Disney World Restaurant Discounts & Coupons
LAST UPDATE: 6/17/13
When you’re visiting Walt Disney World, you’ll probably want to enjoy some special treats and restaurant meals – this is a vacation, after all! But there are many tricks that can help you get Disney World restaurant discounts. There are a lot more Orlando restaurant discounts and coupons out there than you might think!
I update prices whenever I become aware of changes, but prices on this page are always subject to change.
Looking for discounts at a specific restaurant? Use the keyboard shortcut Control + F (for Macs, Command + F) to search for the name on this page.
- Advance Dining Reservations
- Avoid Seasonal Restaurant Price Increases
- Cheap Eats in the Parks & Resorts
- Tips & Tricks for Saving in the Parks & Resorts
- Dining Outside of Disney
- Coupons & Special Deals
- Membership Discounts
- Save on Beverages
- Eat Breakfast in Your Hotel
- Making Your Own Meals on Vacation – With Minimal Drudgery
It used to be that you could skip making reservations at most Disney table-service restaurants, particularly in the off-season. If you didn’t have a reservation, you could usually just walk up and put your name on the list. You might have to wait, but you would get seated eventually. Those days are gone!
With the popularity of Disney’s Dining Plans and the general upswing in attendance at Walt Disney World, the table-service locations are constantly busy and many of them do not have same-day walk-up availability. It has become very important to make advance dining reservations if you want to be assured of eating at a full-service location.
- Click here for more details, tips and tricks for making Advance Dining Reservations.
Little known fact: Disney raises meal prices at many of its buffets and character meals during busy times of year. During these periods, a buffet or character meal will cost you about $4 more than normal (plus tax/tip) for an adult (ages 10+) and $2 more than normal (plus tax/tip) for a child under 10. (If you are on a Dining Plan, there is no upcharge at the restaurant, but the cost of the Dining Plans is now seasonal, too.)
This sneaky little maneuver has been going on for years, but for a long time it affected only Thanksgiving and Christmas season, and only at a few restaurants that were serving special holiday food items, so the increase was somewhat justified. Beginning in 2008, the price increases were expanded to include Easter and peak summer season, making it a year-round phenomenon, and many more restaurants are now included. At this point, virtually all of the buffets and character meals participate in this upcharge and it is based purely on dates, not on any “enhanced” menus.
The dates of upcharges for on-site buffet/character meal in 2013 are: 2/14/13 – 2/23/13, 3/8/13 – 4/6/13, 5/31/13 – 8/3/13, 12/13/13 – 12/31/13.
In addition, other full-service restaurants may charge a premium on holidays (specifically Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day), so be sure to ask when booking reservations.
If you needed another reason to avoid visiting Walt Disney World during peak seasons, this is a good one!
- Bringing in Outside Food and Drink
- Best Bets
- Cheapest (and Healthiest) Food Items in the Parks – Fresh Fruit & Veggies!
- Maximizing Value at Character Breakfasts
- Good Value Character Dinner
- Super Cheap Kids’ Meals and Snacks
- Same Item, Lower Price
Disney used to have a policy “requesting” that guests did not bring outside food and drink into the theme parks, but this was completely unenforced. Now it has changed its policy, and guests are allowed to bring food items, such as snacks or foods that do not require heating, into any Walt Disney World theme park. It is also completely fine to bring in bottled water or soft drinks.
One note of caution: avoid bringing in anything highly perishable, such as cold cuts. It would be easy to end up with food poisoning!
Also, you absolutely will NOT be allowed to bring in the following: hard-sided coolers, large coolers, glass containers, or alcoholic beverages. Also, you cannot bring any type of straws (even the little ones attached to juice boxes) into Animal Kingdom.
Really inexpensive meals in the theme parks are hard to find, but listed below are some cheap options for real food that will fill you up. Prices below are approximate and subject to change at any time. (See below for other tips and tricks to use at the theme park restaurants.)
- Magic Kingdom – Main Street Bakery is usually your best bet for a cheap breakfast, but it’s closed for rehab until summer 2013. Right now your best bet is Tomorrowland Terrace, where you can get mini waffles with fruit or a bowl of oatmeal with toppings for $3.99. For lunch or dinner, Casey’s Corner (Main Street) has a large hot dog with slaw or fries (and access to the toppings bar) for $7.59. Get a bowl of clam chowder for $4.69 or a bowl of vegetarian chili for $4.49 at Columbia Harbor House. Cosmic Ray’s (Tomorrowland) has a half rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables (split it between two people) for $9.99. Sleepy Hollow refreshments in Liberty Square makes fresh, delicious and large ice cream cookie sandwiches for $4.19 that are very splittable. Amazingly, the new, beautifully-themed Be Our Guest restaurant offers some reasonably priced items at lunch, including soups for under $4 and delicious cupcakes and cream puffs for $2.39.
- Epcot – For breakfast, you can go to Boulangerie Patisserie in the France Pavilion (it opens at 9:00 am, before the rest of World Showcase) and get ham and cheese croissants for $4.75, ham and cheese quiche for $5.20, or your choice of many other breakfast pastries. For lunch or dinner, Sunshine Seasons offers clam chowder for $4.69 and a half rotisserie chicken with two sides (split it between two people) for $10.19. At Boulangerie Patisserie (France) consider a light lunch or dinner of ham and cheese croissants for $4.75, ham and cheese quiche for $5.20 or pissaladiere (flatbread with tomatoes, olives and gruyere cheese) for $4.50. Lotus Blossom Cafe (China) has two egg rolls for $4 or pot stickers for $5. Or walk out the International Gateway to the BoardWalk Pizza window, where a slice of cheese pizza is $3.99 and a slice of pepperoni is $4.49.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Starring Rolls Bakery has lots of inexpensive ($1-$2) mini baked goods for breakfast, and assorted regular-sized bagels, muffins and croissants for under $3. Fairfax Fare also has some reasonable priced breakfast items like an egg and cheese muffin with bacon or sausage for $5.99. For lunch or dinner, Fairfax Fare offers a half rotisserie chicken with two sides (split it between two people) for under $10. Herbie’s Drive-In has a corn dog for $4.29 or nachos for $4, and a side of chili is only $1. Rosie’s All American Cafe offers a soup of the day for $2.99. Toy Story Pizza Planet offers filling individual pizzas for $7.49 or less (the menu will say it’s $2 more than that, but ask them to leave off the side salad); also, consider ordering off the kids’ menu at this location.
- Animal Kingdom – For a light breakfast, your best bet is Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery next to Tusker House, where you can get a muffin or sweet roll for under $3; or Pizzafari, which has a pretty substantial kids’ breakfast platter (eggs, potatoes and bacon or sausage – plenty for many adults) for just $4.99. For lunch or dinner, Anandupur Local Food Cafes (the fast food side of Yak & Yeti) has 2 egg rolls for $4.49 or chicken fried rice for $4. Pizzafari offers a basket of cheesy bread sticks with marinara sauce for $5, and individual pizzas for $7.49 or less (the menu will say it’s $2 more than that, but ask them to leave off the side salad). Flame Tree Barbecue has a half smoked chicken with two sides (split it between two people) for $10.49.
