As you can probably imagine, one of the things that I thought a lot about prior to our Disney trip (besides not forgetting competition uniforms) was what food we would be eating. A Disney vacation requires lots of pre-planning for various reasons but giving some thought to what and where you will be eating should definitely not be overlooked. While there are plenty of food options everywhere you look at Disney, it gets extremely expensive buying everything from water to dinner. I also think that eating at Disney is an experience all by itself, so I like to make sure I maximize the goodness that is Disney food!
So lets talk about planning your eating at Disney, shall we??
Before you go ask yourself these questions…
- Meal Plan or no Meal Plan?
- Am I bringing snacks, meals or drinks into the parks?
- What kind of amenities are in my room? Fridge? Microwave? Kitchenette?
- Am I up for making a quick trip to Publix when I get there? Or do I want to order from an online service like Amazon Pantry? Can I bring food from home?
- Do I want to have any special dinners while I am there?
- Healthy or just “Let it Go?”…..
- What Disney foods are on my bucket list for this trip and where are they located?
Disney Dining Plans (available through the Disney vacation packages)
The first time we went as a family, our vacation package included the Deluxe meal plan which gives you 3 meals per person per day along with 2 snacks per person. You also get a refillable mug which you can use at the resorts (and note you can ONLY refill them at your resort and not the parks.) We loved this plan and had some absolutely delicious snacks and dinners. I’m sure we got our money’s worth since it was bundled into our total package so we felt that it was a good deal. We also loved the idea of not having to worry about how much money we were spending on food while we were in the parks. I think that alone makes it worth the cost.
The only reason I might not get the deluxe plan again was because we were so tired from the parks that I’m not sure we appreciated the table service meals as much as we would have if we weren’t exhausted. When we were in the Magic Kingdom we ate a later meal at the Liberty Tree Tavern, and while the family style Thanksgiving Feast tasted amazing we were exhausted after dinner….and we had a long night ahead of us which included Jim carrying a passed out Taylor onto a jam packed monorail (ahhhh memories.) At Epcot we also enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the French table service restaurant and we were so stuffed I’m not sure we could enjoy any more Epcot Food afterwards..(which is a very sad thing, particularly during International Food and Wine Fest!) Maybe if we did it again I would do the table service meals for lunch or breakfast vs. dinner. That would definitely work out better!
The other dining plans give you access to quick service meals and snacks. I think that the quick service dining options are wonderful at Disney and with a little planning you can have almost as wonderful of a Disney food experience as the table service plans. We were really impressed with some of the quick service options!
The other three times we have been as a family we haven’t gotten the meal plans and here is why. Two times we have gone with Cheer and since we had some events and meals planned as a team we didn’t think it was worth it. In hindsight, the quick service meal plan may have still worked because I paid for a lot of breakfasts (hungry cheerleaders) so I may consider it next year. The third time we stayed with my brother’s family at the Grand Floridian in one of the condo type rooms and we had a kitchen so we ate some meals there which worked out really well, too.
Bottom line, the Disney meal plans in my opinion are a good option. It all depends on how your family eats, what events you have planned and what type of accommodations and access you have to food while you are there. If you price it out and it seems like a draw I would suggest trying the plan out. It really is nice to not have to worry about what you are spending on food at the park. Plus it really is fun to try new things to eat at Disney which the plan sometimes forces you to do:-). There are some ways to maximize the snacks and meals you get while you are there, too! You can research all of the dining plans here to figure out which plan works best for you.
Snacks and Drinks at the Parks
So, even if you get the meal plan it is still a great idea to bring snacks into the parks – particularly if you will be there for a while. You can bring food into the parks and you can also take backpacks onto rides so definitely bring one in. You will have to go through the bag check lines when you enter the park but the security guards are super nice and I always feel good knowing how thoroughly they check the things people bring into the park.
I suggest bringing at least one water bottle per person. While Disney will give you free water at the quick service dining spots, I don’t really like the taste of their water. At $2.50 per water bottle, buying water for the family can get expensive, too! So it is always a good option to bring water bottles in my opinion.
Granola bars, apples and bags of crackers are always a good option for snacks (nothing that will melt.) My friend Jennifer brought Uncrustables which I thought was a great idea along with some sliced pepperoni and bags of Pringles. It is inevitable for my kids to want actual Disney snacks (see above pic) but I feel like the snacks we bring in cut down on their hunger. Plus it gives them something to do while waiting in long lines.
