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When it comes to budget, saving money on dining at Walt Disney World can help you go a long way. While the simple fact of the matter is you will pay a premium to eat on site, that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Here are some things to consider as you try to save money while you’re eating – or at least stretch your dollar further.

Note that all three of us really enjoy dining at Walt Disney World and are willing to spend a few extra dollars to do so. Dining at Disney often is as much about the experience as it is the food. So save where you can, but our best recommendation is that you enjoy yourself!

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Plan your meals

First and foremost, it’s important to plan your dining at Walt Disney World. We recommend doing research about places you might like to eat before you get to Florida. This helps you save money because it ensures you spend your dollars where you want to.

We generally recommend eating a big breakfast and snacking your way until dinner. That way you’re on the hook for only two meals, not three. There are plenty of “all you care to eat” options that can leave you full for a full day. Or, if it works, eat a big lunch and go easy on the other two meals.

Although it doesn’t necessarily save you money, we also recommend using meals as break times from the parks. You’ll appreciate the ability to recharge, especially when a meal is combined with a nap.

Share your meals

While Disney doesn’t have the biggest portions, they often have portions large enough that you can share – at least with your kids. Don’t feel pressure to order one entree per person, at some restaurants splitting appetizers will do just fine. A restaurant like Sanaa has a very well liked bread service that could serve as a meal for a small family given the number of carbs on display!

We also like to share meals because kids meals can sometimes feel like a waste. Or, if your kids insist on getting the kids meal but you know they can’t finish, share in the other direction.

Save time by utilizing character dining

Disney offers many character dining meals. At these special meals your dining is accompanied by visits from various Disney character. While these character dining experiences tend to be more expensive, we value the highly because of the time saved.

If you dine at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom for an hour and a half, you’ll meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto. Waiting to see those five characters in the parks could take you two hours on a good day.

So we recommend booking at least one character dining meal. Not only will it save you touring time in the long run, but they’re a lot of fun!

Bring your own food

If you are on a very tight budget, do know that Disney allows you to bring your own food into the parks. So go ahead and pack those sandwiches or whatever you need to get through the day.

If you’re coming in from out of town, we recommend using Amazon Prime Fresh to order groceries. They will deliver to your Disney hotel for a charge of only $5 (charged by Disney). This is a great way to get groceries you need to make bagged lunches if you don’t have a car. And of course, you’ll save a ton of money buying a gallon of milk than buying small cartons of milk for $4 a pop in the parks.

Think carefully about whether the dining plan makes sense

The Disney Dining Plan makes sense in a few scenarios, but in general, you end up spending more money when you get the dining plan. It simply ends up being too much food for your typical family. There are plenty of stories of families giving away dining credits to strangers at the end of their trips.

We also aren’t huge fans of “free dining”, since Disney’s free dining offers mean you have to pay rack rates for your Disney hotels (no discounts). If you’d like to learn more about when the Disney Dining Plan might make financial sense, check out this post.

One note: if you’re booking with points through Citi or AMEX, you may want to use the uplift on your points to pay for the dining plan. You’ll have to do the math for yourself but that makes it a bit different since you’re not paying with fungible cash.

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