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Disney Dining on a Budget

Let’s face it – in WDW, you’re constantly surrounded by food. At every turn, a popcorn vendor. Around every corner, a turkey leg just begging to be chewed on. And every breeze carries with it the delicious smells coming from a nearby restaurant.

Of course, succumbing to all these culinary temptations adds up, and you can end up with a hefty tab by the end of the trip … without even factoring in the cost of all those souvenirs. Fortunately, there are ways to still have your (Mickey cup)cake and eat it too. Here are five tips that my family employs to help keep our dining costs down:

  1. Splurge on a great restaurant. This sounds contradictory, but I’ve found that planning to have a nice meal at one of WDW’s fancier options can help keep your spending in check. Do your research ahead of time, pick which restaurant you’d like to visit, make your reservations, and start looking forward to it. That way, when you’re walking around the parks and you stop by what I would call a “mid-price” restaurant (Garden Grill, Yak n Yeti), you can fight temptation knowing you’ve got a world class meal coming up later.
  1. Don’t buy breakfast at the hotel. They charge per slice of toast, for Pete’s sake. The breakfast options at the WDW resorts are pretty decent, but they’re nothing special and totally overpriced. If you’re staying at a resort with a kitchen, I recommend stopping by Wal-Mart or another grocery store after you’ve checked in and stocking up on basic, simple, breakfast items. Orange juice, bite-size donuts, cereal snack packs and milk, fruit, etc. (Also, we always buy a case of water bottles so we never have to buy them in the parks, where they cost $2.50 each.) You’ll save a lot by eating breakfast in the room. For a special treat, pick up breakfast in the parks before you leave – for example, after the fireworks, swing by Main Street Bakery (or the Norway and France pavilions if you’re in Epcot) and pick up some pastries for the next day. They’re delicious, and it’s still cheaper than having breakfast in the hotel cafeteria.
  1. Eat your way around the World. The World Showcase, that is. Sure, there are some good (note: that’s good, not great) restaurants in Epcot, but they’re nowhere near as tasty as the dining options in the various resorts, and they’re pricey little buggers. For my money, the best food in Epcot is usually found at the quick service options within each pavilion, and eating your way through the World Showcase is a great way to sample a little bit of what each country has to offer, get a full belly, and have a relaxing evening.
  1. Snack like you mean it. There’s no need to shell out big bucks for a sit-down lunch – not when there are so many things to do! By snacking your way through the afternoon, you can eat enough to stay full, without shelling out your hard-earned cash for an overpriced meal. Plus, the best lunches are Dole Whip lunches, amiright?
  1. Embrace the chicken tenders. Yeah, I know, there are other options at the parks – tacos and baked potatos and hot dogs and burgers – but somehow it always comes back to chicken tenders. Don’t fight it. One order with fries is enough for the whole family, and besides, you have that fancy meal to look forward to (see #1).

How do you keep costs down while dining in WDW?

The Disney Chick blogs about food, fun, and films at