Top Ten Tips For Dining on a Budget at Walt Disney World

In 2013, the US Department of Labor estimated that the average US consumer spends over $6,000 on food every year. Almost $3,000 of that is eating food away from home.

Food is expensive. Disney food is really expensive.

If you’re looking to save a buck on your Disney vacation, and who isn’t these days, here are 10 tips for doing just that.

Read them. Learn them. Put them to good use.

1. Don’t drink your money

Central Florida is hot. You must stay hydrated, and water is your best bet. The best part is it’s free!

Bringing your own refillable water bottle is the best way to save money on drinks. You can fill your bottle up at any water fountain, stay hydrated, and never spend money on drinks. If you are anything like me and also highly dislike the taste of tap water, drink the ice. We have discovered that if you fill the ice bucket in your hotel room with ice and let it sit overnight, it will melt enough to pour into a bottle in the morning before you venture out to the park. This will give you ice cold, filtered water. All counter-service restaurants also give guests complimentary glasses of ice water. Just ask!

If you really need something bubbly and flavored, head over to Club Cool in Epcot, and try soda flavors from all over the world for free!

2. Plan to sit down for lunch

Dining reservations often book up to 180 days in advance. This means that your favorite restaurants will often be booked, but did you know that many of these restaurants are not as busy and have less expensive options for lunch? That’s right! You can get the same food for a lower price just because it’s lunch-time! The portions may be a little smaller, but you won’t leave hungry.

3. Schedule a character meal at breakfast

This follows the same principle as above: dining early is a money-saver. Get the characters, the food, and the experience for less because it’s morning! Plus, most character breakfasts are buffets, so load up early and eat a snack for lunch!

Breakfast is usually less expensive than other meals of the day, but you'll get the same quality food.
Breakfast is usually less expensive than other meals of the day, but you’ll get the same quality food.

4. Do your research

Believe it or not, there are budget-dining options in Disney World. Some of the counter-service restaurants have food that is just as good as a full-service location, but they are less expensive. Some of my favorites are Flametree BBQ in Animal Kingdom, Tangerine Café in Epcot, and Columbia Harbour House in Magic Kingdom, all of which have meals for about $10 for adult entrees. Do your research on the web, and know some options before you arrive; this will not only save you money, but also time.

5. Eat at Disney Springs

Disney Springs has some of the best dining options in Disney, and a couple of them are pretty good deals, too.

Wolfgang Puck Express is a pre-order but sit-down atmosphere and has amazing food. Where Disney pizzas cost upwards of $20, and there are always extra charges, Wolfgang Puck Express has a gourmet pizza for just $13.50! If you follow the first rule, that’s a meal for under $15 for two people!

Earl of Sandwich is a national sandwich chain. That’s good news since their prices are the same everywhere! With sandwiches, salad, fruit, soup, desserts, smoothies and specialty drinks, outdoor dining areas, and meals around $7, you just can’t beat this dining option!

6. BYOF: Bring your own food

If you have the ability to bring your own food, you will save a ton of money. There are grocery stores not far from Disney property, and some of the moderate and deluxe resorts have small stores that sell the basics like bread, peanut butter, jelly, cheese, milk, cereal, lunch meat, etc. Although you will pay more on property, if you don’t have a car, you will still save money on buying food in the park.

The local grocery stores also have Disney-themed snacks like gummies, granola bars, and cookies. This means you won’t deprive yourself of a Mickey cookie, but you will save some money.

What’s more, Disney allows guests to bring in a cooler as long as it is 24”x15”x18” or less. They even have large lockers that you can rent for $10, which is much less than you would spend on food in any given park.

7. Be a kid again

Kid’s meals are often very similar to adult meals, but they are usually smaller and thus less expensive. You can’t order off the kid’s menu at table-service restaurants, but the quick-service restaurants don’t have a problem with it.

8. Sharing is saving

Many of the quick-service locations have portions large enough to share.
Many of the quick-service locations have portions large enough to share.

On the other side of that, most of the adult options are plenty large enough to share. If you and your travelling companion have similar food interests, sharing an entrée will save money.

9. Look for Coupons

Although this tip doesn’t necessarily save money on food, it is an often-overlooked perk of dining in the parks. Always get a receipt for your dining purchase. At the bottom of some receipts, you will get a coupon for 20% off at World of Disney between certain times of the day. Since you probably can’t leave the happiest place on earth without getting a souvenir of your travels, this trick can save some dough.

10. Use gift cards

This tip also isn’t directly related to dining, but it can save you money in the long run. If you are a member of a store that offers fuel perks for money spent in the store, buy Disney or Visa gift cards and use them for any purchases in Disney including food. Alternatively, use a credit card that offers a cash-back option to purchase gift cards or the food directly. Although you will still spend the money on the food, you’ll get reward money back after your vacation in the form of money back or maybe a free tank of gas.

Do you watch your dining budget when in Disney, or live it up?