In a recent blog post we talked about the Disney Dining Plans. If those plans didn't sound right for you, no problem! There are a lot of other options that might suit you better.
Part of the fun of a vacation for us is eating out, and trying new foods and restaurants, but you can still do that and not pay a fortune with a few of these tips.
Bring Your Own Drinks
We have an entire blog post about that. Just bringing in your own drinks can save hundreds! Click here to read that, or keep on reading to find out just about the food!
In room breakfast
While breakfast isn't the only meal of the day that you could eat in your room, it really is the most logical to do, because it's a time of day where most people don't eat a lot, they eat it quickly and it's a pretty simple meal. Things like fresh fruit, oatmeal packets, cold cereal, bagels, granola bars or yogurt are all things that are not only easy to bring with you at the park, or get from a store nearby, but also store nicely. Most rooms have mini fridges, and some even have microwaves. Not only will your wallet save big by eating an in room breakfast, you'll save a lot of time too.
Pack your snacks
If you carry a bag into the parks with you, why not toss in a bottle of water and a snack or two? Again, you'll save quite a bit of money bringing a snack versus buying one, and you could also eat while you are waiting in line for a ride, saving even more time and then pick out something special later when you have more time to enjoy it, or are hungrier.
Picnic in the park
Disney has a generous policy that allows you to bring a soft sided cooler (like this one here, for example) into the park with drinks and food. Frequent visitors or families with kids, especially those with special dietary needs, or those who just don't want what's on the menu can pack their own food (with plenty of cold packs or ice so no one gets sick) and then find a shady spot to break out the lunch when everyone is ready. If you aren't wanting to lug around more than you have to, freeze your waters and juice the night before and by lunchtime, not only will your food still be a safe temperature, but you will also have cold drinks.
Adults are allowed to order off of the kids menus at Quick Service, and a lot of those meals are perfect for a smaller appetite, or one reduced by the heat of summer. It's not all just peanut butter and jelly, at Backlot Express in Hollywood Studios, you can get the Darkside Chicken and Waffles, with chicken nuggets, a waffle, small drink and your choice of size between fries, carrot sticks, grapes or a cookie.
Split a meal
Another option is to split a meal. Some of the sandwiches are pretty big, pairs with fries you definitely could share with a friend.
Snack your way through
A popular thing to do in Epcot and Magic Kingdom is to snack your way around the world. Epcot has a ton of international treats both savory and sweet and you can get everything from sushi to french baguettes or eclairs pretty reasonably. With all those snacks right there, who really wants to stop for meals?
While the Disney Dining Plan is great, if you need more flexibility in your schedule, one of these options might be just right for you! Do you have a strategy for eating at Disney?
A pretty common question I get asked is how much money should I plan for when I'm at Disney World?
Really, the answer is going to vary as to your personal needs and wants, but here's a few categories to keep in mind when trying to estimate how much to allow in the “extras” budget.
Tipping-- If you get Table Service meals, you will need to tip. Disney will automatically add that to your ticket if you are in a part of 6 or more. Of course, you can always tip higher, or lower. While you can do that with cash, it might just be easier to put it on your credit card or use your magic band. Unless you decide what you want to eat ahead of time, you might not be able to figure out the gratuity amount until you are there. That said, you can still get a general idea by looking at the menus ahead of time which is always a good idea to do.
Mousekeeping-- There are a lot of opinions on tipping Mousekeeping. Some people do, some people don't. To be honest, our first trip I did not. It didn't even occur to me. On our second trip, the woman who cleaned our room was so nice and helpful, and she made several towel animals for the boys, but I didn't have much cash on me so I only left a tip at the end. Ever since I've kind of been annoyed with myself for that, because what if she wasn't the person who cleaned our room that last day? She wouldn't get the tip even though she did most of the work. This last time, I was prepared. And had little bundles (you can go here to read the article on tipping with examples) one for each night of our stay. While no, it's not necessary, since we were there several days, I just think it's something nice to do for the person who picks up our soggy towels and makes the bed. It can be an icky job at times I'll bet, and a little thank you might brighten up their day. I'm actually glad I did tip daily, because we had 3 different people cleaning our room. (Sadly, only the first lady did anything special with the towels. We had a man right up til the end and while it was clean, it wasn't “extra magical” like the first lady had done.)
While we are all about saving money on our trip, it's not at the expense of showing gratitude towards someone else, it's something that we are able to do because we have saved money on our trip. Check out some of these adorable ones Mousekeeping thank you envelopes Pinterest links to! Mine were not that awesome, but it's fun to see them! For tipping, the general guidelines are about a dollar a day, per person.
Souvenirs-- Whew! This category depends on if you are a shopper, or if you are just a looker! It's really easy to get carried away here! So I’m breaking this up into Kids and Adults.
