Benefits of Staying at a Disney Resort: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Disney Resorts

When planning to visit Walt Disney World, some might say “to do it right, stay at a Disney Resort”. While there is no one “right” way for everyone to vacation at the most magical place on earth, there are benefits of staying at a Disney Resort. Staying close to the parks does come with a price, but keep in mind, you get more than “just being closer to the parks” for your money at a Disney Resort. Comparing what is included can sometimes make off property the same or more cost than staying at a Disney Resort, with less convenience.  [Read more…]

Tiffins in Disney’s Animal Kingdom: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Tiffins Animal Kingdom

Got a special occasion and want to try some new dining on your next visit to Walt Disney World in a restaurant like no other on the property? Give Tiffins a try, Disney’s newest signature restaurant and part of the largest expansion in the history of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.  [Read more…]

Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

hoop-de-doo-musical-revue-00Photo Credit:

Updated for 2017!

It’s a rootin’ tootin’, not high falutin’, good old-fashioned family fun hootenanny! The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Walt Disney World has the distinction of being the longest running dinner show in America. It also is one of the more expensive dining experiences at Disney World. Let this guide help you decide if the Hoop-Dee-Doo is perfect for you and your family.

Read: Over 30 FREE Activities In Disney Springs: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

[Read more…]

Disney Springs’ Boathouse Restaurant: Tips for Dining Under $20

Boathouse Restaurant at Disney Sorings for less

Updated for 2018!

I don’t mind admitting I was intimidated by the Boathouse restaurant at Disney Springs. The Internet was abuzz with chatter about the prices almost before the doors opened, and the menu just shouted fru fru to my immature pallet. Foodie is the last word people use to describe me, but we gave it a whirl on a trip to Orlando, with the intentions of seeing what you can get for under $20 a person. You won’t get a steak or a lobster, both of which they offer, but there’s definitely meals aplenty for under $20.

Read: Save Money on Food at Walt Disney World

What then should you order that won’t bust up your budget? [Read more…]

Disney World Food Tip #8: Avoid Eating Too Much Sugar

stay healthy on a Disney vacation

Updated for 2018!

My son and I have a little verbal game we play on walks when we are not visiting Disney parks. You know on those mundane days when we are surviving non-Disney reality, because somebody has to walk the dog in reality-ville. He likes to ask me, “What snack would you eat at Disney World right now?” I answer based on how long ago I ate a meal and which resort or park I can re-call to mind first. He always starts off with that same question, “What snack would you eat at Disney right now?” He doesn’t ask that repeatedly because he lacks imagination, but rather he asks because snacks occupy a HUGE part of our Orlando trips.

Ask anybody…Disney snacks and goodies are the stuff vacation legends are made of.

Read: 5 Steps for Planning a Disney Vacation: A Cheapskate Guide

sharing snacks at Disney World

I remember like it was yesterday. Several years ago, our children all went to the video arcade at the Contemporary Resort, leaving me and my husband to explore without kids. We wound up at the Contempo Cafe, so I could watch the monorails zip through the building. I bought a Black Forrest cupcake, and knowing my children wouldn’t be around to beg, I proceeded to eat the entire thing. That cupcake was as big as my fist; pretty soon after finishing it, I felt sick as a dog. And what should have been a lovely adult-quiet-time snack turned into an all too common occurrence on vacations. I had a sugar crash.

Wait, wait. I thought sugar was supposed to make you feel good? explains that eating sugar gives you an instant surge of energy, but this doesn’t last very long. Your blood sugar will surge to respond to the sugary snack you just ingested, your metabolism will burn through it, and then your “system crashes.” Now you wind up feeling sluggish and tired. You could feel yucky after eating too much sugar because your fullness sensors become impaired. When this happens, you may wind up eating more food or snacks than your body needs, and again, you feel uncomfortably full and sluggish.

I now call this phenomena “cupcake crash.” 

