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View Full Version : "Eating On The Cheap" Inside The Parks


luckofthedraw
08-21-2005, 04:15 PM
Hi fellow budgeters!
We're getting ready for our first family visit to WDW and Orlando, and would like to do it as practically (budget-friendly) as possible. We will be staying at a DVC resort, so know that we can eat in our rooms, but why??? We're on vacation! :teeth:

Our plans are to do Epcot (2 days), SeaWorld, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom (2 days), and probably MGM Studios.

Are there any good, cheap (um, make that inexpensive :rotfl: ) restaurants near the parks? I went through the Entertainment book list, and nothing sounds intriguing there. Sounds like meal vouchers are not such a great deal,either.

I've heard that eating a big breakfast and a late lunch on-site is a good plan. How about reasonably-priced off-site dinners? Will any of the parks let you bring in your descretely-packed lunch? Kids are 5 & 8, but we all have healthy appetites. Snacks throughout the day will be only that: snacks. We have Brita sport bottles, and will do powdered Gatorade or water.

What are your very best tips for eating on the cheap at any of Orlando's parks? How about off-site?

Thanks for all of your help. You know, until a month ago, I never knew what I was missing on Disboards. You guys are incredible!!

swilshire
08-21-2005, 04:32 PM
We've never been a bit discreet in carrying in lunches at WDW. We have a softside cooler with lunchmeat, waters, juice, sodas, fruit cups, beef jerky, etc. A tote bag carries bread, chips and cookies. Sometimes we overflow into a backpack. There have been a couple of jokes when going through security about sharing or really being hungry, but nothing more.

There are many fast food restaurants near the parks if you want to go that route. 192 has the most, but there are also many on 535 and I-drive if you want to go out a bit further.

With annual passes, we usually ate a bite of breakfast in our room, our carried in lunch, then an early dinner somewhere off-site. Weather and energy allowing, we would return to the parks for a couple of hours after dinner.

We rescheduled our October trip to arrive four days earlier and get in on the free dining. We'll enjoy trying the various Disney restaurants for a change.

Sheila

lovewdwdvc
08-21-2005, 05:07 PM
We are DVC members who cringe at the thought of leaving WDW confines to find some place to eat. Generally, if you go right outside of the park you will see a good cost savings. At MK head for one of the monorail resort. At EPCOT or MGM Studios try Beaches and Cream or ESPN. We usually do not spend one whole day at AK so that is not a problem.

We have groceries delivered to our villa via the wegoshop place on the internet so that we can have breakfast, snacks, water and whatever.

It is much easier for us to grab cereal,toast juice and milk in our unit for breakfast than to find a place for breakfast-----unless we want to make breakfast an experience (character breakfast or special bakery)

Many people take PBJ, water, frozen juice boxes etc. in to the park. No hassles anymore. I know that at one time you could not do that.

Regardless---have a great time.

SeaWitch
08-21-2005, 05:53 PM
We always carry snacks with us... carrots, celery, nuts - things that are easy to carry. And, of course, our own bottled water.

If there is a particular restaurant we want to check out... we will just go in for an appetizer or dessert. That way we won't break our budget and still get the "we're on vacation" treat! If you have any little ones that want to go to Tom Sawyer's Island (MK) - check out Aunt Polly's Landing. Reasonable prices for WDW... we go and get soft serve ice cream.

PS You have to see MGM studios... the Tower of Terror and RockNRoller coaster & Muppets 3D alone are worth the trip! And don't forget Fantasmic! :maleficen

travelbug
08-21-2005, 06:53 PM
You may enjoy visiting allears.net and looking at the menus for all the WDW eating establishments. Very helpful in figuring out dining budget. Here is the link:

http://www.allearsnet.com/din/dining.htm

2 favorite places where you can eat plenty for a reasonable price: Trail's End Buffeteria in Fort Wilderness and Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney. At Earl of Sandwich, it works well to split a sandwich ($4.95) and then have each person have a side salad or cup of soup ($0.99 for these). You will not walk away hungry!

