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13 Questions and Answers About Bringing Your Own Food to Disney Theme Parks

Erin Foster is the Disney Food for Families columnist and a behind-the-scenes guru here at Disney Food Blog! Check out more of her posts here.

At the Disney Food Blog, we are obviously HUGE fans of dining at the Walt Disney World restaurants. But there may be times when, due to budgetary, medical, religious, or other restrictions you may want or need to bring your own food into the parks with you. Here are 13 typical questions and answers about having non-Disney food at Disney.

  1. Am I allowed to bring my own food and/or beverage into the parks?

    Yes, with limited exceptions.

  2. Exceptions? What exceptions?

    The Walt Disney World website states that you are not permitted to bring alcoholic beverages or glass containers into the parks. Glass baby food jars are allowed.

  3. But what about the security check points?

    They’re looking for weapons and things of that nature. They will not question your consumables unless they’re alcohol or in a glass container.

    In my many hundreds of park admissions, the only item I’ve ever personally seen confiscated at the security checkpoint was a bottle of Heineken, which obviously failed both the alcohol and glass tests.

  4. Soft-sided, insulated bags are easy to carry in the parks

  5. There are no limits on the quantity of food I can bring in the parks? Really?

    It’s correct that there are no specific limits on how much food you can bring with you into the parks. You’re not limited to just snacks or just a water bottle; a full lunch of sandwiches, fruit, dessert, etc. is fine.

    However (and this is a big however), there ARE limits on the size of the container you can use to carry your food into the park. No box, cooler, bag, or other container larger than 24″ x 15″ x 18″ is allowed into the parks as a food receptacle, or for any other purpose. This means that you’ll have to leave that giant Coleman you use for tailgates at home.

    Also, other than strollers, you may not bring any wheeled conveyances into the parks. This means no rolling coolers or wagons to transport lots of smaller coolers.

  6. What types of food have you brought into the parks?

    Nearly every time I enter a Disney theme park, I’m carrying some sort of beverage: water bottle, Diet Coke, or juice box for the kids. When my children were small, I always brought baggies filled with their favorite munchables like Goldfish and Cheerios.

    I have a friend whose son has severe allergies; she brings entire meals for him when she visits the parks.

  7. Have you ever had any problems with this?

    Nope. Not once. Really.

  8. Any ideas about what I should use to carry my food in?

    In my experience, I’ve seen guests have the most success with soft-sided insulated bags. These could be either the single lunch, six-pack-size for individuals or back-pack or diaper-bag-size for families.

    Hard-sided coolers, even small ones, add extra weight and are more difficult to maneuver. A quick spin on Amazon shows the smaller size soft coolers starting at about $10.00 and the larger ones starting at about $20.00.

    Another bonus if you’re flying is that you can fold soft coolers for transport or use them to corral wet swimsuits for the trip home.

  9. Do I have to haul my food around with me all day?

    You have two options: carry your food with you or leave it in a locker. If you’re just toting drinks and snacks, then you’ll want to keep those with you in your personal purse or backpack. You never know when hunger will strike.

    However, a full meal can get a bit heavy to haul around in the heat all day. If you have a stroller, you could leave your cooler there (always take valuables with you). If you don’t have a stroller, then your best bet is to store your lunch in a locker.

    The Disney theme parks all have rental lockers.

    Lockers are available at the front of all four Disney theme parks and both water parks. Additional lockers are available at the back International Gateway entrance at Epcot. Bear in mind that lockers are not free. Prices do change, but currently a large locker will set you back about $5.00 per day ($10.00 up front payment, with a $5.00 refund when you return the key.)

    Another caveat about lockers is that you may be faaaaaar away from your food when it’s time to eat. It’s a long, long walk from Epcot’s World Showcase when you’re starving and your food is at the front of the park.

  10. How do I prevent my food from spoiling?

    It’s no secret that Walt Disney World can be hot, hot, hot. If you have anything perishable, you’ll want to make sure that you have the means to keep it cool under challenging circumstances.

    Start with cold ingredients and the insulated bag. If you’re staying at accommodations with a freezer, you can freeze gel packs, water bottle, or juice boxes and pack them in with the perishables. If you don’t have access to a freezer, then you’ll need to use ice. All of the Disney resort hotels have ice machines, and the in-park counter service restaurants will provide you with cups of ice for free. If you’re using ice as your cooling mechanism, be careful to keep it in several layers of well-sealed plastic (ziplock within a ziplock within a ziplock). There’s nothing worse than soggy sandwich.

