In case you didn’t already know, Disney World is pretty darn expensive.
So brace yourself!
The last thing you’d want to be is sticker shock the moment your first character breakfast bill comes out. Trust me, it sucks especially if you’re on a “low-roller” budget.
But as expensive as Disney World food can get, you can however use clever tactics and techniques to significantly reduce your total food budget.
And don’t worry, I got you covered, so there’s no guesswork and trial and error. I’ve done them all and am willing to share 23 of my best Disney World food money-savings tips and tricks.
So with that being said, let’s jump straight into the savings!
Best Disney World Food Savings Tips & Tricks
These tips have saved me a significant amount of money during my trip. Although you won’t find some incredible “how to get a 5 star meal for $7” kind of tips, these savings techniques and method will add up to a nice amount of savings by the time your trip is over. So let’s dig in!
1. Eat your biggest meal of the day at breakfast.
Breakfast if the most important meal of the day so why not go hard. Plus, breakfast is actually also the cheapest meal at Disney World. That’s why I recommend you go to a breakfast buffet and load up for the day.
2. Find a certain meal item, cheaper, at another nearby restaurant.
Some table-service restaurants actually offer the same exact food item at a quick service location, for a lot cheaper. It’s literally the same meal, just in a different environment. Also, you won’t have any garnishes or sides at the quick service location, but the main food item is exactly identical. Some of these items include:
- The Fish and chips from Rose and Crown Pub in Epcot can actually be found at Yorkshire Country Fish shop for about $10 cheaper. The only difference is that it’s a smaller portion and you don’t get a side of peas, which in my mind is a bonus.
- ‘Ohana bread pudding can be found in a single person serving size at Tambu Lounge, right in front of the restaurant. Most people just go to ‘Ohana for the dessert and pay upwards of $40. You can go to Tambu Lounge and get the single serving version of the dessert for $4.99
- Tonga Toast from Kona Cafe which costs around $13 can be found downstairs at Captain Cook’s Snacks Company for a little over $5. The only difference is that you won’t get any sides like you would at Kona Cafe.
- The New England Clam Chowder at Liberty Tree Tavern, which costs $7.50 can be found at Columbia Harbour House for $4.99.
- Zebra Domes found at the Boma dinner buffet inside Animal Kingdom Lodge can be bought for $3.79 at the Mara food court. In order to get these exact same Zebra Domes, you’d have to go to Boma and pay at least $38 for the dinner buffet.
- At Chefs de France, you can get a Quiche Lorraine served with a salad and a Chocolate Mouse for $15. Just by going up the Parisian road to Boulangerie Patisserie, you can get the same quiche sans salad for $6.20 and the same chocolate mousse for $4.50. You’ve just saved at least 4 bucks!
3. Don’t order dessert at table-service restaurants.
Desserts are pretty overrated at table-service restaurants mainly because they’re overpriced. There’s literally only been a few wow-factor desserts that’s actually worth the money. Instead, I recommend you buy your dessert elsewhere. You’ll find tastier treats for literally half the cost like this Strawberry Cream Tart pictured above.
3. Become an Annual Passholder and take advantage of restaurant discounts.
If you’re an annual passholder you get access to 10-15% discounts on a select number of Disney restaurants, including some bakeries and “snackeries” Here’s a listing of all annual passholder restaurant discounts.
4. Get a Tables in Wonderland Membership.
If you’re an annual passholder, Florida resident, or Disney Vacation Club Member, you can purchase a Tables in Wonderland card and get a 20% discount on all Disney restaurants including alcoholc, except at Victoria and Albert’s. It’s a pretty good deal that can lead to a significant discount. Learn more here.
5. Avoid the seasonal restaurant price spikes!
Did you know that Disney actually raise their buffet and character meal prices during the peak season (major holidays, summer, spring break, etc)? I know, how dare they! Typically, during these times, these meals will generally cost you $4 more per person for adults and $2 more per child, according to Mouse Savers. So if possible, try to come during the slow season (September to early November, and mid-January to early March). You’ll experience cheaper hotel rates, cheaper food, shorter ride lines, and ultimately, less stress.
6. Bring your own snacks or even meals.
Packing and bringing your own snacks into the parks is a great way to save a ton of money when you get the munchies. Those churros, Dole Whips, Mickey Ice Cream Bars, Cupcakes, Turkey Legs, and caramel apples are tempting but if you’re on a tight budget, packing your own snacks is a better option than those expensive goodies. And of course, you can also pack your own lunch for a heck of a lot cheaper than what you would find at any quick service and table service restaurant.
7. Eat all your meals at Quick Service Restaurants.
Quick Service Restaurants are the best bargain when it comes to Disney World Dining. You can get a pretty good meal with both sides and a dessert for around $15 on average. This is a heck of a lot cheaper than most Table Service restaurants which can run upwards of $44 at some places.
8. Don’t ever buy bottled water because iced water is free.
One thing about Disney is that they will give you free iced water at all quick service locations. The only bad thing is that Florida water is pretty smelly and tastes a little different. Since I live in Orlando, I’ve gotten used to it, but most out of towners tend to complain about it. My advice, bring some of those Crystal Light drink packets and add it to your iced water to mask the taste.