Kids – What we do with the kids is give them $50 each from Mommy and Daddy but they also have to save up ahead of time. Since it's hard for kids to do that on their own, I just make it mandatory. A year or so before we leave, each allowance it's $1 into the vacation jar. When their Granddaddy sends them a little extra for Easter, or Halloween, they usually put that in there too. I try to encourage them to do some extra jobs and put money in there, because once they are there, that $50 from Mommy and Daddy really won't go too far if they want a big thing. I'm not mean though, I don't stick firm to that $50, if it totals $55 or something. And they know, if they really, really want something, chances are good I'll pick it up and set it aside for Birthday or Christmas. If you have kids too young to understand saving and spending, their saving up won't really apply, but if you have older kids, it sure doesn't hurt to have them save up a little allowance since you're the one paying for the trip! My oldest whispered to me our first day there, “Wow Mommy, you are right. Once we got here, we do want everything.” He was extra glad he had saved up so much!
Adults-- We actually plan out about $100 for each of us out of our vacation budget. We sometimes spend more though, because during a Disney vacation year, we don't get each other Mothers Day, Father Day or Birthday gifts, since those dates fall on either side of the trip. Instead, we take another $100 or so, to pick out some things that catch our eye down there. Anything above that, we use our personal spending money on. Both my husband and I tend to get things that are smaller in size and meaningful, or practical, like kitchen things or a wallet for me. I love things that bring the Disney Magic into our every day. You might be different, you might want to get a really nice handbag, some new shirts or even spend it all on experiences while you are there. Be sure to give yourself enough fun money though if you can't get to Disney often so you can enjoy splurging on things to give you Disney memories until the time time you go back. Frequent visitors may not really want to spend much, because they go so often and have it already.
Pressed Pennies and Quarters-- If you or your little people like pressed pennies, you are in luck! Those machines are everywhere, however a lot of people don't think to carry change around with them. Be sure to have quarters and pennies with you. They are slowly adding some machines that you can pay with a credit card, but those really aren’t as fun as the old fashioned hand crank kinds. Because it's very easy to do those machines mindlessly, if you have little kids who want to do it, just to do it, setting a limit might be a good idea, say, two or three times each a day so you don't blink, and realize you spend $20 on a handful of pressed pennies. (Unless you collect them, or make jewelry with them, of course!)
Meals and Snacks-- If you have the Disney Dining Plan, you won't really need to worry about extra money for meals and snacks, because the portions at Disney are so generous, and most of the time the heat also keeps your appetite smaller. If you aren't on the plan, you can get a good idea of the menu prices beforehand. Quick service you can get an entree, like a burger and fries, and a soda for around $15. Table service of course will be more, but chances are, you aren’t going to want to have that much cash on you. Snacks can be a dollar and up. If you do have the Disney Dining Plan, to make the most of your money, go for the snacks that are generally $5 and up. If you want a banana, go ahead...but pay out of pocket. That $2 isn't a good use of your snack credit. Save that credit for an eclair over at the France Pavilion in Epcot. You can go HERE to read more about the Disney Dining Plan and HERE to read more about Disney Dining Plan Tips and Tricks! so you can maximize your credits!
Specialty Drinks-- If you love fancy coffees, or want to sample some International adult drinks at Epcot, be sure to add that to your budget. Alcohol is not included in the Disney Dining Plan for 2017, though in 2018 it will be, however the drinks at Starbucks (even the biggest ones!) and milkshakes and some frozen drinks throughout the park are a snack credit and are a good value.
Laundry-- Some people do their laundry on vacation. Disney doesn't charge an arm or a leg to take advantage of that. Personally, it's not something we do because it's vacation, I'd rather be finding a Dole Whip or doing some Pin Trading than laundry, but sometimes you just need to wash something. At last I saw, it was $2 to wash, $2 to dry, and $1 for detergent. Or, you could just bring a little bit of detergent from home.
Misc cash-- There is a restaurant in Disney Springs we love to go to, Wolfgang Puck's Express. While it's not table service, it's not quite counter service either. You order, but they bring you your food, and stop by to see if you need a drink refill. We can use it on the Quick Service Dining Plan, so we aren't paying out of pocket. A lot of people don't tip there, but we do. It's usually just $5 or so, but we specifically make sure we have a little cash in our backpack for things like that.
While at Disney, is really is possible to go the whole time wallet free and with just your magic band. If you don't have one, your credit card will do, but it also doesn't hurt to have a few dollars in cash with you. You never know when you'll spot something and you can't use your magic band to pay. You might run into a tip jar at an ice cream place, so a few ones tucked in your pocket could be helpful.
When you are planning your trip, don't forget to think about these kinds of expenses when making your budget. It's better to overestimate how much you will spend and come home under budget, then to get home and faint when the credit card bill comes in!
