If you or your family are looking forward to a Walt Disney World vacation, you wouldn't be alone. Self-declared the "Happiest Place on Earth" since 1971, Disney is full of amusement park rides, merchandise, gifts, and of course, food. It's easy to spend hours in the parks working up an appetite, but like many things at Disney World, sometimes even the smallest meal can be expensive.
Whether you're spending a week at Disney or only one day, here are 10 of our tips and tricks for saving money on food at Walt Disney World.
Use Quick Service restaurants.
Walt Disney World has a number of "Quick Service" restaurants around its various parks, which are food options you can order over the counter and pick up on a tray for yourself/your family. You can order ahead of time for pickup via the Disney app or wait in a (typically short) line for a cheaper but still filling meal. Quick Service also means you don't need a reservation, so it's a smart way to grab something on the go.
Buy a kid's meal.
Hand in hand with using "Quick Service" restaurants is ordering off the kids menu. If you aren't that hungry, can't take leftovers home, or prefer a smaller meal, the kids menu will save a few dollars in the long run.
Utilize Annual Passholder discounts.
As a Disney Annual Passholder, you are entitled to a minimum 10 percent discount on regularly priced food and non-alcoholic beverages, per Disney's website. While the discount may vary depending on the dining establishment, the baseline is currently 10 percent — just be sure to check the website regularly!
Order groceries for your room.
Garden Grocer, Instacart, Amazon Fresh, Walmart Plus, and Amazon Prime are all commonly used services to deliver groceries to your room. Additionally, you can bring your own groceries, just be sure to keep them cold if necessary! You can also use Uber or other rideshare services to locate the closest Publix, Trader Joe's, or Walmart to grab groceries in person.
Split adult entrees.
Like many amusement parks, Disney's portions vary in size, so if you order a menu item that's more than you can eat, a great way to save money is to share with a friend.
Never pay for water.
While it might be tempting to grab a bottle of water in the Disney parks, you might be shocked by the price tag. Instead, you can head to the nearest kiosk to ask for a paper cup of ice water. It's important to note that not every cart or kiosk has free ice water, so choosing the right location to ask is also important. You can also ask for a free cup of ice water with your mobile order at many Quick Service restaurants.
Disney also sells reusable plastic cups around the parks, especially at Starbucks locations, but many of the speciality reusable tumblers come at a steep price, so be sure to double check when investing.
Pack your own snacks.
If you're ordering groceries for your trip or want to bring along food that isn't a full grocery haul, it's recommended to bring snacks that can withstand the Florida heat. Granola bars, trail mix, or anything you prefer that won't melt uncomfortably in your pocket would be great for a quick snack in between rides.
Skip character meals.
Especially with young children, it can be tempting to combine experiences and have a sit-down meal where character actors (sorry, Cast Members!) are present. However, the prices for said meals can become exorbitant quickly, so it's better to wait and seek out characters around the parks for a meet and greet.
Hit the buffets.
Many of the restaurants in Disney World and the Disney Resorts have buffets, which are perfect to grab all you can eat in a pinch. If you're staying at a Disney Resort, you could even take leftovers right back to your room.
Weigh the pros and cons of a Disney Dining Plan.
If you're staying at a Walt Disney World Resort during your visit, you are given the option of the "Disney Dining Plan," a pre-paid meal package. However, the plan currently averages at $78 per adult and $30 per child, according to Disney Tourist Blog, and only covers certain locations or options.
So if you know your family won't eat more than twice a day or would prefer to snack rather than sit down, weighing the pros and cons of a Disney Dining Plan is essential.