Disney dining is a wildly debated topic. There are some Disney fans that are hardcore fans of the dining plans. I used to fall in that category. Then, there are those that want to spend the least amount of money possible on food at Disney. And, I get that strategy too. Whether you prefer the dining plan or to pay out of pocket, there are tons of ways to save money on food at Disney World.
Ways to Save Money on Food at Disney World with the Dining Plan
- Bring Food From Home – The Quick Service and Plus Dining mean plans only include two meals per day. I recommend bringing foods that are easy to eat to your hotel room for breakfast. Some ideas would be muffins, pop-tarts, bagels, oatmeal packets (use hot water from the coffee pot), granola bars or fruit and yogurt cups. My family likes to bring out toaster on vacation with us (we drive) for our bread, bagels and pop-tarts. Snack foods are also a great thing to bring from home.
- Eat at Off Times – Another way to get the most out of your meals is to eat at off times. For example, we eat a late breakfast at Tusker House for Donald’s Safari Breakfast and then we can skip right over lunch.
- Use a Snack Credit for a Meal – Have you ever eaten the cinnamon roll from Gaston’s or the Nutella and fruit waffle from Sleep Hallow? They can easily be turned into a meal. My family of 5 shares the cinnamon roll as a snack. There are many items that are listed as snack credits throughout the parks and resorts that could easily replace a meal.
- FREE Dining or Promotions – Disney offers promotions throughout the year that helps you save money on food. Usually in the fall they run a FREE Dining promotion. That means you receive the dining plan free when you are staying at a Disney resort. For example: value resorts get the Quick Service Dining Plan and moderate resorts get the Plus Dining Plan. This is our favorite time to go because you are literally getting your food for free.
- Share meals – Let’s face it, many of us usually eat more than we really need to. The servings at Disney are generous and can easily be shared between two people. This will allow you to spread your meal credits out to cover your extra meal each day.
- Get the Pizza! – For two dining credits we were able to get a large pizza and order of breadsticks. This fed our whole family dinner and then we used our three daughters quick service credits the next morning to get breakfast for everyone.
Ways to Save Money on Food When Paying Out of Pocket
- Numbers 1, 5 and 6 from above will apply to you in this category as well. Sharing meals will always save you money and pizza is a great way to feed a family.
- Bring it from home – Many people bring food from home to save on the expense. There was one time when we brought stuff to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can bring food into the parks. However, I hated it! Yes, it is a great way to save money, but food is a part of vacation to me.
- Skip the restaurants – One of the best ways to save money is by skipping the “restaurants” altogether. This is similar to #3 above. There are many items in all of the parks that can be eaten in place of a meal. Find these items and indulge. But, prepare yourself ahead of time… just because they are considered a “snack” does not mean they are cheap.
Things that Apply to Everyone
- Change your thinking– We have this set idea in our heads that we need 3 meals a day and a couple snacks. This isn’t true. Eat when your family is hungry and don’t worry about trying to stick to your regular schedule, you are on vacation.
- Don’t wait too long – Many people recommend eating at off times to avoid the crowds and lines. This is a great idea except for one thing, if you wait too long. Once you push yourself or your family past their hunger point two things are sure to happen: (1) everyone gets grumpy and (2) people start to feel sick. It is always better to wait in a longer line to eat when you are hungry then to force your group to wait until the crowd goes down and have everyone end up miserable.
- Water is free – This can happen several ways.
- Drinking fountains – many people are not fans, but we take advantage of them. Bring water bottles with filters from home and refill them throughout the day in the drinking fountains. We do this every trip to keep our family hydrated.
- Ask for water – Stop into a quick service location and ask for a cup of water. It’s free! You can also ask for a cup of hot water if you need to mix up a bottle of formula for your baby.
My biggest piece of advice about dining is to plan before you leave home. Yes, food at Disney is expensive. Yes, the dining plan can save you money. No, it isn’t always the best option. You can read my breakdown of paying out of pocket here. Whichever way you decide to go, do proper research and budget accordingly. That way when you are on your Disney vacation you won’t be worried about how much you are spending on food because you will have budgeted for it.
What ideas do you have for saving money on food at Disney World?