We also drink water only everywhere we eat out, then buy refillable mugs to satisfy our craving for soda, coffee, lemonade, etc. Depending on your length of stay, a refillable mug could be a good money saver. (Or hit the grocery for your own sodas; depends on your family's needs).

Good luck, and have a great time! :sunny:

disneysteve
08-21-2005, 07:47 PM
Here are some of our tips for keeping the food budget down at Disney.

1. Drink water. Its free.
2. Eat breakfast in your room. We stop at the supermarket and buy milk, OJ and cereal and eat in the room every day. (Actually, we do that everywhere we travel unless the hotel serves breakfast.)
3. Share meals, especially at sit-down places. Servings are obscenely large at most restaurants and can easily serve two kids and even two adults with maybe an extra side dish or appetizer.
4. Make a meal from a couple of appetizers. Sometimes, DW and I will get 3 appetizers and that will be the meal for the two of us. Or we'll get one appetizer and one entree and share those.
5. Pack your own snacks. We'll bring in granola/cereal bars, cookies, cereal, pop-tarts, etc. We don't bring in stuff that needs to stay cold though lots of people do.
6. At counter service places, you can order things that aren't on the menu board. For example, if the menu only says cheeseburger, you can get a plain burger and save a little money. If the board only says chicken strips and fries basket, you can order just the chicken and save money. We'll often order one combo with fries and two without and all share the one order of fries (which is plenty large enough for 3).
7. Choose lunch over dinner for character meals. Its cheaper.

madge
08-21-2005, 10:11 PM
. If the board only says chicken strips and fries basket, you can order just the chicken and save money. We'll often order one combo with fries and two without and all share the one order of fries (which is plenty large enough for 3).

Honestly, I wish I had learned about this tip sooner....we used to throw away tons of fries, or we'd sit and pick at them when no one was really hungry any more. I guess it was last fall when we started cutting back on the fries, LOL

chip_mc
08-22-2005, 10:28 AM
Don't forget the double cheeseburger trick... order a double cheeseburger anywhere, and ask for an extra bun. Pull the extra patty off of the buger onto bun #2 and you are all set. Some places/times they just give it to you(does not show up on your reciept), other places charge about .85. That combined with the fixin's bar you can make 2 great mushroom burgers.

Also as cheap as it sounds cutting the fountain lemonde from there in half with water goes a long way also..way too sweet anyways.

ElizaB39
08-22-2005, 10:22 PM
There are so many tips,

We packed our largest suitcase with food (nonperishables) for our weeklong trip (we flew).

We would buy plain slices of bread each morning in the ASMusic cafeteria and make PBJ for breakfast and/or lunch.

We brought our water (and a bag of apples) in our rolling backpack on the plane (see separate water thread).

Have Fun!

2angelsinheaven
08-23-2005, 11:21 AM
Yes the burger idea is great! You can make a "salad" at the toppings bar to eat with the burger. I load up on toppings, love the pickles! I've done the one burger two buns many times. Ask for water, most places give you a full size cup w/ water/ice for free. Hit the Coke exibit in EPCOT for free soda in a sports bottle (byob).

Trixiezzz
08-23-2005, 12:25 PM
There are so many tips,

We packed our largest suitcase with food (nonperishables) for our weeklong trip (we flew).


Did you check that bag ~or carry it on? Some people are saying that food makes the bomb detectors go off. But I'd love to check it instead of having to lug it around on the plane. Thanks! :sunny:

disneysteve
08-23-2005, 12:35 PM
Hit the Coke exibit in EPCOT for free soda in a sports bottle (byob).
We haven't gone this route. Somehow that feels like crossing the line to me. It would be like walking off with the whole tray of free samples at the supermarket.

lovemygoofy
08-23-2005, 01:52 PM
Animal Kingdom has the special meal voucher for I think $11.99 per adult (I don't know how much per child) and you can an entree and dessert and snack/drink later in the day. I thought that this was a great deal if used somewhere like Flame Tree BBQ and then a mickey ice cream later.