Some of the best food can be found outside the theme parks, at the resort hotels.
- MouseSavers.com reader Thomas M says that Riverside Mill at Disney’s Port Orleans-Riverside resort has a bargain in its food court: “there is create your own pasta that is dynamite! Fresh ingredients and huge portion wise @ $10.99 a bowl. Oftentimes we drive there for dinner just for the fettucine!”
- Another fan favorite is Trail’s End Buffet at Disney’s Ft Wilderness Resort (accessible by boat from Magic Kingdom, Contemporary and Wilderness Lodge). The all-you-can eat buffets at breakfast and dinner are the least expensive on property, and offer a wide variety of “home cooking” style foods, plus appealing options like Mickey waffles at breakfast and peel-and-eat shrimp at dinner.
Each park has at least one fruit stand. Apples, pears, bananas, and oranges are usually around $1.49, which is very inexpensive compared with other snacks at the parks. Some stands also sell large pickles for $1.39. At the larger stands you may find watermelon or cantaloupe slices, grapes, strawberries, cut-up pineapple, yogurt, fruit salad, corn on the cob or even baked potatoes at varying prices, with nothing over about $4.
There are two fruit stands in the Magic Kingdom: on Main Street, U.S.A. and at Liberty Square Market. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has Anaheim Produce on Sunset Blvd. At Epcot, fruit is available at the Refreshment Outpost between China and Germany in World Showcase. Animal Kingdom offers fruit at Harambe Market in Africa, just outside Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Disney’s Character meals can be a lot of fun, and if you are traveling with kids, try to budget for one. However, they are expensive! The least expensive Character meal option is, not surprisingly, breakfast. Unfortunately, prices for the Character breakfasts have shot up in the past few years, plus the costs are now widely variable. Prices below are subject to change and to seasonal upcharges.
The least expensive Character breakfasts on property are currently:
- 1900 Park Fare at Grand Floridian Resort, which is a quick Monorail ride from Magic Kingdom. This breakfast features Mary Poppins, Alice and the Mad Hatter. Breakfast at this restaurant will cost you $20.99-$24.99/adult and $11.99-$13.99/child (ages 3-9), plus tax and tip (prices vary by time of year).
- ‘Ohana at Polynesian Resort, , which is a quick Monorail ride from Magic Kingdom. This breakfast features Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto. Breakfast at this restaurant will cost you $20.99-$24.99/adult and $11.99-$13.99/child (ages 3-9), plus tax and tip (prices vary by time of year).
- Garden Grove at Walt Disney World Swan Hotel offers a Character breakfast on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays only) for $23.99/adult and $15.99/child (ages 3-9), plus tax and tip. This restaurant has a revolving cast of characters, often including Pluto and Goofy. While the Swan Hotel is not owned or operated by Disney, it is on Disney property (easy walking distance from Disney’s BoardWalk Resort and Disney’s Beach Club and Yacht Club Resorts) and is serviced by Disney’s bus system. It’s also serviced by Disney’s boats from Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. However, if you are staying off-site, note that parking at the Swan will cost you $15 per car. Thanks to Jen D and Jackie F for info.
For the best food, I recommend Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, featuring Donald, Daisy, Mickey and Goofy in safari garb. Other good options are Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom (Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet) and Cape May Cafe at Beach Club Resort (Minnie, Donald and Goofy in beach attire).
The most overpriced Character breakfast has to be Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Chip and Dale). It’s painfully noisy in there and the food isn’t even very good.
The two Princess breakfasts are insanely expensive, but the surroundings are impressively castle-y and at least a photo package is included! The Character breakfasts where you can meet princesses are:
- Princess Storybook Breakfast at Akershus in Epcot, which may include Aurora/Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White and/or Mulan. It’s easier to get a reservation here than at Cinderella’s Royal Table (see below) and it’s less expensive, too.
- Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Castle at Magic Kingdom, which may include Cinderella, Fairy Godmother, Belle, Aurora/Sleeping Beauty and/or Snow White.
Here’s a way to maximize your dollar when paying for Character breakfasts, shared by MouseSavers.com reader Lisa C:
“One money saving tip we have discovered is to eat breakfast at Chef Mickey’s at the latest possible time (usually a reservation around 11:15 AM) on a day when the Magic Kingdom has early entry and so everyone will be ready for lunch by then. The buffet is very substantial, and all drinks — coffee, milk, juice, etc. — are included, so we drink a bunch and the kids get their character breakfast at a pretty reasonable price, considering that it is really lunch. This also allows us to take advantage of the lighter crowds in the morning at the Magic Kingdom. Also, because the restaurant is not open for lunch it starts to get quiet as people with earlier seating times leave, and ALL of the characters gather together in the waiting area for group photos of just your family, which the servers will gladly take with your camera. This has happened both times we have eaten there, and so I have photos of just my family with Goofy, Minnie, Mickey, Chip and Dale!”
Clearly you could apply a similar strategy to other character breakfast locations (not just Chef Mickey’s) and regardless of whether you have access to early entry. As Lisa points out, since the crowds are lightest first thing in the morning, this strategy has the added advantage of allowing you to enjoy the attractions without long lines — instead of spending prime time eating breakfast!
You’ll probably want to eat something light to keep you going in the morning (for instance, all of the parks have pastry shops offering bagels, sweet rolls, milk and juice; or you can eat a light breakfast in your room). Then book the latest possible reservation for “breakfast” — but consider it lunch!
Character dinners at Disney resorts and theme parks start at $35.99/adult, $17.99/child, plus tax/tip in the off-season, and go up, up, up from there! The least expensive options are 1900 Park Fare at Grand Floridian (Cinderella, Prince Charming and friends) and Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom (Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore).
Once again, Garden Grove at Walt Disney World Swan Hotel is the value winner. It offers a Character buffet nightly, with a rotating menu: 6 nights a week, the price is $29.99/adult and $15.99/child (ages 3-9), plus beverage, tax and tip. On Friday nights, when a seafood buffet is offered, it costs $35.99/adult and $16.99/child (ages 3-9), plus beverage, tax and tip. This restaurant has a revolving cast of characters, often including Pluto and Goofy. While the Swan Hotel is not owned or operated by Disney, it is on Disney property (easy walking distance from Disney’s BoardWalk Resort and Disney’s Beach Club and Yacht Club Resorts) and is serviced by Disney’s bus system. It’s also serviced by Disney’s boats from Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. However, if you are staying off-site, note that parking at the Swan will cost you $15 per car. Thanks to Jen D and Jackie F for info.
Sometimes my readers’ cleverness just astounds me. Consider this discovery by MouseSavers.com reader Lisa C: “In the resort food courts… you can buy two slices of bread (white or wheat) for .69 plus tax.” Peanut butter is about .50, and in some food courts it’s free because there are packets of it with the condiments. Jelly can be obtained for free because it’s a condiment. So for around a dollar or less, you can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Lisa notes, “We have a five-year-old, so this was a godsend and really saved us money over having to buy combo meals all the time.”
