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A Disney vacation can be pricey — especially if you eat at the parks. Luckily, we have all the tips that you need to make sure you’re getting the best deal at all the Disney restaurants you will visit.
We’ll show you how to save 50% on your meals and what the best food item is at Disney. Plus, a list of the best secret menu items at Disney parks.
Be sure to check out our hacks for a Disney vacation for the best tips on saving money and time.
1. Bring your own snacks into the parks.
This is the biggest tip most people forget about. The best way to save money on food at Disney parks is to just bring your own snacks — whether you pack them in your luggage or buy them outside the park. It’s totally allowed!
Just remember, whatever you pack, you gotta carry around. But chances are, you’re gonna spend a LOT less on food. A Mickey pretzel costs $7.25 to feed one person, while a 16 oz bag of pretzels from Walmart costs $1.98 (and multiple people can snack on it).
If you’re wondering what else you should bring to Disney, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate Disney packing list.
2. Never buy water at a Disney theme park, because you can always get it for free.
Did you know that you can get a free cup of water at any counter-service restaurant? This way you can save $4 – $6 on a bottle of water.
All you have to do is ask for a cup of water, and the Cast Member will hand you a small cup of water. If you want a larger cup, just ask. Or bring an empty bottle into the park and refill at stations scattered around the park (typically in dining areas).
This will always work, but there are a lot of Disney Tiktok tips that just won’t work no matter which park you visit.
TIP: Did you know that you can also get free water on your Disney cruise? All you have to do is bring your own bottle of water, and you’re set to get as much water as you want from the soda fountain station. Just another way you can cast away those high Disney cruise prices.
3. The cheapest snack you can buy at a Disney Park is the Popcorn Bucket.
The Popcorn Bucket is a collectible plastic container that costs $10 – $12, but after that first purchase, you get popcorn refills for $2 throughout your time at the park — the cheapest snack available.
Since Covid, Cast Members give you your refill by filling a couple of smaller cups with popcorn, and you refill the bucket yourself.
Best of all, if you bring your popcorn bucket to your next Disney vacation, Cast Members will still give you the $2 deal.
4. Order your food ahead of time with the Disney park app.
You should always download the Disneyland app or Disney World app before you go on your vacation. It comes with plenty of perks including the new Disney Genie function and Lightning Lane reservations.
But one of the best features is the ability to skip the long food lines. With the app, you can browse menus, order food, select a pick up time, and keep moving. There may be a wait in line (like the photo above), but it’s a fraction of regular food lines.
5. Skip meals at the parks altogether by placing an online grocery order.
The best way to spend less on Disney dining is to not spend anything at all! You could shop at a nearby grocery store, but I love the option of getting groceries delivered to my hotel via Amazon Fresh (free delivery for orders over $35), Instacart ($3.99 delivery for orders of $35+), or Walmart Grocery Delivery ($9.95 delivery fee).
Whether you’re ordering ready-made sandwiches, cans of soda, fun packs of chips, or fresh fruit, hotels near the theme parks are equipped to handle your online grocery orders. At Disney resort hotels, the bell desk receives your groceries and lets you know when they’ve arrived.
To make sure you have your groceries before heading to the park, schedule your food delivery between 6 – 8 a.m. You’ll need to place the order as soon as possible. (Walmart lets you schedule up to 6 days in advance.)
RELATED: How to Save Serious Cash with Amazon Grocery Shopping
6. Disney Dining Plans are more trouble than they’re worth.
If you book a room at a Disney resort hotel, you’ll get the option to purchase a Disney Dining Plan add-on.
The DDP is a pretty controversial topic among Disney fanatics, with people either swearing by them. . . or swearing at them.
There are four different tiers of DDP, and all of them come with a certain amount of snack credits and meal credits:
These plans are prepaid and are nearly impossible to cancel once purchased. If you have the time and discipline to plan ahead, you can get a good deal on Disney food. But most people just use the credits for whatever they want — and often don’t get the value they paid for!
Plus, your ability to use some of the sit-down dining credits depends on whether you can get into the restaurant, either by waiting in line or by placing a reservation way ahead of time. You could always use your sit-down credits at a quick-service restaurant, but Disney makes money from that choice.
At the end of the day, these Dining Plans seem convenient, but to get a good deal they’re way more trouble than they’re worth.
