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Money Saving Disney Dining Tips

 Money Saving Walt Disney World Dining Tips

Although Disney Dining can be expensive, there are several ways to save money on counter service, table service meals, and snacks. Using these money-saving tips can help.

Disney’s Dining Plan Annual Passholder Dining Discounts Bring Snacks Sit-Down Meals Sharing Meals Have Dessert Restaurant Dining

Disney’s Dining Plan

The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is Disney’s Meal add-on component to Disney Resort Hotel Vacation Packages (which include park admission tickets) and is available only to those staying at a Disney-owned resort for the length of stay. The Dolphin and Swan, Shades of Green, Disney Springs and Good Neighbor hotels and resorts are excluded. Packages that include hotel and dining can only be booked over the phone and require at least a two-night stay.

Disney offers two levels of the Disney Dining Plans, including the Quick Service Plan and Standard Plan. To learn more about the two Disney Dining Plans offered and how to use them to your advantage, visit our Disney Dining Plan page.

Using Disney’s Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) system will help to optimize the savings from your Disney Dining Plan. Disney highly suggests that you make at least some restaurant choices in advance to ensure availability. You’ll find tons of tips about restaurant choices on our ADR page and on our Saving Money at Walt Disney World Restaurants page.

In order to get the most out of the Disney Dining Plan, it’s important to have a list of restaurants and their prices. Like anything else, it takes a bit of footwork to make the Dining Plan work to your best advantage. TheMouseForLess.com has a complete list of menus available for Walt Disney World restaurants. Many Disney restaurants are more than just the food served and include unique dining experiences you won’t find anywhere else. You can also use the ADR calculator to figure out the first date for which you can make ADRs.

Lastly, watch for Disney to announce future Free Dining packages. For the past several years, Disney has offered a Disney Resort Hotel Vacation Packages that includes a Dining Plan at no additional cost. This is a great deal. Visit our Packages for Every Budget page to learn more about the Free Dining Package.

Mouse For Less Money Saving Tips

Check our Current Code and Discount page to locate all recent promotions, to see if a Free Dining deal is currently available.

Look for shareable meals. For example, Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom offers a 1/2 Chicken and BBQ Ribs Combo that’s big enough to share. The cost is $15.69, but it only requires one Quick Service credit – making it a great choice when on the Disney Dining Plan.

At counter-service restaurants, you can order a regular or large fountain drink. The default on the Disney Dining Plan is the regular size, but if you’d like a large, you just have to ask.

Most Snack credits can be used for individual serving snacks under $5. To get the most bang for your buck, avoid buying bottled water with your snack credits. Instead, try purchasing specialty cupcakes at bakeries or other desserts in the parks that typically sell for $4.99 or higher.

Signature Restaurants at Walt Disney World Resort require 2 Table Service credits on the Disney Dining Plan. It is unlikely for a meal at one of Disney’s Signature Restaurants to cost twice as much as a meal at a regular table service restaurant. Therefore, Signature Restaurants are generally not considered a good use of table credits on the Disney Dining Plan.

Annual Passholder Dining Discounts

Annual Passholders are entitled to discounts at select Walt Disney World restaurants. Most discounts are 10%, but there are a few of up to 20% at Disney Springs restaurants. Check here for a complete listing of Annual Pass Discounts at Walt Disney World restaurants.

Disney has added the ability for Annual Passholders to purchase special packages that include the Disney Dining Plan without tickets. Every person in the reservation needs Dining Plan for the stay, but only one person per room requires an Annual Pass. There are no minimum stay requirements, but a $200 room deposit is necessary and payment in full is due within 30 days of the visit. Cancellation fees will apply.

For Current Annual Passholder package deals that include the Dining Plan, check our Current Codes and Discount page to see what, if anything, is available for your travel dates.

Dole Whip Snack

Bring Snacks

Disney will search backpacks, purses, and anything else carried, pushed or pulled into the parks. While visitors are not permitted to bring large coolers or rolling backpacks into the park, Disney does not object to packing a few snacks as there are no picnic areas available. Small coolers or picnic totes (no larger than 24″ x 15″ x 18″) with a shoulder strap are fine and help with money-saving, as long as they do not contain any alcoholic beverages or glass containers. Other than strollers, guests may not bring any wheeled conveyances into the parks. Consider bringing packets of peanut butter crackers, granola bars, fruit roll-ups, candy bars, beef sticks, juice boxes, and other small snacks from home.

