Visiting Walt Disney World can be quite expensive and families are often looking for ways to cut that expense down. One of the easiest areas to save money on your trip to Disney World is on food. When we booked our trip to Walt Disney World we were very interested in the Disney Dining Plan. However, when we looked further into the Dining Plan we discovered that the cost worked out to be $200 per day for food, and that was the dining plan where we would get two counter service meals per person and a snack. We decided that we felt that by paying for our food out of pocket we could beat that $200 per day, and that we did. We kept the $200 per day as our planned food budget though.
When I started researching ways to keep food costs down at Walt Disney World I ran across tips like taking food into the park, or purchasing bread from a food stand and using peanut butter packets from the condiment cart to make peanut butter sandwiches. I knew this was not how we wanted to save money on food at Walt Disney World but I still wanted to be able to keep our food costs down.
Here's what we did to keep costs down:
2 Meals and a Snack Per Day
We brought breakfast foods from home to eat in our room before we left for the park. Among the items we brought with us were muffins, honey buns (yes these are sugary but we were on vacation), and breakfast bars. We would then eat lunch and dinner at the park with one snack in the afternoon. We also had snacks in our room to snack on once we left the parks for the day. If you are staying on Disney property the rooms do come with a mini fridge, but not a microwave.
Use the Food Courts
Each Disney resort has a food court that offers food at a cheaper price than the food inside the parks. We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside and really enjoyed the food court that they offered. We ate breakfast one morning in the food court and was not as impressed with the breakfast as we were with the lunch and dinner options. On the day we visited Animal Kingdom we ate lunch at Animal Kingdom but since the park closes early we went back to our resort and ate dinner in the food court. Another day when we were leaving late for the park because we had slept in to catch up on sleep we ate an early lunch in the food court and then ate dinner at the park. Then on another day when we went to Magic Kingdom early in the morning and were planning to stay until midnight we left the park at lunchtime to return to the hotel to eat lunch at the food court, then returned to the park after lunch. Some resorts do have better food courts than others, so be sure to look at the reviews of each resort's food courts before going.
Buy Kids Meals
The menu at all of the restaurants will say that kids meals are for guests ages 9 and under. When I inquired about this for my 14 year old daughter who barely eats, I was told by a cast member that the age is only put on there to emphasize the size of the meals, and that guests of any age can order a kids meal. In fact every member of our family ordered a kids meal at least once during our trip. The kids meals are actually quite large in size. The kids meals typically come with an entree, two side items and a drink. You do not have to stick with the side items listed on the menu, you can choose different sides. For example, my son ordered a sandwich that was listed to come with 3 cucumber slices as a side, and a bag of grapes. He was able to replace the 3 cucumber slices with a bag of apple slices instead. In my opinion, the kids meals are worth the money.
Eat at Counter Service Restaurants
In my opinion the counter service restaurants are the best value. They offer food similar to that of table service restaurants, and in some cases the exact same food, but at a fraction of the cost. In Magic Kingdom our family's favorite counter service restaurants were Columbia Harbor House, The Diamond Horseshoe, and Tortuga Cavern. In Animal Kingdom our favorite counter service restaurants were Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes and the Beastly Kiosk (there is seating across the path for this).
Eat a Dole Whip
While you are at the Magic Kingdom you absolutely must eat a Dole Whip! It won't save you any money but it is a treat you won't regret splurging on!