The cost of a family trip to a Disney theme park continues to increase each year, independent of whether the size of your bank account also grows. There are five primary expenses for such a trip: travel, lodging, theme park admission, food, and incidentals. Theme park admission is a finite cost that is difficult to negotiate down, and incidentals are an individual choice. Travel, lodging and food are areas where Theme Park Tourist can help.
Understanding how to maximize your dollars every time you visit a theme park requires the recognition of how your behavior could impact your finances. In this article, the focus is on food, the all-important fuel that will sustain you as your walk countless miles across the cavernous Disney parks. Here are six great ways to stretch your food budget at Disney.
1. Rent a room with a kitchenette or mini-fridge
No, this suggestion is not original, but it is especially important with regards to Disney travel. Many of the restaurants at the theme parks carry price tags in excess of $30 per person. For a family of four, the price of a light breakfast plus hearty lunch and dinner can quickly grow cost-prohibitive. By picking a room that has a kitchenette, you will pay more on a daily basis, but the cost will be mitigated by savings from meals. Plus, eating in the room allows for some unstructured downtime each day away from park crowds.
If the idea of cooking does not appeal to you, still consider a mini-fridge. In combination with suggestions below, refrigerated foods can provide a satisfactory breakfast. Plus, storing some frozen treats will be a welcome idea if the Florida/California weather is particularly warm.
2. Have groceries delivered
A lot of people visiting Disney for the first time or first time in years do not realize that a cottage industry exists for groceries. Several companies provide delivery service to many major hotels near the parks including all of the Disney resorts. Since the tourist markup on-site is outrageous, utilizing grocery delivery empowers travelers. You can even plan meals ahead of time if you followed the suggestion above about a kitchenette. The most popular delivery service in Orlando is Garden Grocer, while Disneyland’s best option is Von’s delivery service. Both have a full complement of food items and miscellany.
With regards to actual meals, the savings can really add up quickly if you are willing to cook in your room. Even if you plan to save money by eating quick service meals on-site, you are looking at an average cost of about $50 for a family of four. Doubling that for dinner means $100 being spent daily at Disney parks. Having groceries delivered to the room can dramatically reduce the overall food cost. Plus, you have a lot more control over meal options, which can be important for parents of picky eaters.
3. Know the rules for bringing food into Disney
People naturally assume that Disney works the same as a movie theater. Anyone busted bringing a snack into the building will be kicked out. While Disney definitely attempted to discourage consumers from such behavior in the past, the company is now open-minded about such behavior. Basic foods and drinks that do not require heating can be brought into the park.
Beyond the obvious, how does this rule empower you? Consider the three suggestions above in combination. Let’s say that you are like me, someone who avoids soft drinks for the most part but drinks a lot of water during a given day. A bottle of water at Disney costs about $3 for a 15 ounce bottle. On a hot day, such a small beverage will not last long for most adults, meaning that multiple purchases will be required per person.
Compare that to the $7 cost for a 24-count of bottled water at one of the grocery delivery sites. Even after the delivery surcharge of $14, you have saved a ton on the bottled water expense for your trip. The same is true of most beverages, especially alcohol, which is overpriced at the theme parks even by Disney standards. Keep in mind, however, that adult beverages cannot be brought into parks, but you can still store a six-pack of beer in your fridge to enjoy during your post-theme park downtime.