If you want to dine off site, you should look into www.restaraunt.com. You can buy certificates for several places in Orlando. The certificates are cheaper and you get a deal using them. I just got an email that says 60% off price. You could buy a $25 cert for $6.50 or something like that. Pretty good deal though I don't know all the good places to eat offsite.

Another decent deal is using that link from the Ghiradelli thread and signing up for the newsletter. Remember to say that you live within 50 miles of a Ghiradelli and you should put in a date of your birthday but actually make it sometime within you next trip to WDW. You could get an email coupon for a buy one get one free sundae or get a dollar of a sundae.

I do take snacks and my own water into the park. I also am one of the people that checks a suitcase with the water and snacks. I do put the water bottles in large ziploc bags, normally 3 to a bag. I also put our beach towels in the bag at each end to be a sort of bumper for the water. I don't normally pack more than half a case so I don't go over the weight limit.

Have a great trip.

EdDome
08-23-2005, 02:00 PM
Yes the burger idea is great! You can make a "salad" at the toppings bar to eat with the burger. I load up on toppings, love the pickles! I've done the one burger two buns many times. Ask for water, most places give you a full size cup w/ water/ice for free. Hit the Coke exibit in EPCOT for free soda in a sports bottle (byob).

I think using the condiments as a salad bar stretches frugal way beyond reasonable or appropriate. Lots of great tips on this thread other than this one.

disneysteve
08-23-2005, 03:12 PM
I think using the condiments as a salad bar stretches frugal way beyond reasonable or appropriate.
I think this depends on the extent. If you purchase a meal and load up on toppings, I think that's okay. Cosmic Ray's has a great toppings bar with lettuce, tomato, onion, mushrooms, relish, etc. If, on the other hand, you just walk in and buy a drink (or buy nothing) and grab a bunch of toppings for free, I think that crosses the line.

chipscinderelly
08-23-2005, 03:44 PM
Animal Kingdom has the special meal voucher for I think $11.99 per adult (I don't know how much per child) and you can an entree and dessert and snack/drink later in the day. I thought that this was a great deal if used somewhere like Flame Tree BBQ and then a mickey ice cream later.

These were recently discountinued.

buzz2400
08-23-2005, 03:58 PM
the coke exhibit in epcot is closed for refurbishment. Sad to hear the AK plan is discontinued. It was a great deal. It was there when I went in July. FYI the water at the Disney parks tastes terrible however I still drink it because it is free. Hard to get a kid to drink it. We always bring a few snacks ie crackers, granola bars, apples with us but then we get a hamburger or such for lunch. You will find that most prices at the fast food places at disney are the same. No real bargain. This past trip we bought bread, peanut butter and jelly and made sandwiches every night. We saved a lot of money that way.

disneysteve
08-23-2005, 04:26 PM
FYI the water at the Disney parks tastes terrible however I still drink it because it is free. Hard to get a kid to drink it.
I just want to clarify this. SOME people dislike the water in Florida. They say it has a sulfur taste to it. We drink the local water constantly when we're there and never noticed a problem. We almost always order cups of water at Disney restaurants because we don't want all the soda and it is cheaper. We also carry a sport water bottle and refill it throughout the day with ice and water from the restaurants, fountains or sinks. We're always amazed by how many people are willing to shell out perfectly good cash for bottled water when there is an unlimited supply available for free. This is very much a personal preference issue.

cdrn1
08-23-2005, 09:34 PM
If you want to dine off site, you should look into www.restaraunt.com. You can buy certificates for several places in Orlando. The certificates are cheaper and you get a deal using them.

