by Passholder Diva
Let’s face it: a visit to Walt Disney World isn’t exactly cheap. And while the parks may be the happiest place on earth, they also have typical theme park pricing on counter service menus. The average adult meal can run between $10-$14, and that’s *without* a soft drink, which can set you back almost $4. But before you faint from sticker shock, here are a few tips to combat pricey meals in the parks.
- Review menus beforehand. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s incredibly useful to have at least a vague idea of menu options in the park where you will be dining. You can even look up menus (and prices) right in the My Disney Experience app. Sometimes there are several quick service options within a very small radius, so you can please everyone in your party and potentially save money by combining menu items from multiple restaurants or kiosks.
- You can almost always order menu items by themselves. If you see an item on the menu as part of a combo, you can almost always order that item by itself for a lesser price. For example, at Wolfgang Puck Express in Disney Springs, one of our favorite dining locations at WDW, you can order their famous mac and cheese or mashed potatoes as a side item. On a recent visit, I wasn’t feeling very hungry so I ordered a side of their incredibly rich mac and cheese while my daughter ordered the full price size. My $4 plate of pasta was a little more than half the size of hers, but hers cost three times the price at $12! Other places we’ve had success ordering sides are at the Sunshine Seasons in the Land at EPCOT, a food court-style eatery that is great for families who can’t agree on one cuisine, and La Cantina de San Angel. The $1.99 side of refried beans is pretty large.
- You can order from the kids menu. If you are a light eater, on a diet, or just watching your pennies, you can choose the kids meal off the counter service menu. It comes with a drink and you can generally choose two side items such as fruit or fries to go with it.
- You can find healthy snacks and side items that can be combined to make a meal. There are several kiosks offering pieces of fruit around the parks (around 1.99 for each piece of whole fruit). My favorite snack item is the incredibly filling baked potato from Sleepy Hollow Refreshments in the Magic Kingdom. This item is something of a secret (it’s not on the main menu and a small sign featuring it was face down on the counter when I went up to order), but it’s a full size potato with sour cream, butter and shredded cheddar cheese for $3.69 plus tax.
- Some counter service meals are so big that they can be shared. There are several locations where the meals are large enough to share. If they can’t be shared between two people, we have found that having two meals between three of us sometimes does the trick. Places we have successfully shared meals include Tangierine Café in EPCOT, Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs Marketplace, La Cantina San Angel in EPCOT, Cosmic Rays in the Magic Kingdom, and Landscape of Flavors at Art of Animation.
- Water is free. You can save almost $4 per person by simply getting a free cup of water to go with your meal at any counter service restaurant. This works for hot water, too, by the way – during cooler months, I’ve brought in a couple of Starbucks Via packets and asked for a cup of hot water (only available at a place that serves hot beverages).
- Bring in drinks and snacks and only eat one big meal in the parks. If you don’t like the taste of Orlando tap water, you are free to bring in your own drinks (as long as they are not alcoholic or in a glass bottle). We’ve also staved off hunger pangs by bringing in almonds, granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches, goldfish and pretzels. Just keep in mind that the Florida sun can be brutal and don’t pack anything that can melt.
No one likes it if someone in their party is “hangry.” With these tips you can save a few bucks and still not feel hungry and deprived. And then you won’t have to feel guilty when you have the occasional splurge at the French bakery in EPCOT or the Sprinkles cupcakes ATM at Disney Springs.
What are some of your tips for saving money while dining at Disney World? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re looking for more fun ways to save money while dining at Disney World, check out our $40 a day (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and a Snack) tips for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom!
And if you’re ready to book your next vacation, contact Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, Patricia Payne of All For Dreams Travel! Her services are FREE and she can help you with all of your vacation needs! Click here for a free quote.