MouseSavers.com reader Carla M reports that Sunshine Seasons in Epcot’s The Land pavilion sells a bag of about 20 small (“the size of mini pancakes”) pita breads for $1.99. She carries the little Jif to Go peanut butter cups with her, so with the small pitas she could make a cheap and filling family snack.
Carla M also recommends the “power pack” kids’ meal, available at multiple counter service locations for about $5.50, as a great source for family snacks to share. It includes yogurt, apple slices, carrots, Jammy Sammy, Goldfish crackers, and milk or a small bottle of water. Some places allow a chocolate milk or apple juice substitution, while others allow no substitutions.
In a few cases, an expensive table-service restaurant and a nearby counter-service location offer the same food item for two very different prices. At a counter-service location, the item will be typically be presented without any garnish or sides and will be served on a paper plate. Here are some hints (note that prices are subject to change at any time):
- At Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom, a bowl of New England Clam Chowder is $7.49 (plus tax and tip) at lunch. Get the same chowder at the nearby Columbia Harbour House for $4.69 a bowl, plus tax.
- Kona Cafe in the Polynesian Resort serves its Tonga Toast with a side of breakfast meat for $12.99 (plus tax and tip). At Captain Cook’s Snack Company nearby, Tonga Toast is served by itself for $5.19 plus tax.
- At Chefs de France in Epcot at lunch, you’ll pay $14.99 (plus tax & tip) for Quiche Lorraine served with salad and $7.25 (plus tax and tip) for Creme Brulee with a madeleine. At Boulangerie Pattiserie, located in a building behind the restaurant, the quiche without salad is $5.20 plus tax, and the creme brulee by itself is $4.50 plus tax.
- If you’d like to try the famous Zebra Domes desserts, you can get them at the rather expensive Boma buffet at Animal Kingdom Lodge ($32.99 and up, depending on season, for an adult meal, plus tax and tip), or just buy them a la carte at the Mara food court for around $4 each. Mara also offers soups that are the same as Boma’s, but priced at $2.99-$3.49 per serving.
- Rose and Crown Pub in Epcot serves fish and chips at lunch for $17.99 (plus tax and tip). A smaller portion of the same fish and chips (without a side of peas) can be purchased next door at Yorkshire County Fish Shop for $8.99 plus tax.
Thanks to participants on the DIS Restaurants board for ideas.
- Take Advantage of Large Portion Sizes to Cut Costs
- Don’t Pay For Extras You Don’t Want
- Dining Plans
- Meal Vouchers
Many of the entrees and combo meals served at Walt Disney World restaurants include a large amount of food. If you are not big eaters, consider splitting an entree or combo meal between two people and possibly ordering an extra side dish or appetizer to share. We have done this many times and the server always cheerfully complied. In fact, at sit-down restaurants, usually the split entree was brought out on separate plates for us.
Another good option for light eaters 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.
If you’re not sure about portion sizes, 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 or ordering from the kids’ menu. (No one will even 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. If you need just a little more food, possibly ordering an extra side dish or appetizer to share will be enough.
MouseSavers.com reader Susan R has these observations from June 2012:
“We found that, particularly at breakfast, the kids’ meals were a much better deal overall than the adult. For example, at Port Orleans, French Quarter (where we stayed), the kids’ platter had a scoop of scrambled egg and 2 pieces of bacon or sausage (or 1 of each, depending on the person serving), grapes or applesauce and a carton of milk for $4.99. The adult “bounty platter” had the same amount of egg and meat, with the addition of potatoes, a small mickey waffle, and a biscuit (but no fruit or milk) for $8.49. For two adults and a 7-year-old, most mornings we got two kids platters and an order of three beignets to share amongst the three of us – at which point breakfast averaged less than $5/person (and the beignets made it more unique than just bacon and eggs!).”
The policy about adults ordering off the kids’ menu seems to be inconsistent at regular table-service restaurants, but some will allow adults (and/or kids over 9 years old) to order kids’ meals. However, some restaurants will require you to order an “adult portion” of the kids’ menu items and pay accordingly. At Disney’s buffet restaurants, adults (and kids 10 and up) are always required to pay adult prices, regardless of how much or what items they eat. Likewise at all Character meals and dinner shows, adults (and kids 10 and up) must pay adult prices, because you are paying for the entertainment as well as the food.
There is also the “extra bun” trick, which works especially well when you have small kids who don’t eat a lot.
- It’s a clever trick light eaters can use at counter-service restaurants at Walt Disney World: order one double cheeseburger combo meal and ask for an extra bun. (The cashiers actually have an “extra bun” button on the register, so this is not an unusual request.) Then take one of the hamburger patties off the double burger, and put it on the extra bun. Most of the counter-service restaurants have a condiment bar where you can add any toppings you like to the two burgers. Split the fries and drink, or order an extra drink. Thanks to rams408 for the idea.
- MouseSavers.com reader Don B points out that there is also a “cheese slice” button for 50 cents on the counter service restaurant cash registers. He combined that with the extra bun. He writes, “One of my kids would rather have a cheese sandwich than a $6.09 cheeseburger anyway, so this was a great find…. my son had a nice sandwich with two slices of cheese for $1.79.”
Please note: the “extra bun” trick worked for years, with the extra bun usually costing 79 or 89 cents, but since 2008 some locations have increased the price of a bun to insane levels, with some locations charging as much as $4 (!), so ask the price first.
In the parks, the counter-service menus often list only complete meals, such as a burger with fries, sandwich with fruit, entree with corn on the cob, pizza with side salad, etc. A little known fact is that you can order anything you want a la carte! If you just want the sandwich, say “sandwich only, please.” Otherwise you may be paying up to $2 for that side item you don’t want.
MouseSavers.com reader Marlene discovered that your receipt must say ONLY next to the item to insure that you are charged correctly, particularly at the food court-style counter service locations such as Landscape of Flavors. The cashiers need to see the word ONLY so they don’t charge you for the sides.
Usually this applies to adult meals only — kids’ meals are normally sold as a package. But MouseSavers.com reader Marlene points out that some quick service locations will sell just the main item (such as the sandwich) in a kids’ meal without the side and drink. “One evening we ordered [a kids' turkey and cheese] sandwich at the Beach Club Marketplace. There was a misunderstanding – they just made the sandwich – and charged me either $2.50 or $3! I expected to be charged full price [for the kids' meal]. I didn’t have any idea I could order it without the drink and two sides – but all my son wanted at the time was the sandwich.” So if you don’t want the sides included in the kids’ meals, it’s worth asking.
