Disney Dining Secrets: 15 Tricks To Trim Your Food Budget

Unlock the magic of budget-friendly dining with these 15 Disney secrets.
Updated April 9, 2024
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A family eating lunch

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A vacation at Disney World is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create cherished memories, but it often comes with a hefty price tag.

An additional expense you can’t avoid is the cost of food and drink, which can become quite pricey within the parks.

However, with a few smart travel hacks, you can enjoy delicious meals without breaking the bank. You can even keep Disney dining on the menu so you don't feel deprived of any magic.

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Order grocery delivery

JacobLund/Adobe delivery boy giving box full of grocery to woman at home

Grocery delivery services like Instacart cater to Disney resorts and area hotels, allowing you to stock up on snacks, breakfast items, and essentials. Ordering groceries can significantly cut food expenses during your visit.

Popular grocery stores in the area include Publix, Aldi, Walmart, and Kroger. With plenty of outlets, you'll find items that satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.

Make meals at your hotel

insta_photos/Adobe teenage boy cooking in the kitchen

If where you’re staying comes with a kitchenette, take advantage and prepare simple meals in your room to save money. Plus, it's a great way to stick to your dietary preferences.

Even if you only have a fridge and microwave, you can stock up on prepared foods or convenience options. Cans of soup, sandwich fixings, and frozen meals are great choices.

Eat at the breakfast buffet

K.Pornsatid/Adobe breakfast buffet

Many hotels now offer free breakfast spreads that can make savings stack up. Options run the gamut from grab-and-go items like fruit and cereal to hot bars with eggs, bacon, and oatmeal. 

Sometimes, omelet stations and other custom options are available, so no one will feel deprived before hitting the parks.

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Bring reusable water bottles

Lalandrew/Adobe reusable steel stainless eco thermo

Hydration is key during a Disney adventure, especially given how hot Orlando weather can be from May through September. However, purchasing bottled water throughout the day can add up.

Bring reusable water bottles and refill them at the many refillable water stations throughout the park. Yes, Disney World allows you to do this. It not only saves money but is also environmentally friendly.

Skip the sodas when you order

Monkey Business/Adobe family enjoying meal in restaurant

Soda and other beverages can inflate your dining bill, especially on vacation. And for as much fun as it can be for adults, alcoholic beverages are particularly expensive at Disney World.

Opt for water, which is typically available for free, to accompany your meals. If you must have soda, milk, or juice, save by ordering shareable pitchers for the family.

Bring packed meals into the parks

Rawpixel.com/Adobe daily lifestyle of caucasian family

While Disney World has a policy against meals requiring heating, refrigeration, or processing in the parks, you can still pack snacks and sandwiches.

Bringing your own food ensures you have budget-friendly options for some of your meals and helps curb the temptation to splurge on too much expensive park fare. Make it fun for the kids by curating a picnic lunch experience.

Dine out for lunch, not dinner

Monkey Business/Adobe family eating meal at restaurant

Many restaurants at Disney World offer lunch menus with smaller versions of the same dishes as dinner but at a lower price. Plan your in-park meals for lunchtime, and you can experience the same culinary delights for less.

You can also consider some of the snacks you purchase for a meal, which isn’t difficult given the size of some options.

Take advantage of “fast food” options

ASDF/Adobe happy family eating burgers

Disney World has a variety of restaurants that sell tasty, ready-to-go items at affordable prices. You may have to eat on your feet, but that's still fun because you're at Disney, where there's plenty to see as you stroll.

These kiosks and carts have fun and diverse menus, ensuring you can find something for everyone in your group without breaking the bank.

Enjoy smaller menus at restaurant lounges

Rawpixel.com/Adobe A father and daughter eating breakfast

If you're looking for the ambiance of Disney's signature restaurants without the high price, consider dining at the lounge section attached to each one. You can often enjoy a similar menu and atmosphere at a fraction of the cost.

Portions tend to be smaller, but the food is no less delicious than what you’d get in the fancy section.

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Order off the kid's menu

EvgeniiAnd/Adobe kids eat pizza and pasta at cafe

Don't shy away from the kid's menu, even if you're an adult. These portions are often ample and can save you money compared to adult-sized portions. Plus, some items are surprisingly sophisticated and delicious.

This isn't an option at sit-down restaurants, but it's fair game at the quick service stations. You can also get a drink and sometimes a side with kid's meals.

Share large portions

Nicolas Micolani/Adobe senior female friends eating pizza outdoors

Disney World portions are famously generous at many of their restaurants. Capitalize on this by sharing meals with the other people in your party. Not only will you save money, but you'll also prevent food waste.

You can also be strategic and eat at restaurants that naturally encourage family-style dining, such as pizzerias. Who doesn't love pizza?

Order appetizers instead of entrees

djile/Adobe friends having breakfast in the restaurant

Appetizers are often substantial enough to serve as a satisfying meal, and they encourage healthier eating patterns by discouraging overeating. They're also more budget-friendly than full entrees.

You can mix and match a couple of appetizers for fun and variety to create a personalized and affordable dining experience. Call it tapas, Disney-style.

Skip the combo

Natalia/Adobe classic burger and fries combo

Combo meals might seem like a good deal, but they often come with unnecessary extras that drive up food costs. 

Stick to ordering individual items to save money while enjoying a delicious meal. You may find you’re perfectly satisfied with just the one item, anyway. 

The same rule applies to getting the dining plan at Disney World if you have a small appetite.

Discover dining spots off the beaten path

Anna/Adobe senior couple laughing

Disney World has hidden gems for dining if you’re willing to go exploring. Seek out less crowded, lesser-known spots that sell food without the premium prices of popular dining establishments.

Not only can you do this at the parks, but you can also head over to Disney Springs, which has everything from restaurants to food trucks.

Have meals at off-site restaurants

Jacob Lund/Adobe woman enjoying eating burger

Venture beyond the Disney World bubble to explore off-site dining options. Plenty of local restaurants sell great food — often at reasonable prices — allowing you to experience the culinary delights of the Orlando area.

You can also opt for fast food occasionally, even if you want to eat healthy. You can also keep more money in your wallet by hacking the menu at restaurants like Taco Bell for flavorful vegan options.

Bottom line

Drobot Dean/Adobe mother and little daughter hugging

By taking advantage of some of these tips, you can savor the parks' magic and avoid wasting money on overpriced meals.

Just remember to enjoy yourself from time to time. Disney World is one of the best places in the world for food, so be sure to splurge when you can.

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Cat Lafuente Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.

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