Have I left out anything that you budget for your time on a trip? What's your biggest splurge, or your biggest save when you go to Disney?
Ohh I really like this Wordless Wednesday hosted by Focus on the Magic! (See the button at the bottom of my post)
Since we got back from our trip, all I can do is think about, and miss all of the wonderful food we had! Can't wait til we can get back, even though it's going to be a while!
Mmm!! WolfgangPuck Express! This is the bacon wrapped meatloaf. It's on the dining plan, but even if you don't have that, but it anyway! The potatoes make you weep, they are so amazing.
Be Our Guest open faced (yet it has a top?!) bacon and egg. I have seriously never tasted anything this good. It was light and fluffy and satisfying and magical. GOD BLESS DISNEY!
French pastries at Epcot. Need I say more? And why, oh why didn't I think to get the camera out before Mr. Disney Magic and my oldest attacked??!!
One of the pieces of Disney Magic we brought back home to ease our sorrow at leaving. Why is it upside down?! I have no idea. I can't turn the photo!!
Simple, classic, tasty. The Mickey Mouse Cupcake.
Click on the button to see other amazing Disney foods!
In a previous post I talked about the Disney Dining Plan. Maybe you've decided that it's the right plan for you. Now what? If you've never had the plan before, how do you know you are not just breaking even, but you are coming out ahead?
Depending on which Disney Dining Plan you selected, what you are going to need to spend in order to break even, or come out ahead is going to vary. It's usually not too hard though. We've got a few tips for that you make it pretty easy to maximize your Dining Plan credits.
Order expensive or order out of pocket.
When you've got the dining plan, no meal is off limits. So don't worry about the cost. Of course, if you want the Cesar Salad with Grilled Chicken for $15 while dining at the 50's Prime Time Cafe in Hollywood studios, go ahead. Just don't overlook Dad's Stuffed Pork Chop with Gouda Cheese, apples and herbs with roasted potatoes, carrots and a demi-glace drizzle for $25, because if you have the dining plan, price shouldn't be the first thing your eye wanders too on the menu. Get what you want.
If that salad still looks tasty, but maybe for later, use a snack credit on a smaller one, or wait and buy it somewhere as a late evening snack out of pocket. A lot of places have that salad.
Choose your snacks wisely.
The snack selection at Disney World varies widely. A snack credit can be a big bag of Chip and Dale's trail mix with a zip top (one of my fav's to take home!), a fancy cupcake in one of many different character designs (my boys love the Darth Vader one), or even 2 jumbo cookies with a big scoop of ice cream in the middle (Mr Disney Magic's favorite.) You could also use your snack credit on a banana, a package of grapes, a fountain drink, a bottle of water or a huge fancy coffee at the Starbucks. There are loads of other things to use snack credits on, but you can see, depending on what you want, the value is going to vary widely. A banana is not going to cost near as much as a caramel apple or huge Starbucks frappachino, just like a bottle of water isn't going to have the same value as a bowl of soup, or an appetizer from a food booth at Epcot.
Just like before, if you want it, get it, but if you are wanting to take some special Disney treats home for later, or you figure you are there, so you're just going to grab that bottle of water, you might want to pay out of pocket for the things that are inexpensive, like that banana. If a snack is more than $5, it's a good snack credit use. If it's under that, you will make out better just paying cash, and using your credit on something more expensive, or bringing home some treats.
A word on using snack credits: A reader brought up in a previous comment that they didn't realize that they specifically had to say they wanted to use a snack credit and had a shock their last night when on their list of charges were a number snacks, they thought were included in their dining plan. It was taken care of in the end, but save yourself the worry and time, and if you want to use a snack credit, tell the Cast Member you want to use a snack credit on that item.
If you eat 3 meals a day but only have a plan for 2:
If you want to have 3 meals a day but are only paying for 2, and you aren't really a fan of a in room breakfast like fruit or a granola bar, there's a few tips to stretch your meal credits. The snack credit can really save the day in this case. First, you could use a snack credit for breakfast to get a pastry or a bagel, or you could use it for lunch on a bowl of soup, a salad, or some other appetizer if you want to use a meal credit for breakfast. You could also consider splitting a meal.
Some of the portions are so generous that I am hard pressed to finish them, and at times, so was Mr. Disney Magic. For example, at Cosmic Ray's I ordered the half chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans. In the summer heat, that was a little too much for me, but would have been perfect for me to split with someone. We could have even ordered an extra side if we thought it wouldn't have been enough on it's own. Lastly, while it would be an out of pocket expense, you can also order from the kids menu, even if you are an adult. The Power Pack Lunch available at Quick Service places is really popular with adults to order, because it has a Danimals yogurt, apples, carrot sticks, goldfish crackers, an apple cinnamon snack bar and your choice of a milk, juice or water for $5.99. That's honestly quite a bit of food, but the best part is it's also pretty portable! Grab it and go get in an attraction line!
