There is no denying that a trip to Walt Disney World can be expensive. When it comes to Disney World vacation planning tips one thing that everyone wants to know is how they can save money on their trip. There are many different ways to save, and here are some of my top tips to save on Walt Disney World dining costs!
12 Ways to Save on Walt Disney World Dining Costs
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Most people think about tickets and resort rooms when they think about high costs for their Disney vacation. Sadly, like other theme parks, sports stadiums, and museums, the cost of dining at Disney has gotten really high. Even I was surprised by how expensive some of our meals ended up being this past summer.
Luckily there are some ways to save on your dining costs. There are many different tricks that we have discovered over the years that can be used to help you save. You might not be able to utilize all, but every group should be able to put some of these tips to work.
Buy a Refillable Mug
If you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort for at least a few nights than you’re going to want to invest in a refillable mug. The mug is good for refills on coffee, soft drinks, and hot chocolate for the duration of your stay.
As long as you’re going to be buying drinks a few times at your resort than the mugs more than pay for themselves. Many days we try to eat either lunch or dinner at our resort so we can use our mugs. That way we don’t need to spend any money on a drink.
These mugs can be used at any of the resorts, so if you go to another resort to visit be sure to take your mug with you!
As an added bonus the mugs make great souvenirs! Just know that due to the computer chip in the bottom of the cup they cannot be heated up in a microwave.
Order Ice Water at Counter Service Restaurants
The cost of drinks can really add to your Walt Disney World dining budget, and bottled water isn’t cheap. Especially Disney bottled water!
While it’s never listed on the menus you can always order a glass of ice water with your meal for free at quick service food counters. This will be tap water, so be aware of that if you really hate the taste of the Disney World water.
Refill a Water Bottle
Another way to save money on beverages is to bring water bottles that you can refill during the day. It’s always important to stay hydrated, but when that Florida sun is cooking you’ll find yourself wanting to drink a lot of water.
Instead of buying new bottles of water all day you can keep filling up a water bottle at the drinking fountains instead. You could also buy one bottle of water and then just keep refilling that for the rest of the day. There are water fountains all around for refilling, or you can just ask for a glass of ice water and use that to fill up with.
Walt Disney World dining prices aren’t cheap, but they don’t usually skimp on the amount of food you’re given. If you have multiple people in a group without huge appetites (especially if some of those are young ones) consider sharing a meal.
My mother and I do this a lot. We’ve also shared meals with Nick. If we feel that we need a little more food we nibble on the food that Nick can’t finish or we buy a dessert or two to share. Adding a dessert is still a lot cheaper than buying another entire meal. Personally I’d rather have a little dessert than have just a huge meal anyways.
Order a Kid’s Meal
This has become my favorite ways to save on dining costs. If you don’t have a big appetite ordering a meal from the kids menu is a great way to save.
Kid meals usually contain a main food option, two sides (one option is often dessert), plus a kids size drink. You really get quite a bit of food for a lot less money. The only downfall is that these meal choices are the same at a lot of the quick service restaurants, so you don’t always have much variety in what you can choose to eat.
Kid meals do state an age range, but Cast Members will never stop you from ordering off the kid’s menu. Sometimes we order three kid meals and that’s it. Even my grandparents will just buy kid meals to eat. Anyone can eat from the kid’s menu at the quick service locations.
Eat Your Big Meal Early
Many of the quick service restaurants at Walt Disney World are pretty good, but their sit down meals are hard to beat. The dining prices at the restaurants can be quite high though.
To keep dining costs somewhat in check plan to eat a big meal for breakfast or lunch instead of dinner. You’ll still get the amazing dining experience without spending quite as much. Some locations even serve the same menus for lunch and dinner, or very close to the same, but the price is lower at lunch.
Check the times that lunch is served as well. Sometimes you can still get lunch prices late in the afternoon. We’ve done this and just considered our meal a very early dinner.
If you’re looking to experience a specific dining location more than just specific food than breakfast can be a great option. That can be a really great way to save on a character meals like the Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine Breakfast at Hollywood and Vine.