    On a related note, all of the Disney moderate and deluxe hotels include a dorm-sized refrigerator (these are available for rental at the value resorts). In many cases, these refrigerators contain a small freezer compartment — just about big enough to hold a box of frozen waffles, or a few freezer gel packs. However, the Caribbean Beach Resort refrigerator on my recent stay had no freezer compartment, so don’t count on this being available for you.

  11. Caribbean Beach Resort Fridge

  12. Is there some place to heat the food I’ve brought with me into the parks?

    By law, the Disney restaurants are not allowed to handle food given to them by outside parties. This means that they won’t warm your baby’s bottle or heat his strained peas. Nor can the Disney restaurants puree guest-provided food, even for medical reasons.

    There are a few work-arounds to this. Each park has a baby care center where you can use a microwave or hot water to warm food for little ones. If you have more substantial heating needs, head to a nearby resort. Each of the Disney-owned resorts has a counter service restaurant equipped with a microwave and toasters. You are welcome to use these devices to heat your own food.

    Two Microwaves at Contempo Cafe in Disney's Contemporary Resort

    For example, if you’re at the Magic Kingdom and you want to heat up a can of soup that you’ve provided yourself, go to any of the monorail resorts (you can even walk to the Contemporary Resort) and use the counter-service facilities there.

  13. Where can I eat the food I’ve brought?

    Anywhere you like. Stop on a bench and pull out your snack. Or if you have a full meal, you’re welcome to eat at any table at a counter service restaurant, indoors or out.

    I like eating at the outdoor tables near Casey’s in the Magic Kingdom. There’s great people watching and a view of the Castle.

  14. You're welcome to eat your own food anywhere in the parks.

  15. Will bringing my own food really save me money?

    In a word, yes. Certainly you’ll save money on water, soda and snacks if you bring your own. Again, prices can change, but Disney is currently charging somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.50 for a bottle of water or Coke. You can often get five or six bottles of water for this same price if you’re shopping “off campus.”

    Similarly, a counter-service sandwich at most in-park restaurants will run about $8.00-$9.00. For that price, you can make PB&J for the entire gang.

  16. Cold beverages will cost about $2.50 in the parks.

  17. Will my kids feel deprived/disappointed if they’re not eating Disney food?

    My philosophy here is “what they don’t know won’t hurt them.” If you don’t talk about dining with the princesses in the Castle, then chances are that your kiddos won’t even be aware that this exists. If they don’t know it’s there, then they won’t be disappointed.

    Check the park maps and steer them away from the pricey restaurants. However, it’s all but impossible to keep kids from seeing the in-park snack items. Mickey bar carts and popcorn are on every corner. My personal approach here would be to let the kids share an in-park snack item or let them have one item of their choosing over the course of your stay. With any luck this will keep the whines to a minimum.

NOTE: This information is for the Disney World theme parks in Orlando, Florida.

Have you had any experiences with bringing your own food into the parks? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments section below!

Thanks to DisneyContemporary.com and DisneyCaribbeanBeach.com for use of photos!

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94 Comments

  1. Becca says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I know that there are some Disney gurus who are *extremely* snarky towards those of us who bring sandwiches into the parks, but you’ve got to do what you consider sensible!

  2. Heidi says:

    I just wanted to add that plastic disposable straws will be confiscated at Animal Kingdom. I tried to sneak a few straws in once. It didn’t work :( .

  3. Bonnie says:

    We always do a mix of things. Either I bring food, eat a counter service, or just snack my way through the world. I always being some form of snacks though.

    Also, ice water is free from the counter service vendors. Makes it easier than carrying around a water bottle all day.

  4. canadianslovewdw says:

    we always take a reuseable water bottle with us and some of those single serve drink packs, then just get a large ice water from a counter service, and instant drinks. that was we can save our snack credits for yummy stuff like cupcakes and ice cream…

  5. Angie says:

    Back in 2000 I was a college student and couldn’t really afford to buy every meal at the parks. We were staying off grounds at a hotel that offered a free breakfast, so we would eat that, make our sandwiches for lunch, grab a water bottle that we had left in the freezer (wrap it in a few paper towels so it doesn’t sweat all over everything in your bag), and then head to the parks. That meant we only had to worry about one meal per day.

  6. Melissa says:

    Bringing a water bottle to the park is the best thing you can do all trip. Like canadianslovewdw, last time I brought some instant Crystal Light single serves for when I wanted to pep up my drink. I typically just used the water from the fountains around the park and made sure to make a mental note where the coldest ones were.

