There is no doubt that visiting Walt Disney World Resort is expensive, and that food plays a major role in the expense of your trip. Because the food is expensive you definitely want to make sure you find all the information you need before your visit so that you are well informed. All that math we learned a million years ago in school definitely comes in handy when planning at trip to Disney. It’s worth taking the time to “run the numbers” when it comes to food.
Don’t Buy Into the Hype
Food at Walt Disney World is expensive. I personally don’t mind paying for food that is good and that my family enjoys. I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to listen to tons of other people in Facebook groups or on Disney forums about what you and your family will like. After all, everyone has different tastes. What I like to eat – you may not. What I think is good – you may hate.
The best advice I give when it comes to where you should eat at WDW is go on-line and look at the menus for each location before deciding where you will eat. Is there something on the menu that each family member will like? Is the price too high? No one in a Disney forum knows what you like to eat or how you like to eat it. What one person finds acceptable, you may think is horrible. Do your own research.
I personally hate a Dole Whip. Yet, if I listened to everyone in Disney groups I JUST HAVE TO HAVE a Dole Whip. People often rave about Tony’s Town Square in the Magic Kingdom. I think the food is horrible and the service is often questionable.
Think Outside the Disney Forum Box
Try the restaurants in the resorts. Restaurants like Boatwrights Dining Hall at Port Orleans Riverside or Olivias Cafe at Old Key West have good food, are less crowded and give you a great amount of food for your money.
Head over to the Swan and Dolphin where there are countless and outstanding restaurants to enjoy. If you have a car, eat off property. There are so many restaurants in the area that I often have a difficult time deciding where to dine.
Quick Service VS. Table Service
Many quick service locations offer full meals that are much more food and better food than some of the table service locations. These locations will also take half the time. ABC Commissary in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Electric Umbrella in Epcot and Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom are all great choices for full meals at quick service prices and with large portions.
Tip: Don’t over order at a quick service location. If the half roasted chicken comes with potatoes and vegetables but you only want the roast chicken and a salad – ask them to take the sides off the order and your bill.
Disney Dining Plan VS. Out of Pocket Dining
Do the math before assuming the dining plan will work best for your family when it comes to cost. If buying the Disney Dining Plan for XX – will you actually spend that amount of money paying out of pocket for food? Do your research again. Look on-line for the menus and the costs for each location. If your family aren’t large eaters there’s a good chance it will be cheaper for you to pay out of pocket for each meal.
Again – do the math before assuming this will save you lots of money. If you get the dining plan under a Free Dining promotion – remember, you must purchase a full priced package in order to get the free dining plan. Can you get your room and park tickets cheaper under a different promotion that will save you lots of money? If you don’t plan to do lots table service restaurants, free dining can sometimes cost you more money on your vacation.
TIP: Don’t use a quick service meal credit on breakfast. You can use a snack credit for a muffin or pastry for example. You can also buy your breakfast much cheaper than you can buy a lunch or a dinner. Use your quick service credit for more expensive meals.
You can read some tips on How to Maximize the Disney Dining Plan HERE.
You may also find these tips helpful:
Buffets and Family Style Meals
If your family is full of big eaters, buffets and family style meals are the way to go and where you will get the best bang for your buck. If your teenage son can eat his weight in food at every meal, take advantage of the buffets available as well as family style meals such as ‘Ohana at the Polynesian or Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom.
At the same time if your family are not big eaters, paying for a buffet or a family style meal where everyone is going to take a little taste of a few things and not go back for more is a waste of money.
Unfortunately, most of the character dining experiences are buffet style so you’ll have to change whether or not paying the price for the experience is worth it for your family if you won’t be taking full advantage of the “eat as much as you can” of a buffet.
Are Refillables Worth the Cost
Refillable Mugs: If you get a free refillable mug as part of your dining plan – o.k. Do I think purchasing a refillable mug is worth it otherwise. No. Unless you don’t plan to go to the parks much and will be spending lots of time at your resort, it isn’t worth it since that is the only place you can refill it.
Of course, if you drink lots of coffee before and after hitting the parks – or tons of soft drinks before and after hitting the parks – go for it. This is another spot where doing the math is important. Will you drink enough to justify the cost? At around $18 (plus tax) for the length of stay mug (that you can only use at your resort) is it worth it. You can make coffee in most of the resort rooms that is included in your room (free). You can have soft drinks delivered from a grocery service or bring with you if you drive.
I don’t know about you but when I walk to the main area of the resort in the morning for coffee, I finish that coffee before I get back to my room. How many times are you realistically going to walk back and forth for coffee or a soft drink to justify the cost of that refillable mug. Don’t forget if you fill that mug on your way to a park – you then have to carry that empty mug around all day!
Refillable Popcorn Buckets: For my family, this is the best thing since the invention of sliced bread! My daughter has lots of food allergies and the popcorn at Disney has always been one of her “go to” snacks. There are very few other things she can have. It also helps that she loves the Disney popcorn. Before the refillable popcorn buckets, I would spend a fortune on popcorn all day long.
Now I simply purchase a bucket of popcorn on our first day in the parks and then re-fill for $1.50 for the remainder of our visit. This has cut my popcorn cost by more than half.
If you or a family member suffer from any food allergies, Walt Disney World is the best vacation destination when it comes to eating. They take great care in making sure food is prepared for the allergy sufferer in the safest way possible. Be sure to list the allergies in all reservations as well as remind the hostess when you are checking in for your reservation. Don’t hesitate to speak to a chef at all table service locations or a manager at the quick service spots.
If all else fails, bring your own snacks. Not only will it save you lots of money, you will be sure to have what you like.