Here’s a related tip. Reader Hadley B writes:
“The last time we ate at the Backlot Express in Disney’s Hollywood Studios I was reeling from the kid’s meal prices and asked why they were so expensive at this one place. I was told I could order the same meal without the little plastic souvenir box for $1.50 less. With several kids this adds up fast. My kids were definitely willing to put the money towards an ice cream later in the day rather than have a rather useless plastic box (which would have been a pain to keep up with all day). The cashier told me that any time a counter service kid’s meal comes with one of these boxes, ordering without it and saving $1.50 is an option.”
Disney offers prepaid Dining Plans at Walt Disney World that can be a good value for some people. However, they are ONLY available when you purchase a Magic Your Way vacation package that includes accommodations at a Disney-owned-and-operated hotel plus theme park tickets. You must purchase the plan for your entire stay and for each person staying in your hotel room.
The only exceptions to the “must buy with a vacation package” rule are:
- Annual Passholders can buy a special package that includes just hotel room and Dining Plan.
- Disney Vacation Club members and their guests, when staying on “points” at a DVC resort, may purchase a Dining Plan. This is arranged through Member Services.
The Dining Plan option is not available to those booking “room only” reservations or Florida resident room-only discounts.
- Click here to learn more about vacation packages with Dining Plans, including tips and tricks for maximizing their value.
Walt Disney World meal vouchers (Quick & Casual, Breakfast Feature, Vacation Kingdom Lunch and Vacation Kingdom Dinner) were discontinued as of 12/31/05.
If it won’t spoil the magic for you, consider eating one or more meals at a nearby but non-Disney restaurant such as the ones in Downtown Disney, the Crossroads Shopping Center or the hotels at Downtown Disney. Often these are substantially cheaper than Disney restaurants, but still have attractive theming and great food.
In the section below are a few locations that I personally recommend because they offer very tasty food at an exceptional value, in what is usually a high-priced resort area. Prices below are approximate and subject to change at any time.
There is a great location in Downtown Disney that offers very reasonably priced takeout food (you can eat in the restaurant, as well). Since Downtown Disney has many places to sit and enjoy the view along the lake, this is a nice option on a day when the weather is pleasant.
- Earl of Sandwich prices its high-quality, substantial hot sandwiches and meal-sized salads and wraps at $5.99. Kids (or not-too-hungry adults) can easily share one hot sandwich. Desserts and side dishes are reasonably priced. Breakfast sandwiches are a total bargain. Drinks are a little pricey, so if you’re really watching your pennies, bring your own. It is a strictly counter-service situation with long lines, which fortunately move fast. We love Earl of Sandwich and eat there all the time. Thanks to Shelly C for reminding me about this option.
Additionally, if you will have a car, consider this option:
- Panera Bread offers reasonably priced sandwiches (hot and cold), soups and salads, all freshly made. They also have free Wi-Fi. The closest Panera to Disney property is at 8600 Vineland Avenue. Call (407) 842-1300 for hours.
Be sure to see the printable coupon section for possible discounts at the restaurants below. Note that prices are subject to change at any time.
- If you’re looking for about the cheapest full-service meal around and you’re in the mood for burgers and shakes (or a full breakfast), check out Steak n Shake at 12163 S. Apopka-Vineland Road (aka CR 435). They have yummy shakes made with real ice cream for under $3; cheeseburger and fries for under $4; and breakfasts for under $4. The 50′s diner-style atmosphere is enjoyable. You can read Mike’s review of Steak n Shake here.
- Another extremely cheap option is Cici’s Pizza Buffet. I can give this restaurant only a conditional recommendation. It is definitely inexpensive ($5.99 + drink for adults, $3.49 + drink for kids 3-9; child under 3 $1.99 with drink) and filling. The pizza is only so-so, but if you need to feed kids who are not too picky and you want a very low-priced meal out, this is an option. There are two Cici’s near Walt Disney World: the better one is located at 8586 Palm Parkway (west of SR 535/Apopka Vineland Road, on the south side of the street). You can read Mike’s review of Cici’s here.
- Sweet Tomatoes is located in the Crossroads Center, which is within walking distance of several of the Downtown Disney hotels at 12561 S. Apopka-Vineland Road (Hwy 535). For a flat rate (roughly $10 plus drink) you can load up from a huge salad bar plus an all-you-can-eat buffet including many soups, plus muffins, foccacia bread, healthy desserts (frozen yogurt, fruit) and more. This location is very clean and well staffed, with fresh and delicious food. You can read Mike’s review of Sweet Tomatoes here.
- Bahama Breeze restaurant at 8735 Vineland Avenue serves moderately priced, Caribbean-inspired food in a casual, tropical atmosphere. Everyone I’ve met who actually lives or works near Walt Disney World has recommended this place to me. I agree — it’s a fun atmosphere and the food is good. Open for lunch and dinner. This place is really popular and they don’t take reservations, but they do offer “call ahead seating” (just call when you are on your way). The phone number is (407) 938-9010. Thanks to Jennifer H for additional info.
- For a more upscale experience at reasonable prices, check out Seasons 52. It offers a great “night out” for adults. The atmosphere is casually elegant and the food and wine are outstanding. The atmosphere and food quality are at least equal to the best restaurants on Disney property, but the prices are lower. Plus, nothing on the delicious seasonal menu has more than 475 calories! (You’ll never notice, believe me — it doesn’t taste like “diet food.”) You’ll need a car to get to Seasons 52, which is located pretty far north of Disney World at 7700 Sand Lake Road. Call (407) 354-5212 for reservations. You can read Mike’s review of this restaurant here.
- If you are a serious carnivore, the Brazilian-style churrascaria Texas de Brazil features high-quality meats of all kinds, brought to your table on skewers. It’s a fun vacation experience. This is a pricey place, but the quality is well worth the money. Lunch is $24.99 and dinner is $46.99 per adult (13+), not including tax, tips, dessert and drinks. Children 6-12 are half price. Children 3 to 5 are $5. Children 2 and under are FREE. You’ll need a car to get to Texas de Brazil, since it is located up near Universal at 5259 International Drive. Reservations are recommended: call (407) 355-0355. You can read Mike’s review of this restaurant here.
- The featured sundaes at Ghirardelli are delicious but big. I usually can’t finish one. Note that there is the less expensive option of creating your own sundae with just one or two scoops of ice cream and your selected topping(s).
- MouseSavers.com reader Terri K has this interesting suggestion: “… my family discovered the Earthquake. We’re a family of 6 and each kid wanted a sundae. While looking over the menu on the back I found the Earthquake listed. It’s an 8 scoop sundae. Not only can you choose the flavors of ice cream, but also all the toppings. When we figured the cost of 6 individual sundaes, the Earthquake at $29.95 is a real bargain. We all had fun and made a mess at the same time. The kids have so much fun taking a few bites and then turning the dish so they can sample all the flavors. I enjoy the fact that with 8 different flavors everyone gets what they want. My husband enjoys the fact that he doesn’t have the cost of 6 individual ice creams.”
