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Top 9 Money-Saving Dining Tips

by Mommy Frog on May 9, 2011

Dining expenses on a theme park vacation can really add up, and if your family is anything like mine, you try to eat like Prince John on Robin Hood’s budget. Here are my top money-saving dining tips to help ease the strain on your pocketbook.

Tip #1—Budget Your Dining Expenses In Advance

Undercover Tourist’s iPhone and Android apps have menus from Walt Disney World Resort restaurants, so I can budget our dining out expenses in advance. It’s a great time-saving tool, too! (The iPhone app has menus from approx. 144 theme park and resort restaurants; Android app has menus from the park restaurants only.)

Tip #2—Stock Your Hotel Room

If we drive to Orlando, we bring staple items like bread, deli meats, condiments, cereal and cereal bars, snacks, bottled water and soda. If we fly, we use a grocery delivery service like Garden Grocer or head to a local grocery store as soon as we arrive. (Check to see if your hotel room is equipped with a refrigerator. If not, request one.)

Sunshine Seasons Epcot® DiningTip #3—Eat Breakfast in Your Room

Eating breakfast in the room not only saves money, but saves time, too. The kids can take their time getting ready since we aren't rushed to be somewhere for breakfast. Cereal or cereal bars, oatmeal and, if your hotel has it, a free continental breakfast are great options.

Tip #4—Share Meals

I can’t count how many times we’ve thrown food away because we couldn’t finish. The portions at the theme park restaurants are huge, so spend half the money by sharing.

Tip #5—Pack Lunch and Snacks in Your Backpack

Leap packs his backpack with sandwiches, baggies of carrot sticks and trail mix, two or three bottles of water and several packets of powdered drink mix. This eliminates the possibility of a hunger meltdown and saves our family about $100 each trip. Food safety note: We use a ‘cool pack’ to keep food that can spoil in the heat, like mayonnaise, chilled. (Note: Universal Orlando Resort does not allow outside fooMama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano Disneyd.) See more packing tips.

Tip #6—Let the Kids Eat for Free

Buy a Kids Eat Free Card. A child (11 years and under) can eat for free with a paying adult at hundreds of participating Orlando restaurants including a few in Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort.

Tip #7—Resist Hotel Delivery

There will be a takeout menu slipped under your hotel room door at least once during your trip. It’s tempting, but the delivery charges can be expensive. Check before you order that extra-large pepperoni pizza.

Tip #8—Let’s Do Lunch

Lunch menus are typically less expensive than dinner menus, so choose lunch as your dining-out option for the day.

Tip #9—Skip the Character Dining

Character Dining is great, but if saving money is your goal, skip it. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet the characters in the parks. Another option is to use the money you saved following the above tips and treat your family to ONE Character Dining experience. Need help choosing a Character Dining experience? Click here.

Happy Planning!

Mommy Frog

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Max Schoenholtz Apr 15, 2012 at 8:45 p.m.

We <3 the first 3 tips, and especially tip #3, Breakfast in Room. We've also done bagels with cream cheese, and you could also have english muffins with peanut butter or jam, etc.

I did Universal with my 18yo DD; they do let you bring in a small cooler-bag, about a 6-pack size. I am diabetic and I was able to bring in one of those small bags with cereal bars and fruit.

At restaurants, you can also have your unfinished meals to go, especially if you have a fridge.

And last, many hotels also have microwaves in the rooms.

Steph Apr 30, 2012 at 4:54 p.m.

Do you know which restaurants in Disney and Universal except the Kids eat free card?

FrogBlog Apr 30, 2012 at 5:10 p.m.

Steph, Here is a link to the participating restaurants for the Kids Eat Free card. You can search by area for Universal CityWalk. Thanks! Mommy Frog

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