Tricks for Eating Cheap at Disney World
I’ve compiled every tip I have in my arsenal for how to eat cheap at Disney World so that you can start getting your game plan together for your own trip, whenever that may be. Yes, I realize they are still closed, but the day is coming when life as we knew it will be restored! Right? Right? Please someone tell me that day is coming!
So in the spirit of hope, I’m going to combine 3 of my favorite things in one post:
- Saving Money
- Disney World
- and Stuffing My Face
Does it get any better than that? I think not.
Ok, on with the tips…
Eat Breakfast in Your Room or En Route to the Parks
We are not morning people, so this trick is more of a necessity then a choice. We like to try to be at the parks in time for rope drop which means we are almost always rushing. So not only is this a cost savings benefit, but it’s a time saver too. Grab a breakfast bar, a piece of fruit or a yogurt to scarf down on the bus or while you’re getting ready to walk out the door and skip the lines for food once you arrive at the park for the day.
Pack a Lunch
Disney World has one of the most flexible policies on bringing in outside food (as long as you leave out the alcohol and glass bottles). We will often eat breakfast on the way to the parks, eat our packed lunch, and then purchase dinner in the parks.
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All Disney hotels have at least a mini fridge in the rooms, and 1, 2 and 3 bedroom DVC villas have a full size fridge. You can have groceries delivered from Amazon Prime Now to stock up on what you’ll need for a quick breakfast, a packed lunch, and plenty of snacks for your park bag. Once during a pool day at our resort we ordered groceries pool-side and they were delivered within an hour. It saved us from spending a whole lot more at the hotel restaurant.
Tip: You’ll need an Amazon Prime account to use the Prime Now service. But good news! If you use this link you can try Amazon Prime for free for 30 days. Just don’t forget to cancel within the time frame to avoid charges.
Never has there been a better time to kick your soda habit. You can potentially save $3.99 per person at every meal by just drinking a free glass of ice water. You can ask for one at any quick service location. Multiply that savings by each meal you would eat on your trip and you’re talking some serious savings.
Tip: The taste of the water has never bothered me at the parks, but some people hate it. A solution to that could be to pack powdered drink packets (like Crystal Light) to mask the taste. Or just have a case of water delivered when you order groceries for around the same price as one bottle of water in the parks.
Bring a Water Bottle
You won’t be able to bring a paper cup with a lid and straw on a ride with you, but if you carry a sealable water bottle in your bag there’s no need to toss that free ice water. I like to bring one with a wide enough mouth to pour ice cubes in without spilling, like this one.
Pack Snacks, lots of 'em
Like literally pack them in your suitcase! The room they take up can be used for souvenirs on your way home. They’ll come in handy as a distraction when you’re waiting in line or as a way to bulk up a meal you’re splitting with your spouse or a child.
We have done this a number of ways. If one of us isn’t feeling super hungry we might share with one of the kids. Or we might have 2 kids split an adult meal. There are even some locations that have meals large enough to share between 2 adults. Some of our favorite meals to share are found at Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn in the Magic Kingdom (they have a toppings bar that really helps to bulk up a single meal).
Order Kids Meals
You don’t have to be a kid to order a kid’s meal. Look around at the kids portions that people are ordering. You might find that it’s enough food to satisfy some of the adults in your group.
Eat Mostly at Quick Service Restaurants
Again, not just cheaper, but faster. Sometimes it’s nice to sit down and try a Table Service Restaurant, but for the most part we’re there for the rides. So choosing a faster eating option is my favorite option.
Book Table Service Meals for Breakfast or Lunch
If there are table service restaurants you really want to try, book them for lunch instead of dinner. The same meals and portions jump in price come dinner time.
Order Ahead on the My Disney Experience App
This is a new feature of Disney dining that allows you to order ahead on your phone. For me, being able to see my total before I check out helps to keep me under budget and make changes if needed, as opposed to ordering at the counter and being surprised by the total.
