Even after those pricey tickets, hotel rooms, flights, and more, dining in Disney World can add up to be one of the priciest line items in your vacation budget. It’s important to get a sense of how much you’ll actually spend on food ahead of time. You may be surprised to find out just how easy it is to go over budget, especially with all of those enticing snacks (not to mention visiting during one of EPCOT’s festivals!).
If you’re planning an upcoming Disney World vacation, it’s important to sit down and estimate how much you may wind up spending on food, as well as review some simple ways to save a few bucks on your next meal in the parks and resorts!
How much will you spend on food?
The total amount of money you’ll spend on food during your Disney World vacation depends on these major factors:
- How many people are in your party? (More people = more $$$, obv!)
- Do you have any kids in your party, or is it all adults?
- How MANY meals/snacks do you anticipate eating in a day?
- How MUCH food do you typically eat in a day (different from above!)
- How many days will you be in Disney World?
Unfortunately, there’s not a single magic “number,” but there are some averages you can look at to get a basic understanding of your total food budget. Disney breaks their dining locations down into these per person price categories:
- $ ($14.99 and under)
- $$ ($15 to $34.99)
- $$$ ($35 to $59.99)
- $$$$ ($60 and above)
You can expect most of your counter service meals to fall somewhere in the $-$$ range, and most table service restaurants to fall somewhere in the $$-$$$ range. The price of a single meal at Disney World varies greatly, from approximately $12-15 per person for an entree at a quick service restaurant to a whopping $350 per person at their most high-end restaurant, when available.
Don’t forget, you can read all of the menus at Disney World table service and quick service restaurants ahead of time and look at the prices for each of the food items you are considering. That way, you can get a rough estimate of how much you should prepare to spend on dining on your next vacation. We recommend making a “must eat” list then breaking down a rough idea of what it could cost.
What are some ways you can save money on food?
While your spending can easily go over-budget when it comes to dining at Disney World, there are also plenty of ways to SAVE and spend UNDER-budget on your next vacation.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when figuring out ways to spend a little less on food.
Hold Off On Lunch
First, if this works for your family, consider skipping lunch entirely and instead have a late breakfast and early dinner. Serving sizes at Disney are often pretty large and you can likely get away with “skipping” a meal and eating twice per day (with some tasty snacks in between).
You might hit lunchtime and realize you’re not at ALL hungry or that a snack will tide you over til dinner.
Fast Food = Usually Cheaper Food
Another easy way to spend a little less on food, if you’re OK with skipping some sit-down meals, is to avoid table service restaurants and stick to quick service (AKA “fast food” style) meals as often as you can. Not all quick service locations are created equal, and it’s not all just chicken fingers and cheeseburgers at these restaurants!
A Snack Can Be a Mini-Meal
If you want to save even MORE money, order large snacks that could easily substitute as a meal! If you’re a light eater, you may find that some of Disney World’s snacks are large enough to count as one of your meals for the day.
Or, you can share a larger snack with a friend to spread the cost.
Find the Deals at Sit Down Restaurants
If you do sit down at a table service restaurant, take a look at the appetizer menu and see if there is anything there you could order as your entree to save a few bucks (again, portion sizes are often BIG in Disney World, even on apps!). Or, order one entree to share with a friend.
If you choose to save money this way, just remember to tip your server fairly even if you’re not ordering as much!
B.Y.O.F. (Bring Your Own FOOD!)
Bringing your own snacks from home (or by having them delivered to your hotel when you arrive) is another easy way to save a ton on food.
If you have a car, you can also make a quick run to the grocery store on your first day to pick up breakfast items to eat in the room before you head out to the parks or easy portable lunch or snack options.
Look Beyond Disney World
Speaking of having your own car, consider dining off Disney World property. We know that one of the biggest reasons to visit Disney World in the first place for some is to eat the food, but taking an evening “off” can definitely help if you’re looking to save a few bucks.
The Disney Gift Card Safety Net
Finally, if you need extra assistance sticking to a budget, purchase a Disney gift card ahead of your trip and load it with the amount of money you have budgeted for food. That way, you know exactly how much you have to spend on your next meal, and you can track over time how close you are to sticking to that budget.
This can help pre-planning and while on vacation to keep your budget in check.
What about the Disney Dining Plan?
In case you haven’t heard, the Disney Dining Plan is set to return soon! While many guests use this as a convenient way to pre-pay for your meals, in most circumstances, you will actually have a very difficult time actually SAVING money on the Dining Plan.
It’s definitely doable to come out on top with the Dining Plan, but it often means getting the prices options on menus, including choosing alcohol for adults. If you’re more of a picky or lighter eater or have any dietary restrictions, this may not be the best deal for you. Look at those menus, crunch the numbers and see! If you’re considering adding the Dining Plan when it becomes available again, here are the prices for each plan from 2020, prior to the closures. Note these could shift once the Dining Plan officially returns:
- Quick Service Dining Plan: $55 per adult each day and $26 per child (ages 3-9) each day. (2 Quick Service meals, 2 snacks per night. Refillable mug included for length of stay.)
- Standard Dining Plan: $78 per adult each day and $38.50 per child each day. (One Quick Service and One Table Service meal, 2 snacks per night. Refillable mug included for length of stay.)
- Dining Plan Plus: $95 per adult each day and $35 per child each day. (Any combination of 2 Table Service or Quick Service meals, 2 snacks per night. Refillable mug included for length of stay.)
- Deluxe Dining Plan: $119 per adult each day and $47.50 per child each day. (Any combination of 3 Table Service or Quick Service meals, 2 snacks per night. Table service meals also include an appetizer here. Refillable mug included for length of stay.)
Like we mentioned above, the big benefit of the Dining Plan is that your food is “pre-paid,” meaning you may be able to eat all of your food on vacation with no mystery to what your food budget will end up costing you — you know exactly how much you’re spending. Keep in mind additional food and drinks and gratuity are not included. While this may not be the best way to actually save money, it is an easier way to budget and know exactly how much you’ll spend on food before you even leave home.
Budgeting for Disney World dining can be tricky, but with a little bit of research ahead of your trip and some mindful spending practices once you’re there, you may find that you can better manage your money the next time you go to grab a meal or a snack in the parks and resorts! Be sure to follow along on before your next Disney World vacation so you can learn about more ways to save and more ways to be as prepared as possible.
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Which Disney World restaurant is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!