As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
In a few months, I’ll be doing something that I haven’t done in a long, long time . . . I’m going to Walt Disney World, just me and a friend. No hubby, no kids. This is going to be a different kind of trip. We’re not going all commando; but plan to take our times and just relax and enjoy. Our reservation includes the Free Disney Dining Plan, but I’ve come up with a few ways to save on additional dining options, so we’ll have plenty of time to sit down, relax, and enjoy Disney food, while still sticking to a budget.
3 Simple Ways to Save Money on Disney Dining
Take advantage of the Dining Plan
Yes, I know, the Disney Dining Plan gets mixed reviews. Some say that it saves them lots of money; others say it’s a total rip-off and not worth it. Some will only get the Dining Plan when it’s offered for free; others will say that even when it’s “free,” it’s not really free (and that Disney just jacks up the prices of other parts of your trip to absorb the loss of Dining Plan costs). My husband – our resident money cruncher – has tracked the numbers over and over again. For us, the Dining Plan makes sense. Of course, we love it when it’s free; but there are times when I feel it’s worth it to pay the extra money for it as well.
My friend and I booked our trip hoping for free dining, but willing to pay for it if it wasn’t offered. To me, it’s so nice to be able to plan ahead to have at least one sit-down dinner (called Table Service on the Dining Plan) each day. This way, we’re guaranteed some time to just sit, chill, and relax – while, of course, also enjoying terrific Disney food.
My friend and I will be going for 5 nights, so we have the following Table Service meals reserved:
- Tusker House @ Animal Kingdom for breakfast
- The Wave @ the Contemporary Resort for dinner
- Crystal Palace @ Magic Kingdom for breakfast
- Tony’s Town Square @ Magic Kingdom for dinner
- Biergarten @ Epcot for dinner
Join the Landry’s Select Club
I have been tempted to join Landry’s Select Club for many years. We love the Landry’s Restaurants on Disney property – Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex Cafe, and Yak & Yeti. I also recently dined at a Saltgrass Steak House (in TX) and it was, by far, one of the best steak dinners I’ve ever eaten. Landry’s owns many restaurant chains all over the US.
For $25, you can join the Club and get $25 automatically applied to your card. You also get an additional $25 added during your birthday month. Since my friend and I will be celebrating our birthdays together on this trip, we both decided to join to get $50 on each card.
That gives us 2 more meals that we can easily enjoy on property. We’ve decided to use one our first night that we’re there to enjoy dinner at Disney Springs, probably at T-Rex Cafe. With the card, you get priority seating also; so, if we decide at the last minute that we’d prefer Rainforest, we’ll go there instead. Then, we plan to use the 2nd one to enjoy dinner at Yak & Yeti on our Animal Kingdom day.
Save Gift Cards
Maybe you’re part of a program that gives you gift cards as rewards. Or maybe you can tell relatives to get you gift cards for your birthday, Christmas, etc. I have some Visa gift cards laying around that I’ve gotten for various reasons. Whenever I receive one of these, I toss it in my vacation jar and store them up. Right now, I have a $50 Visa gift card that I’m planning to use toward Afternoon Tea at the Garden View Tea Room in the Grand Floridian.
Maybe there’s someplace else that you’d really like to eat on Disney property but just can’t justify paying out-of-pocket. That makes sense! Disney restaurants aren’t cheap! So, ask people for Disney gift cards, and use them toward your meal. What a fun gift, and it’s something you’ll always remember.
Just a few things to remember before eating at Walt Disney World:
- Make Advanced Dining Reservations (commonly referred to in Disney circles as ADR’s). If you’re staying on Disney property, you can book your dining experiences 180 days in advance. And you’re going to want to do that to assure you get to try the places that you really want to try! You can make these through your My Disney Experience account (or app) or by calling (407)WDW-DINE. (If you join the Landry’s Select Club, as mentioned above, you do not need to reserve those meals in advance.) Even better, if you use a Disney Travel Agent, he or she will be more than happy to make these reservations for you. (Here are some agents that I highly recommend.)
- Check menus in before your trip. Not everyone is going to do this, but I’m a crazy planner and like to have some idea of what I’m going to want to order and how much it’s going to cost (especially if you are paying out of pocket!) Menus for all the restaurants are on the Walt Disney World website. Another place I like to check menus is AllEars.net.
- Don’t forget to tip! Tips are not included in the Disney Dining Plan, so don’t forget to pack extra cash to tip your servers. A good rule of thumb is to tip $5 per person per dinner; but I always like to carry some extra for those stand-out servers (and trust me, you’ll have them!)
- In addition to your tip, it’s always nice to let your server know that you appreciated their service. One of my favorite ways is by handing them a Cast Member Thank You note. We usually make our own.
What are your best tips for saving money on food at Disney?
What are your favorite restaurants?