7. Get a breakfast reservation in the parks as early as 7:20 a.m.
If you want to get into the parks early, make a reservation at a Signature Restaurant, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom, Oga’s Cantina at Disneyland, or Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios, inside the park for 7:20 a.m. When you show the Cast Member at the gates your reservation, they’ll let you into the park before it opens at 8 a.m.
Note: You can’t do this when your park is offering early entry to Disney resort hotel guests (also known as Extra Magic Hours).
8. Not that hungry? Get a kids meal to save up to 50%.
A Disney parks kids’ meal comes with a main entree, side, and a small drink for about $7 – $8, while an average adult meal at a Disney park costs $11 – $16. Consider getting a kids’ meal to get the Disney restaurant experience without the price (and if you think you’ll still be hungry, bring snacks).
Also: Food at Disney restaurants is always sold as a combo meal by default, but you can order the main dish a la carte if you don’t want all the extra sides (like fries or fruit and a drink). You’ll save a quick $2.
9. Your best bet for a Disney sit-down dinner is at Disney Springs or Downtown Disney (not the parks).
If you can’t get a reservation at a Walt Disney World restaurant (they typically fill up 4 months in advance), try going to a Disney Springs restaurant. They are located just outside the park (close to Epcot) and are a great alternative to a Signature Restaurant inside the park.
For example, you can dine at Disney’s Boathouse seafood and steak restaurant costs $15 – $35 per person, on average, while the Liberty Tree Tavern at the Magic Kingdom costs $35 – $60 per person.
At Disneyland, you’ll find similar dining options at the adjacent Downtown Disney shopping district.
10. AAA members can get 10% off at certain restaurants.
It isn’t at every restaurant, but if you have your AAA Membership card on you, you can get 10% off at some of the restaurants at Disney. Here’s a list of restaurants where we found AAA member discounts:
- Rainforest Cafe at the Animal Kingdom
- Ghirardelli Soda Fountain at Disney Springs and Disneyland
- Earl of Sandwich at Disney Springs
11. If you’re staying at a Disney hotel, get a refillable mug.
Once you pay the $19.99 for Disney’s reusable rapid-fill mugs, you can refill them with water, soda, coffee, or tea as much as you want at your hotel. Individual drinks start at $3.99 each, so as long as you’re planning to refill at least five times, it’s totally worth it.
There’s an RFID chip inside the cups that tells the soda machine to pour, and 7 days after you bought the cup, it’ll no longer work. So yeah, you can’t cut corners by purchasing one of these cups on eBay.
The refillable cups aren’t at Disneyland resort hotels or any of the parks.
12. You can get food freebies at a few different places.
Check out our list of Disneyland and Disney World hacks for some store-specific restaurants, but there are a few places where you can get a free snack. Here are a few that we found:
- Free sourdough bread at Boudin Bakery in Disneyland’s California Adventure
- Free samples at some kiosks (dependent on Cast Member)
- Free soda from around the world at Club Cool in Walt Disney World’s EPCOT
Note: Some locations are refraining from giving out free food due to concerns related to Covid-19.
13. The most popular food items include Mickey Ice Cream Bars, Dole Whip, and churros.
There are some goodies that you can only get at a Disney park. We scoured the internet and talked to Cast Members, and these are the most popular food items available at Disney parks:
- Mickey Ice Cream Bar ($6.00)
- Mickey Pretzel with Cheese Sauce ($7.00)
- Dole Whip ($5.00)
- The Popcorn Bucket ($12.00)
- Disney Churro ($5.50)
- Giant Turkey Leg ($11.75)
- Mickey-Shaped Rice Crispy Treat ($5.49)
14. Feeling adventurous? Disney parks have a secret menu.
There aren’t many secret menu items at Disney restaurants, but we’ve compiled a list of some we found online for you. Let us know if you were able to nab them.
- PB&J Milkshake at the Tune-in Lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Watermelon Dole Whip Taco at Disney Springs (multiple locations)
- Ice Cream Nachos at the Golden Horseshoe in Disneyland
- Candied Bacon on your Dole Whip at Tropical Hideaway in Disneyland
- Neopolitan Shake at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Disneyland
- Lemon and Mango soft serve twist at Adorable Snowman in Disneyland
And if you’re going to Starbucks while you’re there, you can order all the popular Starbucks secret menu drinks.