How Do I Feed My Family On A Budget In Disney World?

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

The Happiest Place On Earth offers fantastic sites and sounds. You will see and experience things that can only be seen in a Disney Park offering only Disney Immersion can provide your family. From Hotel Rooms to Theme Park Rides to food. Yes, food.



What is the best way to feed my family while we're in Disney World? There are many ways to eat at Disney. The Quick-Serve Food Court in your Hotel is one way. You can also choose from many different buffet meals. Maybe Family-style meals are your choice. How about Character Dining? This venue is another excellent alternative. Finally, there is a Table Service Meal. All of these options are available to you at Disney World, and all of them have many variations.



With this in mind, we're going to look at the different ways to plan your dining during your stay in Walt Disney World. We're going to give you some helpful information and tips to explore all the options and flavors available in Disney World, and to be honest, there are many choices in styles, types, and flavors. Disney prides itself on being able to offer every guest a flavorful meal.



Where and what to eat? This question is all about you and your family. But First, No matter what type of food and when and at what Disney you want to eat at, you must make a reservation. Please note that this is the essential item of all time in Disney. The more planning you do upfront, the less stress you will have during your stay.


With this in mind, let's start by stating that Disney is not offering its dining plan due to our pandemic. Even without this, you have affordable options to feast on excellent, flavorful food within the Disney Realm.


What Food Will I Find At My Disney Hotel?

Each Disney Hotel is designed to give you dining options. The hotels are ranked as Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Each level also has its level of dining and offerings that are available to you.


Value Resort Dining

In your Value Resort, you can expect a food court. Mind you, not a cafeteria, but a well-themed food court with various counters where you can order meals that are freshly prepared, such as Pizza, Pasta, Grinders, Mexican, and many other flavors food. The food courts even offer you fresh salads and dessert options.



You pay as you go at these locations so you can purchase what you want and how much you want to eat. These food courts are a great location to grab a quick breakfast before hitting the parks and after you return from the parks later in the day.


This dining option is probably one of the least expensive dining options on Disney Property. Now, while this food is inexpensive, it is fair to good in quality. You're not eating at a five-star restaurant, but it hits that perfect spot after a long day in the Parks.


Moderate Resort Dining

We are now moving to the Moderate Resorts for your dining options. Here, you will also find the food court options. These courts may be slightly more upscale than ones at the Value Resorts, but basically, they are very similar.



The moderate resorts offer Table Service Venues for your dining pleasure. Here at these locations, you will find higher quality restaurants that you can sit and eat a great meal and have a relaxing drink. In addition to these restaurants are bars that will also serve quality appetizers and lighter-fare meals in addition to great drinks.


Both of these venues offer you excellent quality food at fair prices that won't break the bank. Now keep in mind that you are in Disney, and you will pay a premium no matter where you stay. But, these locations offer you a wide selection of foods at various price points.


Each Moderate Resort has its table service, so here's a list for you to consider. I've also Included the bars for your convenience.


The Coronado

Quick Serve:

El Mercado de Coronado


Table Service:

Toledo

Maya Grill


Bar and Grill or Lounges:

Barcelona Lounge

Siestas Grill

Dahlia Lounge

Rix Sports Bar and Grill

Three Bridges Bar and Grill













Disney's Caribbean Beach Club

Quick-Serve:

Centertown Market & Grab and Go


Table Service:

Sabastian's Grill


Bars:

Banana Cabana

Spyglass Grill



The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground

Quick Serve:

P&J's Southern Takeout

The Chuck Wagon

Meadow Snack Bar


Table Service:

Trail's End Restaurant

Hoop-Dee-Doo Review (dinner show)


Bar:

Crocket's Tavern


Disney's Port Orleans Resort

Riverside

Quick Service:

Riverside Mill Food Court

Pizza Delivery


Table Service:

Boatwrights Dining Hall


Bar and Grills, and Lounges

River Roost

Muddy River


French Quarter

Quick Service:

Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory

Pizza Delivery


Bar and Grills, and Lounges:

Mardi Grogs

Scat Cat's Club



Deluxe Resorts:

Now, over at Disney's top tiers of hotels, call Deluxe Resorts, you have a more comprehensive listing of food and drink offerings. At these resorts, you not only get a quick-serve venue, but you will get traditional table service venues, Pool Bars, Bar and Grill options as well as Top Tier Dining Options.