Order family style.
This sort of falls under the sharing category, but depending on where you go, using one of my favorites, Wolfgang Puck Express, as example, a family of 4 could eat using only 2 Quick Service dining credits by ordering 2 pizzas to share. The same thing could be if you ordered the half chicken and two veggies meal at Cosmic Ray's. Of course, you'll either need to buy two more drinks, or break out your bottled water of juice, but that's a perfect idea to stretch your credits out a little and use them later for an extra meal, or maybe on a 2 credit table service.
One of the best things about the Disney Dining Plan is the flexibility you have to order what you want, when you want. Sure, you could do that anywhere really, but with the Dining Plan, it doesn't matter if what you want is $6, or $26. With the dining plan, you are covered and it all basically costs the same! No worries if someone wants something pricey!
If You Like to Eat a Lot or Want to Meet Characters
Those with large appetites or interested in having a meal with a character would benefit from booking table service for buffets, or character dining. Some restaurants even include VIP seating for nighttime shows. Check to make sure that you are booking one that only requires one credit though. If it requires two credits, it might make more sense to pay out of pocket.
Keeping Track of Your Credits
Remaining meal and snack entitlements will always appear at the bottom of your receipt, so hang on to those, or at least your most recent one so that you make sure to use all of your credits before your trip is over. The night before your departure, or the day of, stop by the gift shop to use those last few snack credits so nothing gets wasted.
Are you a Disney Dining Plan fan? What's your favorite thing to use a credit on?
Disney offers a really nice perk to those staying on Property. A souvenir mug that's not only solid quality but will stand up to many times in the dishwasher and many tumbles onto the floor without any fading, cracks or marks.
Anyone staying at an on property resort can buy one of these refillable mugs, but those who purchased the Disney Dining Plan get to have the mug included at no extra cost. If you want to learn more about the Disney Dining Plan, click right here to read my post about it.
What is this mug?
The refillable Disney mug lets you fill up your mug as often as you want, with whatever you want in the food court area of your resort, or any other for the length of your stay. There is a RFID chip in the bottom of it, that allows the owner to fill it up. There is a small time delay between fill ups. If you tried to use a different cup, say a regular sports bottle without the RFID chip in it, the machine won't dispense the beverage.
What can you fill it up with?
Disney has Coke products, and you'll generally find the same things on tap that you would most any fast food place, Sprite, Coke, Diet Coke, Hi-C, lemonade, root beer, etc. You can also get tea from their tea machine, which usually has four different kinds available, sweetened, unsweetened, white citrus or green. If you like hot drinks, it's all you can drink hot tea, hot coffee or hot chocolate. You will not find juice or milk available to fill in the mug. There are also mug wash spots near the drink dispensers so if you want to fill your mug with orange soda, the last few drops from your morning coffee won't make it taste strange.
How much does this cost?
The mug, and it's unlimited refills costs $17.99 for the length of your stay.
Where can I fill this up at?
At your resort, or any other Disney resort if you feel like carrying it around. You cannot fill it up within the Parks though. If you want to fill it up in the morning and drink it at the bus stop, be prepared to carry it with you until you get back to your room.
How does this work?
After you have selected the color mug that you want, (usually available are red, green, blue, yellow and purple) take it to the cashier and he or she will activate it. Go over to the drink station and follow the instructions on the digital pad. (Basically setting the cup down, waiting a few seconds, then pushing the button to dispense the beverage choice)
Why is this right for me?
This might be right for you if
Why should I skip this?
You might not want to buy the mug if
If the average person bought only three drinks a day, let's say a morning coffee ($2.79), an afternoon soda ($3.29) and an evening tea ($3.29), based on food court prices it would come to $9.37. On a 3 day stay that equals $28.11. The mug is more than paid for, and it's cheaper to have the drinks, plus the mug to take home as a run reminder of your vacation.
I'm on the fence as to if I should get this.
In our opinion, it's completely worth it for the mug since just three drinks in it a day and it's paid for by day two, but I know there are people who don't drink anything other than water, so you'll need to figure out what works best for you. There is always the option of just buying one or two mugs for a family, if some are soda/tea/coffee drinkers and some are not.
What about you? Have you ever gotten the Refillable Mugs before? Do you like them or is it not a good buy for your family?
When not doing everything Disney, you can find me loom knitting, gardening and bargain hunting. After all, a dollar saved is a dollar towards Disney! I am not a Disney Vacation Planner, so I'll never be pushing my services, however on occasion I might post Amazon affiliate links. You won't pay a dime more, but buying through my links helps support the maintenance costs for the site.