Pay for Meals With a Card that Earns Cash Back at Restaurants
If you’re going to spend the money anyway, you might as well get the most back for what you spend. Our go-to card is the Chase Sapphire Reserve that earns 3 points for every dollar we spend on restaurants and travel.
Only Order the Sandwich or Entree if You Don't Want the Sides
Most people don’t realize that you don’t need to order an entire meal at Quick Service locations. You can order only the sandwich or entree without the sides and your price will be adjusted.
Book Character Meals for Breakfast
Character meals can be one of the most memorable parts of a Disney vacation. But guess what… they’re stinking expensive. Prices vary from location to location but here is just an example of the difference in price from breakfast to lunch at the Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom:
- Breakfast: Adult $41, Child $24
- Lunch and Dinner: Adult $54, Child $32
Skip the Dining Plan
There was a time when the Dining Plan really saved you money. We bought it in 2006 (when tax and tip were even included!) and kept track of the savings, because we’re nerds like that. But nowadays, you really have to eat strategically to come out ahead. I have done the math over and over, and even during the very popular free dining promotion I know that I can spend hundreds less by booking my room and tickets separately and paying for food as we go. Read about how we book our room separately and stay in the nicest Disney rooms for half the price HERE.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to make the dining plan a good deal, it just takes some effort and planning. If prepaying for your food is a huge value, than go for it. Otherwise, skip it and utilize the other tips in this post.
Buy Discounted Disney Gift Cards
I mention this tip in my post of Ridiculously Useful Disney Tips, but it’s worth mentioning again. You can purchase Disney gift cards at Target with your RedCard for 5% off and use them on anything you spend money on in the parks. The savings won’t pay for your park tickets or anything, but it might cover a few extra desserts!
Tip: It’s even possible to get 10% back on Disney gift cards if you utilize Chase bonuses at places like Rite Aid or CVS. You have to activate the bonuses on cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited to receive these offers. Right now you can get $200 cash back if you use my referral link!
Buy a Refillable Mug at Your Resort
This wouldn’t necessarily be a good deal for my family because we mostly drink water anyway (I’ve trained them well), but for someone who could potentially spend $3.99 every time they wanted a drink, this could end up being a real savings. The cups cost $19.99 and are refillable during the entire length of your stay at any Disney resort.
Buy a Popcorn Bucket
Disney themed popcorn buckets are available all throughout Disney World and can be purchased for anywhere from $10-$20 each (the new Millenium Falcon bucket will cost you $25). A refill is only $2 regardless of which bucket you purchase. Compared to a single serving at $5 each, it’s a pretty good deal.
Stay at Hotels with Free Breakfast
You won’t find free breakfast at a Disney hotel, but if you’re willing to stay off property there are plenty of hotel chains that offer a free continental breakfast and a shuttle to the parks.
Eat at Locations With Free Drink Refills
This is one of my favorite Disney secrets. When we were season passholders we always made a point to eat a meal at one of the locations that offered a self-serve refillable drink station. There aren’t many, but here’s where you can find them:
- Be Our Guest (at breakfast and lunch only) in Magic Kingdom
- Sunshine Seasons (The Land) in Epcot
- Backlot Express in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Restaurantasaurus and Satu’li Canteen in Animal Kingdom
- Contempo Cafe in the Contemporary Resort
- Earl of Sandwich and Wolfgang Puck Express in Disney Springs
More Disney Planning Tips
Well there you have it. Every trick I know on how to eat cheap at Disney World. Combine these money saving tricks with the ones you’ll find in the rest of these posts, and you’ll be well on your way to an affordable Disney vacation.
- Ridiculously Useful Disney Tips from Moms Who Know Disney
- How to Rent DVC Points and Save a Ton on Your Disney Vacation
- The Best Disney World Souvenirs Under $20 and Where to Find Them
- The Ultimate List of Free Disney World Souvenirs
- The 10 Things You Need to Buy on Amazon Before Your Disney Vacation
- A Few Things You Should Know about Minnie Vans
What other information would you find helpful as you prepare for a Disney vacation? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have. I’d love to help you find an answer!
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