Tips for Eating Healthy While Saving Money at Walt Disney World

Disney World is probably one of the best places on earth! My husband and I brought our girls there over this past winter break and had a blast! Even though we have only been home a short time plans are already in motion for next year – I think it is safe to say we are officially Disney nuts!

Taking a vacation is good for the soul and mind. Especially, this time of year when we have not seen or felt the warmth of the sun in about 4 months or so. However, taking a vacation to Disney is not cheap. Between the flights, accommodations, park tickets, souvenirs, and food the cost can really add up. Also, it is easy to be blinded by the Mickey ice cream bars, tubs of popcorn, giant turkey legs, and out of this world rice crispy treats. All of these yummy novelty items can really put a dent in your wallet while adding another notch to your belt at the same time. Did you know that the giant turkey legs are almost 1000 calories each! YIKES!

It is difficult to “get a deal” on most things that come with a Disney vacation. On any given day the Disney parks are booming with people from all over the world lining up to spend their hard earned cash. Disney knows this so you would be hard pressed to find any coupons or other savings around the parks.  However, I found that with a little research and planning I was able to save quite a bit on food costs while still eating healthy – of course minus the enormous Mickey Mouse chocolate chips cookies dipped in chocolate. Just sayin…I am human too ya know.

Here are my tips for eating healthy while saving money at Walt Disney World.



Pack food for the airport

I actually found the least healthy and most expensive food options at the airport. Having snacks prepared ahead of time kept us from spending money on food that was not going to satisfy us anyway. On our way to Orlando I packed some nuts, PB & Js, cheese and crackers, Luna bars, along with fruit. Of course, you can’t bring liquids so you have to purchase water after the security check. On our way back to Buffalo we left insanely early in the morning and I did not bring breakfast food with us. Boy was I sorry! We ended up spending close to $25 on a nasty breakfast sandwich, a couple little containers of cereal, and a yogurt parfait. The yogurt parfait, in particular, annoyed me the most because I was trying to go for a healthier option but after looking at the ingredients realized I could have been healthier with a candy bar. Lesson learned is to always bring your own food to the airpot. This way you are not at the mercy of expensive unhealthy food.

Eat breakfast every morning

Disney world is a lot of walking and takes lots of energy so you need to start the day with a hearty healthy breakfast. We stayed off site at a condo that had a full kitchen so it was easy for me to make breakfast in the morning. Having the option to prepare homemade meals is one of the main reasons we rented a condo. I prefer the comforts of home when I travel that way I don’t have to depend on fast food or restaurants for my meals every day. Now if you are staying on site or in a hotel you will have to get a bit more creative. I would recommend having, at the very least, a mini fridge in your room to keep milk, fruit, and other perishables.  Some of you may opt for the Disney dining plan. I can’t really speak to that because we did not use one. However, in my opinion, whenever you are depending on someone else to provide your food you are giving up some control when it comes to ingredients, calories, and nutrition. Try to have some of your own food available.

Bring your own lunch and snacks to the Disney Parks

Do you see a theme here? The cost of food at Disney is expensive and can run a family of 4 close to $40 or more every time you want to get something to eat and drink. Disney allows you to bring your own food into the park so I highly recommend you do so even if it is just snacks. I packed the usual cheese and crackers, Luna bars, fruit, PB & J’s, and nuts. This more than held us over till dinner time. We did eat dinner at nice restaurants in the parks each night. We were able to that because we saved money each day with breakfast and lunch. You might be wondering how we carried all our food and snacks around. We used a backpack and kept the food cool with a couple water bottles we froze the night before.

Bring a water bottle that has a filtration system in it

This water bottle is easily one of the best purchases I made for our Disney trip. You will do lots of walking at Disney and need water to keep you hydrated. Water at Disney will run you $2.50 a bottle. That can add up very quickly for a family of 4 spending 6-10 hours a day at the Magic Kingdom. With a bottle that filters water you can just fill it up at any water fountain and you are good to go.

Research food, restaurants, and dining options ahead of time

This part is really important! There are countless number of food and restaurant options at the Walt Disney World parks and resorts. In fact, you can probably eat at a different restaurant every night for 6 months if you wanted to. Well maybe there are not that many but still the options are pretty much endless. The best way to get the most out of your dining experience is to research the restaurants and dining options ahead of time – you want to step onto Disney property with a plan. My absolute favorite go to resources are the Foder’s Walt Disney World with Kids 2013 and the Disney Food Blog Guide to Walt Disney World Dining. Both resources are highly rated and are must haves in my opinion.

