Disneyland Dining Discounts & Coupons

LAST UPDATE: 9/29/14

There are many Disneyland dining discounts available in the parks and resort hotels, as well as meal discounts, coupons and deals at nearby restaurants. You just have to know how to find them!

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Dining Reservations

Most Disneyland visitors are locals who tend to plan their visits at the last minute. For that reason, it’s usually not very hard to get a table at Disneyland restaurants. In most cases you can skip making reservations, except perhaps in peak seasons like Spring Break and Christmas/New Year’s. If you don’t have a reservation, you can usually just walk up and put your name on the list. You may have to wait, but you should get seated eventually.

The Blue Bayou has limited seating space and is such a unique Disneyland experience that it can be a bit harder to get a table. If you don’t have an advance reservation, go straight to the restaurant when the the park opens and try to arrange a table.

Avoid Seasonal Restaurant Price Increases

Disneyland sometimes raises the prices of its Character meals during busy times of year. During these periods, a Character meal may cost you up to 25% more than normal! All of the Character meals participate in this upcharge and it is based purely on dates, not on any “enhanced” menus.

Easter / spring break time, summer and the Christmas-to-New Year’s period are usually subject to these increases. In 2012, the dates (so far) with higher prices are March 16 – August 20.

If you needed another reason to avoid visiting Disneyland during peak seasons, this is a good one!

Tips & Tricks for Saving in the Parks and Resorts

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Bringing in Outside Food and Drink

Officially, Disney asks that no outside food or drink be brought into the theme parks. The official policy reads: “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.” You absolutely will NOT be allowed to bring in the following: hard-sided coolers, large coolers, glass containers, or alcoholic beverages.

Unofficially, the “no outside food” policy is not stringently enforced. Bags are searched, but a few items in a small (6-pack sized) soft-sided cooler (such as sandwiches, crackers, granola bars, juice boxes, sealed/unopened plastic bottles of water) will be ignored. For some reason they will not allow you to bring in unassembled sandwich makings (such as bread and peanut butter, even in a plastic jar) but preassembled sandwiches seem to be no problem.

If you eat your snack/meal very discreetly, without using park resources (e.g. taking up a table at a restaurant without buying anything) and you don’t make a mess, no one will say anything to you. If you would rather not risk it, there is a designated picnic area outside the gates of Disneyland, and there are lockers available that are large enough to store a moderate-sized cooler.

Make Breakfast in Your Room

There are several advantages to eating breakfast in your hotel:

Consider bringing or buying a few items so that you can make breakfast in your hotel room. Many hotels provide a mini-fridge, a coffee maker and a daily packet of coffee, so it’s easy to put together a light breakfast before you head off to the parks. This is a great money-saver.

All of Disney’s resort rooms include a refrigerator (a mini-fridge in the hotel rooms and studios; a full-size fridge in the villas). Cold “Continental breakfast” items that require minimal preparation are ideal: individual cups of cold cereal, bakery items (pastries, bread, donuts, bagels), juice boxes, whole fruit (apples, oranges, bananas), boxed milk (white or chocolate) that doesn’t require refrigeration, peanut butter and cheese are all good bets. Other items to consider: instant oatmeal, instant cocoa, fruit cups, applesauce cups and hard-boiled eggs. If you want to bring items from home, we recommend using a small (six-pack sized) collapsable cooler, which can easily be packed in your luggage. If you’re flying, remember that you can’t bring any item that the TSA may consider a “gel” or “liquid” in your carry-on bags, so peanut butter, juice or milk boxes, applesauce cups, frozen gel packs, etc. will have to go in your checked bags.

When MouseSavers.com founder Mary Waring stayed at the Grand Californian in late March/early April 2011, she went to White Water Snacks, the counter service restaurant near the hotel pool, and bought some breakfast items (bagels, fruit and milk for my in-room coffee). Because that resort has Disney Vacation Club (timeshare) units, White Water carries some staple groceries in addition to prepared foods. Interestingly, she found that a single, plastic-wrapped bagel cost $2.29 in the “deli” section, but over on the shelves where staple groceries were stocked, you could buy a whole bag of 6 bagels for $2.69! Guess which one she picked. Individual packets of jam are available for free. She fed herself four simple breakfasts for well under $10 and even had a couple of bagels left over, one of which she ate on the plane trip home!

The Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel also offers in-room refrigerators and coffee makers, and has an on-site shop with a wide variety of grocery items at reasonable prices.

Best Bets

You’ll save a lot of money by sticking with counter-service or cafeteria-style restaurants, which are substantially cheaper than the table-service restaurants. If you look around you can find some decent options besides corn dogs, hamburgers and fries.

Note that the cheapest beverage options at all of the theme park counter service restaurants are apple juice, orange juice or milk, any of which will cost you $1.79, though the portion is small. (Or you can ask for a cup of ice water for FREE.) Regular-sized fountain sodas or bottled water run $2.79 each. And the cost of coffee or hot tea is an outrageous $2.79!