    I’m not a big breakfast person so I always bring some breakfast bars that I can eat waiting for the bus, for a ride, or while taking a break. It saves on me splurging on some delicious treat that while awesome, is also money I could spend elsewhere (more Dole Whips). But don’t bring the breakfast bars with the yogurty frosting on top in the summer months or it’ll be a mess to eat!

  7. sue and jerry ziolkowski says:

    We always mail a box to our onsite resort @ Disney. In that box we send granola bars, fruit snacks, mixed candy, drink flavor sticks and antacids, tylenol and your usual medicine cabinet musts. We mail them out in a flat rate box which saves us a small fortune mailing and by sending this down ahead of time it is waiting for us when we arrive. It saves us a trip by cab since we use only disney transportation and time and the peace of mind that we have what we need. It frees up our snack credits for some better choices instead of having to use them for waters or granola bars.

  8. David says:

    Erin, Thank you for this article. I’m a seasoned Disney Park fan. But you’ve provided some tips I didn’t think about. I’ll definitely take advantage of some of them on our next trip. #8, 12 and 13 we’ll be using!

  9. JoeyV says:

    Out of curiosity, who brings canned soup into the parks? And on what planet does not telling kids about something keep them from wanting it? Raise your hands if your kids won’t ask questions when they see the sign for Cinderella’s Royal Table.

  10. rhyeck says:

    In December we split our stay between Wilderness Lodge and the Yacht Club. Wilderness Lodge had a cooler-type refrigerator, did not have a freezer compartment and struggled to keep our milk cold. The Yacht Club had a larger refrigerator with a freezer compartment and kept everything very cold!! Two thumbs up for the Yacht Club!

  11. Erin says:

    Becca – I agree. You do what you need to do to make a park visit happen.

    Heidi – Good point.

    Bonnie – Yes, getting ice water at the parks is a great idea.

    Canadians – I’m all for saving snack credits for cupcakes!

    Angie – Your approach makes lots of sense.

    Melissa – You’re absolutely right about the yogurt bar in the heat. Anything with chocolate chips will suffer the same fate.

    Sue and Jerry – Mailing yourself snacks is a great strategy. Depending on what you need, you can even have some place like Amazon ship the snacks directly for you.

    David – You’re welcome. And thanks for the kind words.

    JoeyV – I’ve learned quite a lot working on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. My first reaction would also be to think that soup at the parks is unusual. However, you’re forgetting that there are MANY Disney guests who have medical issues. For some of them, chewing or food texture are serious issues. Soup may be a wonderful form of nutrition for these folks. As for your point about children, certainly before kids can read, you can keep loads of information from them. But even after they’re literate, if they’re having fun and busy, then chances are they’ll be fine with whatever food you give them.

    rhyeck – You may have just experienced a bad unit at the Wilderness Lodge. If you ever have problems with equipment, like a refrigerator not cooling properly, let the hotel staff know. They should swap out the fridge for you.

  12. marcellina says:

    great tips! Now that our family has expanded (we have a child) we might have to start using some of the tips on our trips… I’m also not a big breakfast person so bringing granola bars, fruit, and trail mix into the parks would definitely hold me over until lunch time…. our upcoming trip is the first time we are going to be bringing snacks into the park (for the baby) but perhaps we should think about bringing some in for the adults too! thanks!

  13. Tere says:

    Every morning when we are at the World my husband practically pushes me out of the door as I’m grabbing our snacks. However when I open the pringles, cheese crackers, raisins or any other goodie, guess who puts his hand out? He’d be lost and hungry without me. :) Bringing your own food is a life saver, especially since hunger knows when you’re 45 minutes into an 85 minute wait for Soarin.

  14. kirsten says:

    We always bring water in a soft cooler and it worked great for leftovers! Many times my daughter would want a cupcake and then not finish it, she was a happy camper when we would pull it out later in the day!

  15. One related warning: I saw a family try to bring a birthday cake from a local grocery store into Disneyland and they were turned away at the turnstiles. The cake in question was a standard 9″ round cake with a clear plastic cover.

  16. tim says:

    Thanks for the tips. Taking our twins to Disney for the first time. We’ll need those Snacks!

  17. Alex says:

    You mention always having munchables for your kids when the were little… I totally always have snacks on me when I am in the parks now, and I am a 26 year old woman.

    I always bring granola bars, Annie’s cheddar bunnies, pretzels, true lemon/true lime and water bottle with me on Disney trips and in the morning I load up snack sized bags and pop them into my drawstring backpack. I know this is a food blog but I often don’t want to waste time, particularly early morning time, to eat in a restaurant, and usually I will having some water and snacks while in line (the only line I have ever been told I couldn’t bring a cup of water into was Soarin’ so I assume they would also be upset by eating in line.)