Each of Disney's Deluxe Resorts offers you what they refer to as Signature Dining. These restaurants are at the top level for food quality, ambiance, and price within the Walt Disney World Resort. Some of these locations are a once in a lifetime experience. Victoria and Alberts at The Grand Floridian is an example of this experience with its ten-course dinner design.


Other Signature Restaurants may include Character Dinning, such as The Artist's Palette over at the Wilderness Lodge. Here, you have dinner with Snow White, Dopey, and the Evil Queen. At the same time, other signature dining locations offer you fantastic ambiance and food, such as Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.



Another experience Disney offers is the character buffet. The vast majority of these venues are located within Deluxe resorts. These locations provide excellent access to characters in an all-you-can-eat setting. Foods and menus vary, but you have good food and lots of it.


In addition to these dining options, you will have access to a selection of pool bars, bar and grills, and lounges. Here you can purchase fantastic alcoholic beverages and made to order appetizers. All of these options are typically developed for the resorts underlying theme. Meaning the flavors you will taste at Animal Kingdom Lodge will be African, and the Polynesian flavors will have an island-style flavor.


All of these offerings, from quick-serve to signature, will be priced from low to high, respectively. However, one fantastic hack is to plan a meal or two at the bar and grill or lounge offerings. These locations offer amazing appetizers, burgers, and dinner options at affordable prices. One of your favorite options is the Geyser Point Bar and Grill. You can have incredible drinks while looking over Bay Lake. Additionally, they offer salads, burgers, bison, salmon, and other dining options. All of which are much less expensive than eating at signature or table service restaurants at resorts or the parks.


Also, In-Room Dining is an option for many of these deluxe resorts. While Value and Moderate resorts offer pizza delivery, These resorts offer you a menu that can be delivered to your room. Menus vary by location, but this can be a great way to share a meal with the family.


Disney's Grand Floridian

Quick Serve:

Gasparilla Island Grill


Table Service:

The Grand Floridian Café

1900 Park Fare (buffet)


Signature Dining

Narcoossee's

Citricos

Victoria and Albert's

Victoria and Albert's Chef's Table


Bar and Grills and Lounges:

The Enchanted Rose

Beaches Pool Bar and Grill

Courtyard Pool Bar

Citricos Lounge

Garden View Tea Room



Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Quick Serve:

The Roaring Fork


Table Service:

Whispering Canyon Cafe


Signature Dining

Storybook Dining with Snow White at Artist Point


Bar and Grills and Lounges:

Territory Lounge

Geyser Point Bar and Grill



Disney's Polynesian

Quick Serve:

Captain Cooks

Kona Island Counter


Table Service:

Kona Café


Signature Dining

Bar and Grills and Lounges:

Tambu Lounge

Oasis Bar and Grill

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto

Trader Sam's Tiki Terrace

Pineapple Lanai



The Contemporary Resort

Quick Serve:

Contempo Café


Table Service:

The Wave

Chef Mickey's (buffet)


Signature Dining:

The California Grill


Bar and Grills and Lounges:

The Outer Rim

The Wave Lounge

The Sand Bar

The Cove Bar

The California Grill Lounge



Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge

Quick Serve:

The Mara


Table Service:

Boma


Signature Dining

Sanaa

Jiko


Bar and Grills and Lounges:

Sanaa Lounge

Maji Pool Bar

Uzima Springs Pool Bar

Victoria Falls Lounge

Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar


Disney's Yacht & Beach Club

Quick Serve:

The Market at Ale & Compass (yacht)

Beach Club Market Place (beach)


Table Service:

Beaches and Cream (beach)

Cape May Cafe


Signature Dining

Yachtsmen Steakhouse

Ale & Compass (yacht)


Bar and Grills and Lounges:

Ale & Compass Lounge (yacht)

Martha's Vineyard

Hurricane Hana Waterside Bar

Crew's cup lounge



These are the Disney Deluxe Resorts. I haven't included Disney Vacation Club Resorts or the Disney Swan & Dolphin Resorts as these are not Disney Deluxe Resorts. They all offer their restaurants that you are welcome to dine at, but I wanted to keep this blog's scope to Disney Deluxe Resorts.


The Swan and Dolphin are a third party operator, so I don't consider them Disney Deluxe Resorts but rather Disney Partner Resorts, which is a different topic. However, you are welcome to dine at the Swan and Dolphin. Here, Shula's Steak House is a popular option for many Disney Guests.




Now, these dining options are only the venues available at Disney Resort Hotel. There are other excellent options for dining within Disney World. Some can be cost-effective, while others may be more expensive but offer you views or locations.



Disney Springs is Disney's shop and dining venue, almost a theme park of its own. You can eat from Food Trucks to Dining at Restaurants operated by celebrity chefs such as Iron Chef Morimoto, Chef Art Smith, and Chef Wolf Gang Puck.


These venues all offer high-end food and drink that can make for the perfect night out with the special someone or family.


Additionally, there are many more dining locations, Too many to speak of here. However, a few fantastic choices that we love are more affordable while still offering you amazingly high-quality food in large portions. I mean that a family of four can share three entries and still walk away stuffed.


Of these locations, The House of Blues, The Boathouse, Chef Art Smith's Homecomings, and Ragland Road Pub. These dining options are always at the top of our dining list while at Disney Springs. Yes, there are many other notable locations such as The Edison, Wine Bar George, Paddle Fish, STK Steakhouse, and many others.



Just to keep you aware, almost all of the locations in Disney Springs are third-party owned. To me, this means that they work a little harder to earn your dining dollars. Portions tend to be larger. Menus are more diverse, food quality a slightly higher. Don't get me wrong; we eat at Disney Resorts several times a month. However, Disney Springs offers you all sorts of diversity in one location.


Not only can you secure a fantastic dinner service, but you can also purchase alcoholic drinks from several outdoor kiosks and bars. These locations allow you to take your drink on the run while shopping or taking in the site.


Additionally, amazing deserts can be found in Disney Springs. Locations like Amaretto's, Aristocrepe's, Ghirardelli's Ice Cream, and Haagen-Dazs offer you the perfect topping to that perfect day in the parks.


The menu options at Disney Springs range from BBQ to Seafood, to Italian, to Burgers, so take some time to figure the flavor of the night.



Another choice for that perfect dining location can also be The Boardwalk. Yes, these are the dining locations for the Boardwalk Inn. However, they are also a stand-alone dining location offering you a carnival-style setting.


The Boardwalk offers you one of Disney's best award-winning restaurants, The Flying Fish. Here, you will be treated to fantastic seafood at a stunning location. Mind you, this location is not inexpensive, but it is worth the splurge and experience. Not to mention, the Abracadabra Bar, connected, will offer you incredible drinks based on a magical theme.


The Boardwalk also offers you Italian Food, a Bakery, and Street food lining the Boardwalk. Similar to Disney Springs, but on a much smaller scale, these venues give you a variety that will make you think hard to make that perfect choice.



Finally, Let's talk about Theme Parks. I'm not going to break these down by the park, but more of a general overview as this topic requires a separate article on its own. Just be size alone, these parks are huge. After spending many years working in culinary in Walt Disney World, I can tell you that the volume before the 2020 pandemic was mind-boggling. Just the Crystal Place in the Magic Kingdom will average between 4000 to 6000 guests per day.


