Save Money on Food at Disney
Contrary to what you’ve heard, Disney vacations don’t have to be expensive. You can do a cheap Disney vacation and these ways to save money on food at Disney will help that vacation budget a lot! Using these tips (and the other advice I share in the links) you can do Disney on a budget. Keep reading to save money at Disney when dining.
You’ll also want to read this post with 7 additional Tips to Save Money on Food at Disney Parks.
Please note that I use affiliate links in my post. Clicking through and making a purchase through my link helps me in a small financial way, thank you!
1. Customize Your Order
Quick service dining over full service restaurants can be more cost effective way to do Disney on a budget. But there’s an additional way to you save a little more.
Even if the menu only shows “meal deals” that include a main dish, side dish and a beverage, you can (in most cases) request only the main dish at a reduced cost. So if you only want the burger but the deal comes with fries and a soda, request only the burger and ask about the cost (it should be lower!)
2. Be Choosy at Disney Special Events
Special dishes can be found in the kiosks at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Festival of the Arts and Flower & Garden Festival, Disney California Food & Wine Festival, and Disney California Adventure Parks Festival of Holidays. These plates of food are of high-quality and can’t be found outside of the event. But for for that, you’ll pay a premium price!
At the kiosks for these events you’ll be able to order fancy appetizers, small servings of a top-notch dish and alcoholic sips. And each one of these mini-delights could be almost the same cost as a full-sized quick service meal! If you’re wanting to indulge in a few of these kiosk treats, stick to a set amount and choose wisely or else your meal budget could be eaten up very quickly.
Many of these special Disney events offer a mini gift card on a wristband. Load the card with a set amount and it will help you stick to your meal budget. Or find out if there is a punch-card available (like the Sip & Savor Pass) for the event. If you choose only the most expensive items you’ll come out better than if you’d paid separately for each individual item.
3 & 4. Two Tips About Saving Money on Disney Kids Meals
Kids meal sizes and prices are smaller than full-sized meals. And that can be a both a positive and a negative, depending upon your needs!
When I last went to Walt Disney World, I arrived to my hotel late. I was hungry but didn’t want to eat an enormous meal. I opted to order a kids meal burger that came with a smaller amount of fries and chocolate milk. It was the perfect size meal for me and came at a much smaller cost than the full-sized adult meal ($6.50 versus $14). I was traveling solo, so ordering this made sense (both portion and price wise). Yes, an adult can order a kids meal at any quick service dining location!
However on the flip side of this, when it comes to ordering meals for my kids I very rarely order them kids meals. I have two kids who are almost the same age so we’ve always purchased them one full-size meal to split between them. Now that we have more kids, we tend to just order several plates of food and then share between us. This offers us a good portion for each person and a greater variety of food as well, as the menu for kids is often limited.
If you often share plates when dining, find out What are the Best Meals for Sharing at Disneyland.
5. Save Money on Disney Desserts
If you’re dining at a full-service restaurant, skip ordering dessert off the menu. The dessert prices are going to be considerably higher in the sit-down restaurants. Consider picking up dessert at a walk-up location that only serves sweets. There you’ll have a wider variety to choose from. Also the portions are often more generous as well, so you can share between two or more (but only if you want to share!)
These Lemon Meringue and The Master’s Cupcakes served inside Be Our Guest Restaurant are an astonishing $5.00 each! I can’t believe I spent $10 on these two (quite small) cupcakes! Especially when you can head over to the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and get two huge chocolate chip cookies with generous scoops of ice cream for only a little over $5.
Read more about special Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Where to Cut Costs)
6. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner…in That Order
If you’d like to eat one meal full-service but are still trying to be budget conscious, consider sit-down dining for breakfast.When dining full-service, the prices of the dishes will increase at lunch and raise even higher for dinner (in particular when taking about buffets or character dining).
7. Beware the Disney Souvenir Cup, Straw or Ice Cube
Just about every dining location offers some sort of upgrade to your beverage in the form of souvenir cups, twisty straws shaped like Mickey’s silhouette or flashy glowing colored ice cubes. Naturally these add-on’s come at a steep price! Disney seems to hit pretty hard on the kids menu in this category.
While a standard pineapple Dole Whip in a cup is priced at just over $4.00, the same soft serve in a souvenir tiki sipper will cost you over $10. I bought the sipper in this case for my brother, who collects tiki items. Make sure you work these add-on items into your souvenir budget!
Check out these tips about the Disney Souvenirs to Buy BEFORE Your Disney Vacation.
Save Money on Tickets at Disney!
Purchase discount Disneyland tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today. Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).
8. Leave the Park
No reason to feel trapped with your park-only choices! You can leave the parks and head over a Disney Resort hotel for dozens of more options. Rather than eat inside Magic Kingdom, I hopped the Monorail and had dinner at Capt. Cooks in the Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The Pulled Pork Nachos plate was huge and just over $9. I couldn’t eat it by myself it was a very generous portion. There is also a Dole Whip location here, so that was a plus!
The Downtown Disney District at Disneyland and Disney Springs at Walt Disney World also have loads of dining options with budgets that fit everyone.
At Disneyland, it’s also pretty easy to walk outside the Park to grab a meal. Restaurants like McDonald’s, Denny’s, Mimi’s and Pizza Press are located outside the gate within a ten minute walk.
9. Eat with Discounted Gift Cards
Purchase Disney gift cards at Target to use when purchasing your meals. When you use your Target Red Card to purchase the cards, you’ll receive 5% off! That may seem like small savings but if you’re eating a lot of meals in the parks and paying for them solely with these Disney gift cards, you’ll be saving good money! Sounds pretty sweet to me!
One quick thing to be aware of: As of yet, the Disney Parks app will not allow you to use a gift card to pay for meals using the Mobile Ordering feature. The app will store a credit card but there’s no way to use a gift card. You’ll need to use gift cards in person when purchasing food.
More Ways to Save at Disney!
Disney vacations don’t have to be over-the-top expensive. There are lots of ways to have a cheap Disneyland vacation or a frugal Disney World trip! I have included many other posts that outline how to eat cheap at Disney parks and other ways to save money at Disney during your trip.
Before traveling figure out How Much Will Your Disneyland Vacation Cost You so you can budget for food accordingly.
check out these other great posts!
- Adventures in Familyhood | Save Money on Disney Dining with Tables in Wonderland
- Magical Memories with the Mouse | Buying Disney Souvenirs for the Kids without Breaking the Bank
- Disney in Your Day | Best Uses of a Snack Credits on the Dining Plan