I clicked on this link and it was a porn site!!!! :earseek: :earseek: :earseek:

Maybe the right link is www.restaurant.com?
:rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl2: :rotfl2: :rotfl2:

lovethattink
08-24-2005, 12:53 PM
To save money, but not time, we'll occasionally leave a park and head out of WDW and go to a restaurant. Cici's pizza is one of our favorites. It's all you can eat pizza, pasta ,and salad for only $3.99. It's just down the street from Cross Roads, near Olive Garden.

C.Ann
08-24-2005, 01:03 PM
Hit the Coke exibit in EPCOT for free soda in a sports bottle (byob).
----------------------------

I would be SOOOO embarrassed to do that! :earseek:

lovemygoofy
08-24-2005, 02:20 PM
I clicked on this link and it was a porn site!!!! :earseek: :earseek: :earseek:

Maybe the right link is www.restaurant.com?
:rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl2: :rotfl2: :rotfl2:


OMG!!! I'm so embarssed. I'm sorry sorry sorry! I thought I had spelled it correctly. I am so very sorry everyone. :blush: :blush:

cdrn1
08-24-2005, 06:34 PM
OMG!!! I'm so embarssed. I'm sorry sorry sorry! I thought I had spelled it correctly. I am so very sorry everyone.

I got a good laugh out of it! We knew you didn't mean to!

rapriebe
08-24-2005, 06:34 PM
Hit the Coke exibit in EPCOT for free soda in a sports bottle (byob).
There's only one word for this and it's WRONG!!!!! :sad2: :sad2: :sad2:

leebee
08-24-2005, 07:04 PM
Let's see...we love to eat in Disney restaurants and love to save money. Now that child's age at the buffets has dropped from 11 to 9, we'll be eating LOTS more meals off-site. Regarding Disney meals, they are huge (and trust me, we are BIG eaters!). We often get the double cheeseburger and an extra bun, split the fries. I do load up on the toppings at the topping bar, but only if I actually have a sandwich to top! The ribs and chicken meal at Starlight Ray's is a great deal, you get a ton of food (DH and I had *leftovers*, something that doesn't often happen). In the counter service restaurant in Morocco in Epcot, we ordered 2 meals and split them among 4 (3adults, 1 10yo) and had enough for dinner (OK, we popped $1 for an extra loaf of bread). Japan in Epcot has a pretty good counter service place that is fairly reasonable. Offsite, try Macaroni Grill. Once again, the portions are HUGE (at least for the pasta, haven't actually tried the beef or chicken entrees),they are reasonably priced, and haven't balked at sharing entrees (usually get 1 adult and 1 kid entree for 2A/1child). Another hint is take-out from Olive Garden. We call in the order as we leave the park, it's pretty close to ready by the time we get there, and they give you an obscene amount of salad with every meal. DD and I split one adult meal back in our suite, and there's usually salad left over. My Dsis and her DH, 2dd's get one adult entree, one kid's meal- and you get a full size salad with the kid's meal, just like the adult meals! Another "cheaper" option is Goodings. They have a large selection of reasonably high-quality (ok, not restaurant quality, but better than I expected) entrees and dinners in the deli section that you can take home and pop into the microwave. This probably costs about $4-$8 per person, depending on what you get, which is comparable with counter service in the parks, but jeeze, some days I just can't look at another burger/hotdog/chicken sandwich and fries, you know!?!? I haven't tried doing this with entrees from Publix, just Goodings. At AK, DD and I usually get a Caesar salad and breadsticks (with sauce) and share for lunch at Pizzafari- she really doesn't care for most of the food offerings at AK. Can't help you save food $$$ at MGM- we love 50's Prime Time, nobody ever wants to share their meals, although sometimes DH gets pot roast and I get fried chicken and we split them! We did discover Mama Melrose's on the last trip, which I think is a better deal and I'm sure they let you split entrees. THe other thing to ask about is kids ordering from the adult menu. Several times at Spoodles, they have let DD order a half-portion from the adult menu and charge us half-price plus$1. I suspect they are NOT supposed to do this, but have on occasion. DD doesn't eat real meat, just burgers/nuggets/dogs, but gets tired of these repeatedly at WDW, with mac 'n cheese or naked sketti as an alternative. It's really nice that she can get something *real* and *adventurous* on occasion, without paying for a full adult entree (even though Spoodles is pretty expensive). OK, my last hint, which we do and which will probably draw criticism, is...we drink our own bottled water/juices (from our backpacks) at the counter service restaurants. Nobody has ever said "don't", and we are of the majority that thinks that FL water tastes nasty, making all the overpriced fountain drinks nasty. If you do get a fountain drink, get one large drink for 2 to share. It's cheaper, and there is plenty to drink. BTW, the only lemonade we saw last June (and it was EVERYWHERE) was MinuteMaid LIGHT, which is sweetened with Splenda. The kids HATED it (and DD doesn't drink carbonated beverages), so I felt almost justified in giving her Capri suns from the backpack!