Read – Differences in the Disney World Resort Levels: A Cheapskate Guide

cupcakes at Walt Disney World

I don’t eat sugary treats on vacation for energy; I eat them because, for the most part, they just simply taste amazing!  Assuming these snacks and desserts are sometimes about equal to what I can purchase at home in terms of quality, home food 100% of the time remains unmatched by Disney atmosphere and theming. I swear that cupcake truly tastes better than the average home-made cupcake when eaten outside by the pool at Coronado Springs. A Goofy’s Glacier icee is definitely better than the absolute best Slurpeee I ever slurped, because it was consumed outside the Word of Disney Store, Tinker Bell lights twinkling in the trees, Disney music piped in from the bushes. A hot fudge sundae during Wishes? Man, oh man…

Any of those treats seriously trumps a Zinger eaten at my back yard table any day.

The key to vacation snacking dining success is to examine the type of sugars you are consuming.

Read: Should You Purchase the Disney Dining Plan?

caramel apples snacks at Disney World explains there are two types of sugars, simple sugar and complex sugars.

Simple Sugars

Simple sugars are those that can get absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly. They are sometimes called “fast sugars,” and foods containing these types of sugars are high on the glycemic index. This sugar can be sucrose, glucose, maltose, fructose, or different types of natural sugar.

Simple sugars can be disguised as jams, sweets, cakes, pastries, soft drinks, chocolates, biscuits, ice creams etc. They can also be found in mass quantities at the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Confectionary. I can just imagine the sweets counter now, with a Cast Member asking what I need today…

Complex Sugars

Complex sugars are those that release sugar slowly into the blood, thus they are referred to as “slow sugars.” Foods containing complex carbohydrates are generally low on the glycemic index. Fairly common examples of these foods are apples, peanuts, strawberries, lentils, green vegetables and mushrooms.

Low glycemic foods release sugar into the blood in quantities that the body can cope with without having to release high levels of insulin. Also these foods provide the body with nutrients it needs to burn sugar effectively.

Read: Walt Disney World’s Giant Turkey Leg; Gotta Have It or Skip it?

best snacks at Walt Disney World

Eating more of the slow sugars (complex) and less of the fast sugars (simple) ensure your energy levels stay constantly ramped up. When there is no huge sugar crash, this usually means you are less likely to crave another instant sugar hit.

So what are you to do, surrounded by all those delectable treats and desserts? Because like Mickey t-shirts and key chains, there are desserts, ice creams, and pastries everywhere you turn. If you don’t see them, chances are you can smell them as you walk down the sidewalks. And darling, they smell fantastic!

Try to eat more fruits and vegetables than sweets while you are at Disney World. That’s a simple concept that most of us learned in high school health class, but it’s easier to say than actually to do on vacation. You can bring healthy snacks with you or spend more for them on property.

And yet sometimes you will just need to give in to that yummy Disney treat-temptation.

Go buy that cupcake, purchase that Glacier drink, order that chocolate pie with a Dole Whip on the side. But then in true Cheapskate Princess style, you are going to share it.

Grab a knife ands split it in half, fourths even if you are traveling with a larger party. Divide it up, and have a “snack sample.” I tell my children all the time that a Disney snack isn’t meant to be a meal, it’s a sample. And some of those Disney muffins, pastries, fritters, cakes, pies, ice cream bars, and frozen drinks have enough substance to make you as full as if you had just consumed a meal.

Your vacation problem arrives when you overindulge on sweets, because a “cupcake crash” can be right around the corner.

Read – Walt Disney World’s Giant Turkey Leg: Gotta Have It or Skip it?

Mickey Mouse cake pop at Disney World

Buy three snacks, cut them up, and make your own dessert sampler. Just get a taste, and your body will thank you later. Trust me, your kids will LOVE this idea if you present it the right way. Hey kids, you get to try more desserts with the Cheapskate Sharing Plan, just in smaller amounts. You get what you pay for at Disney World, and sometimes it’s more about quality than quantity.

Ok, maybe they won’t thank you immediately, but you’ll be glad their little stomachs aren’t aching after consuming a cupcake built for four.

If you ever divided a cupcake into four parts because another snack time is only several hours away, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you with a knife in hand, explaining to the kids the differences between a snack and a meal.

how to save money on food at Disney parks

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

Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

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




Should You Purchase the Disney Dining Plan?

Disney Dining Plan recommendations

Updated for 2015!

