We scrimp and save for every trip to Disney, and even though we spend more money there than any other vacations we take, we feel it’s worth it. Our family loves Walt Disney World, and the memories we make there are worth every dime spent. Over the years we have learned ways to save so that we can afford to keep going back ‘home’. So here are our tips:
How to save money on Disney dining
Oftentimes we turn one large meal into two. If you’ve eaten at Disney, especially the popular buffets – you know that you tend to leave the restaurant stuffed. We certainly do. There are so many delicious options and the whole point of a buffet is to sample a bit of everything that catches our eyes, so we do. If we enjoy a big breakfast buffet, we will likely opt to have a snack for a late lunch and then perhaps an early dinner. We especially like Mickey pretzels, or a Dole Whip on a very hot day. (I don’t know about you, but I don’t like eating all that much when it’s 93 degrees and humid). Check out our favorite snacks in Magic Kingdom.
Stock up on gift cards
If you have an opportunity to purchase Disney gift cards at a discount, this helps. Purchase them with your Target card to get cash back. You can also find Disney gift cards and Landry’s gift cards for slightly cheaper than their face value at wholesale clubs. Landry’s cards may be used at Yak & Yeti (in Animal Kingdom), Rainforest Cafe (AK) and T-Rex (Disney Springs).
Also check Restaurant.com. You can find House of Blues (Disney Springs) gift certificates at a steep discount and there may be other participating restaurants in the area.
Bring a water bottle
You can get free tap water all around the parks. Many people carry their own or purchase bottled for a hefty fee, but there is no need when there are dispensers all around the park at your favorite quick service and snack stops. You will need tons of water on a hot day in the parks.
Pack a lunch
If you have a car during your trip, go and pick up a few items at a local grocery store. Unlike many theme parks, you are allowed to bring food into Disney parks. If your kids enjoy pb&j and they’re going to purchase that from the quick service counter, you can save some coin and bring your own uncrustables – because that’s what you’re buying anyway and at a premium.
Usually we don’t rent a car so we pack whatever we can (peanut butter & cereal) and buy what we can’t pack (milk & orange juice) in the souvenir shops on hotel grounds where you can usually find the essentials. There are also delivery services but they are quite expensive. If you have a kitchenette and plan on going back to your room during the day it may be worth it.
Choose restaurants wisely
Sit down meals and buffets in Disney parks and hotels can be very expensive. Study menus and prices – which are all available online before you go. There are many places where you can eat inexpensively throughout the parks other than quick service locations. In Magic Kingdom, we love Casey’s hot dogs. In Epcot we love the quick service inside the Land and Sea pavilion. Starring Rolls bakery is popular in Hollywood Studios, as is the Yak & Yeti cafe in Animal Kingdom. Check out this post from MouseSavers for more ideas.
Take advantage of freebies
Who says nothing in life is free? You’d think that would be especially true in Disney, but it’s not. If you’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary, make sure you tell your waiter or waitress. Last year we were celebrating my birthday and I received lots of magical Disney surprises in the form of free desserts like this plate of “the grey stuff”.
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Amanda Tempel says
I’ve never had to do “Disney Dining” but I know I’ll be taking my little girl soon : )! Really appreciate the tips.
ok spill it! What is the grey stuff? Like a mousse or a frosting blurb? Or some fancy whip?
Yes it’s a buttercream icing and it is delicious as the song says.
Stephanie Pass says
You’re so right, the food can get expensive. Often times we get the dining pass to save.
Jasmine Watts says
We often visit Disney and these are some wonderful tips!! I need to follow these tips to save some money!!
Susan Quackenbush says
I would love the opportunity to take my grandchildren to Disney, and it sounds like we could still have a blast while being frugal! Thank you for sharing these wonderful tips! :)
We tend to turn two meals into one a lot, even when we’re just hanging around the house on the weekends. Breakfast/Lunch becomes a Brunch and we eat dinner a little earlier than usual. We’ll usually have a snack before bed and that’s more than enough to keep us full all day!
Terri Beavers says
These are great ideas. We always take water bottles but I need to use your tips to help save money on dining because it can get really expensive.
Michele D says
When my friend comes to visit, she always gets the meal plan when visiting Disney. I live pretty close to all the parks so I don’t need to worry to much about the food there But Disney snacks are a must. We also bring our own water bottles and small snacks for the kids. Never a issue
I love the meal plan when it’s free or deeply discounted, but I found even the regular dining plan to be too much food. We didn’t even use all of our snack credits last time.