I love to eat. Yet, as a picky vegetarian, I have a hard time finding a good value with most dining at the parks. Don’t get me wrong, I love a quality dining experience, and I love trying new foods. But, I still needed to figure out the best money saving tips for eating at Disney World on a budget.
I’ve mastered the art of saving at the parks. I’ve already shared my tips for saving money as a first-time visitor and the cheapest times of the year to visit Disney World, but now’s the time to focus on food.
From cutting down costs on “fancier” dining experiences to getting creative with some hotel room cooking, there are a lot of ways to save money on your Disney trip. Even better, you don’t have to give up any deliciousness just because you’re on a budget, I promise.
1. Grocery Delivery
I love grocery delivery. I use it at my house, but it’s a lifesaver when you’re on a trip. While it’s possible to visit a grocery store if you’ve got a car at Disney, who wants to take time out of their vacation to wander around Publix or WalMart? Not me.
Grocery delivery is surprisingly affordable. In Orlando, our delivery services are familiar with all the resorts and it’s easy-peasy to have food delivered to your hotel on your own schedule.
Instacart is the app I use for this, and I totally recommend it since it’s so popular in Orlando. If you sign up with my link you get $10 towards your first order, so definitely take advantage of that free money.
You can get anything from toiletries to food delivered, so it’s perfect for Disney World travelers. If you don’t have a kitchen in your room or rental, you can still find a lot of options. Microwave meals, snacks, granola bars, bread for sandwiches, and so much more are great for hotel rooms. Bringing snacks or lunches to the park will save you huge on food at Disney World.
2. Drink More Water
Is it just me or does drinking soda or juice feel like a no-no on a hot day? I’m a water girl through and through, and this is extra true on hot Florida days. If you want to survive the Florida heat, you need to drink more water.
The good news is that iced water is free at any quick service spot in Disney World. Instead of getting that $3.29 soda cup that’ll just leave you feeling sluggish, save that money and get a free water cup. That 3 bucks might seem like nothing, but it adds up quick.
3. Skip the Buffets
As a vegitarian, I have a hard time getting my full value out of buffets. Yet, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s not just me and my meat-free ways with this experience. Disney World buffets are expensive. We’re talking $44+ a person.
While buffets are fun, and they might have great food, you can get much better value just about anywhere else you go at Disney.
If you must do a buffet, be smart about it. Go during breakfast for a character buffet at half the cost (usually $30 and under). Otherwise, choose one of the more affordable buffets like Liberty Tree Tavern at the Magic Kingdom or Trail’s End at the Fort Wilderness Campground. Anything else is just not worth it, in my opinion.
4. Balance with Quick Service
While I’d discourage exclusively eating at quick service restaurants, definitely use them as much as possible throughout your trip. While it’s tempting to go for the “best of the best” with dining, don’t overlook some of the better quick service options at the parks.
Many of the quick service spots at Disney and resorts go far beyond the burgers, pizza, and fries stereotype. At Epcot, for instance, there are quick service spots for just about every cuisine around the world showcase!
Table-service restaurants are great fun. They’re great food, and who doesn’t love sitting down in the A/C for a bit? Yet, these will almost always be at least double the price of a quick service. If you’re on a budget, choose a few table-service spots and balance those with quick service for your other meals.
5. Avoid Character Meals
I’m probably not in the majority when I admit I don’t like character meals. I’d rather enjoy my meal in peace, but that’s just me. However, I can say with confidence that the character meals are some of the most expensive dining options at the parks.
There are so many better places to eat, and you can always meet the characters across the parks on your own time. Money saved!
6. Skip the Disney Dining Plan
While there’s a lot of controversy around the Disney Dining Plan, it’s most likely not worth it if your biggest goal is to save money on dining at Disney World.
It’s simple math. You’ll spend around $60+ per person per day on the Dining Plan. Unless you’re a big eater, you’re not going to spend that much. You can easily enjoy 2 quick service meals, a snack, and a table-service meal for less than that.
7. Eat Breakfast in Your Room
When I was little and we’d spend a weekend a month in Disney World, I became very accustumed to breakfasts in the hotel room. We’d pack cereal, milk, fruit, and other goodies to store in the room. It was easy, it was afforable, and it helped us get up and moving faster.
If you’re not doing grocery delivery, you can easily pick up a carton of milk and a cereal box in the hotel dining area. This will still be far less expensive than getting a hot meal, and it’s just as good.
8. Lunch at Table-Service
One of the best money saving tips for eating at Disney World is to dine at table-service restaurants for lunch. During dinner, the menu prices usually go up. Fun fact: these are usually the same meals.
In rare cases are the meals themselves different, so it’s always worth saving money with the lunch option. Bonus: you’ll be out of the sun at the hottest time of day. Win/win!
9. Share Meals
I don’t know about you, but I frequently don’t finish everything on my plate. If you’re only a bit hungry, it might be worth sharing a meal with your companions. I know I frequently share with my partner. He’ll eat the burger/sandwich/etc, and I’ll eat the side (usually fries–my favorite!). This is always enough for us, and we welcome the savings.
You can even share meals in table-service restaurants! While they sometimes charge a “split fee” for splitting the food onto different plates, it’s minor. Sharing an appetizer and an entree is usually enough, and you won’t have to worry about saving leftovers.
10. Eat Tapas Style
I used to work in a Spanish restaurant where I ate tapas for dinner every night for two years. After doing that, I can definitely say it’s the way to go. Eating “tapas style” is when you order smaller plates and share as a group.
For example, you can order a few appetizers, maybe one entree, and share. This goes great with drinks! My favorite spot to do this is Jiko or Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Get a few cocktails and go to town on those shared plates. Yum!
Save Money While Eating at Disney World
What are your best money saving tips for eating at Disney World? I know I love saving a few bucks on my Disney trips. I’m what I like to call a “cheap foodie.” I love fine dining, but I also love a good deal.
Give these tips above a try on your next trip. You’ll be glad you did when you see your savings!