Ask a group of seasoned Disney visitors about paying out-of-pocket for the Disney Dining Plan, and you are guaranteed to spark a pretty good debate. Many people love it, while others refuse to pay, only using the dining plan when they can get it during a free promotion. It’s hard to argue with that logic, as every Cheapskate Princess loves FREE! But what do you do if the free option falls outside of your travel window? Do you pay for your own food whenever you feel like it, or do you pay for the Disney Dining Plan in advance of your vacation?

Walt Disney World’s Giant Turkey Leg; Gotta Have It or Skip it?

Resort guests who purchase a Magic Your Way Package or book using Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points can purchase The Disney Dining Plan (DDP).  With the dining plan, you simply purchase a certain number of meals on a “voucher system.”  Every night of your stay, each guest on your reservation receives an allotment of quick service meals, table service meals and snacks. The number of meals you receive depends on the dining plan you choose.

Your Key to the World card (room key) monitors your group’s allocated meals.  After you finish your meal, your receipt will display how many meals you have remaining for each room (not per guest), which allows you to keep track of what you have left.  Meals and snacks may be redeemed in any order during your stay until the balance is at zero or until midnight of the night you check out.

The Disney Dining Plans come in three types. Magic Your Way Package Plus Quick Service Dining, Magic Your Way Package Plus Dining and Magic Your Way Package Plus Deluxe Dining.

These are prices for the 2015 dining plans. Each price is per night.  Going by Disney rules, adults are people 10 years and over, and children are ages 3 to 9. A ten-year-old may not be an adult in your house, certainly not in mine either, but they are viewed as adults at Walt Disney World. Maybe it’s time to send grown up Jr. (age 10) out to mow the grass before you leave?!

Quick Service Dining

2 quick service meals, 1 snack, 1 refillable mug

$41.99 per adult, $16.03 per child

Regular Dining

1 table service meal, 1 quick service meal, 1 snack,  1 refillable mug

$60.04 per adult, $19.23 per child

Deluxe Dining

3 meals – any combination of table service and quick service,  2 snacks, 1 refillable mug 

$109.53 per adult, and $29.86 per child

I Completely Disliked Starbucks at Walt Disney World, Until This Happened…

should you get the Disney World Dining Plan

We asked our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans what they thought about paying for the DDP; their answers can help you plan your next Disney vacation!

No – Do Not Purchase the Plan

Vegetarian Options are Limited

Lisa, “No, we don’t because we are vegetarian, and the dining options are very limited. It’s mostly the meat dishes that are expensive.”

Too Much Food

Stefanie, “We tried the dinning plan, and we decided it wasn’t for us until our son decides to eat more. I ended up sharing with him a lot. Disney does know how to fill a plate! We never left hungry!”

Stacey, “We have done it both ways, and the dining plan is just way too much food for us. We don’t want a dessert with every meal. It is just cheaper for us to pay out-of-pocket and get what we want rather than purchase the dining plan.”

Food Costs Less with No Dining Plan

Erica, “I took my three youngest kids in April, and due to their ages, Disney wanted $200 a day for the dining plan. We spent less than that for the entire three days we were there.”

Tammi, “When we don’t get the dining plan for free, it just does not make sense. We normally never eat desert, etc. When we have it, we eat two times as much as we normally would.”

Liz,We didn’t even get it free this time. The Room Only discount made more sense financially for us. The first time we went, we paid for Deluxe Dining, and what a mistake that was! Way too much food and way too much time spent getting to and from restaurants. This trip in September, we are paying out-of-pocket for food. We made a few ADRs but not many.  We will eat breakfast in our room most days, and we will eat what we want, when we want, from counter service spots. My back-of-the-envelope calculations/estimates have us paying just over half what we would have for the dining plan.

Jennifer, “We don’t purchase the dining plan, because there’s just two of us. We feel like it’s not worth the price, because we share a lot of food, and we don’t want to be ruled by reservations and desserts! We end up eating wayyyy more when we have the dining plan, and it kind of drags me down. So we just eat when we are hungry, and we save a lot of money.”

Freedom from Constant ADR Scheduling

Salina, “We pay out of pocket for our food. We are big eaters, but we always do much better paying as we go! Then we can have a few sit down and character meals and not have to have a sit down meal every day. Our kids want to go go go!”

