How to Eat at Disney World on a Budget with a Family

These tips for how to eat at Disney World on a budget will help you learn the money saving ways to save on dining at Disney World.

When we talk about a vacation to Disney World the word budget isn’t the first thing you think about.

There are ways to do Disney World on a budget and in this article I am going to talk specifically about ways we eat at Disney World on a budget.

Dining can be one of the largest budget busters when visiting Walt Disney World. There are so many places to eat and snack it is easy to go off track with your spending.

I am not going to tell you to pack sandwiches and bring all your meals, because that is unrealistic for most people on vacation.

If you can and want to bring your meals, you can, but it is not always feasible during a trip to Disney World.

eat on a budget at disney world mickey and strawberries

About Dining at Disney World

Walt Disney World is home to four theme parks. They are Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

There are resorts that have character dining and fine dining restaurants. Disney’s Riviera Resort has a character breakfast with Mickey and pals.

Disney Springs is the shopping, dining, and entertainment area that offers a wide variety of options for guests.

If you are visiting the Disney theme park you will not run out of options for where to eat.

eat on a budget at disney world hollywood studios

Options for Eating at Walt Disney World

The two main types of dining options at Disney World are table service restaurants and quick-service restaurants.

Table service dining often requires a reservation. They can be made 60 days before arrival.

This type of dining is a sit down meal that is served family style, buffet style, or traditional ordering from a menu.

Pricing for sit down meals at Disney World are not cheap. You will spend a lot of money dining at table service restaurants with a family.

Quick-service dining is counter service. You order and pick up your food at the counter. Guests can also mobile order which saves a lot of time.

Difference Between Quick-Service Dining and Table Service Dining at Disney World

The biggest difference between quick service dining and table service dining is the price. The cost of table service dining can be expensive.

All the restaurants vary in pricing starting with basic sit-down all the way up to fine dining and character meals.

A character breakfast at 1900 Park Fare costs $49.00 per person for adults. Adults are anyone 10 and up. Kids 3-9 price is $29.00 a person.

For my family of 5 the cost would be around $250.00 plus tax and tip. If we did character meals each day we would end up spending over $1000.00 after 4 meals.

This is not to say you can’t do character meals on a budget but you need to be strategic about how you spend your money.

food at 1900 park fare breakfast
Breakfast Buffet at 1900 Park Fare.

Does the Disney Dining Plan Save You Money

At the Walt Disney World resort they offer Disney vacation plans where guests can purchase the Disney Dining plan as an add-on.

You would think pay before you stay would save you money but the short answer is no, it does not.

Let’s take a look at the pricing for my family of five to include the Disney dining plan in a 6-night vacation.

Disney Dining Quick Service Meal Plan: $57.01/adults and $23.83 (children 3-9)

The Quick-Service plan includes the following:

  • 2 Quick-Service Meals Per Night of Stay
  • 1 Snack or Nonalcoholic Beverage Per Night of Stay
  • 1 Resort-Refillable Mug

Disney Dining Plan: $94.28/adults and $29.69 (children 3-9)

The standard Disney Dining plan includes the following:

  • 1 Quick-Service Meal (per night of stay)
  • 1 Table-Service Meal (per night of stay)
  • 1 Snack/Nonalcoholic Drink (per night of stay)
  • 1 Resort-Refillable Drink Mug

The prices for the dining plan are per day. My family would spend around $500.00 a day if we purchased the standard dining plan.

For us it is not worth it at all. If you are traveling with children under 9 and you plan on doing a character meal the cost may work out if your favor.

If you are doing multiple character meals the dining plan may be a great option.

I highly suggest doing a bit of research on the cost of the dining locations you plan to do. Compare that with the cost of the dining plan.

Disney used to offer “free dining” deals but that is also not really free. Hotel room costs were typically more during those offers.

I always compare the prices of different special offers as well as where we plan to eat to see how I can save the most money on my Disney vacation.

eat on a budget at disney world quick service magic kingdom

Tips for Eating at Disney World on a Budget

I mentioned earlier that you don’t have to pack all your meals to stay on a food budget at Disney World but you will have to make some choices on how you want to spend your money.

As a family of five we usually spend between $900-$1100 for meals in the parks. This can ebb and flow depending on what we are planning for the trip.

If you want really cheap food you can eat off-site. You will spend less money. You can bring your own food.

For this article I am assuming you want to stay on-site on Disney property and find cheap eats.

What to Bring to Save on Food at Disney

The one thing we do bring to the parks are refillable water bottles. We save between $20-$25 a meal by sticking to water.

You can ask for cups of water at all restaurants or you can carry your own to fill. We usually do both.

I will also put a few granola bars or bag of pretzels in our backpack for the day. This helps if we get hungry between meals and save us time and money.

Share Meals When You Can

A great way we keep our costs at a cheaper price is by sharing an adult meal. Often the kids can share a meal or I can share with one of my kids.

You can also order a kids meal at a quick-service location if you are an adult. Find small ways to cut the costs.

Disney food is not cheap food but you can make it work for your Walt Disney World vacation.

Prioritize Special Meals

If you want to include a sit-down restaurant in your itinerary and you want to stay on a budget, make a plan to prioritize one or two dining options.

During a week long vacation we will usually plan a sit-down brunch on our rest day at Disney.

This is a non-park day where we sleep in, enjoy the pool at the resort, and relax. It is often a good day to take the time for a sit-down meal.

We don’t need to rush to get to the next ride and we don’t spend hours eating during our theme park day.

Pick a day during your trip and make reservations for one of the places you would like to dine at and plan for it in your budget.

If you are sticking to a strict budget you may want to only do quick service meals. This is fine and we have done it many times this way.

You will not be eating poorly if you only eat at the quick service restaurants. There is a huge variety of choices. Read this for more: Best Quick Service Meals at Disney World

eat on a budget at disney world table service

Eat Breakfast on the Go

Breakfast is one of the meals we try to save on. We pack granola bars and dry cereal to eat on the go.

I will make coffee in our room and then we head out for the day.

When we do this we typically eat an early lunch. This helps save on a meal and crowds are usually less between 11:00-11:30 for lunch.

Stick to Quick Service

Some of my favorite places to eat are the quick service restaurants. The menu items offer all different types of cuisine.

Sticking to quick service will keep your food costs lower than if you ate a table service meal.

After your quick service meals you can always pick-up some of Disney’s great snacks to share during your day.

Dole Whip, Mickey Pretzels, and churros are some of our favorite picks.

Best Places to Eat on a Budget at Disney World

All of the 4 Disney Parks have quick service locations and table service locations. You will find something in every budget and food preference.

Read this: Best Quick Service Meals at Disney World

Magic Kingdom:

  • Peco’s Bill Tall Tale Inn: Mexican
  • Casey’s Corner: Hot Dogs
  • Columbia Harbour House: Seafood, New England Inspired


  • Katsura Grill
  • La Cantina de San Angel
  • Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie

Disney’s Hollywood Studios:

  • Backlot Express
  • Catalina Eddie’s
  • Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo

Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • Flame Tree Barbecue
  • Satuli Canteen
  • Yak & Yeti
  • Harambe Fruit Market (Fresh Fruit stand)

Disney Springs:

  • Chicken Guy
  • Earl of Sandwich

Disney is always adding new snack and dining options. It is totally possible to eat on a budget at Disney World if you do a little preplanning.

Read Next: Best Disney World Itinerary Planning Guide for Families

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