Some places that are relative bargains within the theme parks are Rancho del Zocalo, Riverbelle Terrace and Plaza Inn in Disneyland; and Pacific Wharf and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta in Disney California Adventure.

Outside the parks, the Earl of SandwichJazz Kitchen takeout window and the Tortilla Jo’s takeout window in Downtown Disney are good bets. Both the Jazz Kitchen and Tortilla Jo’s have fairly expensive full-service restaurants, but check out the takeout window at each of these locations, where you can get something a little different at a reasonable price. There is seating nearby where you can enjoy your meal.

Check Out Portion Sizes to Cut Costs

Many of the entrees and combo meals served at Disneyland Resort cafeteria-style and counter-service restaurants include a large amount of food. If you’re not sure, a good trick at the counter-service restaurants and snack stands is to stand to one side for a minute and watch as people leave with their orders, so you can see how the portions look. If the portions are big and you are not big eaters, consider splitting an entree or combo meal between two people. If you need just a little more food, possibly ordering an extra side dish or appetizer to share will be enough.

Adults looking for a smaller portion at the counter-service restaurants should not hesitate to order from the kids’ menu. No one will know you’re ordering the kids meal for an adult! The kids’ meals are an especially good deal because they include a cold beverage (you can usually choose from a small lowfat milk, small lowfat chocolate milk, juice box, small bottled water or small soda; some locations have a more limited selection of beverages, so check the posted menu). The kids’ meals are also often healthier than the adult options.

Unfortunately many of the kids’ offerings aren’t very exciting for adults (mac & cheese, hamburger, chicken fingers, pizza or “Kid’s POWER Pack”) but a few of the quick service restaurants have more interesting kids’ meals. In particular, check out French Market, Rancho del Zocalo, Riverbelle Terrace and Plaza Inn at Disneyland; and Flo’s V8 Cafe, Paradise Garden Grill, Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, Cocina Cucamonga and Lucky Fortune Cookery at Disney California Adventure.

Adults are not allowed to order from the kids’ menu at full-service restaurants.

A good option at table-service restaurants, and one that works well for someone dining alone, is to substitute an appetizer for your entree. For instance, order two appetizers instead of an appetizer and an entree, or order an appetizer instead of an entree, thus leaving yourself room for dessert. Be sure to inquire about the portion size first — some appetizers are substantial and filling, but some aren’t.

Table Service – Worth It?

In our opinion, the table-service restaurants inside the parks are generally not a very good value for the money.

There are far better table-service options outside the theme parks. The restaurants in the three official Disneyland hotels are all quite good, though expensive, and we’ve had no major complaints about any of them. Steakhouse 55 and Napa Rose are particularly good, if you’re looking for a high-end dinner experience. For a character breakfast, the food is really good at Storytellers Cafe and we love the decor, but you’ll meet more characters and enjoy a bigger variety of foods at Goofy’s Kitchen.

In Downtown Disney, try the full-service side of La Brea Bakery Cafe, offering delicious sandwiches, soups and salads (there’s also a take-out window that is a little less expensive, if you don’t care about table service). For a high-end meal, Catal is excellent — worth the high prices. Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen and Tortilla Jo’s are both reliably decent, if overpriced. However, both have takeout windows that are a better deal.

The food quality at House of Blues is variable, but the atmosphere is enjoyable and the menu has a lot of choices. On our personal “avoid” list is Rainforest Cafe — in our opinion, the food is absolutely terrible and the prices are insane for such poor quality.

Starbucks

Lovers of Starbucks coffee drinks will be happy to hear that you can now order all Starbucks drinks (lattes, macchiatos, Frappucinos, you name it) at the Market House on Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland, as well as at Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure.

Meal Vouchers

If you know you will want to experience a Character meal at Disneyland, it is possible to buy vouchers for the meal in advance. Depending on whether you’re traveling during a period when Disney bumps up the meal prices (see above), you may save a few dollars in the process. This is also a way to prepay for elements of your vacation, so you don’t have to worry about it during your trip.

Meal vouchers don’t actually have to be used at the listed restaurants, though that’s usually the best deal. They have an actual cash value (see below for amounts) and can be redeemed for up to that value toward the cost of the meal, tax and tip at any other Disney table-service restaurant in the theme parks and hotels.

Meal Vouchers come in two types:

The Premium Character Dining voucher allows you to attend either Ariel’s Disney Princess Celebration (lunch or dinner) at Ariel’s Grotto in Disney’s California Adventure, or the Character Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner Buffet at Goofy’s Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel. By far the best value is to use these for dinner. Premium Character Dining vouchers include meal, tax and gratuity if used at the listed restaurants; otherwise they have a value of $40 per adult, $21 per child toward a meal at any other Disney owned-and-operated restaurant.

