So you’ve finally planned that special trip to Walt Disney World® that every family dreams of. As you arrive, one of the kids says, “I’m hungry!” So, everyone heads into the food court, and you check out the Quick Service menu and notice the meals range from $12-15 per person. You automatically start calculating and multiplying, trying to figure out the price for one meal, much less an entire week for the entire family. This is the same situation our family has struggled on almost every Disney trip we’ve made. There have been those few occasions we’ve splurged, and bought the Disney Dining Plan. Honestly, it’s totally worth the worry-free feeling you get when your MagicBand is scanned, knowing it’s all paid for. But in reality a dining plan is not always in the budget, so along the way, I’ve picked up some tricks to help our wallet go a little further on vacation.
Refillable resort mugs
If you are staying on Disney property, refillable mugs are available at the food court at every Disney resort. With just one purchase of $18.99 plus tax, you can have drinks for the entire week. However there is a rule, you may only refill your drinks at a Disney resort hotel, not at the parks. These mugs allow for unlimited refills of water, tea, soda, juice, hot chocolate, and coffee throughout your entire stay. With drinks costing around $4-5 a piece, these refillable mugs are a must do for families.
Now, what about drinks at the parks? If you are getting a combo meal, then your drink is usually included. If not, then a cup of water is free at all of Disney’s parks. Plus you what better way to stay hydrated running around theme parks than by drinking water?
Fun Fact: Did you know that Walt Disney World® allows you to bring snacks in your backpack? You can bring chips, granola bars, crackers, gummy snacks, nuts, snack cakes, I’ve even seen PB&J, and also a bottle of water into the parks. When you are in line and your kids are asking for a snack, why pay $4 for a bag of chips when you can pull one out of your backpack?
Breakfast Options at your Resort
Tip: don’t go straight to the quick service and just order what’s on the menu, instead of checking into other options first. For starters, my husband and I will almost always share a breakfast bounty platter for about $12, which usually include Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuit, and potatoes. The picture below is half of the bounty platter. If spending $12 on a bounty platter is more than what you’re looking for, order a side of bacon and eggs. This cuts the cost in half and, for me, it’s enough to last me until snack time. Biscuits and Gravy with a side of ham or bacon is another favorite for about $6, and with my free refillable mug, I can have my coffee too! It is a filling and budget-friendly breakfast. Be sure to check out the pastries in the marketplace. I go for a danish for about $4.00, a cup of fruit is around $5, or if your ready to hit the parks grab a smoothie for $6 and head to the buses. Lastly, did you know adults can order kids meals too? For just $4.99 a kid’s meals come with a snack and a drink, usually a small milk, water, or juice box. Snacks can vary but are usually a kids yogurt drink, a cookie, apple slices, or grapes. Bonus if you don’t eat the snack, stick them in your backpack for a pick me up at the parks or put in the fridge in your resort room.
I know no one really wants to share a meal when your tummy is growling, but there are plenty of places that serve large portions. For example Casey’s Corner on Main Street, U.S.A.®. Those hot dogs are huge. We can normally buy 3 dogs and a couple of giant fries with chili and cheese, plus some cups of ice water, and our family has a great meal.
Flame Tree BBQ is an amazing quick serve option at Disney’s Animal Kingdom®. Meals are priced from $13- $20 per plate, and you can have your choice of ribs, pulled pork, or chicken with some baked beans, macaroni and cheese and coleslaw. We buy 3 of the Samplers Platters for around $20 a piece and grab our free water, of course. This is a $65 meal for all 5 of us and we don’t have any gratuity since its a quick serve. The portions are huge, and the BBQ is delicious, and we almost always have leftovers. For a family of 5 that’s around $13 a person – good on the budget, and delicious too!
Buy 3 cupcakes and cut them in half for dessert. We love sweets but the Cupcakes, Brownies, Cookies and Rice Krispie treats are HUGE at Disney. Half is plenty of sugar for my kids, and for around $5 you can get a good size treat. So for about $15 our family of 5 versus spending almost $30! That’s why we choose to share. Plus we don’t get dessert every day, maybe just a couple of times throughout the trip to keep it a special treat.
Takeout and a Sing-Along
On an off day head over to P & J’s Southern Takeout located at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, and try out some yummy fried chicken. It’s only $25 for an 8-piece with 2 sides and delicious cornbread. Don’t forget to bring your mugs and refill your drinks. The fried chicken is fresh, hot and crispy, just the way I like it. My kids loved the fact that we were eating outside on a picnic table, and my littlest got a chance to enjoy the playground after we ate.
Later, jump on the internal bus (ask a cast member for directions, it’s easy to take the wrong bus and head towards a park instead) for dessert at Chip n Dale’s Campfire Sing-Along. You not only get to dance and take pictures with Chip n Dale but for $10 you receive a bag of marshmallows, graham crackers and 2 Hershey bars to make your smores over the fire. The sticks to roast are $1 and we only bought 3 to share. This is an inexpensive dessert coming out to around $2.50 a person for our family of 5, and we had leftovers, that we brought back the resort for snacking. It is a fun, budget-friendly evening!
If you are Epcot® or Disney’s Hollywood Studios® take a trip to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, it’s just a short walk or a ferry ride away. There they have some super yummy pizza at Pizza Window. A large pizza is only $20; we can order 2 pizzas and feed our family for under $50, Again don’t forget to bring your mugs for refillable drinks next door at the Boardwalk Bakery.
Movie Night at your Resort
Take advantage of the movie night at your resort. Not only do you get free popcorn and cookies, plus a great Disney movie, but you can ask for an additional bag to take back to your room, or save for the road trip home.
Park Snack Options
Besides packing treats in our backpacks, a great snack option for the parks is Disney’s refillable popcorn bucket. These buckets range from $10-16, depending on what design you choose, and you can refill your popcorn at any park for only $2 throughout your entire stay! These buckets are by no means small either and are great for sharing. One more must-have snack that my children will always ask for is a pretzel, they range around $7 with an option of adding a cheese sauce. We normally will buy 2-3 and share.
If you are like me and just have to enjoy one character meal during your stay, opt for breakfast. A character breakfast runs around $35 for adults and $15 for children under 10 versus a character dinner at $60 per adult, and $30 per child. Don’t forget to calculate in your gratuity and tax when paying cash, but it is definitely a much more enjoyable meal when your pocketbook is happy too.
I hope these tips will help you have a much more enjoyable trip for you and your wallet!
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