price check everything during the trip and because we have already paid for the dining plan included, there are no surprises at the end and no overspending!”

 Want to Save Money on Food at Disney World? Ziplocs Can Save You Cash!

Disney Dining Plan

Kristen related, “Deluxe Dining gives us the flexibility we want in choosing where to eat, the opportunity to sample a greater variety on the menu, and the luxury of including signature restaurants in our plan. It’s my default for great Disney dining.”

Melissa said, “I definitely think it’s worth it. I’d rather pay for it up front and know I won’t have to pay for anything else other than gratuity. I order the most expensive meal and enjoy, when at home, I would always look at price. It’s a nice way to be care free.

Lori said for her family of seven, the DDP is the route to go. “We like to eat stuff other than quick service and really enjoy our character dining. Some of the places (1900 Park Fare from our last experience) are just too expensive to do otherwise.”

Kristy said, “The DDP is definitely worth it if you are going to do a sit down meal. It almost pays for itself with just that. Believe me, we keep receipts to add up and see how much we save!!”

 Read: Avoid These 10 Mistakes That Can Wreck a Disney World Vacation

Disney Dining Plan

Melissa said Deluxe Dining, always. “Since we are DVC, we don’t qualify for free dining. We usually wind up saving a little bit of money, but we eat like kings and queens, and we aren’t worried about the cost, because we already paid for it!”

Tammy told us, “Free dining is by far the BEST, but we’ll still always go with a dining plan. My kiddos are older, and between their dining preferences and mine, we always come out ahead on the dining plan. For our next trip, we actually decided to go Deluxe rather than Basic, as a matter of fact. My number-crunching teenager went through the list of restaurants we want to go to (many of them 2 credit eateries) and ball-parked the costs from the menus on allears.net. When he compared it to the cost of the deluxe plan, we came out money ahead using the plan. We won’t save a TON of money, but a little ahead is still ahead, and that gets combined with the convenience of the prepaid plan and snacks thrown in. If you tend to get quick service most of the time, you’re going to be better off paying out-of-pocket, though.”

These items are not accepted with the Disney Dining Plan.

  • Alcoholic beverages;
  • Items that are more than one serving, like a box of doughnuts or a jar of peanut butter;
  • Items served in souvenir containers;
  • Items sold at recreational rental counters;
  • Items that are considered to be merchandise, like bottle toppers, glow cubes, and bottle straps; and
  • Some special event dining events with special menus.

 

The Fine Financial Points to Remember with the Dining Plan

  • Gratuities are not included except at dinner shows, private in-room dining, and Cinderella’s Royal Table.
  • 18% gratuity is automatically added to your bill for parties of 6 or more.
  • Items that are not included in the Disney Dining Plan will be added to your bill.
  • If a guest under three orders a meal off the menu, this cost will be added to your bill.

I read some DDP reviews on Allears.net., where someone commented that the cost of the Disney Dining Plan has increased by 22% over the last several years, so while you were saving a fair amount of money several years ago, this is not necessarily the case now.

Cheapskate Princess fan said, “You will like the DDP if you like to take the time to eat and like good quality food and trying new things. It works out really well, especially if you are traveling with kids and adults (like me) that like to do character dining experiences. Then it pays for itself. If you have a bigger appetite, the meal plan is the way to go. If you go by yourself or travel with people who do not want to take a lot of time for dinning, then just do Quick Service only. However if you are like my sister and her family, who can live on a cup of soup for 10 hours, then don’t do any of the meal plans.”

Want to Save Money on Food at Disney? Two Words: Kid’s Meals!

Melissa said her group just got back from Disney, “We didn’t do Disney Dining, but we had a condo and brought in lunch every day of sandwiches, drinks, and snacks. We only paid for our princess lunch at Epcot and two other meals in the park, which was less expensive than the dining plan for us.”

Disney Dining Plan

Jennifer described her dining plan experience. “We’ve always had free dining in the past, but this year we’re looking for a room-only rate to stay at a dream resort and won’t have dining. I think it works out. The dining plan for us ends up always being too much food. We wouldn’t normally order desserts and sodas with every meal, and we tend to want less sit-down meals each trip. If we actually calculated what we would normally purchase, it would turn out to be far less than the dining plan cost. Even when it’s “free,” there is a cost because you must pay rack rates for rooms instead of getting the sometimes-hefty room discounts. Since we do like the ease of not thinking about the price of things, I think for the next trip we’ll pre-purchase Disney Gift Cards in large amounts and just hand those over when it’s time to pay. That way we still won’t have to see cash exchanging hands, and it will still have the illusion of being free!”

Kim said, “We used to get free dining, and then once we paid for it because we got a great discount. Now that we have Annual Passes and the dining price went up… Nope. We eat at Taco Bell and Fuddruckers!”

Read – Life Lessons with a Disney Twist: Teach Kids to Save Their Money

Disney Dining Plan

Jennifer explained her opinion, “We’ve been annual pass holders for the last few years. Our December trip will be our very first time on a dining plan. We’ve seen no need for it before, and the only reason why we have it this time is because it was free. We easily save hundreds of dollars more by purchasing meals ourselves. We don’t need a dessert or a soft drink with every meal, and we actually prefer to drink water. And if you stay off resort, it’s much cheaper to eat out, even at Cracker Barrel or Chili’s, than it is to eat in the parks. It’s all about preference and convenience. The meals are so big that you can easily share anyway, especially if you have kids.

Now looking at the numbers, I can totally see how free dining would pay off, even if you were paying for the upgrade for a more expensive dining package. It might not work for every vacation, but run the numbers and you might be surprised that it can save you money in the long run.

One factor to remember is that with the popularity of the free dining promotion, if you plan a last-minute trip while other people are eating for free, or you stay in a DVC resort using points, should you try to purchase the dining plan on your own, you may not be able to get reservations at the restaurants where you really want to dine.

For a Fabulous Disney Meal, Make These Reservations ASAP!

Disney Dining Plan

So most of the Disney’s Cheapskate Princess Facebook fans responded that they purchased the Disney Dining Plan for the convenience of having meals paid for ahead of time. No one mentioned they were saving a tremendous amount of money using the plan, although lots of people said they saved a ton of money by vacationing during the free dining promotion. Which leaves me cupcake icing green with free dining envy.

A special thanks to Bob Angelo for his fabulous dining photos.

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

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Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

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Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda 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 Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

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