- September is Orlando Magical Dining Month
- Orlando Magicard
- Kids Eat Free Card
- Printable Coupons, Kids Eat FREE and Other Restaurant Deals
- Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World Guidebook
Annually for the entire month of September, participating high-end Orlando restaurants feature three-course, prix fixe dinners at an exceptional value. Typically some of the top restaurants at the Disney World Swan/Dolphin hotels participate.
- Visit OrlandoMagicalDining.com for details.
Save money at some Disney World-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 Orlando/Disney World restaurants offered through Restaurant.com change frequently. Occasionally there are even restaurants that are right on Disney property (typically at Downtown Disney or the Downtown Disney resort hotels); you don’t need a car to reach those. If you will have a car, look for restaurants in Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee, the two closest areas to Walt Disney World. I’ve seen every type of cuisine offered at one time or another — American, Cuban, Japanese, French, even barbecue! (The easiest way to find nearby restaurants is to search zip code 32830, and then narrow your search to within 1 mile or 5 miles of that zip code.)
- Click here for more details on Restaurant.com and possible discount codes that can save you even more!
The Orlando Magicard provides a number of restaurant discounts. These do change from time to time: click here to see current offerings.
- Click here to download a FREE Orlando Magicard instantly online.
The Kids Eat Free Card may be a good investment if you have young children and plan to eat off Disney property frequently. It provides FREE* kids’ meals at over 50 restaurants in the Orlando area. To see a full listing, visit KidsEatFreeCard.com.
*You’ll need one card for each child. Each Kids Eat Free Card is valid for one child (11 years of age or younger) and requires that the child be accompanied by one adult paying for a full price entree. So for example, if you have two children, you’d need two cards and two adults buying full price entrees. The Kids Eat Free Card cannot be used with any other discounts or offers.
There are quite a few printable coupons that can save you money on off-site restaurants in the Disney World 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 Disney World, 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.
Some of the restaurants below are located in Downtown Disney, which is on Disney property and accessible by Disney transportation. Most of the rest are relatively close to Walt Disney World, along the Apopka Vineland Road (Hwy 535) corridor to the east of Hotel Plaza Blvd, where the Downtown Disney hotels are located. A few are on International Drive, which is further away. Of the off-site restaurants below, only those located in Crossroads Center would be at all walkable from Disney property (about a mile from Downtown Disney). For the others, you’ll need a car.
I am not necessarily recommending the restaurants below. (See above for recommendations.) I’m just letting you know what’s out there!
- Wolfgang Puck (Downtown Disney) gift cards are currently available for sale at Costco.com. Costco members can get TWO $50 gift cards for $79.99 with FREE shipping (non-members can order, but will pay more). Offers on Costco.com come and go, so this could end at any time. Thanks to GL for info.
- Ghirardelli (Downtown Disney) gift cards are currently available for sale at Costco.com. Costco members can get FOUR $25 gift cards for $79.99 with FREE shipping (non-members can order, but will pay more). Offers on Costco.com come and go, so this could end at any time.
- Earl of Sandwich (Downtown Disney) has an eClub that you can join online for free. You’ll get a FREE sandwich on your birthday and other offers.
- House of Blues (Downtown Disney) – Happy Hour from 3:00-5:00 pm and 10:00 pm to closing: $3 domestic bottled beer; $3.75 imported bottled beer. (Appetizers may also be discounted.) No coupon necessary, but check the link to make sure this is still running.
- Chevy’s Fresh Mex (Crossroads Center) – Join their Compadres Club and get coupons by email. Also, Kids Eat FREE all day on Tuesdays (except holidays) with purchase of a regular price adult entree.
- Sweet Tomatoes (Crossroads Center) – Sign up online for their Club Veg to receive coupons by email. Pick the Lake Buena Vista, FL location. MouseSavers.com reader Norman H reports that they also offer a senior discount.
- Perkins (Crossroads Center) – Sign up for their eClub and get special offers by email.
- Uno Chicago Grill (Crossroads Center) – Sign up for their Insider’s Club and get coupons by email. Also, MouseSavers.com reader Marlene points out that Uno offers bargain “Snack Hours” in the bar only from 4:00-7:00 pm and 10:00 pm to closing, every night of the week except Saturday.
- Romano’s Macaroni Grill (CR 435 north of Palm Parkway) – Sign up for their Email Club (lower left of home page) and get $5 off 2 entrees.
- Joe’s Crab Shack (CR 435 north of Palm Parkway) – Sign up for Joe Mail and receive offers by email. Pick the Apopka Vineland Road, FL location as your favorite.
- Steak ‘n Shake (CR 435 north of Palm Parkway) – Kids eat FREE on weekends. Get one free kids plate for every $8 spent. Saturday and Sunday only. Kids plate excludes drinks and shakes. Children 12 and under. Dine-in only. Also, join the Steak ‘n Shake E-Club to get coupons and special offers.
- The Crab House (east of Palm Pkwy/535) – Kids 10 and under eat FREE on Wednesdays from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. No coupon required, but I recommend calling them at (407) 239-1888 to make sure the offer is still going.
- Denny’s (Palm Pkwy/535) – Sign up for Denny’s Breakfast Club. In a day or two you’ll get a coupon for 20% off.
- Lone Star Steakhouse (535 & Vineland) – Sign up for their E-Club and get offers by email.
- Carrabba’s (Vineland/Lake Bryan area) – Sign up for the Amici Club and get coupons and offers by email. Choose the Lake Bryan, FL location as your favorite.
- Texas de Brazil (International Drive) – Sign up online for the eClub and receive emails with various discounts. You usually will get a 25% off coupon by email within a few days of signing up.
- ILoveOrlando – printable coupons for a large number of Orlando restaurants, usually including Ghirardelli and Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney.
- IRideTrolley – Printable coupons for restaurants located along the International Drive route that is served by the trolley.
Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World 2013 has meal coupons in the back for these Downtown Disney restaurants:
- Ghirardelli, 10% off a chocolate purchase or $1 off a specialty sundae. Expires 12/31/13.
- Bongos, 15% off food and beverages (excludes alcohol). Expires 12/31/13.
- Paradiso 37, 15% off food at lunch and dinner. Expires 12/31/13.
- House of Blues, 15% off lunch or dinner (food only). Valid for up to 8 guests. Excludes alcohol, tax and gratuity. Expires 12/20/13.
- Fulton’s Crab House, 10% off food and beverages (except alcohol). Valid for up to 4 guests. Expires 12/31/13.
- Portobello, 10% off food and beverages (except alcohol). Valid for up to 4 guests. Expires 12/31/13.
- Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe, 10% off food and beverages (except alcohol). Expires 12/31/13.
- Planet Hollywood, 10% off food and beverages (except alcohol). Valid for up to 4 guests. Expires 12/31/13.
Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World 2013 also has a meal coupon in the back for this Epcot restaurant:
- Marrakesh Restaurant, 10% off food, beverages and merchandise for lunch and dinner (excludes alcohol). Park admission required. Expires 12/31/13.
