Disney Dining is a major attraction for guests. Some people are willing to drop $80 or more per person for a table-service meal. That can be fun, but it can also add up fast – especially when you also need to spend money on park tickets, a hotel, and souvenirs.
Since Disney’s counter-service restaurants are quite tasty and reasonably priced, you can get good food and fast service at these locations. It can also help you save a ton of money.
Here’s how to do Disney Dining on a budget!
1. Rent a room with a kitchen(ette)
If you follow this blog at all, you know I’m not a huge fan of staying off-site. I think the on-site amenities far outweigh the added cost of an on-site hotel.
However, staying off-site allows you to rent a condo, townhouse, timeshare unit, etc. with a full kitchen or at least a kitchenette while the only similar option onsite is the Deluxe Villas, which provide a kitchenette.
If you choose to stay off site or you can afford a Deluxe Villa, the kitchen(ette) will make it possible for you to prepare some simple meals and have access to a refrigerator and probably a freezer.
If you’re driving, bringing some non-perishable items from home will save you money, but you can visit a grocery store on arrival day and pick up items that don’t travel well. Stock up on breakfast items and snacks that are quick, easy, and portable. If you’re flying, you can get a taxi or an uber to a nearby grocery store or have groceries delivered to your room.
2. Eat breakfast in the room
Whether you’re staying on Disney property or off-site, eating breakfast in your room will save you money. Pop tarts, cereal, or granola bars work great for a quick breakfast. Even Value resorts at Disney have refrigerators, so you’ll be able to keep things like milk and juice cold.
Alternatively, the food courts usually sell donuts or other packaged breakfast items that you can take back to your room or eat in the restaurant. Although this isn’t the most cost-effective option, it’s still pretty affordable.
3. Pack snacks and water
Buying snacks in Disney is expensive, and at over $3 for bottled water, you can save a lot of money by packing your own snacks and water bottle.
Non-perishable snacks like peanut butter and jelly, granola bars, fruit snacks, fruit, etc. are great to pack in your Disney Day Bag for when hunger strikes in a queue line or it’s not quite meal time.
I’m not saying that you should never splurge on a Mickey Ice Cream or a Dole Whip. After all it is vacation! However, you can save a lot of money by bringing your own snacks.
Regarding water, although every counter-service location will give you a free cup of water, it’s not very portable. Having your own refillable bottle is a huge convenience and money saver. We fill it up halfway every night and freeze it, then fill it the rest of the way with water. The ice will keep the water cold most of the day and as it melts it will turn into more (cold) water. Then, you can refill your bottle in the parks as necessary.
4. Eat lunch and dinner in the parks
If you drove to Disney, having a cooler might not be as cumbersome, but for those who fly, having a cooler might not only be an inconvenience but also impossible.
Eating in the parks at counter-service locations is an affordable way to enjoy the amazing Disney food without breaking the bank. For a family of three (two adults and a child), there’s no reason you couldn’t eat both meals for less than $60 by ordering items individually and sharing portions.
5. Skip the Dining Plan
I know this is a controversial issue, but these days the Dining Plan probably won’t save you money under most circumstances.
With so many quick service options, there’s no reason to spend more money on a table-service restaurant if you are looking to save money. It’s less expensive to order quick service items a la carte and share portions. By skipping a combo and opting for water rather than soda, you can save a few dollars. You can also share French fries and whole entrees. Many restaurants have a toppings bar that can add significantly to your meal without adding cost.
How do you dine on a budget in Disney World? Or go all out?