Dining at Walt Disney World can be a huge expense, and the most variable. You already know how much the hotel, travel, and tickets cost you. But what about the stuff you haven’t ordered yet?
Walt Disney World allows guests to bring outside food into the parks (just no glass containers, alcohol, or big hard-sided coolers), which can really help bring down food costs. But what about the food that you do purchase in the parks and resorts? It’s not practical to lug around all of your meals. You need ways to reduce your in-park and in-resort food spending. Here are six ways to save on dining.
6. Choose the Dining Plan… or Don’t
The Disney Dining Plan is a hit or miss choice for Walt Disney World vacationers. It’s totally possible to save money if you know how the plan works and make it work for you. If you normally order expensive menu items (like steak or fish at a market price), like to have dessert, and will enjoy having a snack every day, then the plan is for you! On the other hand, if you have a smaller appetite, you may find that the Dining Plan gives you way too much food, which means you’re overspending! The Dining Plan is not right for everyone. Spend time looking at the different plan options and at the menus online to decide if this is the right choice for your family. Bottom line, if you would normally order the food included on the plans, then go for it!
5. Drink Water
We have a rule in my family: everyone orders water. Sometimes we order other beverages too, but we always get water. This rule is two-fold. Water is essential to staying cool and hydrated in a hot park. Also, water is free. I find that when I start with water, I don’t even want any soda. If you did add the Dining Plan, a non-alcoholic drink is included with each meal, but please get water too.
4. Skip the Sides
The meal portions at Walt Disney World are huge, even in the counter service restaurants. Guests with smaller appetites might find that there is way too much food on their plate. Don’t order what you won’t eat. You’ll be less wasteful, and you can save money! At counter service restaurants, ask for your entree to come without its normal side (usually chips, fries, or apple slices) and you can save a couple bucks.
3. Go Big for Lunch
Most table service restaurants at Walt Disney World have very similar menus for lunch and dinner, but lunch is almost always cheaper. True, breakfast is the least expensive meal, but then you’re limited to breakfast items. By enjoying a sit down lunch, you’ll be able to try the buzzed-about restaurants without such a hefty price tag. Plus, you’ll be inside and sitting down during the hottest, and busiest part of the day. And to sweeten the deal even more, lunch time can be less crowded in the table service restaurants. It’s a win all around!
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2. Know Before You Go
We all know that one person who gets order panic, right? Maybe it’s you. While usually harmless, order panic can result in choosing the first menu item you see when the server comes to take your order. And guess who else knows this? The folks who painstakingly arrange menus with the most expensive meals in the most eye catching places. Don’t fall for it! Look through menus online before you leave for your trip. Know what the restaurant offers before your walk in. Own your dining experience. That way, when the server comes, notebook and pen in hand, you won’t panic and blurt out “Le Cellier Filet Mignon,” unless of course, that’s what you really wanted.
1. Make a Budget
As with anything, having a budget planned out for your dining will help you keep impulse spending under control. Maybe that means setting a limit on how many Dole Whips you eat. Maybe it means establishing that you won’t be ordering a steak at every meal. Maybe it means sharing dessert, not getting your own. It’s your vacation, and you should treat yourself, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely blow the bank! Talk with your family about having a clear plan for how your meal spending will work, and make sure everyone in your party understands (or at least the kiddos old enough to understand) the parameters.
The food at Walt Disney World is like an attraction in and of itself. I believe everyone should splurge just a little bit and enjoy their vacation. Following even one of these tips will help your family have a magical vacation, without the villainous bill!