Crazy food idea alert! We did NOT do a Disney Dining Plan. Unsurprisingly, some Disney enthusiasts might question our sanity. We are not insane. We are just poor and on a budget. Disney also wasn't offering free Dining Plans.
We wanted to eat cheap at Disney. But we also didn’t want to suck out all the Disney magic and fun by eating PB&J every day. Gross! So did we actually manage to eat cheap...and still enjoy our food? We did. What you'll find below is a multi-pronged food attack plan, which helped make our Disney vacation cheap, affordable, fun, and most of all – tasty.
Spending on food during our cheap Disney vacation: $137.59 (yes…for the whole 6-day trip)
Before arriving at our cheap Disney vacation
MyPoints is a free membership site where you earn points for “reading” emails and taking surveys. We each had an account and earned $110 in gift cards over the course of a year. We earned free gift cards for Burger King (used on the drive down), Landry’s (used on Disney property), and Chili’s (used off Disney property). You might be asking, “What is Landry’s?” Well, they own a bunch of restaurants, including two at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Rainforest Café and Yak and Yeti restaurant. We decided early that we were redeeming our MyPoints for cards to be used specifically AT DISNEY.
This process took a max of 2 minutes each morning and gave us $110 in gift cards for our cheap Disney vacation eating budget. Can you say totally worth it?
This mostly works if your Disney vacation involves driving (Transportation article) and you have a cooler in your car and you have at least a mini-fridge in your hotel room. We did because we stayed at a Deluxe Disney Resort...don't worry, we did this for real cheap too. Click here to read how we did it. Before you leave your home, pick a Walmart Supercenter that is about 45 minutes to 1 hour outside of Disney. The Walmart in Kissimmee is ridiculously overpriced and lame because they expect the Disney crowd masses to flock there. Many do.
Pick up good quality lunch meat, bread, snacks, and soda. Getting the good stuff will still be much cheaper than anything you’ll find in the parks. We never said it would be easy to eat store-bought food in a Disney park while watching others eat their Disney food. So pay a little extra for the store-bought good stuff and make life a little easier.
During our cheap Disney vacation stay
Armed with gift cards and Wal-Mart food, we conquered money-sucking Disney when it came to food. Chili’s gift cards can also be redeemed Macaroni Grill, On the Border, and Maggiano’s. Check each restaurant for any specials they have. Chili’s was having their all-you-can-eat soup and salad special for $7. Restaurants off Disney property are usually dead at 3pm and jam-packed at 6pm, while Disney parks are usually full to the brim at 3pm with whining vacationers. Where do you want to be at 3pm? We would go at 3pm and be eating within 20 minutes. This is highly recommended. We easily spent less than $25, which meant we would be able to enjoy another full meal with our remaining $25+ in Chili’s gift cards. Going at 3pm also ensured that we could order off the lunch menu, which happens to have lunch prices.
In the Disney parks
Because we had the Landry’s gift card, we ate at Yak and Yeti restaurant in Animal Kingdom for free! Well…really for a couple of bucks since we put part of the tip on our credit card. But it sure felt nice to have that great meal for such a discounted price at Disney.
Make sure to keep your leftovers! These restaurants serve a lot of food, and our lunches turned into dinners several times. Also, always carry some Wal-Mart snacks with you. It’s so nice to pop a couple of fruit snacks while waiting in a short line. Click here (link to tourguide Mike review) to learn how we waited only in short lines.
Last, but definitely not least, enjoy cheap Disney dining through delicious counter service! Read on Mousesavers what some classic Disney dishes are and their cheaper counter service equivalents. Mention any of the following to a Disney Cast Member, and they will know what you are talking about: Dole Whip, Tonga Toast, Crème Brulee, Zebra Dome, Earl of Sandwich, and Chocolate Croissant. The secret is they are waaaayy cheaper at counter service and just as good!
Use these tips as we did, and your food bills will be cut way down while still enjoying really good food. How many PB&J sandwiches did we eat during our cheap Disney vacation? Not ONE!