We spent a lot of time reading through these guides before our trip and honestly I cannot imagine going to Disney World without either of them. They helped us put together an itinerary and make the reservations we needed ahead of time. Most importantly we saved money because both books are filled with awesome money saving tips that you would never know without reading these guides.

If you are completely confused about Disney dining plans, what restaurants need reservations, where the healthier food options, and all the other questions you have about the food at Disney then do yourself a favor and get these books.

Purchase the Foder’s Walt Disney World 2013 Guide here. Purchase the Disney Food Blog Guide here. You will be glad you did!

Choose the healthier options

If you decide to eat more of your meals in the parks you will be happy to know that Disney actually offers a lot of healthy options. I saw apple slices, hummus and veggies, salads, sandwiches, grilled chicken, fruit, and many other healthier options on their menus. Now the kicker is you actually have to choose those items over hamburgers and fries, hotdogs, cinnamon rolls, and all the other millions of not so healthy options. I am not going to lie it is harder than you think. When I walked into Confectioners Candy Shop on Main Street I thought I died and went to candy heaven. I lost my mind and purchase way more then I will ever admit to. But…eating healthy is possible you just have dig deep into your willpower reserves.

So there are my tips for eating healthy while saving money on food at Walt Disney World. If there are two things you should take from this it would be to plan ahead and get the Disney Guides. Of course, don’t be too hard on yourself – I mean you are at Disney after all 🙂

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  1. Jessica B says:

    Thanks for your insight! I’m hoping to get the kids down there soon, before they are too old, but I will tell you, the food part holds me back a bit. I HATE spending a lot of money on poor quality and high calorie food. This was helpful to read. I’d love to hear your reviews on where you did eat. Also, in the past, I have had to fly a lot. Those water bottles you bought are welcome to go through security IF they are empty. As soon as you walk through security in most airports there is a waterfountain where you can fill up. I’m not saying it’s Poland Springs, but with your filters on those bottles, you probably just saved the cost of those bottles in your first 5 minutes. Water at airports is makes Disney look cheap. I often carry water for the trip to the airport, dump it in the bathroom before security, and fill it right after security.

  2. I just came back from a trip to Disney. It was a wonderful experience. I actually saw a family pull a tupperware container full of sandwiches out of a backpack at Animal Kingdom, which I thought was great! My one comment I would add is to bring empty water bottles (or a cup) with you to the airport. Then you can fill them with water at a drinking fountain once you are through. We did the same thing at the parks. Saved us money and kept us hydrated.

  3. When we go to disney, we like to pack snacks like larabars and cashews (or other nuts), along with sliced apples. I’ve found that one of those big turkey legs and a salad will feed us two adults with no problem. I know turkey legs aren’t everyone’s thing, though!

  4. Tris D'Angelo says:

    We have used the Dining Plan and it includes dessert at all meals, so if eating healthy is your goal, make sure that you have the ability to say no to the desserts you have already paid for 😉

  5. Lynda Martin says:

    There are some great ideas here but I would like to see some tips for those of us who fly in from overseas (Australia here!) and don’t have the option for making food at home to take to Disneyland with us. We stayed at a hotel in Anaheim last year and asked the desk staff for directions to a supermarket so we could stock up on fruit and sandwich making supplies etc only to be met with blank stares.

    • At DW in FL, there are businesses that make deliveries of groceries and necessities to guests staying in on-site hotels. Many people don’t take or rent cars, so this is a great service.

  6. we had the dining plan and it went very well for me theres a salad bar and healthy options I dont have a problem with making those decisions ofcourse if your a person who cant say no to junk than yes you will be surrounded with it (aka my hubby)

  7. These are great tips thank you for sharing!! My husband and I held annual passes for a few years in a row and in the beginning we were not being smart about our money. Like you said it’s very easy to add those extra dollars…and calories! But now that we have a young son with us we are starting to bring healthy food with us to save money and to be more healthy. I personally love to bring clementines, animal crackers, celery and carrots and apples because I can eat them at room temp and they still taste good. Thanks for all the great advice

  8. We are Florida residents and annual pass holders. The very best advice I can give is that all of the counter service restaurants will give you free ice water. Just ask! We bring a tervis cooler to pour it in so it stay cool longer, but there is no need to drink hot water! Just ask. They are very generous about it. Some snack bars can’t because they don’t have water dispensers- only sinks- but the rest are happy to oblige.


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