Disney Dining Tips
As we all know, a Walt Disney World vacation can be expensive. Many families find that food is one of their largest expenditures. After all, you have to eat, right? And with so many interesting cuisines to sample, keeping yourself on a budget can be quite difficult. Fortunately, you do have options. These tips will allow you and your family to eat surprisingly well, while keeping costs under control.
This is an excellent option, particularly in Epcot. Many of the countries around the World Showcase Lagoon offer a fast food option. You will get the same food that is offered in the more expensive full service restaurant, at a seriously reduced price. A particular favorite is Morocco, where a platter of lamb, couscous, and vegetables large enough for two can be found for approximately . The China pavilion also has an excellent fast food option. I actually prefer their fast food over the significantly pricier full service restaurant. Whatever your food preference, be sure to check around the World Showcase to see if it is available in fast food style.
Downtown Disney is another great place for fast food. Both Wolfgang Pucks and Bongos offer three levels of dining: a full service restaurant, a café, and a fast food counter. While the menu is more limited at the fast food counters, full meals are available, and you can find some of the choices from the restaurant menu at a great savings.
All of the fast food-style establishments offer plenty of seating in a comfortable outdoor environment. They also provide great views of the various stage shows or strolling performers. Additionally, you are welcome to carry food into many of the outdoor entertainment venues. This allows the family on the go to save time, enjoying international cuisine while taking in shows.
Portion sizes are quite large at Walt Disney World restaurants. In my experience, two adults can often split a meal. Disney is very accommodating of this, providing extra plates and, in some cases, pre-dividing the meal in the kitchen. You can easily add an extra salad or side item for a very nominal charge.
Another option that works quite well is to create a tapas menu from the appetizer selections. The appetizers are substantial, and two to four can provide a family with a range of tastes, at a significant savings over ordering individual meals. This is a great way to introduce kids to new foods as well. Generally the menu will include one or two “kid-friendly” appetizers, such as cheese sticks or chicken wings. So let the kids choose those, then have them sample the more exotic fare as well.
If you have a small appetite, or plan to eat several times throughout the day, kids meals are an excellent option. These smaller portions are available to all ages at the fast food-style establishments. You may need to look around, as some places only offer peanut butter and jelly or macaroni and cheese, but some places offer kids meals consisting of smaller portions of the restaurant’s regular fare. The Chinese fast food pavilion offers a particularly good kids meal.
Although priced similarly to the full service restaurants, and so not entirely a budget option, buffets offer an excellent value to the family that eats a lot. A buffet meal is also an excellent choice for the family who only wants to eat once during the day. Since it is all-you-can-eat, it is quite easy to fill up. Many families find that one buffet meal, supplemented by snacks, is the perfect option for a day in the parks. Make your reservations early, as the buffet restaurants are extremely popular. Call 407-WDW-DINE for reservations.
The best way to save money in the full service restaurants is to make lunch your main meal of the day. Prices are significantly lower, the menu is very similar to the dinner menu, and lunch prices generally last until 4 or 5 pm. You will need to eat again later in the evening, but if you have had an excellent and filling lunch, you may find that a snack will suffice.
An excellent budget option is to eat from the various snack carts throughout the parks. The turkey legs are enormous, easily large enough for two to split as a meal, or four to split as a snack. The baked potato stand in Liberty Square, at the Magic Kingdom, offers excellent and budget-conscious loaded baked potatoes. Dole Whips are a special treat, a float made with pineapple juice and your choice of pineapple or vanilla soft serve ice cream. You can find Dole Whips in Adventureland, also at the Magic Kingdom.
If you dine in a full service restaurant, try to avoid the lure of the dessert menu. Although they are excellent, wonderful cakes and pastries are available throughout the parks at a fraction of the price. In Epcot, visit the bakery in Norway (sandwiches and fruit also available), or sample the pastry shop in France. From fresh baked brownies to funnel cakes to gourmet pastries, opportunities abound to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Bring your own water
Disney now allows food and beverages to be brought into the parks. While I don’t recommend dragging in a cooler, if you are a bottled water drinker, this is an easy way to save some money. At .50 a bottle, water is probably the most overpriced item that Disney sells. So carry a small backpack with a few bottles, and use the money you saved to indulge your sweet tooth. Also, if you have kids, bringing a few snacks for them to eat while waiting in line can keep them entertained (and save you money on the snacks often sold to the lines).
The best kept dining secret at the Walt Disney World Resort
In my opinion, this honor goes to the Earl of Sandwich. Located in the Downtown Disney Marketplace, they offer a long list of gourmet sandwiches and salads, all in the to range. Even adding a drink and a bag of chips, you would be hard pressed to spend more than . Depending on the size of your appetite, you may even find the portions large enough to share! The sandwiches are excellent, and the fast food-style service is efficient and friendly. Check out the décor in the indoor seating area as well.
With advance planning and a little knowledge, it is easy to enjoy the range of food that Disney has to offer, without breaking your bank. These tips will allow you to eat well, stay in budget, and even discover some hidden surprises.
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