Disney Eating on a Budget (10 Cafes + Own Food Tips)


After years of thinking about it, you have finally decided to take your dream vacation to Walt Disney World. You are prepared to spend the money on getting to the resort and into the parks, but have you accounted for meals? Food is the biggest cost of a Disney visit, just after transportation and tickets. Dining at Walt Disney World is great for you, not for your wallet.

The best way, by far, to save money on eating at Walt Disney World is to bring your own food. Walt Disney World is quite liberal with their policy of bringing in outside food and drinks. You can bring in anything you want, as long as nothing needs to be heated, aren’t in glass containers, and are non-alcoholic. You are allowed to bring a soft-sided cooler to store your food.

Bringing in just one meal, or snack, each day can save you a lot of money but carrying your food can be a bit of a burden, especially if you’re bringing in multiple meals. There are ways to make the experience easier, try some of these tips:

  • Eat one (or two) meals at home. Go to the parks after breakfast and lunch, or plan an early day and eat dinner in your hotel room.
  • Plan your meals around what you want to see that day. If you want to stay for fireworks eat big buffet breakfast at a restaurant and pack your own food for lunch and dinner. If you want to get to the park for early opening you can bring some granola bars for breakfast, treat yourself to a counter-service lunch and return home for dinner.
  • Bring food that is easy to carry in one or two backpacks. If you don’t want to carry your food you can rent a locker at the park entrance. Locker rental isn’t free but it’s much cheaper than buying a restaurant meal.
  • Ideally, you want to pack food that doesn’t need to stay cold, but that’s not always possible or desirable. In the summer ice packs simply can’t keep your food cool for more than an hour or two, so make it a point to eat cold foods early in the day. TIP: put your ice packs in a plastic zipper bag to avoid damaging your autograph books and maps.
  • Sliced baguettes, crackers, wraps and dinner rolls travel better than loaf bread and sandwiches. Bring a small container of peanut butter or hummus to spread on the bread. In cooler weather chicken or tuna salad is a filling topping.
  • If you want to pack sandwiches consider packing wraps, lunch meat, and cheese separately. If you freeze the meat and cheese you can pack it in plastic and it will thaw as you visit the park, just be sure to eat it when it’s still cold. Another good sandwich option is a BLT wrap, individually wrapped in plastic and stored in a lunch bag with an ice pack on top.
  • Pasta salad is very filling and a good way to bring your veggies to the park. You can eat it right out of a plastic zipper bag, without carrying plastic containers.
  • Cut veggies with hummus for dipping is a good snack choice and it doesn’t need to stay cool unless the day is very hot. A jar of nuts, dried fruit, and vegetable chips are all healthy snacks to eat on the go.
  • Do not buy bottled water. Save your cash by filling empty bottles at water fountains. To save even more weight in your backpack, opt for paper cups. You can also ask for empty water cups at counter service restaurants. For variety bring single-serve drink mix packets.

A Walt Disney World vacation is sure to be a magical experience! Thanks to the many dining options available, and Disney’s relaxed stance on outside food, your vacation eating can be affordable!