Skip the Buffets
This one is tough for our family because we love buffet meals, and Disney has some really good ones. Disney charges pretty steep prices though for the buffet meals. With the way we eat I doubt we truly ever get our money’s worth.
Remember that with a buffet you’re going to pay a flat rate no matter how much you eat. At the non-buffet dining locations you can keep costs down by ordering what you’ll actually have room to eat. This way you can skip the expensive extras like dessert.
Walt Disney World Dining Plan
A Walt Disney World dining plan might also be a great way to save money on dining costs. There are three different priced dining plans to choose from. With these packages you pay for so many meals up front when you book your trip.
Some families find that the dining plan can really help them save a lot of money. F0r other families (like ours) paying for food as you go is more cost effective.
Check out the different Walt Disney World dining plan options to see if one of them might be a good fit for your family’s vacation.
Bring Your Own Snacks
There are no rules against bringing your own food into the Walt Disney World theme parks. Park snacks can get expensive fast, so it’s a great idea to keep some snacks on hand. Just be sure to choose snacks that won’t melt in the hot temperatures. Granola bars with chocolate chips usually are alright though.
Always having some snacks on hand can be especially important if you have little ones with you. This way you can whip a snack out when your child hits that worn out/over hungry point. Once that point hits trying to find a snack stand, or a snack in a store, just takes too long. In my opinion preventing meltdowns is a key to having a good family vacation!
Buy Snacks as a Meal
While buying snacks all day long can get expensive, buying them to be your meal can be a great way to save money. Disney has the staple snack foods like popcorn, soft pretzels, and giant turkey legs, but the choices don’t end there. In Epcot, for example, in World Showcase there are a lot of snack stands that sell food samples from different countries. You can get some really interesting snacks at Walt Disney World!
Refillable Popcorn Bucket
Alright, so this tip kind of goes with the one above, but I love it too much not to give it it’s own shout out. This item is still fairly new, but we love it. You can now buy a bucket of popcorn at one of the parks, and then you can continue to get it refilled for the rest of your trip for only $1.50 a refill!
Nick loves popcorn, so we more than get our moneys worth from this tip. We usually refill the bucket several times during our trip, and we always take it with us every day and just hang it over the stroller handle. It can be great for evenings in the room when someone gets hungry. We just pull out the popcorn bucket and there is an automatic snack. Plus I love to use those buckets for storing small toys once we’ve returned home.
Eat Breakfast in Your Room
Bringing food that you can eat in the room will not only save you money, but it’ll save you time too! Since most people want to get to the parks around the same time they also all want to eat at the same time. When the breakfast rush hits it hits hard. The resort restaurants become packed and it takes a lot of time to get food.
All Walt Disney World Resort rooms are equipped with a mini-fridge and all of the resorts have an area in the gift shop that has food items that you can buy ahead of time.
You’ll save even more money by buying breakfast items at the grocery store and bringing them with you. Then all you might need to purchase at the gift shop is a carton of milk. We even bring paper bowls with us for cereal. We do usually grab some plastic spoons from the food court though.
If you have a car at your disposal you can also drive off property and pick some food items up. I really like the Super Target on 192 myself. It’s not too far past the Animal Kingdom resort area.
Vacations at Walt Disney World can cost a lot of money, but they don’t have to. With these 12 tips for saving on Walt Disney World dining costs you can cut back on the amount you need to save for vacation.
More Disney World Vacation Planning Tips
- 5 Tips for Preparing for Your Walt Disney World Vacation
- Fort Wilderness – Walt Disney World Fun Beyond the Theme Parks
- How to Save time on Character Meet & Greets at Walt Disney World
- Top 5 Counter Service Restaurants, Hollywood Studios, Disney World
- What to do in Epcot with a Toddler
Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Resources
- Birnbaum’s Guide to Walt Disney World
- Birbaum’s Guide to Walt Disney World for Kids by Kids
- Passport to the Word: at Disney World’s Epcot
- The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (Kindle Edition)
Want some more help planning your Walt Disney World vacation? Click on the image below to get your FREE Disney vacation planning videos!