Saturday, June 19, 2010

Part IV Finale - Saving Money at Walt Disney World: Food and Refreshments

Today’s article will be about saving money on food and refreshments at Walt Disney World. Also, we’ve come to the last of the six articles related to the topic of saving money (two, saving money for your trip; four saving money on your trip). Its not that there aren’t a lot more ways to save money other than what I’ve included, its just that I want to move on to other topics; and I’ll come back to the saving money theme from time to time. But at the close of this post, I’ll provide you a few other web sites that mostly focus on saving money and affording a WDW vacation. I always find them helpful and I’m sure you will too.

Let’s review the first three articles in this series. Part I ran May 29. The topic was resorts and strollers. The emphasis was on advance planning, watching for Disney specials, considering using a Disney certified travel agency and if you need a stroller, rent one from an off-site location to get the best pricing.

Part II was on June 5. The topic was park tickets. We referred you to the Mousesavers.Com web site for everything on tickets. Also, take longer not shorter trips, consider single-day not park-hoppers, and you likely don’t need a “no expiration” feature. If you only need tickets, buy online but only from a Disney Authorized Ticket Agency, do your research and you might a Annual Pass worth the investment, and avoid buying partially used tickets.

In Part III on June 12 our discussion was about souvenirs. For example, consider buying a bunch of your Disney-related clothing at department stores near home, at off-site locations in Orlando or online. If you have a Disney store nearby, watch for their discounts. Bring all the supplies you need (including batteries, film and baby stuff), but if not and you are renting a car, shop at superstores or drug stores off site (remember your GPS). Again with a car, eat a few dinners off-site and save more than a third the cost of Disney restaurants. E-Bay is a good place to buy Disney stuff, like mugs, or pins or collectibles. Watch for specials online from The Laughing Place Store. (A World View is a product sales affiliate). We also listed a few quick tips like getting the free Orlando Magicard.

Now for the meat (so to speak) of this article. In no particular order, here are some ways to reduce the cost of food and refreshments on your Walt Disney World vacation.

Be on the free meal plan. Notice I put the work “free” when talking about a Disney Dining Plan. There is a lot of debate on whether the Disney Dining Plan is worth buying and it’s another one of those things that take some planning. I’m a believer that free dining is a good thing. However, if free dining is offered at the same time as a room-only discount, then you need to consider how many in your party, and which saves more.

There have been some articles written about this subject, and here are a few: MouseSavers has a nice article on maximizing your dining plan with tips and tricks; Everything Walt Disney World says it depending on your eating habit as to whether the purchase is worth hit; The Disney College Blog looks at free dining and room discounts; TouringPlans.Com does some of the math; and EasyWDW finds free dining a deal for Value and Moderate Resort guests but also discusses things you must know.

Want to read more about Dining Plans? Here are the 2010 Disney brochures:
- Quick Service Dining Plan
- Disney Dining Plan
- Disney Deluxe Dining Plan

There is one web site you absolutely need to visit when preparing your WDW vacation and that is the Disney Food Blog. One day soon I will devote a full article just on AJ’s great service to the Disney community. But suffice it to say, if you want recommendations, examples of the meals you will discover on site, details on the Food and Wine Festivals and reference links to even more, spend a few hours (or more like I do) reading about how “food is a theme park” in the Disney Food Blog. And to contribute to this conversation, check out a guest post on TouringPlans.Com written by AJ... Tips for Saving time, Money and Your Sanity While Dining in Disney World.

You heard that you should never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry; well the same thing applies to Disney Parks. Have breakfast before you arrive in the morning; have lunch or dinner before you return if you rest mid-day at your hotel. And eating off-site (with a rental car) will be a lot less expensive than the equivalent meal at the Parks.

Many people bring coolers to the parks. You’re allowed except for alcohol and glass containers. This is a great way to carry water, juice boxes or other beverages, fruit, snacks or even a picnic lunch. You see a lot coolers occupying the second seat on a two-seat stroller.

Make sure you have small fridge in your room for a little shopping before you first arrive at the parks for milk, yogurt and juice. Combined with breakfast snacks and cereal a family will save $15 or so day which can pay for other more important expenses while you’re there.

