Your children probably have been begging you for a Walt Disney World vacation since first viewing their favorite Disney movie. So, you booked the hotel, purchased the tickets, and saved enough spending cash to shower them with t-shirts, stuffed toys, and souvenirs. Unfortunately, you didn’t expected to spend nearly $10 a sandwich or $30-$50 a plate when it’s time to eat. Don’t ban all souvenir purchases just yet. You can save big bucks on meals if you use the following tips:
8. Bring Your Own Food
WDW theme parks allow you to carry in any food that doesn’t require heating. If you have a car, shop at a local grocery store for food to store in your room refrigerator and to bring along as you tour the parks. Consider Florida’s subtropical climate when choosing what to buy, since some foods spoil easily. Sadly, you can’t tote a cooler through the theme parks; they’re banned. Instead, use a cooler bag to keep your food fresh. Note that quick-service restaurants provide comfortable sitting areas where you can enjoy your meal.
In addition, pack water bottles that you purchased to avoid theme park prices. Not only does drinking lots of water keep you from overheating, but also from overeating, because when your stomach is full, you tend to eat less. Refill your bottles at drinking fountains or ask a cast member from any quick-service restaurant to give you a cup of water. Cast members are required to supply free water to guests, which saves you nearly three dollars when you’re thirsty.
7. Share Meals
Splitting meals is an easy way to save money. Most of the restaurants in Walt Disney World provide generous portions that should satisfy two diners with average appetites. Those with larger appetites may want to order an additional side dish or snack, which can be purchased a la carte.
6. Eat at Quick-Service Restaurants
Walt Disney World presents a wide variety of dining experiences at its table-service restaurants, but they usually hit the wallet hard. Lucky for those of us looking to save money, Disney also provides numerous quick-service restaurants with wallet-friendly fast food menus that feature more than just burgers and fries. Some quick-service restaurants even serve cheaper versions of entrees found at their “sister” table-service restaurants. For example, Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes offers a satisfying meal at half the price of the Yak & Yeti Restaurant that it’s attached to.
In addition, remember to order only what you want to eat, even if meal combos are offered. To save even more, order a kids meal for those in your party who aren’t too hungry at quick-service locations.
5. Eat at the Resort
Disney Resort hotels host a variety of quick-service and table-service restaurants with menus that are less expensive than their theme park counterparts, so you may want to dine at your resort for breakfast or dinner. If you aren’t staying at a Disney Resort, then find out if a breakfast buffet is available. Make sure you eat a sizable breakfast before heading off to the attractions; this way you won’t be ravenous at lunchtime and end up overspending.
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4. Plan Meals Ahead of Time
Create a meal plan to avoid excessive spending. You can plan far in advance of your visit with the My Disney Experience app, which you can download to your smartphone or tablet and access with your computer. The app allows you to find restaurants, look at menus, compare prices, and make reservations. A good money saving strategy would be to use the app to map out which attractions you’ll visit that are near your inexpensive restaurant choices during your typical meal times. Disney has enhanced the My Disney Experience by providing Wi-Fi, so making last minute changes shouldn’t be difficult. (Keep in mind some restaurants charge fees for changes too close to the reservation time. Cancellation policies vary between restaurants).
In addition to daily meal planning, consider what time of year you’ll be visiting Walt Disney World. Some restaurants with buffets and/or character meals increase their prices during high traffic periods like summer, Christmas, or spring break.
3. Buy the Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan can work great for those who purchase a Vacation Packages. For each dining plan, you’re allotted a set number of snacks and meals that you use until they’re gone, providing great savings if you don’t skip meals but a loss if you’re dining habits are irregular. Also, it’s important to watch out for expensive restaurants that require two dining allocations for one meal. You don’t want to discover halfway through your vacation that you have no more meals available.
2. Obtain a Disney Rewards Card
Disney Rewards Cards are Visa credit cards offered by Chase Bank that allow cardholders to earn reward dollars all year long that they can spend on Disney products, including food at theme parks. Diners also receive 10% off of purchases over $50 at select restaurants when they use their Disney Rewards Card. Depending on the size of your party, this can add up to a lot of savings.
1. Join Tables in Wonderland
This program applies to residents of Florida, Annual Passholders, or Disney Vacation Club Members who really love to indulge in the dining experiences at Walt Disney World. For the ultimate in Disney dining, you pay $100 ($125 for Florida residents) annually to receive 20% off food and beverage purchases at over 100 restaurants. You can bring up to 10 guests, which adds up to saving big money.
Of course, purchasing a Tables in Wonderland membership only benefits those who frequently visit Walt Disney World. The annual visitor trying to spend as little as possible on food wouldn’t find it cost effective.