Where to Find FREE Disney World Snack and Drink Samples!

Disney Dining Plan Tips

Yes – Pay for the Dining Plan

Given the cost of the dining plan, it always somewhat surprises me people are willing to spend that much money on food. But the beauty of a Disney vacation is that no particular vacation plan is right for every family. Some people go to Disney to experience all the amazing cuisine WDW has to offer, and the DDP is a great way for Disney foodies to whoop it up.

Mendi and Nick, “The dining plan may be our favorite Disney perk. That is where they hide the magic.”

Tammy, “We’ve done it both ways – free and out-of-pocket. On our last trip, we did four nights at Disney World, (three days in park,) then Disney cruise, and then back to the parks for two days. So we got a Five day Magic Your Way with dining. The dining worked for the first part of the trip, but for the last part after the cruise, that was out of pocket. We were using the ‘leftover’ two days of park tickets and paid for a hotel at the Art of Animation. After always having the dining plan, paying out-of-pocket was very different. We said then that we would never pay out-of-pocket without the dining plan again ( if our stay allowed.) It just makes things so much more simpler and a little easier on your budget, if you plan on eating in ‘the world.'”

It Saves You $

 Jordan, “Last November we chose to go with the upgraded (free) dining. We kept receipts and did the math. If you plan to do character meals, and ever consider doing desserts (even though most of ours ended up coming back to the room with us,) then paying full price for the dining would be worth it.  You do come out saving some money. But if you pay for it, then for sure use it.  If you want that 25$+ steak, then have it because then you really get your money worth.”

Nancy, “Before we started staying on property, we paid for meals with cash. Now when we stay on property, we use the deluxe dining. It totally saves money! Especially since we do a lot of character and signature meals. We feel it is definitely worth it!

Disney World Food Tip #1: Why You Should Share Dessert

Relax- It’s Paid for in Advance!

One big reason many people choose to purchase the dining plan in advance is because it takes a lot of worry over pricing out of your hands. Why worry about looking at prices, because it’s already paid for?

Randy, “We have used the regular dining plan since our children reached their upper teens. We park hop and most days and nights, we plan to be back at Epcot for lunch or dinner, even if we are taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours at another park. For us, knowing that a table service meal each day is paid for allows us to try a new restaurant each time we vacation, and yet we still get to enjoy our favorites… LeCellier and Via Napoli.”

Amy, “Yes! We did character dining each day plus Ohana for dinner. That added up. We didn’t have to think about prices, we ordered what we wanted. It made dining so simple and care free.”

Julie, I have payed out-of-pocket because I love the dining plan; it affords me the opportunity to pre pay my food and eat whatever I want! The no-worries feeling helps us enjoy our vacation much more!

Melanie, “We just got back last week, and I did pay for it. I tracked all our expenses and we broke even, actually it was a little bit of a deal for us. I like the fact that my meals are paid for in advance. That’s one less expense to think about on the trip, since I have to think about tips.”

Are Disney World’s “Rapid Fill” Refillable Resort Mugs Worth the Cost?

Character Meals 

Most people who seem to really talk up paying for the dining plan are people who know for certain they will go to character meals.

Amanda, “We are making our first ever trip in December with our daughter. She will turn five while we are there. We are paying for the dining plan, because we plan to take full advantage of character dining and special dining. It would cost too much to pay for all of it without the plan.”

Melissa, “It depends. If you plan on doing character dining, then the dining plan pays for itself! I’ve done both; I think you can eat cheaper, and there are some really great quick service options. I’m not just talking burgers and fries here! My kids are spoiled though, and I must admit, so is their mom. We need our character interactions!”

Kelly, “We are DVC members, so we ALWAYS pay for the dining plan out-of-pocket. Going with two teenage boys, the dining plan is worth it. When they were younger, the dining plan allowed us to enjoy ALL of the character meals. The price of one character meal was usually equal to one person’s dining plan for our trip. When it is just my husband and I, we don’t usually purchase the dining plan because it isn’t worth it for just the two of us. We have friends that only go when there is free dining. So, my advice is, if it is only two adults and they aren’t big eaters, or not interested in trying some of the finer dining offered by Disney, then I say pass. But, if you have small children that love the characters it is worth paying for.”