    When I was little my parents always bought a lot of snacks, and I think this is how they kept my sister and I from having tantrums when we were spending whole days in the park from open until close. Even now I can’t do this, and I almost always have to take a nap/break during which I lay, unable to sleep but at least off my feet for a bit, midday.

    TLDR: Definitely bring snacks.

  18. Jessi says:

    I’m a broke college kid so I always take snacks to eat for breakfast and take around the parks with us for in between meals and throw a few water bottles in my bookbag. They keep me from spending money on drinks and keep me drinking water instead of soda, which we all know it much better!

  19. Heather says:

    “Also, other than strollers, you may not bring any wheeled conveyances into the parks. This means no rolling coolers or wagons to transport lots of smaller coolers.”

    If this is true, they don’t enforce it. I’ve seen a lot of people pulling wheeled bags my last few trips. I know because several of them have gone over my foot. :(

  20. Michelle says:

    My friend and I bought brita water bottles since we don’t like the taste of the water in the water fountains at disney. At the hotel we would fill our water bottles up, put them in the fridge over night and then in the morning put ice in them and go to the parks.

  21. Ellen says:

    IT IS a little confusing on the wheeled bag/cooler for me. I have a (hard-sided) wheeled cooler smaller than the dimensions you gave, I am 50 years old and don’t want to carry something heavy on my back, Since I also have to watch my 6 year old.
    So, is a smaller wheeled cooler ok?

  22. Jeremy says:

    Just noticed on the Disneyland website that you can’t bring food at all.
    “With the exception of food items for Guests with specific dietary restrictions, food or beverage items are not permitted into either of the Disneyland Resort theme parks.”

    So has there been a change in policy? Or is this rule just not followed?

  23. Shell says:

    I’d like to know too ready for our trip in the summer – has anyone got away with taking food into the parks more recently? Thanks

  24. AJ says:

    Shell — All of the points made in the post are still valid :)

  25. Christina says:

    I was just at Disneyland January 19, 2013. I brought a soft sided insulated bag, with 4 footlong subway sandwiches, 4 cans of soda and a full size bag of chips with my into the park. The man at the check in counter asked me to unzip it, he looked for glass items and said I was good to go. I asked where the picnic area was (as I was told you had to eat your food outside the parks gates, at a specific area) and he said, you don’t have to leave the park – you can eat anywhere inside with your food. Previous posts are outdated when it comes to the price of lockers – you’ll spend $15.00 per day for a large locker, and $10.00 a day for a small one. There are less large lockers and they sell out quickly – so if you plan on a locker, get it early. We spent two days in the park – each day bringing in subway – and ate at tables in a restaurant area – no one said a word. Its a MUCH cheaper option for familys trying to stay on a budget.

  26. Christina says:

    One more thing – The lockers are priced per day – but you can access them as often as you like for no additional charge – you put in your own code that unlocks the door.

  27. Margaret says:

    When my family last visited the parks we froze our water in the freezer overnight and just put in our backpacks. One unexpected side effect was our backs where cool in the 90 plus heat! We also packed fruit in little deli containers and the ice bottles kept them and the baby wipes super cool, a must for Disney in August.

  28. Melly says:

    So, so wonderful. Just the info I was looking for. Thank you. :-)

  29. kamilah says:

    Where do you find this information and restrictions on the Disney website?

  30. Caroline says:

    Great ideas! @Jeremy – I doubt they’d stop you from bringing things in, but if they do, there is no way for them to know what your dietary requirements are. For me, I just don’t want to eat too much junk food, and I can’t afford to spend hundreds on food in their parks, so that counts as a dietary restriction to me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to go to their parks at all, and I think they’d rather I came with my own sandwich.

  31. Adam says:

    Can I tailgate in the parking lot of Disneyland?

  32. Mallory says:

    I go to Disneyland all the time- normally sneak in an orange and a water.

    For Disneyworld we always link our trip to a run Disney race we tote along oranges, bananas, bars, gold fish, bagles, and snack pack peanut butter.

    We never eat breakfast at the park and save $$$

  33. Queenie says:

    Great tips! Here’s the link to the Disney World website explaining that you CAN bring food into the park.

    https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/parks/outside-food-and-drink/

  34. tom says:

    any advice for newbie needing groceries with no rental car – staying on site – thanks

  35. AJ says:

    Tom — Absolutely. I’d recommend ordering groceries from Garden Grocer and having them delivered to your hotel. It’s a great service!

