Eating is everyone’s favorite hobby, right? I’m not alone in this, am I? Sometimes when I plan a trip (and by sometimes, I mean all the time) I specifically plan my schedule around where we’re eating. Lorelei Gilmore, eating onion rings with a blueberry muffin and coffee, is my food spirit animal. Case in point – David and I prioritize food when on vacation. We make it a point to try to live a really healthy lifestyle when we’re at home, so that when we’re on vacation, we can eat whatever we want. We like to think those scales balance each other out somehow. One big part of your Disney experience is going to be the food you eat. Long gone are the days of burgers and fries being the theme park norm. Now, we like what the ‘Disney Food Blog’ has to say about Disney Food – ‘Food IS a theme park’. There’s a lot of insider tips about eating at a Disney Park, that you might find helpful, especially if you’re a first time guest. We want to selflessly share our knowledge of eating delicious Mickey shaped foods with you, to help make your vacation even better.
1. MAKE DINING RESERVATIONS EARLY. You know how we always say that our golden rule is to get to the park before it opens? Well our second favorite rule is to make your dining reservations well in advance. This guarantees that you will not only get to eat where you want, but when you want. An easy rookie mistake to make, is to wait to the last minute, or not make reservations at all. But here’s the thing – everyone is making reservations, and you won’t get to eat at the restaurant of your choice without a reservation.
2. Order Things A La Carte
Interested in saving money? So are we! Let me tell you a story I like to call ‘Laura and The Overpriced Corn Dog’. I DESPERATELY wanted a corn dog at Disneyland, but was upset that they were almost seven dollars, because they were selling them as meals with chips. Now – I understand that things are more expensive in a theme park, and it usually doesn’t bother me. But this seven dollar corn dog was BUGGING ME. But, I found out that I could order the corn dog without the chips, and save a couple of dollars. My corn dog tasted almost as good as my moral victory felt. I’ve found that the principle of the overpriced corn dog is true at most Disney quick service restaurants. Things will be shown as a ‘package’, but if you just want the sandwich, just order the sandwich, and expect to pay cheaper prices.
3. Pack Your Own Snacks
David and I are huge fans of this tip. We usually bring trail mix, a box of protein bars, and Starbucks VIA to keep in the room. We usually eat the protein bars for breakfast, which is a big money saver, and use the VIA for our morning jolt. Not only does this save valuable park time by not having to stop for breakfast, but also is a big cost saver.
4. Get Free Water
Not a fan of drinking out of a water fountain? Don’t pay for bottled water! Seriously. Put the bottled water down. You can go to any Disney Quick Service Restaurant and ask for a cup of ice water and they will give it to you – FOR FREE. This tip is a lifesaver, in the hot Florida summer months.
5. Consider a Late Afternoon Buffet
We always overeat at buffets. We aren’t proud of it, but it happens. On our last trip to Disneyland, we discovered that by booking a later afternoon buffet, usually around 2:30, we still weren’t hungry at dinnertime, and ended up just eating a snack. This helped us save money because the cost of one meal, ended up being two meals.
6. Share Food
Disney is a great place to share food, as most of their portions are very large. Sharing meals will keep you from overspending, overeating, and feeling sluggish throughout the day!
7. Eat at Unpopular Times
Everyone eats at around the same time – which leaves some attractions a little less busy, while all the restaurants are INCREDIBLY busy. By planning to eat during the ‘off hours’, you can save a considerable amount of time.
8. Consider A Disney Dining Plan
There’s a variety of different Disney Dining Plans, and we think that they CAN save you money if you use them wisely. Seriously consider your family’s eating desires, and be realistic with yourself. We tend to gravitate towards the steak and lobster end of the menu, at nicer restaurants – and we also share dining credits. So we’ve found that the dining plan actually saves us money. This isn’t the case for everyone though, and we realize that.
9. Gratuities Are Not Included
When the Disney Dining Plan first rolled out, gratuities were included as part of the package. This is no longer the case, and you will need to budget your tips separately. Now, I’m getting ready to share a controversial opinion, and I really don’t want to be tarred and feathered over it. The beauty of the internet is that we can all come together, with our different opinions, and if you passionately disagree with me, you can start a blog and write about all the reasons I’m wrong. Here’s the thing – for many people, a trip to Disney World can be a once in a lifetime trip that they save for, for years. I get that. It’s a magical time for a family, and one I hope every family gets to enjoy. There are many ways to save money to make that trip more feasible and economical, especially in today’s climate. David and I are not rich, or trust fund babies. When we started this blog, and started travelling to Disney World, we were both waiters at a restaurant. So here’s the thing – one of the ways you save money on your Disney Vacation should not be by not tipping the Cast Members who work to serve you at Table Service Restaurants. (I’m stepping down from my soap box now, and hoping things don’t get thrown at me).
10. Try The Resort Restaurants
The Parks don’t always have the best of everything – some of our favorite Disney restaurants are at the Disney Resorts. Consider grabbing macadamia nut pancakes for breakfast at the Kona Cafe, or having an African inspired (but still kid friendly!) buffet at Boma. For a romantic dining experience you won’t forget, head over to the California Grill, high atop the Contemporary Resort, or feast on lobster at Narcosses at The Grand Floridian. No matter what you chose, some of your most memorable dining experiences will be at the restaurants outside of the parks.
There are plenty of other great dining tips that will assist you at Walt Disney World (and we will probably share many more of them on this blog at a later time), but these are our top ten. We hope you find them helpful in your attempt to eat your way around Walt Disney World.