Groupon presents great deals for the Orlando area. They offer everything from restaurant discounts, to 2-for-1 parasailing, to bargain oil changes. You never know what they’ll offer! Discounts are usually at least 50% off, so it’s worth checking to see if today’s Groupon Orlando deal happens to be good for a restaurant that interests you. Groupon deals are activated only when a minimum number of people agree to buy, but this usually isn’t an issue because the deals are so good that plenty of people will participate.
- Disney World Annual Passholders
- Florida Residents
- Disney Vacation Club Members
- Swan/Dolphin Loyalty Program
- Landry’s Select Club
- Planet Hollywood VIP Pass
- Levy Preferred Frequent Dining Program
Tables in Wonderland Discount
Walt Disney World Annual Passholders, regardless of residency, are eligible for membership in the Tables in Wonderland program for $100 per year, which is a $25 discount. The primary benefit of membership is a 20% discount on all food and beverages at participating resort hotel and theme park restaurants (valid for a party of up to 10). Membership also includes complimentary resort and theme park parking for dining, as well as invitations to special member-only events.
Disney World Resort Hotel, Theme Park and Downtown Disney Discounts
Click here to see the 2013 dining discounts for Walt Disney World Annual and Seasonal Passholders. Note that the discounts are not available on most major holidays.
Florida Residents can purchase a membership in the Tables in Wonderland program for $125 per year. The primary benefit of membership is a 20% discount on all food and beverages at participating resort hotel and theme park restaurants (valid for a party of up to 10). Membership also includes complimentary resort and theme park parking for dining, as well as invitations to special member-only events.
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members can purchase a membership in the Tables in Wonderland program for $100 per year. The primary benefit of membership is a 20% discount on all food and beverages at participating resort hotel and theme park restaurants (valid for a party of up to 10). Membership also includes complimentary resort and theme park parking for dining, as well as invitations to special member-only events.
DVC members and up to 3 guests also receive discounts of 10%-20% (10% is more common) at many Walt Disney World restaurants, including many of the Downtown Disney and Swan/Dolphin restaurants. Discounts do not apply to alcoholic beverages, tax or gratuities. The discount is not available on July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. The list of DVC member restaurant discounts is extensive and the amount varies by location; the best way to check current discounts is either on the DVC member website, which offers a printable PDF, or by looking through the Member Perks booklet provided at check-in.
Frequent diners at select Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin restaurants might consider joining the FREE Frequent Dining Program. You can pick up a Dining Passport during your next visit at Todd English’s bluezoo, Kimonos, Shula’s’ or Il Mulino New York Trattoria restaurants. You then register your card online. You can begin earning Loyalty Points either on your next visit or when your card is registered in the program (it’s not clear which). MouseSavers.com reader Marlene reports that it can take two weeks after you register the card before you receive an email with your login. It’s unknown whether the card can be used to accumulate points prior to that.
Despite what it says on the official website (“Frequent diners at select Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin restaurants can begin earning Loyalty Points on their very first visit!”) MouseSavers.com reader Marlene reports that your first visit (during which you request the card) does NOT count. So consider popping into the bar of one of the participating restaurants for a drink and asking for a card, rather than eating an expensive meal that won’t accrue points.
Either starting with your next visit or after the card is registered, points should accumulate with every purchase and be stored automatically on your Dining Passport. When enough points are accumulated, they can be redeemed for exclusive dining experiences, gift certificates and more. However, the card expires after one year of dormancy.
If you plan to eat at a lot of Landry’s owned restaurants (which at Walt Disney World include two Rainforest Cafes, T-REX and Yak & Yeti), it may be worth your while to buy a membership in the Landry’s Select Club. 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.
Planning to eat at Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney? Avoid the lines to get in by buying a VIP Pass for $10. The pass counts as a $10 credit towards your meal, so it effectively costs you nothing while saving you time.
Each member of your party must have their own pass to enjoy the benefits. The cost of the voucher is a credit towards your meal. The pass is not valid towards gratuity or merchandise.
- Undercover Tourist sells the Planet Hollywood VIP Pass.
Levy Restaurants operates three of the Downtown Disney restaurants: Fulton’s Crab House, Portobello Yacht Club and Wolfgang Puck Cafe. You can sign up for their free Levy Preferred Frequent Dining Program online. Then present your membership card each time you eat at a participating restaurant. You will receive 1 point for every dollar you spend (gratuity excluded). For every $250 you spend at any of their participating restaurants (not just the Downtown Disney locations — they have restaurants around the US), you?ll receive a $25 dining certificate on the spot, valid towards your next dining experience.
A few restaurants offer “show your card and save” discounts for members of the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).
- Save 20% on food (not beverages) at the following casual dining restaurants in the Swan and Dolphin hotels on Disney property: Cabana, Fountain, Fresh, Garden Grove, Picabu and Splash. Thanks to Marlene for info.
- Ghirardelli Soda Fountain in Downtown Disney sometimes offers 10% or 15% AAA discounts on its sundaes and other soda fountain treats. I’ve been turned down a few times, but other times have been given the discount. MouseSavers.com reader reports getting a 15% discount in February 2013. So it’s always worth asking!
- Save 15% on your McDonald’s order with a minimum purchase of an Extra Value Meal, excluding the Dollar Menu, ONLY at 25 participating locations in Orlando, Davenport and Haines City. Visit McFun.com for the full list of locations. Thanks to Marlene for info.
- Save 10% on food and non-alcoholic beverages at many Landry’s restaurants (including Landry’s Seafood House, Oceanaire Seafood Room and The Crab House, but NOT Rainforest Cafe, Yak & Yeti or T-REX). Valid for up to six people, including AAA member, per AAA membership card. Offer excludes tax, tip and alcoholic beverages. Not valid with any other offer, promotion, or discount. Thanks to Marlene for info.
Most Landry’s restaurants (including Rainforest Cafe, Landry’s Seafood House, Oceanaire Seafood Room and The Crab House, but not Yak & Yeti or T-REX) offer a 10% discount on food and non-alcoholic beverages for AARP members. Click here to learn more. Thanks to Marlene for info.
Click here to see AARP benefits at Denny’s (there’s one at Palm Pkwy/535). Thanks to Marlene for info.
D23 members get various dining discounts by presenting their membership card:
- Member and up to 5 guests get 15% off at House of Blues in Downtown Disney. Excludes alcohol, tax, and gratuity. Cannot be combined with any other offer. Some restrictions apply. Expires 12/31/13.
- Members can take 10 percent off a chocolate purchase OR $1 off a sundae at the Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop at Downtown Disney. Expires 12/31/13.
- Bottled Water
- FREE Ice Water (and How to Make It Drinkable)
- Club Cool
- Refillable Mugs
- Refillable Drinks
- Buy Beverages in Alternate Locations
You will need to drink a lot of water when you are at Walt Disney World. It’s very hot and humid for most of the year, and you’ll be walking great distances. This can add up to dehydration all too easily. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t like the taste of the tap water in Orlando. I am among them — I find it musty-tasting and unpleasant, though I will drink it if necessary.