9. Purchase a refillable resort mug.
If you tend to drink a lot when hanging out around your resort, then you should definitely invest in a refillable resort mug which costs $17 for the entire duration of your trip (up to 11 days). With these mugs, you’ll get unlimited soda, coffee, tea, and juice refills at your resort. However, you can’t use these mugs at the parks.
10. Buy a Disney Gift Card.
If you’re really looking to budget your food costs, you should get yourself a prepaid Disney gift card. This way you’ll be able to prevent yourself from overspending on your meals or buying any additional goodies you probably don’t need.
11. Don’t ever buy a drink from Epcot ever again. Go to Club Cool instead!
You can actually try a variety of sodas from around the world for FREE at Club Cool in Future World at Epcot.
12. Order entrees only at quick service locations.
You can order “entree only” at most quick service locations. The menu and prices reflect the combo which includes a side and dessert. Just ask the cashier that you want just the entree only and you’ll pay less.
13. If you want to eat at a Character Meal, go for breakfast.
Generally speaking, the cheapest Character Dining experiences can be found during breakfast. The cheapest character breakfasts that offer great food and awesome characters are 1900 Park Fare, ‘Ohana, and Garden Grove. The most expensive you’ll spend per adult is $29.99 and $15.99 per child which is at 1900 Park Fare.
14. Eat all your meals at a buffet.
Buffets are the best bargains because you can eat as much as you want. There’s no need to buy appetizers or desserts because it’s all already included. Not bad if you ask me. My personal favorite is Trails End Buffet for $26 which includes all you can eat ribs, beef brisket, fried chicken, chocolate cake, and other goods.
15. Eat off Disney property.
If you’re really looking for cheap meal options, your best bet is to go a few minutes off Disney property. Here you’ll find a plethora of restaurant chains that range from fast food favorites to popular steakhouses. But this is only worth the savings if you have a car to get around because taxis are pretty pricey.
16. Split a meal or eat appetizers as a meal.
Some entrees are actually really big – big enough for 2 people to share so it’s a great way to cut costs especially if you or someone in your group isn’t a big eater. Also, you can always order an appetizer as a meal since some a pretty filling. You’ll have better luck splitting meals at table service restaurants since portion sizes are larger than quick service restaurant meals.
17. Get a Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World Guidebook.
If you get a Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World Guidebook, you’ll have access to a few pretty good coupons for most major Disney Springs (aka Downtown Disney) restaurants. Discounts range from 10%-20% off meals. See complete listing here.
18. Get a McCormick and Schmicks Gift Card which can be used at both Rain Forrest Cafe and Yak & Yeti.
At Costco you can generally find these restaurant gift cards for about 20% cheaper than the gift card amount. And the best part about it is that you can use these gift cards at both Rainforest Cafe locations and Yak & Yeti.
19. Buy your drinks from other places.
If you’re staying on Disney property, especially a Disney resort, it’s a lot cheaper to buy drinks form the Hess Gas Stations on Disney property. There you’ll find cheaper milk and cheaper beer than what you would find at Disney resort shops.
20. Buy groceries and cook your own meals inside your suite or villa.
If you’re staying a a Disney Vacation Club villa or any resort suite/villa that offers a kitchen, cooking your own meals can be a cheap alternative to the Disney food. If you have a car, you can easily find a nearby supermaket like Publix or Walmart Supercenter. Or you get get your groceries delivered to you via Garden Grocer.
21. Avoid overpriced Disney restaurants.
There are actually quite a few overpriced restaurants that just don’t deliver. These include Chef Mickeys and Princess Storybook Breakfast at Akershus. Yes you do get to dine with Disney princesses but it can be a little too expensive for some folks.
22. Dine at locations that give you free refills.
Some quick service restaurants offer self-serve soft drink machines, so you can literally go back and get refills without paying an additional dime. Here are the locations where you can do this at:
- Backlot Express (Hollywood Studios)
- Contempo Cafe (Contemporary Resort)
- Early of Sandwich (Disney Springs aka Downtown Disney)
- Electric Umbrella (Epcot)
- Restaurantassaurus (Animal Kingdom)
- Sunshine Season (Epcot)
- Wolfgang Puck Express (Disney Springs aka Downtown Disney)
Invest in the Disney Dining Plan. Probably my most controversial suggestion. People love the dining plan. Others absolutely hate it. But when it comes to the bottom line, if you use it correctly, you can actually eat a lot more food than what you paid for. Sounds sketchy, I know, but it can totally be done. I mean seriously, you literally have to eat filet mignon and lobster for dinner. Not bad, right?
23. For restaurants that serve food breakfast, lunch, and dinner, go right before lunch and pay breakfast prices.
This is a little buffet hack that works wonders in Las Vegas. Basically, if a buffet restaurant doesn’t close and offers meals all day, you should try to go during those transition periods (where breakfast turns to lunch, lunch turns to dinner). You’ll literally be paying breakfast prices for lunch selections.
Well, that’s it!
Thanks for reading and hopefully you found some great money saving tips in this listing.
If you have any questions or have some Disney World dining saving tips of your own, please leave a comment below.