Shenzi
08-24-2005, 08:27 PM
When we were there in February, we hated the food situation. The table-service places were expensive. The counter-service was also expensive and we didn't think the quality of the food justified the cost. And $2.50 for a bottle of Dasani water! I don't particularly care for Dasani brand water, but its heaps better than the tap water at Disney :sick: .

We're going again in December and this is what we're planning (the two of us):

We're bringing a small napsack (baggallini :cheer2: ). We'll eat breakfast in our room. Then we'll bring some snacks - I'm thinking granola bars, crackers, maybe some fruit or uncrustables. We'll also carry a bottle of water into the parks each, and I'm going to pack some of those new Crystal light bottled water flavorings. Hopefully we'll be able to make the Disney water palatable. We'll have a late lunch (a couple of CS and a couple of TS, at lunch prices) and then purchase :mickeybar (or bring) another snack for the early evening. We'll have a sandwich back in our room at night (if hungry).

We're also planning a breakfast at the Castle.

I think this should keep us satisfied and energized, without feeling like we've spent our life savings on food. :goodvibes

Weluvdisny
08-24-2005, 09:35 PM
What restaurants are near DD? We are going to be at POR and I've never eaten off site but would be willing to go to save some $$.

Can you still order out from Trail's End? We're thinking about doing that for lunch/dinner one day.

Where is the all-you-can-eat pizza place for $3.99?

Thanks for you help DISer's!! :love:

lovethattink
08-24-2005, 09:58 PM
What restaurants are near DD? We are going to be at POR and I've never eaten off site but would be willing to go to save some $$.

Can you still order out from Trail's End? We're thinking about doing that for lunch/dinner one day.

Where is the all-you-can-eat pizza place for $3.99?

Thanks for you help DISer's!! :love:

I'm really bad with street names. Cici's isn't too far from DTD. From DTD head towards crossroads. Turn left on 535. Turn right at the light at Olive Garden. It's back behind Olive Garden.

AKbabe
08-25-2005, 05:33 AM
I just want to clarify this. SOME people dislike the water in Florida. They say it has a sulfur taste to it. We drink the local water constantly when we're there and never noticed a problem. We almost always order cups of water at Disney restaurants because we don't want all the soda and it is cheaper. We also carry a sport water bottle and refill it throughout the day with ice and water from the restaurants, fountains or sinks. We're always amazed by how many people are willing to shell out perfectly good cash for bottled water when there is an unlimited supply available for free. This is very much a personal preference issue.

I totally agree with you Steve! I am not willing to spend money on water that can be used for souvenirs :smooth: We take water bottles with us and refill from the fountains or get large glasses of ice water from counter service with our meal (and put the leftover in our bottles). I want my kids to stay hydrated and not live on soda. I even took Crystal Lite packets for them to put in their water if they were bored with plain water. We didn't use one packet! All of us are completely fine with the Florida water. I liked it when I lived there too. It takes just like the water at my house so we have no complaints!

swilshire
08-25-2005, 07:20 AM
we drink our own bottled water/juices (from our backpacks) at the counter service restaurants

I used to embarrass my kids by doing this when we would go to fast food restaurants on the road. They finally learned that if they would just order a cup of water and not beg for soda that I wouldn't make them take a can out of the cooler.

