1) Eat Tapas-Style at Disney Lounges and Bars
One of my favorite things to do is try out small dishes, appetizers, and desserts at Disney restaurants, lounges, and bars. Not only do you get to try many different things, but you can also get into popular restaurants without a reservation and save some money doing it. One of our favorite places to go is the lounge at Sanaa at Disney's Animal Lodge – Kidani Village. We love to get the bread service, add an extra serving of bread, and enjoy a drink or two. It is very affordable and great food. Some other fun options to consider are Trader Sam's at Disney's Polynesian Resort (pictured above) which offers small appetizers and drinks. The lounge at Brown Derby or Prime Time Cafe inside Disney's Hollywood Studios or the Territory Lounge at Disney's Wilderness Lodge are also great options. We also LOVED having some tapas and drinks at the Nomad Lounge at Tiffins in Animal Kingdom Park.
2) Try Sharing Quick Service Meals or Opt for a Kids Meal
If you don't have big eaters, this can be a great way to save if you are out in the theme parks. We often shared a Quick Service meal with large portions such as the BBQ chicken meal you can find at Fairfax Fare in Hollywood Studios. If you would just like a small meal, you can opt to get a kids' meal as long as you are not on the Disney Dining Plan.
3) Snack (wisely) Around the World
There are so many yummy snacks throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. If you are just looking for something filling and cheap (maybe for those growing teens), you can buy a refillable popcorn bucket at the parks and refill it throughout the day to keep hunger at bay. For those with a desire to try some more unique snacks, some of my favorites are at Epcot – like the school bread in Norway or the caramel and chocolate pretzel in Germany. The bakery in France always has something delicious and even Sunshine Seasons in Future World has some yummy choices. And now that there is the Flower and Garden Festival, the International Festival of Arts, and the Food & Wine Festival, you will be able to find a large variety of unique snacks no matter what time of year you go.
Of course, snacking can add up very quickly if you are not careful, but if you plan wisely, you can try a lot of different things and save a lot more snacking than by doing a Table Service or all-you-care-to-enjoy meal.
4) Get a Tables in Wonderland Card or Utilize Annual Passholder Discounts
If you think you will visit Disney World at least twice a year and really enjoy Table Service, you can save money by getting an Annual Pass (AP) and using the discounts to save money on meals. One way our family maximized our savings was by planning meals around restaurants that accept discounts and or choosing to go when the greatest discount is offered. For example, if a restaurant offered 10% off at dinner, but 20% off at lunch, we would do a late lunch at that restaurant to save a bit more.
If you frequent Disney often and are a Florida Resident or DVC Member, you can save even more by buying a Tables in Wonderland (TIW) Card. A Tables in Wonderland card allows you to save 20% at many restaurants. Additionally, it gives you benefits such as valet parking for meals. If you are going with a large group of family, only one person needs to be an AP holder or have a TIW card to get a discount. If you happen to be staying offsite, this is something to consider because you can get free parking at the theme parks as well as discounts on food and merchandise. (Keep in mind when dining that it all needs to be on one check to get the discount.)
5) Have a Brunch Buffet or Late Breakfast
Another favorite for my family is eating brunch or enjoying a breakfast buffet during our trips. Breakfast food is always a bit more affordable than other meals, so if you are looking to have some sit-down meals but don't want to break the bank, look into having breakfast. We love breakfast at Kona Cafe at the Polynesian, as well as the very affordable breakfast at Trattoria Al Forno. We also love Boma's breakfast buffet, but since it is more pricey, on our last trip we discovered the more affordable, but very delicious, breakfast buffet at The Wave. We were pleasantly surprised at the cost, the quality of food, and selection. As an added bonus, it's only a monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom and so can be a great place to begin your day or take an early break after a rope drop morning at the park.
Other ways to save...
These next two suggestions have been mentioned before here on the DIS and on the DISUnplugged Top 5 Best Walt Disney World Money Saving Tips! segment, but for those who may not be frequent visitors to Disney World, I wanted to include these here as well since they are very good money-saving tips.
Order groceries from Amazon Prime Now or Garden Grocer
You can save a lot of money on food by supplementing or cooking some of your meals. You can arrange to have groceries delivered to your Disney Resort hotel by grocery services like Garden Grocer or from www.primenow.amazon.com. Although most resort rooms do not have a kitchen or kitchenette (although suites and DVC villas do), almost all Disney resorts now come equipped with a refrigerator for keeping food fresh and you can usually find toasters or microwaves in or near quick service locations at the resorts. Our family found that buying a few bagels, cereal, snacks, drinks, and fruit helped to greatly offset our meal costs, but also saved us from constant trips to the food court.
Buy Disney gift cards to use on meals at a discount
There are a ton of ways to get discounts on Disney gift cards, and even though the discount may be small, savings can add up especially when you are spending thousands on a vacation. The most simple way I have done this is by buying Disney gift cards through target.com with my Target debit card. This means I save 5% on all things Disney, including meals! Now there is a long list of ways to save even more than 5% or even earn free gift cards through apps like Swagbucks. I won't go into that here for the sake of this article, but you can check out the Budget Board on disboards.com and get a TON of info on how to save on Disney gift cards and other ways to save on your Disney Vacation.
So those are some of the ways our family saves on meals. What about you? How do you save money on meals at Disney?