Best Kept Disney Dining Secrets: Saving Money in Disney World

We are back with some of our very best kept Disney Dining Secrets. And we want to share them with you!

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Planning where you’ll be spending your food budget in Disney World is a BIG deal. There are so many choices to make! Maybe you’re worried about getting the advance dining reservations you’d like the most. And what about your favorite brands and foods? Will they have them?

These are all great questions, and we address them all in our DFB Guide to WDW Dining e-Book! But today, we’re exploring one of the biggest concerns: Is it possible to save a buck or two when you’re at Disney?

Secrets to Saving Money in Disney World

Today, we’ll share some of our favorite ways to save money during your visit to Walt Disney World. And if you like what you see here, be sure to check out even more secrets in the brand new DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining, 2016 Edition, where we gather over 530 pages of tips, recommendations, and secrets to make your Disney trip the best ever!

Here we go!

Ditch Unwanted Sides

I love this tip, and it can save you some serious cash (and calories!). You may think the price printed on the menu board or in the menu is non-negotiable. But we’ve got a secret to share!

Did you know that you can often forego unwanted sides? For instance, say you order a sandwich that comes with fries, but you don’t really want them. Ask if you can order your sandwich as an entree only and save!

Cheeseburger at Backlot Express!

Cheeseburger at Backlot Express!

And if you’re a light eater, or someone who doesn’t really care about (or literally can’t EAT) that side of salad/chips/fries/coleslaw/pasta salad, then you’ll never miss it.

Appetizers as Entrees

I don’t know about you, but there are lots of times that I sit down to dinner at Disney and would happily have one (or sometimes two) appetizers or side dishes in place of an entree.

Smoked Portobello Bisque

Smoked Portobello Bisque at Artist Point Would Make a Lovely Dinner

Sometimes it’s because I’m not very hungry. Other times, I just find the appetizers and sides more interesting than the entree options. It’s your dinner. The Smoked Portobello Bisque at Artist Point, or the wonderful “takes” on poutine at Le Cellier Steakhouse would make delicious meals.

Poutines Mickey!

Poutine For Dinner. Yes, Please!

And usually ordering a couple of appetizers would set you back less than ordering an entree! And if that’s what sounds good to you, then go for it.

Share

Here’s another tip that you sometimes may overlook: if you and your dining partner aren’t big eaters, then feel free to share. While this is fairly commonplace with appetizers and desserts, don’t be shy about sharing entrees as well, especially when they’re large. The killer Jambalaya at Boatwright’s Dining Hall is a great example of a dish that could easily be shared.

The Incredible Jambalaya at Boatwright's

The Incredible Jambalaya at Boatwright’s is Totally Shareable. It’s Huge!

After all, it’s not easy to take those leftovers with you when “home” is a hotel room. This way you still enjoy a satisfying meal, but may come away with a tab that’s a little lower.

Of course, this arrangement is contingent upon someone who is willing. I could possibly be prevailed upon to share my Potjie Inspired at Sanaa — the combo dish that includes my beloved Butter Chicken. Well. Maybe.

Slow-cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well-seasoned Butter Chicken and Chicken Vindaloo

Sharing is Caring. But Don’t Ask Me for My Butter Chicken.

Do keep in mind that if the restaurant is a signature spot, they may charge a small plate-sharing fee. But it would still be less than if you ordered two entrees.

Creatively Use Your Disney Dining Plan

But what if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan**? One recent change announced to the plan allows you to share your Disney Dining Plan credits. Now, one thing that hasn’t changed: you still must purchase a Disney Dining Plan for everyone on your room reservation who is age 3 and up. Still, I can see this tip benefitting you in a couple of different ways.

First, say you had a really big lunch and you just aren’t ready for that evening meal. It would make sense to share one meal between two people, and maybe supplement with drinks and an appetizer. Banking that extra credit might come in handy if you would like to add another table service meal later, or if you’d like to upgrade to a signature, 2-credit dining experience one night, like dinner at California Grill.

Bison Strip Loin

Bank Those Credits and Save Them for Dinner at a Signature Spot, Like California Grill (Bison Strip Loin Pictured)

It’s more of a stretching than a savings, perhaps. But it could still yield you more or better dining opportunities. (Now, you may run up against spots that won’t allow sharing. But we’ve asked and asked at several different locations about sharing one dining credit between two people**, and it seems this practice is pretty much commonplace. So give it a try.)

But also, you can use your shared dining credits with friends who aren’t on the Dining Plan and treat them to dinner. True, it won’t save you cash — but you could make an argument that now they owe YOU dinner…and there’s a cost savings! :-D

Piccante Signature Pizza

Treat Friends to Pizza at Via Napoli!

The bottom line is — get creative when it comes to sharing, and think outside of the box when it comes to mealtimes.

**Don’t be crazy and try to get away with buying one Disney Dining Plan and using it to feed your whole family. That’s not going to work, and that’s not what we’re recommending. What we’re suggesting is to stretch your credits if one of you isn’t all that hungry on any given night — not to completely take advantage of the system. 