What Are the Top Three Character Meals at Walt Disney World?

Disney Dining Plan

Bring Your Snacks Home

Bridget “We pay for the dining plan. We are DVC members, so I have to pay for it, but with character meals, it pays for itself.  My daughter loves Chef Mickey. If we have left over snacks or quick service items, we bring stuff home to enjoy once we are back to real life.”

Judy, “The last three times I have visited Disney, we have paid for the dining plan, and I feel it was totally worth it. If you look at the cost of what meals would cost without it, and compare it to what you get with the meal plan, you can see that it pays. At many counter service and table service meals, you can get a meal and a dessert, or an appetizer and a meal. When we didn’t use the dining plan, I would normally skip the appetizer or dessert. Then if you add in all the character meals that you can attend, it definitely pays for itself. If I didn’t do the meal plan, I would only do one character meal. But since we purchased the plan this last time we visited last summer, and it was kids first time visiting, we were able to do three different character meals. At the end if the week, we had so many meals left over, so we used them to get snacks for traveling home. The other advantage I have found is that we try restaurants and meals that we would not normally try if we were paying for the meal out-of-pocket, like Tandouri chicken at Sanaa in Animal Kingdom Lodge.”

information on the Disney Dining Plan

Remember the Tip at Table Service Meals

And remember, table service meals at Disney World come with a steep tipping cost added in for larger groups. Large by Disney numbers is any party over six people. 

Melissa, “We purchase the dining plan, but it’s almost impossible to figure out if it’s truly a cost savings. We kept all our receipts, but the problem is that we ordered differently than we would if we were paying out-of-pocket, so it was really impossible to do a cost savings analysis. There is one thing to watch out for; if you have a group of more than six people, you pay an 18% mandatory gratuity on the ticket price of the meal. So, all those free desserts and free drinks, etc., start to add up. For our group of nine people for nine days with 2-3 table service meals per day, the meal plan cost roughly $5,ooo, but we paid over $1800 on top of that in gratuities for the trip. It was NUTS! Again, the gratuity is based on the ‘ticket price’ of your meals, not the cost of the dining plan. (18% of the dining plan would only have been $900). I would never do the dining plan for large groups for this reason, because it gets out of control. The ‘freebies’ aren’t free.”

Also, an automatic gratuity charge may also be added to your bill for items you order that are not included in the Disney Dining Plan, like alcoholic beverages.

I’m all about being a cheapskate, but if you can’t afford to tip, then you should be dining at counter service restaurants. We travel with five “adults,” so that’s where you’ll find our family.

Can’t Afford to Stay at This Pricey Disney Resort? Then Go Eat Here!

For a much more in-depth look at the entire Disney Dining Plan, use this link. Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you waiting for your character meal reservation time.

Get a taste of the Dark Side

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

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess


Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

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

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of 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

Disney World Food Tip #5: When to Schedule Your Best Times to Eat

When to eat meals at Disney World when to eat lunch at Disney, when to eat dinner at Disney

Updated for 2018!

Meal time can be what I call “crazy time” at Disney World. Do you want to dine at a resort restaurant or one of the food courts? Were you able to snag Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) far enough in advance to book the actual restaurant where you really wanted to eat? Did you wind up standing in line at Casey’s Corner with 100 people after a Main Street parade? Did you have to leave your kids at a table by themselves so you could order the food?

[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…]

Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Updated for 2017!

If you plan your Disney day around food – when-to-eat, what-to-eat, always trying to save $$ on what you pay, then you just might be a Cheapskate Princess. If you are putting thought into making reservations for vacation meals, then you need to make some be sure to make an “ADR,” otherwise known as an Advanced Dining Reservations. There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from, and anyone – regardless of where you are staying – can make them in advance.   [Read more…]

Free Disney Dining…Is It Really Always Free?

Is Free Disney Dining free, Fre Disney Dining, how to get Free Disney Dining,

Updated for 2017

If you have ever planned your entire Disney vacation around the free food offer, then you might be a Cheapskate Princess. Some guests go to Disney only when they offer the free dining incentive.  But is the free Disney dining always free?

[Read more…]