  36. Keri says:

    Tom,

    I totally agree with AJ…we’ve used Garden Grocer for our last 2 trips to WDW and have had excellent service from them. You can order online prior to your trip and select your day and time for delivery. We always have ours delivered about an hour prior to our arrival, that way our snacks are waiting on us! The front desk will hold your order and most resorts have a refrigerated unit where they can store any of your cold items.

    Have a great trip!

  37. Justin says:

    Is there information on the official Disney World website(s) that refer to the policy for bringing in food?

    I am having difficulty finding the specific policy.

  38. Justin says:

    Actually found the answer to my earlier question:

    Disney World outside food policy: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/parks/outside-food-and-drink/

  39. Ann Hollidah says:

    It shouldn’t matter if you brought food in people have to continue to live after the park and let it be known it don’t come easy or cheap. so i don’t care what someone think about me needing to bring food in. unless they are paying for my grandchildren to get in and have a great day.

  40. DG says:

    FALSE INFO because the park won’t allow any food or beverage into the park, unless they are special dietary.
    http://disneyland.disney.go.com/faq/dining/#dining-q5

  41. Adriana says:

    This is awesome information! We are going to Disneyworld for the first time in two days and this is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!

  42. AJ says:

    Reader Christina B.’s reply to commenter DG:

    “DG – I see where its written that they don’t allow it, but I do it at least 4 times per year. I’ve never been stopped or even questioned. We take in subway sandwiches and chips and water in a small soft sided cooler that we store in a locker until lunch time. They may post it, but they don’t enforce it.”

  43. Katie says:

    Thanks for posting this, I am going on a WDW trip soon with my young cousins (7&9) and on a TIGHT budget (Luckily, our friend is a cast member and can get us in for free!). I thought to save like $50 in lunch, snacks, and drinks (four people!), I would pack some PB&Js, some water and Capri-Suns, some Goldfish, you get the picture, but I got worried after reading on another site that bringing food into the park was a BIG no-no. So glad to discover I can bring in our lunch to save some money!

  44. Lisa Quartermus says:

    If you choose to carry the food/drinks around instead of getting a locker, what is the ride policy for holding those objects on a ride? Where would one have to leave a little soft-sided cooler when on a ride?

  45. mark garbarino says:

    Thank you very much for his advise. I saw nothing on the Disneyland pages relating to this.
    We spent 2 days at the Disneyland Hong Kong and they specify no food allowed into the park. I did indeed bring in food to no arguement.

  46. hma says:

    In August 2011, we visited Disney. We had a medium sized cooler bag with wheels which was stocked with lots of frozen bottles of water, sandwiches and other small packaged snacks. Disney does not allow cooler bags with wheels as they can be a trip hazard so we rented a double stroller to get around that rule. The kids were on one side of the stroller and the cooler on the other. Being that it was extremely hot, the bottles of water were a lifesaver. Also, we did not have to pay for the extremely high priced food that the park offers.

  47. Abe says:

    I’m not an expert in this area at all but I noticed DG’s link was about Disneyland in California and not Disneyworld in Florida. Maybe the two parks have different policies. Here’s DG’s link from Disneyland’s site: http://disneyland.disney.go.com/faq/dining/#dining-q5 and then the other link about Disneyworld: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/parks/outside-food-and-drink/

  48. Victoria says:

    5 kids plus my husband and I…one word BUDGET!!! Our family can’t get to enjoy vacations to Disney often and if we get the chance like this Christmas every budget tip helps…

    ALSO when we went to universal we froze Gatorade bottles. The heat melted it slowly but we kept refilling the bottle with the melting ice of Gatorade at the water fountains and it still tasted like Gatorade… lasted all day!! :-)

  49. Jennifer says:

    We brought a small soft side cooler in Feb 2013 and brought our lunch in every day. Not only was it economical but my kids are picky eaters and I prefer packing items I know they’ll eat. In previous trips we did counter service and they wouldnt eat it all and we had to throw part of the food away and it’s pretty pricy. A bonus is the ability to stop practically anywhere from a bench to an outside cafe and eat quickly versus having to wait in a line to order food and then wait to get it prepared. We were able to save so much time and money. We will be going again this Feb and plan to bring the cooler and pack lunches, snacks and drinks.

  50. […] home is a great way to keep on budget. Cereal boxes, granola bars, and nuts are easy to transport. Guests can bring food items into the parks (alcohol and glass containers are not permitted), but large coolers are not allowed. Bring a small […]

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