Stay tuned! We’ll be sharing lots more of our Best Kept Disney Dining Secrets with you over the next few weeks!

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Ready for All of Our Best Tips?

We’ve got TONS of Disney World Dining Tips — including lots more best kept secrets — in our bigger-than-ever 2016 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining!

With more than 530 pagesThe DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining is full of tips and planning tools developed by Disney World experts over 20+ years of visits. We’ve done the research for you, so you’ll know just which spots will uniquely suit your family’s needs!

With sample dining itineraries, plus our “Disney Dining at a Glance” section, featuring “Where Can I Find?” options, you’ll have everything you need to plan your best vacation yet. Click here to get your copy of The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining E-book — and use code HAPPYPLACE for an extra $4 discount (over 20% off!!) for a limited time!

And now, we’d love to hear from all of you! What are your best kept Disney Dining Secrets? Please share with us in comments below!

Comments

  1. Kaz says

    ” For instance, say you order a sandwich that comes with fries, but you don’t really want them.”

    What kind of monster doesn’t want fries?!?!

    ;)

  2. Richard says

    You know, if you asked I’m sure any number of people would take those fries off of your hands….

    Just sayn’

  3. Sam Winston says

    You can do a picnic and save even more money. You’re allowed to bring in small coolers or insulated backpacks and drinks without glass or alcohol into the parks.
    https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/parks/restricted-personal-items/
    Inside the parks, just find a table…or for a nice lunch. Go to Tom Sawyer island and have a seat at the tables at Aunt Polly’s Porch. (Suggestions: Cold Fried Chicken, Ham Sandwiches, and a Chocolate Chip Cookie).
    There are also picnic tables around the Poly beach area you can use…and plenty in Fort Wilderness.

  4. Richard says

    @Sam, be careful about that “find a table” idea. If the park is busy and someone with their own food takes over a table at one of the restaurants a CM or security could embarrass them by asking the party to move.

    I’ve seen it happen more than once in the past couple of years.

    They have designated area’s where you can eat your own food so it would be pest to follow their suggestions.

    As an added note, it’s gotten even worse at Disneyland. We were told about an incident a while ago where a family took over a table at the Village Haus Restaurant to have and ad-hoc birthday party.

  5. Hannah says

    I love ordering just one…two or maybe three appetizers. It often may save a little money…bonus…but I do it just to get more flavors and tastes. My husband and I also sometimes order lunch… sandwich, s/s chicken… whatever and share it. A couple hours later we do it again with something different. We get more flavors that way and never too full all at once. Especially in Epcot. Lots of flavors there to save room for.

  6. Jason says

    I had no idea you could “ditch the side.” I’m curious as to the savings. If the burger and fries is $9.99 are we talking a dollar, two, three less for the sandwich only?

  7. Patricia says

    Not sure about you guys, but I’m ALWAYS hungry in Disneyworld!! I guess since I can only get there once every couple of years, I bring my appetite!

  8. Susan says

    Yes. Poutine and cheddar cheese soup at Le Cellier is our standard. We’ve also been known to order off the children’s menu at some of the quick service places. My husband and I love to split chicken fingers at Pinocchio Haus and sit and wave at the Small World boat riders. It’s become a tradition of ours.

  9. Robin says

    My daughter and I share a meal at Cosnic Rays. We get the rotisserie chicken plate. It comes with 2 side. We split the chicken and she has one side and I have the other.

  10. says

    Generally, if you ditch the side, you save about $2. I find that most meals are just too much for me, so I’ll just get an “Entree Only” and steal a few fries from my daughter and hubby!

    Another thing I love to do is mix and match meals. I do this a lot at Columbia Harbor House. I’ll order the shrimp meal with fries for my daughter, then the fish (Entree Only) for me, then mix it up – I’ll trade some fish for some shrimp, steal some fries from each family member, and voila! 2 Fish and Shrimp meals. You could also get a cup of chowder and snatch some fries (done that too!)

    If we’re not all super hungry, I’ll even just order a side of fries for myself, then snatch a few bites of each family member’s food (with thier permission, of course!), such as a few bites of their burger, or 2 chicken nuggets. I’m not a huge eater at WDW, so this is always good for me (and my family humors me…)

    Lastly, if you aren’t on the DDP, don’t underestimate the Kid’s Meals! I routinely get a kid’s cheeseburger or kid’s chicken nugget (especially now that they changed away from those nasty pressed nuggets) meal. Comes with fries, a cookie and a soda, usually for around $6-7! I steer away from mac and cheese or uncrustables, though – not a good deal, generally.

  11. Katie says

    Sharing worked out really well for me and my mom on our last trip to WDW. The portions are really large at most places and we would get one meal at the counter service locations and split. We even shared the delicious combo plate at the 50s Prime Time Café and it was more than enough for both of us. When I went with both of my parents to Disneyland, several times we got two meals and split it three ways, which was perfect. We got free dining on a trip a few years ago and it was great to be able to order anything and not worry about the cost, but we found that a lot of food went to waste.

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