If your luggage room allows, slip in a few bags of popcorn for an evening snack or Pop-Tarts for the morning. Most resort food courts and quick service restaurants have a microwave and toaster for guests’ use, as well as free condiments like peanut butter, honey, jelly and butter. Speedway gas stations on Walt Disney World property offer affordable snacks. Generally, they are a little cheaper than at resort grab ‘n’ go sections for snacks, sodas and bottled water. There are three Speedway stations on property. Three Speedway gas stations are available in Disney World. One is near the Magic Kingdom parking lot exit, another is across from Disney Springs, and the third is near the entrance to the Boardwalk Inn.


Make Your Sit-Down Meal Lunch (or Breakfast)

Disney has some fabulous restaurants and dining experiences. If you can purchase a Dining Plan as part of your vacation package, that’s great news. You’ll get to sample many of them. If you’re on a tight budget while vacationing, you may need to cut costs on food.

Don’t underestimate, however, just how much “Disney Experience” is incorporated into dining at Walt Disney World. Vacationers who cook all of their meals or dine only at counter service in the parks will miss out on a lot. We have some suggestions for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Dining.

At table-service restaurants, lunch and dinner menus often have the same options, but lunch prices are typically lower. At the very least, the opportunity exists to sample some great theming and interactive fun. This tip applies specifically to table service restaurants in the Epcot World Showcase, Disney Springs, and some lunch-serving restaurants at Deluxe Resorts.

If on a budget, consider dining as part of the experience and partake at lunch. All of the table service restaurants at Disney’s Hollywood Studios offer identical menu and prices for both lunch and dinner. So, don’t plan on using this tip at that theme park. At Epcot, only Le Cellier, Teppan Edo, and Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya offer the same menu and prices for lunch and dinner. At Animal Kingdom, Rainforest Cafe and Yak & Yeti have one menu for both lunch and dinner.


Disney has downsized counter service portions in many locations. At the Animal Kingdom, head for Flame Tree BBQ. The 1/2 Chicken and BBQ Rib Combination for about $15 is one of the few remaining park meals that is bountiful enough to share. Sharing can still be a great idea for saving money at sit-down restaurants, and is a good way to sample some of Disney’s finer dining. When dining out, consider sharing an entree and ordering supplementary items like salads, soups, or flatbreads. Add some sides to your meal for a delicious experience without spending too much. It’s cheaper than getting another main course like Cedar Plank Roasted Salmon at Artist Point or Braised Beef Short Rib at Jiko.

Some Disney veterans have said they prefer to purchase kids’ meal at counter service restaurants rather than share. Kid’s meals cost $4.99 and include burgers, mac & cheese or chicken nuggets. Some restaurants have new options like baked chicken and turkey meatloaf. Two sides like carrot sticks, grapes or applesauce are included along with a small drink. If you prefer, you can request to have fries and soft drinks as a substitute. Be aware that this is not an option that will work at table service restaurants where kids’ meals run $8.59 and wait staff knows who’s ordering what.

Sharing, especially at a table-service restaurant, may not always work well for guests using a Disney Dining Plan. Pay attention to what is included in a plan meal before choosing to share.

Cupcake Desserts

Have Dessert and Soak up the Atmosphere

On a budget, this is one of the very best ways to experience Disney’s finest restaurants. With Disney heavily promoting their Dining Plan these days, seating is getting harder and harder to come by without Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs). However, with a little effort, guests may still be able to make this strategy work. Try for a walk-in at odd hours like 3 p.m. or have an early dinner in the parks and try for availability after 8 p.m. Try World Showcase restaurants in Epcot or take a resort monorail from Magic Kingdom for dessert.

Our suggestion would be to visit Narcoosees or Citricos at the Grand Floridian (you just may get a great view of MK fireworks with dessert). The California Grill at the Contemporary Resort is located on the 15th floor and has one of the most spectacular views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks anywhere. The chances of getting a walk-in table in the evening for dessert is next to nil. If you’d like to see the fireworks, make ADRs for the appropriate time well in advance.

TheMouseForLess Tip: If you can’t get reservations for California Grill during the firework viewing, don’t worry. Dine, return, and watch fireworks from 15th-floor balcony at Contemporary Resort. To gain access, present your receipt at the podium located on the second floor.

More In Depth Dining Tips:
Cooking Meals and Ordering Groceries for Delivery
Shopping For Groceries Locally
Saving Money on Walt Disney World Restaurants
On-Property and Off-Property Restaurant Coupons
Refillable Mugs & Beverages

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