The Character Dining voucher is for breakfast only. It allows you to choose from Minnie & Friends Breakfast at Plaza Inn in Disneyland; Surf’s Up! Breakfast at Disney’s PCH Grill in Paradise Pier Hotel; or Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Critter Breakfast at Storytellers Cafe in Grand Californian Hotel. Character Dining vouchers include meal, tax and gratuity if used at the listed restaurants; otherwise they have a value of $33 per adult, $17 per child  toward a meal at any other Disney owned-and-operated restaurant.

Pre-Paid Dining Plan

Disneyland offers a pre-paid dining plan, which you can buy with any vacation package. However, this plan definitely won’t save you any money on your meals. You simply receive vouchers valued at exactly what you paid. This ties up your money and reduces your flexibility because the vouchers cannot be used at all Disneyland locations (including most or all of the Downtown Disney restaurants). You also can’t get change back from the vouchers, so you must spend at least their face value at each meal. We don’t recommend buying the dining plan at Disneyland.

Printable Coupons, Kids Eat FREE and Other Restaurant Deals

There are quite a few printable coupons that can save you money on off-site restaurants in the Disneyland area. Most chain restaurants also have online email clubs, which are well worth joining, because they often send out great coupons. If they ask you to select a “favorite” location, pick the one near Disneyland (zip code 92802), since some clubs restrict their coupons to a particular location. Also, sign up for the club no more than 2 weeks prior to your trip, as many clubs send out a really fantastic introductory coupon, but it’s often good for only a short time.

Birnbaum’s Disneyland Guidebook

Birnbaum’s Disneyland Resort 2014 includes these food coupons:

New!Birnbaum’s Disneyland Resort 2015 includes these food coupons:

Restaurant.com

Save money at some Disneyland-area restaurants by purchasing discounted gift certificates from Restaurant.com. Most certificates are for a specific amount (usually $25) and you get them at a discounted price (usually $10 or less).

The Anaheim/Disneyland area restaurants offered through Restaurant.com also change frequently, so it’s always worth checking. At one time House of Blues in Downtown Disney was participating. If you’ll have a car, be sure to consider restaurants in Orange, Garden Grove and Fullerton, because those cities are very close to Disneyland. (The easiest way to find nearby restaurants is to search zip code 92802, and then narrow your search to within 1 mile or 5 miles of that zip code.)

Disney’s Visa Card Discounts

Disney’s Visa cardholders get 10% off at select dining locations at the Disneyland Resort:

Disneyland

Disney’s California Adventure

Disneyland Resort Hotels

Downtown Disney

Offer excludes alcoholic beverages, merchandise, tobacco, room service, holiday buffets, tax and gratuity. Must use your valid Disney’s Visa card at time of purchase.

Disneyland Annual Passholder Discounts

Disneyland Annual Passholders get meal discounts at Disneyland Resort:

Unless otherwise specified, discounts apply to the Passholder and the Passholder’s dining party. Not valid at outdoor cart locations, snack locations, Club 33, Napa Rose, and Room Service locations. Dining discounts are not valid in combination with any other discounts or promotions and exclude alcoholic beverages, tax and gratuity. Must show valid Annual Passport to receive Passholder discount. Discounts are nontransferable. Subject to change without notice.

Disneyland Annual Passholders also qualify for discounts at many restaurants in Anaheim GardenWalk, within walking distance of Disneyland. All discounts are subject to change.

Disney Vacation Club Discounts

Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members get a 10% meal discount at virtually all dining locations throughout Disneyland Resort.

Unless otherwise specified, discounts apply to a maximum party of 8 people. Not valid at outdoor cart locations, snack locations, Club 33, Napa Rose, and Room Service locations. Dining discounts are not valid in combination with any other discounts or promotions and exclude alcoholic beverages, tax and gratuity.

Must show valid DVC membership card to receive DVC discount. Discounts are nontransferable. Subject to change without notice.

D23 Member Discounts

D23 members get various dining discounts by presenting their membership card:

AARP Member Discounts

AAA Member Discounts

Landry’s Select Club

If you plan to eat at a lot of Landry’s restaurants it may be worth your while to buy a membership in the Landry’s Select Club. Landry’s locations at or near Disneyland include Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney and Bubba Gump and McCormick & Schmick’s in the Anaheim Gardenwalk, which is a fairly easy walk from the Disneyland resort entrance on Harbor.There is a one-time fee of $25, but you receive an immediate $25 credit on the card when you register online. Basically this is a rewards card: after you spend $250 (earning 250 points) at Landry’s restaurants, you get a $25 credit on the card that you can use toward your next meal. Points are not earned for the $25 membership enrollment fee, coupons and discounts, and (in some states) alcohol purchases. You also get a $25 credit during your birthday month.

Costco Deals on Restaurant Gift Cards

If you are a Costco member and you plan to eat at one or more restaurants that are part of a chain, it’s always worthwhile to check out the restaurant gift cards available through your local warehouse, which are typically discounted by 20%. Keep in mind that a gift card for a particular restaurant brand in the chain might also be accepted at other restaurant brands owned by the same chain.