When you book your room you should be able to do a little research on what types of amenities are available to you. I believe all rooms have coffee makers and some type of fridge, but I brought some instant coffee and creamer with me. I don’t love their in-room coffee, but you can always get hot water by running it through the coffee maker. All resorts also offer the refillable mugs for around $17 which might not be a bad option if you are eating and drinking at the resort (these also come with the dining plans.) If you are staying at a higher end resort you may have more amenties available to you. We had a mini fridge when we stayed at the Coronado Springs resort but we had an all out kitchen when we were at the Grand Floridian. The fridges at the moderate and value resorts are small so they won’t store a whole lot of food.
While there are usually some options for buying groceries at Disney resorts, this can get expensive. When we were at the Grand Floridian Jim bought a bunch of bananas that ended up costing about 12 dollars (2 dollars a piece)! So, while this is an option, it might be worth either bringing some groceries or making a quick trip to Publix when you arrive (if you have a car or want to take a taxi.) There are stores about 20-30 minutes away (depending on time of day and which resort you are in.) This last trip we made a quick stop on the way in (right off of route 4) and I’m so glad we did as I’m sure it saved us a bunch. Plus, then we didn’t have to go back off the property once we arrived.
Another good option is a grocery delivery service (particularly if you don’t have a car.) Amazon ships easily to Disney resorts and if you have Prime you can use their Prime Pantry service which has some great options. There is also a service called Garden Grocer which might be a good option for you as well. There are minimums and delivery fees but I bet it would still save you money if you are going to be there for a few days.
Disney also has some gas stations on-site which are cheaper if you need to buy drinks or some limited grocery options.
If nothing else I would suggest getting some water bottles, packaged snacks and any beverages (wine, liquor or beer) through one of these grocery options as this will save you a lot of money.
Disney certainly has some great dining “experiences.” When we went last year we dined at the Be Our Guest restaurant and while the food was good, the ambiance was unforgettable. Eating in a castle probably never gets old and on a hot day, lunch in an air conditioned restaurant can be a nice break. The biggest thing to know about these dining experiences is to plan and book ahead..and by “ahead” I mean as soon as you book your trip. It also helps to be flexible with times and locations. Many locations suggest booking 180 days in advance. Just note that you still may have a little bit of a wait for your meal when you arrive as these places get busy. Many of these meals may be included in your Disney Dining Plan, so another reason you may want to give those options another look! Make sure you download the Disney Magic Experience app to help secure reservations!
Healthy or “Let it Go….”
If you read Trish’s post yesterday you will see what kind of a walking workout you will get while at the Disney parks. But even though you are getting lots of steps in that isn’t any reason to just go crazy eating ice cream and popcorn (talking to myself:-)). While I have to admit that I go to the parks with healthy intentions I very often leave feeling like I did indeed just “Let it go”……while its fun to indulge on vacation its no fun to have upset stomachs from eating such a different diet while we are on our trip. It’s called balance, right?
If you want to really understand the healthy side of food at Disney, I highly suggest taking a ride (right after you go on Soarin) in Epcot on the Living with the Land ride. It is one of my favorites for some reason! You will see some exotic and native plants but you also get a great appreciation for how Disney sources a lot of their fruits and veggies. There are definitely some great healthy eating options at the parks, so I just suggest trying one of their salads or veggie dishes as they are yummy, too! We had a Greek Salad one night and it was delicious!
You may also want to consider splitting some of the meals as portions are very often quite generous. This chicken dinner at Pepper’s Market at the Coronado Springs resort could have fed the three of us (and it was delicious btw!!)
While eating healthy at Disney is definitely doable and delicious I find that it does require a tiny bit more planning and strategy (and willpower.)
What foods are on my bucket list for this trip?
While I think that most of the food is pretty good at Disney (healthy and not) there are for sure some foods I put on my bucket list when I’m there. So I don’t miss out on getting these goodies, a little planning here goes a long way! For instance, if you want a Dole Whip, there are only two places in the park to get them – Magic Kingdom and the Polynesian Resort. So plan on getting yours right before your Pirates of the Caribbean FastPass or right after riding the Jungle Cruise. There are also certain items that you can only get at Epcot (like Grapefruit Beer :-)) or at your resorts. A few of us wanted to try a Turkey Leg this trip but we missed out….0h well. Next time for sure!
Let us know in the comments below if you have any of your own tips for eating at Disney. We would love to hear them! Also, tomorrow I will give you my list of favorite foods at Disney World…along with my list for future trips.