I see no problem at all with it at counter service. You buy food. Who's to say you can't drink your own drink if you have one.

I also sometimes do it at local restaurants if they don't carry my preferred drink. I don't care much for Pepsi products, for example, which is all Taco Bell carries.

Sheila

luckofthedraw
08-25-2005, 08:39 AM
Wow, these are some great tips. Keep 'em coming!

anditoo72
08-25-2005, 02:44 PM
A good tip for an inexpensive restaurnat outside of the world is Sweet Tomatoes!!!!!!!!! so awesome, all you can eat buffet and very yummy.

disneysteve
08-25-2005, 04:18 PM
A good tip for an inexpensive restaurnat outside of the world is Sweet Tomatoes!!!!!!!!! so awesome, all you can eat buffet and very yummy.
I'll second that. We didn't get there last vist but definitely have it on the list for this year. We loved it when we went there. Something for everyone and very reasonable prices.

FYI, it is located off I-drive near Belz.

pamlet
08-25-2005, 07:52 PM
When we went in May I was VERY concerned we'd go completely broke just eating. We're traditionally BIG eaters. I don't know if it was the heat or what - but we really did not eat like I thought I would.

The only table service we did was Cinderella's Castle for dinner (DH and I ) I wish now we would have split an entree .. it was WAY too much food. (It was our anniversary... DS's ate a "the Alfredo place" at Epcot - they wished they'd split their entree as well. We also did the Buffet at Hollywood and Vine.

Other than that is was breakfast in the room - and the rest counter service. You can EASILY split a lot at the counter service. We would do the "meal deal" with the fries/etc. then a seperate sandwich. We wished we would have split a meal at Columbia Harbor House - it was quite a bit of food. Sometimes we'd order a double cheeseburger and just cut it in 1/2 .. no extra bun thingy - too much starch anyway.. ;)

The only place I was GLAD we didn't split was Earl of Sandwich - the sandwiches were NOT huge there - but the price is certainly right. And the food is delicious!!!! I think it's the best deal for the food I've seen - while the portions were not huge .. the quality of the food was great!!

arminnie
08-25-2005, 10:15 PM
I just want to clarify this. SOME people dislike the water in Florida. They say it has a sulfur taste to it. We drink the local water constantly when we're there and never noticed a problem. We almost always order cups of water at Disney restaurants because we don't want all the soda and it is cheaper. We also carry a sport water bottle and refill it throughout the day with ice and water from the restaurants, fountains or sinks. We're always amazed by how many people are willing to shell out perfectly good cash for bottled water when there is an unlimited supply available for free. This is very much a personal preference issue.

I never knew there was anything "wrong" with the water until I read it here on the DIS boards. I've never had a problem with any of the water from the counter service places (or other restaurants) or in the room.

I did find the water a little odd from a water fountain at MK one time, but thought that maybe it was just because the water fountain was so old. It also wasn't cold and maybe that's why I didn't like it from that fountain.

drakethib
08-26-2005, 10:12 PM
We haven't gone this route. Somehow that feels like crossing the line to me. It would be like walking off with the whole tray of free samples at the supermarket.

Agree.

Also very tacky IMHO, and I am a tightwad!!!!!

jgates
08-26-2005, 11:55 PM
I don't mind Florida water - i grew up with water with a very high iron content so it takes a lot to disgust me. However, I usually order water and ask for a couple of lemon slices on the side (or they may be on a condiment bar) - then I squeeze a bit of lemon juice in it and add a pack of splenda. I get very sick to my stomach if I drink too much soda in the heat and this is a great alternative for me. I usually suck down around 80 ounces of water a day.