How to Eat Affordably at Walt Disney World
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For a year our family of 5 took weekly trips to the most magical place on Earth – Walt Disney World. We became Annual Passholders almost as soon as we made Orlando our home.

We quickly discovered that our bank account could not stand to eat exclusively in the parks every weekend. Here are some ways that we created our own version of the Disney Dining Plan.

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Breakfast

This meal was almost exclusively consumed in our car because we loved getting to the park in time for rope drop {opening}. While only Magic Kingdom offers a welcome show, the benefit of getting to the park early is huge because the lines are tiny even for some of the most desirable rides. The perks get even bigger if you are park-hopping {hitting multiple parks in one day}. Frequently we would start at Animal Kingdom and hit our favorites within an hour and be on to the next park. This was obviously pre-Avatarland.

Some of our favorite breakfast on the go included:

Frozen waffles

Bananas

Apples

Granola bars

The largest to-go cup of coffee I can muster

On rare occasions I was up early enough to whip up some Olaf waffles in our Olaf Waffle Maker! This is once in a blue moon though and seems to be preferred as a dinner option in our house.

Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?!!?

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Snacks

Since walking around the parks racks up the steps on the old Fitbit and tiny people feet we normally have a simple snack while standing ride for something because no matter how well you plan for a trip to disney, you will stand in line. It’s science!

Now, if it was just me, I would stop for a GIANT cinnamon roll from Gaston’s Tavern every time, but since we are trying to limit our family’s sugar intake for various reasons we grab a little something from our bag of tricks. My personal favorite bag of tricks is this Thirty-One Thermal. It’s cute, holds a lot more than it looks like it should, and is lightweight so it tucks easily into my backpack without adding much weight.

thermal tote

Here are some of our favorite “standing in line: snacks:

Cheese flavored rice cakes. We tried a different kind once and they became bird food.

Cracker Sandwiches

Mini boxes of raisins

GoGo Squeeze pouches {pro tip: freeze these the night before and they become ice packs in your lunchbox}

This is usually enough to push us through until around 1 when we find a shaded bench or stoop for our lunch. We get that it is fun to buy all of the Mickey-shaped snacks in the park, but a $5 pretzel won’t fill up all 3 of my kids and these basically Dollar Store snacks will. We also don’t run the risk of the inevitable fights that happen when you have 3 kids.

Lunch

For lunch time we grab some FREE water from a quick service stand and park it on a nice bench. Most of the time our meals look very similar to our Monday – Friday school lunches consisting of peanut butter (and NO JELLY…can you imagine jelly hands at the park?) sandwiches, cheese sticks, veggies (usually baby carrots), Craisins, hummus, and lunch box sized bags of chips. No one ever complained, though, because anything eaten on Disney property is magical. Also, there are lots of small components. This helps us keep the mess to a minimum and it’s easier to transport if we need to get to our next FP+!

 

The kids don’t usually start looking for another snack until around 5:00 so we give them a leftover from lunch (if there are any) and we start thinking about where we we want to go for dinner.

Dinner

One of the pluses {and minuses} of being an annual passholder is that none of our trips are too planned out. This means that we were able to have a lot of flexibility in what we did and where we went. Unfortunately, our dinner plans usually suffered because of all of the advanced dining reservations filled the available slots.

A lot of the time we headed to Epcot to just to eat because they have the largest amount of restaurants and variety in food. So after 15 minutes of talking our oldest child out of Electric Umbrella  we were able to hit the World Showcase and try new things. There is nothing better than being able to grab an appetizer in one country, entree in another, and finish up with dessert from yet another. Meals around the showcase are NEVER boring.

Eating affordably at #WDW doesn't have to be boring! Click To Tweet

Occasionally, we would hit a sit down restaurant, but with a family of 5 this can get expensive. Here are some of the ways that we would save money at these meals:

  1. The kids can drink water! Unless their meal includes (an explicitly states that it includes a drink) they get water. Actually, this isn’t just a dining at Disney rule, this is an any restaurant rule because it saves us like $6.
  2. Consider getting 2 appetizers as your meal. Sometimes you just can’t pick what you want and this is a great way to try different things. It usually ends up cheaper than an entree at dinner time.
  3. Okay, don’t throw things at me, but skip the character meals. These meals you are almost 100% paying for the characters and you don’t always get a lot of facetime. I believe that you can meet almost every character that has a dining experience at a different location and it will not cost an arm and a leg. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
  4. Skip dessert unless your heart is set on something you can only get at this restaurant.

 

How do you eat when you are in the parks? Are you a Disney Dining Plan person, or do you pack as much as you can into your backpack? Do you have a favorite restaurant that you always go to? Tell me how your family eats while at Walt Disney World.

Want to do Disney from a distance? Try these yummy Mickey Mouse Cupcakes!

Birthdays and Buttercream

 

There are 12 comments

  1. Honestly, we love Disney and are vacation club members with the annual pass. So loved learning how you eat affordably as I sometimes have a tendency to splurge when we visit there. Therefore could use your tips to eat more on a budget, too. Thanks!! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Anne Marie DeSimone

      Splurdging isn’t a bad thing…but when we were going EVERY weekend it was unrealistic LOL One night we went and told the kids we weren’t getting ANYTHING and then “Peter Pan” gifted us a massive ice cream sundae. Happiest kids ever!

      Reply
  2. I love all these tips except one: character meals are a MUST if your kid wants signatures or to ‘meet’ the characters. Of course the app tells you where they are in the park, but seriously – I am not paying that much to be at Disney to wait in line for a 1-minute meet-and-greet.

    Also, I love the tip about all the snack foods to bring. Grazing at Disney is a great idea because it gives them a chance to refuel AND to take breaks.

    Reply
    1. Anne Marie DeSimone

      I get your point about the Character Meals {we’ve done the Crystal Palace a few times}, but we reserve that for special occasions.

      Grazing was always the best because is made long lines go a smidgen faster…and fought off the hungry kid gremlins!

      Reply
  3. Natalina C Bailey |

    Great Job as always! I have not been to Disney since I was your kids ages, I love peanut butter sandwiches! I’m going to use your tips on my next vacation. Great ideas not just for Disney, but long car rides too.

    Reply

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