Now there will be times you want to eat at a nice sit-down restaurant, I know I do. Consider eating lunch rather than dinner and you will save; since in most cases the prices are lower for the earlier meal. For example, at Akershus in Norway for Storybook meals and the Princess Character Dining, lunch for adults is $35.13 and for Children (3-9) its $21.29. But at dinner for adults its $40.46 and Children are $22.35. Another example is at the Coral Reef. The Grilled Mahi Mahi is $25.99 for dinner, but if you have it for lunch it’s $22.99.

Now these types of discounts between lunch and dinner are not available at every restaurant, but it is worth the time to research your table-service choices well in advance and make your ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) for the places you really want to try 180 days in advance. Two places to check out the menus online include AllEars.Net and DIS at WDWInfo.Com.

The meal portions at WDW are large, both for counter service and table service meals. Think carefully about ordering for the youngest person in your group when it’s just as easy for everyone to share.

Want to take advantage of visiting a Disney table-service restaurant without paying the high prices? Why not just get dessert. Have a late lunch at the counter service and then book a 3:00 pm table-service meal at a Resort or the Parks for a sweet ending and comfortable visit.

With counter service restaurants I always take a look around at what other people are eating, particularly the children. Sometimes the kids-size meals are all you require, so order that and save the difference. If you’re carrying a cooler, add a piece of fruit or yogurt if you need filling up.

Consider eating just one large meal a day and snack for others. And the least expensive way to fill-up is at buffets. One of the best buffets on site (in my view) is Trails End at Fort Wilderness. Use the dining links above to check out the menus, but considering the price per person, it’s worth making your way over to the campgrounds for any meal. Breakfast buffet for adults currently is $13.99 and for children (3-9) is $8.99; lunch is $16.99/$9.99; and dinner buffet is $22.99/$11.99. There are other options also. And just for discussion purposes, more of my favorite buffet meals (although more expensive) are Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom and the Cape May Café at the Beach Club.

I’m going to mention a rental car once again. Take a look at your eating habits. Do you like sit-down meals? Do have a family or group of four, five or more with you. If you do your research it wouldn’t surprise me if the cost of a rental car can be the same or less that a combination of meals and souvenir shopping done off-site. The best source of updated discount codes and great deals on car rentals in Orlando is on the MouseSavers web site.

And if you do go offsite, check the web for restaurant specials and coupons. Believe me retailers are trying very hard to get you to leave Disney World and visit their stores or restaurants. That’s why Orlando Magicard is a must if you’ll be travelling off-site. Check out the Entertainment Coupon Book for coupons and savings at area restaurants. There is also a site I found called Orlando Coupons. Visit the direct web sites of restaurants you are interested in and don’t be surprised to find coupons.

If you are an Annual or Florida Pass holder you already know about Tables of Wonderland; but if not and your trip days or return trip are making you consider an annual pass, this is a big way to save money on food without a meal plan. With a paid membership (of $75 or $100) you get 20% off food and beverage at participating restaurants. It’s one of these premiums that could move you toward an Annual Pass purchase. Go back to MouseSavers for more information. There is also a Disney web site with more information on this and other information on Passholder benefits.

I promised you some web sites the focus on saving money on your WDW vacation. Here are some of them.

- MouseSavers.Com (The Best)
- Couponing to Disney
- The Affordable Mouse
- Disney World & Orlando The Unofficial Guide
- Reward Site Round Up
- Mommysavers
- Disney On a Dime

And on the Disney Bloggers Collection – New Every Day you can follow over 150 Disney blogs for articles they post on Disney savings and tips.

That’s it for Part IV. Over time I’ll be writing about other ways to make the most of your Walt Disney World vacation and I’m always looking for your ideas. Write me at Next week I’ll get back to other topics, such as the series on accommodations. And, if you have a specific question about anything at WDW, I might be able to help. Use the e-mail above.

Now, here are the past articles in this series: Saving money while on your Walt Disney World vacation: Part I; Part II. Part III. Saving money in advance for your Walt Disney World vacation: Part I; Part II.

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