Other quick-serve locations in the parks average well above these numbers. You can find a variety of foods and flavors. From burgers to vegan options, to Mexican, you can find all these flavors and more to Italian.


All of these locations produce to feed the masses, and I mean masses. An average day at the Magic Kingdom before the pandemic was 50,000 to 60,000 guest, all who will most likely eat or drink something during their stay in the park.


Keep in mind that you are in a theme park to expect elevated prices with lower quality. While theme park food has changed dramatically over the years, it still focuses on lower quality, cheaper items that can be eaten quickly. However, several locations in any of the parks will offer you excellent quality food and drink. You will pay the price for this.


So, what you need is a plan when it comes to your dining options. This topic is just as crucial as your rides and entertainment for the day. I know that it is hard to plan your dining 6 to 12 months in the future, but you will save yourself lots of stress.




Top Tips to Eat In Disney

  • Make Dining Reservations In Advance: Disney Restaurants fill up fast, so make sure you secure your reservations in advance to save time and stress.

  • Avoid Eating Dinner In Theme Parks: While it is special to eat a meal in the Magic Kingdom or another park, it is expensive. My advice is to plan one dining experience in the Parks. Remember, breakfast is a great, less expensive meal to eat in the parks you might want to consider.

  • Consider Dining At A Couple of Resort Bar and Grills: These locations will give you great food and drink at affordable prices. Usually, you will also benefit from a nice view or an inspiring place. From Burgers to steak to Fish, these locations can offer you an excellent level of diversity.

  • Quick-service locations in the parks or resorts are great for a less-expensive meal. These locations are great for lunch in the parks and a quick dinner at the resort after a long day in the parks. Here at these locations, you order only what you want.

  • Disney Springs is a fantastic resource for a variety of flavors on your Disney Adventure. Again, reservations are a must. Many of these restaurants offer you quality food at affordable prices with good portion size.

  • Weather Plays a Role: Remember, you are in central Florida, typically hot and humid. You may want to consider eating lighter during the day with a nice meal at night. You can find many different snack items in the Theme Parks to help you get through your day. Things such as pretzels, popcorn, eggrolls, and other varieties of waffles are all great snack items to share with your family to skip a meal.

  • Eat a Great Breakfast and Dinner: Regardless of the weather, this method of Breakfast and Dinner is a great way to keep on budget, still allowing you the flexibility to treat the family to ice cream and other treats throughout the day. Then cap the day off with a great meal at your resort or Disney Springs.

  • No Discounts on Alcohol, so plan accordingly. You can purchase discount programs such a Tables in Wonderland or Annual Passholder that will provide you a discount on your food. You might also want to consider a Disney Chase Card as you can earn points that you can use to eat almost anywhere in Disney World.

  • One other fact to be aware of is that if your party is six persons or more will automatically have an 18% gratuity added to their bill.



We've tried to give you a head start on your Disney vacation by giving you some tips to help dining go smoothly. My family and I have been eating at Disney for 20 years and have seen significant changes, good and bad. I'm trying to give you these pointers so that you can spend your hard-earned money on essential items for your trip.



If dining is that critical item, then here's a couple of locations for thought with my family and me. They may not be inexpensive, but we've always enjoyed great food and service at these restaurants.

  • Flying Fish

  • Artist Point

  • Boma

  • Jiko

  • Ohana

  • Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill.

  • Citricos


These locations may cost you more, but the venue and food quality surpass our expectations every time. If a higher quality dining experience is your desire, then these restaurants are a good starting point. Mind you, many others will also fill this requirement, but these have always been the most consistent for us.


We are Theme Park Fantasy, and we're here to give you dining tips to help you do not break the bank while eating in Disney World. We also provide you with suggestions in many other areas of your Disney Vacations. This information can be found on our website at www.themeparkfantasy.com. Please head over to the site and see how we can help you plan your vacation and take the mystery out of your Disney Family Vacation.