That means you’re stuck with bottled water, which is widely sold throughout the theme parks — for about $2.50 a bottle! So here’s the #1 savings tip for beverages at Walt Disney World: bring in your own water! Disney allows it, and you will save a small fortune. One option is to stop at one of the local supermarkets or drug stores and pick up a case of bottled water after you arrive. Obviously this is no problem if you have a rental car. Most of the limo companies will make a short stop for you, as well. If you will be using a shuttle service, about your only option is to buy the water in your hotel’s shop, which may be slightly cheaper. It’s a good idea to put your bottled water on ice (get some from your hotel’s ice machine) overnight and take it with you into the parks each day.
You can buy a reusable bottle strap in all of the theme parks for about $3.50, which makes it easy to carry your water bottle over your shoulder.
MouseSavers.com reader Thomas M has this hint if you’re in the Magic Kingdom: “In front of Guest Services on Main Street, there are two water fountains. The fountain on the left hand side is filtered much better and tastes much like bottled water. You can often see cast members filling water bottles when on break.”
MouseSavers.com reader Dave H offers this suggestion: “Camelbak hydration packs… come in lots of sizes and styles, some as just a hydration pack, some as backpacks too! You fill them with ice from the hotel in the morning, it melts as the day goes on and you sip ice cold water off the attached tubing all day.”
If you don’t mind the taste of the local water, reader Jen M points out that “all of the counter service restaurants in the theme parks give out FREE ice water! I discovered this gem while my hubby (and all of the money) was on Buzz Lightyear with my son and I was dying of thirst. I walked into Cosmic Ray’s and asked if it was possible to get a cup of ice water. No problem at all! They even gave me a large cup! From then on, it was ice water for my family – which was not a hardship because we got tired of carbonated drinks quickly! At $2 to $4 a pop – that savings added up quickly!”
If you hate the taste of the tap water at Walt Disney World, consider carrying some small packets of sweetened Kool-Aid or Crystal Light with you and adding those to your cup of free ice water. Other good options: Lipton Cold Brew tea bags and Starbucks VIA packets (both the VIA iced coffee mix, which is sweetened, and the regular VIA, which is not sweetened, will dissolve easily in cold water and make very good iced coffee). Thanks to Dwayne O and Marjorie T for ideas.
MouseSavers.com reader Kellie B suggest bringing tea bags or hot cocoa packets into the parks during the colder months. (Starbucks VIA packets would work well, too.) She was able to get FREE hot water at the counter service restaurants in the theme parks.
If you find yourself thirsty in the Future World section of Epcot, head for Club Cool, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola. It’s nice and cool inside, and you can enjoy unlimited FREE samples of various soft drinks that are sold around the world, but not in the US. The options include:
- Smart Watermelon from China
- Fanta Kolita from Costa Rica
- Mezzo Mix from Germany
- Kinley Lemon from Israel
- Beverly from Italy
- Vegeta Beta from Japan
- Lift Apple from Mexico
- Krest Ginger Ale from Mozambique
My personal favorite is the Smart Watermelon, which I find very refreshing. Beware of the Beverly: it’s interesting, but very bitter.
All of the Disney resorts offer refillable insulated mugs for $15.49 plus tax. For the rest of your stay, refills on coffee, sodas (Coca-Cola products), iced tea and sometimes cocoa are FREE. (Milk and juice are NOT included.) If you are staying for a week or so and you drink a lot of coffee or soft drinks, this can save you quite a bit of money. These mugs can be used only at your “home” resort, not in the theme parks.
Animal Kingdom offers refillable cups with animal head tops. Purchase one for $6.79 plus tax and refills are just $1.00. This may be a seasonal promotion. Thanks to David T for info.
The Disney water parks sell refillable mugs for around $11. Refills of sodas are free that same day. If you return on another day you can purchase a sticker for $6 that reactivates the mug. The mugs for the two water parks are considered interchangeable, so you could go to Typhoon Lagoon one day and buy a mug, then go to Blizzard Beach the next day and take that mug (you’d have to purchase the discounted sticker to activate the mug on the second day, though). Thanks to David T for info.
None of the other Disney theme parks offer refillable mugs.
The following locations offer self-serve soft drinks, so you can go back and get refills without paying extra:
- Electric Umbrella (Future World) and Sunshine Seasons (The Land) in Epcot
- Backlot Express in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Restaurantasaurus in Animal Kingdom
- Contempo Cafe in the Contemporary Resort
- Earl of Sandwich and Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney
As far as I know, these are the only counter-service restaurants at Disney World that are currently offering self-service sodas. Thanks to Christopher L, Joe M, Debbie C and Paula H for info.
If you are staying at a Disney resort, it’s cheaper to buy milk in the hotel shops than in the food courts. If you have kids who drink a lot of milk, you may find you’re better off buying milk in the shop and carrying it into the food court with you.
Similarly, when staying at one of the Disney resorts, instead of buying a beer at the pool bar, you can usually buy one for less at the resort shop, though if it’s bottled you’ll have to transfer the contents into a plastic cup or mug because they don’t allow bottles by the pool.
Beer is much cheaper at the Hess gas stations on Disney property, than in the Disney resort hotel shops. Believe it or not, Disney’s hotels charge as much as $25-$30 a 6-pack for beer! Hess charges normal convenience store prices.
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 Main Street Bakery on Main Street, U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom.
- It appears that ALL of the Starbucks drinks at this location qualify as “snacks” in the Disney Dining Plans, so you can use your snack credits!
- You can also use a Quick Service credit from your Disney Dining Plan to get a breakfast: either an entree (breakfast sandwich/wrap) and a beverage; or a “Continental Combo” (a whole fruit, a pastry and a beverage).
- This location does accept Starbucks cards as payment and you can earn “stars” in the Starbucks Rewards program for your purchases. However, they won’t allow you to take advantage of other benefits of that program, and you can’t redeem free birthday drinks or other free coffees that you may have earned through Starbucks Rewards.
A Starbucks will be opening in Epcot at the Fountain View in fall 2013.
There are several advantages to eating breakfast in your hotel:
- It’s expensive to eat breakfast in the theme parks. You can save a lot of money by eating outside the parks.
- Eating breakfast before you leave the hotel allows you to hit the road earlier and get to the parks before the crowds arrive. It also means you’re not wasting precious morning hours (the least crowded of the day) sitting in a theme park restaurant.
- Many people find that their over-excited kids are much more focused on going to see Mickey than they are on eating breakfast — making a restaurant breakfast a real waste. MouseSavers.com reader Lynn H says, “More than once my son has eaten his breakfast cereal from a styrofoam cup with box milk. It saved us 45 minutes over a sit-down restaurant… [plus] starting the day with a familar food and routine for small children is invaluable.”
Consider bringing or buying a few items so that you can make breakfast in your hotel room. The Disney hotels (and some other 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.
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, I 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.
