Save Money on Disney Dining
Food is always a big part of the enjoyment in our family vacations, especially Disney vacations. I love trying new restaurants, and revisiting old favourites. We even plan our Walt Disney World vacations to coincide with the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, so we can literally eat our way “around the world”! (Planning THAT culinary endeavour will be a whole other post!)
Figuring out where and what to eat is hard! With over 140 restaurants to choose from, planning your dining is almost as important as where to stay or what rides to do! Not to mention the costs. No lie, eating at Walt Disney World is expensive!!!
Here is a list of tips to save money on Disney dining. These tips will also save you time, so you can get more out of your magical vacation!
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1. Plan Ahead
Do some research! Read reviews of Disney restaurants, both Table Service and Counter Service. Check out the menus (and prices) ahead of time, especially if you have a strict budget, or picky eaters! Consider your family’s eating habits at home…are you accustomed to sitting down to three meals a day, always eating on the run, or a combination of?
It’s important to note that most table service reservations start taking reservations 180 days in advance (6 months ahead)! If you want to have dinner in Cinderella’s Royal Table, or breakfast with Pooh and Friends (Crystal Palace), better be ready to make those reservations as soon as that day arrives!
Knowing what your options are, and having a plan in place, even if it’s just a loose idea of where and when (if you’re not eating Table Service…those reservations are important), will result in happy tummies and happy wallets!
2. Eat breakfast in your room
I am a big proponent of getting up early and being at the parks for “rope drop”. It saves you soooooo much time standing in line and avoiding the crowds!! Part of this strategy means saving time (and money!) by eating breakfast in your room before you get going each day!
My kids are not big breakfast eaters, so usually cereal and milk, granola bars and fruit will do the trick. While you can purchase most of these staples at your Disney resort, you’ll pay a pretty hefty mark-up.
My recommendation is to do a grocery order ahead of time with Garden Grocer. They deliver right to your Disney resort, and even pack your perishables separately for bell services to store in the refrigerator until your arrival. Their tetris-like packing skills are exceptional!
With over 5000 grocery, household, health and beauty and baby items to choose from, you can find most everything you could want or need for your vacation. While some of the items are more expensive than shopping yourself in the grocery store, the service and convenience can’t be beat, particularly if you are using Disney’s Magical Express and not renting a car. There’s even a discount when you order in advance, and free shipping on orders over $200 (minimum order is $40).
3. Lunch instead of Dinner
Consider having your big meal of the day at lunch instead of dinner. Prices are often less for the exact same meal, and if you’re looking for reservations for that special character meal, they may be easier to secure. If you’ve had an early breakfast in your room, you’ll likely be hungry for lunch early as well.
Tip: Time your lunch to start around 11:00-11:30am and you’ll also beat the crowds for lunch!
4. Mobile Ordering
If you’ve opted for Counter Service for your meal, Disney now offers Mobile Ordering through the My Disney Experience app on your mobile device! We found this to be a huge time saver on our last trip!
When lunch time was rolling around (early…see #3 above), I simply pulled out my phone, opened the app, and followed the instructions (set up your account and app before your trip, and play around with it so you’re familiar before your trip. All the Disney Parks and Resorts are we-fi enabled as well, so no need for data).
Once we arrived at the location, tap “I’m here!” on your phone, and head to the Mobile Order Pick-Up area, where your order will be ready and waiting! It really is like magic, and saved sooooo much time, especially when I glanced over at the line-ups, at least 5-6 people deep.
5. Consider Splitting Meals
When you’re planning ahead, check out restaurant menus and those items that are large enough to share. Some of our favourites are:
- Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom – the Rib, Chicken, and Pulled Pork Sampler – served with sides of baked beans, coleslaw and cornbread
- Earl of Sandwich in Disney Springs – most of the sandwiches and salads are huge, considering ordering one of each and sharing
- Cosmic Ray’s in Magic Kingdom – the burgers here are quite good, and the toppings bar brings them up a notch! We have loaded up a burger and cut in half (order a double burger if you’re feeding hungry boys like mine)
- ABC Commissary in Hollywood Studios – combo platters can easily be shared, the Chicken & Ribs is our “meat-a-tarian” favourite!
- Satu’li Canteen in Animal Kingdom – New on our last trip exploring Pandora-The World of Avatar, the “Bowls” are easily shareable and taste incredible! Especially fun was the boba balls, little balls of fruit juice that pop in your mouth. Usually found in bubble tea, these were a perfect fit for the “other worldly” themed menu.
6. Take Bottled Water and Snacks With You
As long as you’re not bringing glass containers, or a full cooler on wheels, Disney does permit you to bring your own food and beverages into the parks. You will be subject to security bag checks, so it will add time in line, but you probably have some kind of bag or purse anyway (have all the zippers and flaps open, as this will speed up your check).
We tend to pack lots of water bottles, granola bars, fruit, and my kids favourite snacks (ordered through Garden Grocer). This way everyone stays hydrated and we avoid the “hangry” outburts!
If you are on a really strict budget, or just on a mission to hit every ride and attraction, bringing your own food can be a huge time and money saving strategy!
Have you been to Walt Disney World? (If not, check out 5 Tips for Planning Your Disney Vacation) Got any tips you would add to this list for saving time and money on food? Let me know by leaving a comment below!