Top 10 Tips for Maximizing Your Dining Budget at Walt Disney World

Castle Budget

Budget dining in Walt Disney World can be challenging, especially when planning for multiple family members. On the one hand you’re all for saving as much money as possible, but on the other hand you’re on vacation and do not want to be held back. The following tips can help strike a balance between affordability and splurging, allowing you to get the most out of dining on your Disney vacation.

10) Know your discounts

The first thing you should always check for when trying to maximize any kind of budget is discounts. When planning your dining budget, check what discounts you might be entitled to through your annual pass. Disney Visa card or even AAA. And if you’re ever unsure if you qualify for a discount, be sure to check with a cast member before you pay the check.

9) Focus on quick service meals

One really easy way to stretch a dining budget in Disney is to stick to snacks and quick service meals rather than table service ones. Quick service meals are significantly cheaper, and they can help you save more time for other things during your visit. Quick service dining can also be helpful if you have picky eaters in your family, as these locations often have less adventurous options than table service restaurants.

8) Factor in tips

Regardless of how you pat for dining, either out of pocket or with the dining plan, remember that gratuities are not included. When planning a dining budget, make sure you factor in how much you’ll need to spend on tips. It is important to do this so that you’ll be aware of how far your budget can go, and so that you’re better prepared to choose restaurants that fit within your budget.

7) Split quick service meals

Many quick service meals are large enough for two adults to share. Especially with all of the extra snacks you’re probably going to eat during your trip, you may not be able to finish entire quick service meals, that are typically larger portions.

6) Order off the kid’s menu

While not possible at table service restaurants, adults are able to order off the childrens’ menu at quick service locations. This can be a great alternative to splitting meals if you’re visiting quick service restaurants on a tight budget. Kids’ meals also generally come with a small drink, whereas adult meals do not.

5) Look out for free refills

While most quick service dining locations do not include free refills on soda, there are a couple of exceptions. Purchasing drinks at these locations can stretch your budget a little bit further as you can get multiple sodas for the price of one. If you’re really looking to save some extra money, I would avoid ordering soda unless it’s at a quick service location that includes free refills, table service restaurants as refills are always free, or all you care to enjoy dining experiences with soda, juice, and tea is already included in the price of the meal.

4) Save money ahead of time on gift cards

Saving money on Disney gift cards ahead of time is a really great way to plan an efficient budget for your trip. You can charge purchases (including dining) to your resort with your Magic Band, and pay off your balance during check out at your resort using the gift cards. This will help with the sticker shock of going on vacation and spending the extra money on food, and it may even help you avoid racking up unnecessary charges on credit cards.

3) Choose affordable table service restaurants

Believe it or not, there are some table service restaurants that are not very expensive. If you would like to enjoy a sit down meal without breaking the bank, look into restaurants like the Sci-Fi Dine in Theater, and the Plaza Restaurant. Disney resorts also usually have some more affordable dining options if you’re looking for a table service meal– check out the Grand Floridian Café, Beaches and Cream, and the Wave.

2) Do not pay for water

The amount of money spent on water at $2.50/bottle can quickly add up for an entire family over the course of a vacation, especially if you visit during the hot summer months. If you need water throughout the day (which you definitely do, especially in Florida!) ask for a cup of water from any quick service location for free. The water from these restaurants is also filtered, so you won’t have any problems with the taste if you dislike the taste of Florida tap water.

1) Decide whether or not to purchase the dining plan

The dining plan might (or might not) save you up to 30% on the cost of dining during your Disney vacation, which is why it is really important to do your research and see what the better deal is for you specifically. If you know that you’ll be eat everything that is included in the plan, booking it will likely save you a lot of money. If it sounds like too much food for you, it may be cheaper to pay out of pocket. Before you add the dining plan, do some research on restaurant menus and compare an estimate of what you would spend out of pocket with the cost of the plan.

BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best Walt Disney World deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!


Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."

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