Your coffee maker can be used for more than coffee. You can run it to make hot water for tea, hot chocolate, etc. Some people even get creative and use the hot water they make in their coffee maker for “instant” items such as hot oatmeal.
You may want to choose a hotel that offers a refrigerator in the room, or inquire whether your hotel will provide one for a small fee. 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).
An inexpensive styrofoam cooler can serve the same purpose. However, in my experience, you will need to fill it twice a day with ice from the hotel’s ice machine, and I wouldn’t trust it with anything perishable for very long. I have put a pint of milk or bottles of water on ice this way. Also, coolers tend to “sweat” heavily because of the high humidity in Florida air. Don’t leave one sitting on the carpet in your room, or you will soak the carpet. It’s better to leave your cooler in the bathtub.
Some hotels — such as many all-suite hotels and the Disney Vacation Club resorts — offer a small microwave. That gives you even more breakfast options, such as hot cereals, and allows you to warm up sweet rolls, etc.
Another option, if you don’t feel like eating in your room, is to look for hotels that offer packages including a free breakfast.
- Buena Vista Suites always includes a full buffet breakfast in its room rates.
- Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village offers MouseSavers readers a FREE daily full service breakfast for two.
- Doubletree Suites by Hilton in Downtown Disney offers MouseSavers readers a FREE daily continental breakfast for up to a family of four.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village always includes daily complimentary continental breakfast in its rates.
- SpringHill Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village always includes daily complimentary hot continental breakfast in its rates.
Some all-suite hotels and all of the Disney Vacation Club resorts offer microwaves and refrigerators, or even full kitchens, which means you have many “do it yourself” meal options. Making meals at your hotel may not be very relaxing, however, unless you plan ahead to reduce the hassle of shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. It’s your vacation, after all!
Even if you don’t have kitchen facilities, it’s possible to create some light meals and snacks in your hotel room. If you do not have a kitchen in your room, however, I strongly discourage using any appliance that produces high heat, such as a toaster or tabletop grill. Using such appliances is a serious fire hazard and can endanger you, your family and other guests in the hotel. It can also produce cooking smells that your neighbors (and the people who stay in the room after you) won’t appreciate. Suites that include kitchens have the properly-rated electrical outlets, ventilation systems and most importantly, fire extinguishers! Regular hotel rooms do not.
See the section above for some easy breakfast ideas.
MouseSavers.com reader Teri M from Newton, Kansas shares how she fed six people very inexpensively during a trip to Walt Disney World: “… to save money I packed many non-perishable food items. What we found to be very good was the jar of peanut butter! The hotel we stayed at had free apples at the check-in counter. In the mornings we would spread peanut butter on the apples for a yummy breakfast. I had granola bars, mini packages of cookies and crackers, gum, beef sticks, etc. that were nutritional and easy to pack. It is also a good idea to plan to pack good treats for the plane trip as the airlines do not feed you on the trip anymore and the airports serve very expensive food.”
If you are thinking about bringing food from home, be aware that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suggests that you do not put dense food items (such as peanut butter, chocolate bars, etc.) in your checked luggage. It’s not forbidden, but the automated bomb-detection equipment tends to give false positives on such items. Your luggage is much more likely to be opened and searched outside of your presence if you check dense food items. Thanks to Mary S for the reminder.
A better bet is to ship non-perishable food items in advance to your hotel. Disney resorts will usually hold packages for you without charge* (see below for possible exceptions); if you are staying at a non-Disney hotel, be sure to call and inquire first. Address the package as follows:
Hold for guest: (write the full name under which you made the reservation)
Check in date: (insert date)
Hotel’s name and address (which will appear on your confirmation form)
You may want to check into getting your package delivered by FedEx Ground, which is frequently about the same price as sending a large box by USPS. If you decide to use FedEx to ship a package to a Disney resort, address the package as follows:
Hold for guest: (write the full name under which you made the reservation)
Check in date: (insert date)
1701 West Buena Vista Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
*The Disney resorts that have conference centers (Coronado Springs, Contemporary/Bay Lake Tower, Beach Club/Yacht Club, Grand Floridian) will sometimes apply a charge for receiving boxes, because their deliveries are handled through the conference center. The charge is generally $3-$5 per box, depending on size, but may be even higher for very large/heavy boxes. If you are not part of a group or conference, you can try to get the fee waived, though there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed. Thanks to Dave C for the reminder.
Disney’s resort merchandise shops carry a limited selection of groceries at convenience-store prices. Most American basics are available, such as milk, bread, bacon, eggs, cheese, breakfast cereal, coffee, frozen entrees, snacks, desserts, etc. Soft drinks and beer are exceptionally expensive. The selection is bigger in the shops attached to Disney Vacation Club resorts, since DVC villas have full kitchens.
Off-site hotels in the area vary widely in what groceries they offer, but most sell small containers of milk and cold beverages, as well as packaged snack foods.
If you will have a car (or are willing to pay for a taxi), there are plenty of supermarkets near Walt Disney World — click here to see more information. Taxis are expensive, so it’s a better deal just to pay the inflated resort prices if you only need a few items.
If you won’t have a car while on vacation — or you just don’t want to spend your vacation in the supermarket — there are two companies in the Orlando area that will do your shopping for you and deliver the groceries to your hotel. They are Garden Grocer and WeGoShop. I have had positive reader reports about both companies. If you plan to buy a substantial number of grocery items during your stay, using one of the shopping services will probably save you money compared with buying food from your hotel’s convenience store.
I have not used either company personally, but my sister-in-law used Garden Grocer and was very happy with the service. She says she chose Garden Grocer over the other service because it has exact products and prices on its website, which she found easier and more convenient. Garden Grocer has a minimum order of $40. There is a $14 delivery fee on smaller orders, but delivery is only $2 if your order is over $200. Tipping the delivery person is at your discretion.
By contrast, WeGoShop requires you to submit your own very specific list of items, including sizes and brands. You can also choose which supermarket they’ll use. So this company allows you to be very picky, but it takes a lot more time to put together your order. (If you just want to choose some basics and move on, Garden Grocer is a whole lot easier.) Also, with WeGoShop you won’t know the exact prices in advance. WeGoShop charges a shopping fee, which starts at $18 for orders of $50 or less and goes up to 13% of the order total for orders over $300 – plus a $2 “fuel surcharge.” You’re expected to tip the “personal shopper.”
- Please note: the Swan/Dolphin hotels will no longer accept grocery deliveries. Thanks to Keith H for info.
Disney Vacation Club members staying in DVC accommodations can pre-order groceries at least 3 days in advance and have them delivered on the evening they arrive. The selection is limited (it’s the same as what is available in the resort merchandise shops) and expensive, but it’s hard to beat the convenience of this option. A $10 flat-rate service charge applies. The order form can be found on the DVC members website.
- Disney Vacation Club members save 10% on groceries (not including alcohol) purchased in any Disney resort hotel merchandise shop at Walt Disney World. This discount is automatically applied to pre-ordered groceries.