Preparing for a Disney Parks vacation, no matter which coast or continent, requires months of work to ensure you are able to take advantage of as many experiences as possible. This includes planning for the potential costs of participating in each experience. It is easy to make budgetary decisions prior to your arrival when selecting ticket packages and resort hotels based on pricing transparency. However, once a guest visits the park it can be easy to lose track of what is being spent on food, merchandise, and additional offerings throughout their stay.
In this series, we will examine strategies to manage your vacation budget in order to create a worry-free environment throughout the length of your trip. This edition of the series will look at your day-to-day food budget at the Disney Theme Parks.
STEP ONE: Prior to your trip, create a spreadsheet with multiple tabs representing each new day in the parks.
Within each worksheet (tab) create headings including Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Beverages, and Desserts. Towards the bottom of the spreadsheet, create a Total section — this is the total dollar amount you are willing to spend that day.
You can come to this conclusion by taking the total dollar amount you wish to spend on theme park food for the trip and divide it by the number of days you are in the parks. However, if you prefer to spend different amounts on each park day, be sure that the total of all park days does not exceed the overall budget for the trip. This provides a framework for what you can afford on a day-to-day basis for each meal/snack and member of your party.
STEP TWO: Consult Disney restaurant menus with members of your party.
This is a fun step to take with your family. Here is where all members of your party can get excited about the number of delicious products offered at the parks. That being said, in this step, be sure to list ALL of the items that you and your family may be interested in eating within each category. Ensure that you include the name of the food item, where the item can be purchased, and the price after tax within the spreadsheet. Remember to include gratuity expenses for items to be purchased at sit-down dining experiences.
STEP THREE: Alter selected food items to ensure the daily budget is not exceeded.
It is in this step where you make decisions about food priorities.
In some cases you might realize that all the offerings that you want to try are within budget; it is here where you can stop or potentially add purchases. However, in most cases, your eyes are bigger than both your stomach and wallet. Therefore, consider all of the items listed and eliminate what is least desirable to manage the budget appropriately. If you are unable to get a certain park day to match its overall budget, that is okay. Move on to the next day and manage the food items there and continue to the next. It is likely that some days will be over budget and some days will be under, as long as the total of all park days is in line with the total food budget for the trip.
STEP FOUR: Save the spreadsheet to your smartphone for use during visits to the park.
Once you arrive at the theme parks and begin purchasing food through the day, be sure to note what you purchase in your spreadsheet. This will help to manage what is being spent and remind you of what you were wanting to purchase through the day. It is important to have this with you in the parks so that you do not exceed your daily budget; however, in many cases you will realize that you will not be eating as much as you had expected. This means you may be able to splurge on more expensive treats during evening entertainment or save the surplus budget and apply it to another day.
STEP FIVE: Do not allow the spreadsheet to limit spontaneity.
Remember, keeping a detailed budget is not meant to restrict you, rather it is meant to open all possibilities. This budgeting method outlines what you can afford with a list of all food items that interest you. This spreadsheet ensures that you do not miss one delicious meal or delightful treat that you noted in your vacation preparation.
That being said, you may encounter something different that you did not anticipate and crave it throughout your day in the park. It is important to indulge these cravings as you are on vacation. If it fits the budget, get it! Simply add that item to the spreadsheet or replace a pre-existing item that no longer interests you.
BENEFITS OF THE PROCESS:
- Including the location of where the item is purchased aids in navigating the park. You can arrange your day around your meals and plan to be in certain areas of the parks during certain times to make things more convenient and save time.
- When looking at the menus online before your trip you may find that similar items are sold at multiple locations. In some cases, the same item (or a subtle variation of the item) may be less expensive depending on where you purchase. Typically the difference in price is not drastic, but for those on a restrictive budget, this makes a difference.
- When looking at the menus online before your trip you may find that similar items may be sold at quick service locations as well as sit-down dining. This provides the opportunity to purchase an item at a reduced base price while also saving money on gratuity, as you are not expected to tip at a quick service location. In addition, the benefit of time saved is an asset for those who have a busy park day ahead of them.