Ways to save on Eating Expenses at Disneyland
Disneyland has many great eating options, but food costs can add up! We have put together some ideas on how to save on food costs and eating out (including the popular Character Meals) at Disneyland for you. The key to saving the most is to plan. Once you are on property, if your crew gets hungry and you have not planned ahead chances are you will end up eating where-ever you can get into, and that can cost you. I did this by creating a quick list of what would be breakfast /lunch and dinner options that were in our budget, just so I knew were to look when it was time to eat. Not only did it save us money, but it also saved us time too! Check out our Disneyland Savings page for more tips on:
- Disneyland Secrets and Tips
- How to Save on a Disneyland Hotel (or Disneyland area hotel)
- Save on Disneyland Tickets & Find Disneyland Ticket Discounts
Tips to Save on Food at Disneyland:
Bring your own food, or have groceries delivered to your hotel room
The way you will save the most is to cook your own meals if you are staying in a hotel with a kitchenette, or to pack your own snacks and water for the parks. You can get groceries delivered to many area hotels from the local VONs store (Safeway affiliate). Don’t want to worry about preparing each meal in your room? Just eat breakfast in your room. This can save you a ton alone, and its an easier meal to eat in your room (cereal, oatmeal, etc). Another way to save if you prefer to eat out, is to BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverages). I enjoy the break from cooking, but by providing our own beverages we save lots. Beverages can easily run you $3-$5 per beverage (non-alcoholic). The cheapest coffee we found on-site was $1.99 at Earl of Sandwich. Most other spots were around $3+. So make your coffee in your room too, and save there. If you enjoy a glass of wine at dinner, have your own bottle in your room, and grab a glass to enjoy around the pool or at the fire in the evening (or your favorite spot at your hotel).
Book a hotel room with breakfast included
This is probably one of the best ways to save on food. For my family of 5, breakfast out cost us around $20-$70 per meal (depending on whether we did coffee and donuts, or a full fledged sit down breakfast). We have in the past booked hotel rooms that included a full hot breakfast buffet each morning, and we would eat a little later in the morning, and then just need a snack and dinner for the rest of the day.
How to Save on Character Meals
Want to do a character meal? Consider choosing breakfast or lunch over dinner (the savings here can really add up depending on how many ppl you have in your party). I prefer it too, as my kids are still energetic and love meeting the characters. We like to plan a day where we do a late character breakfast so its more like brunch, and then a light dinner to balance out the cost of character meal some.
If you do want to do dinner, some travel sites offer a discount on Character Meal Vouchers. Some current examples include:
ARes offers the following discounted Disney Character Dining Vouchers for purchase:
- $22 Child Gate Character Dining
- $37 Adult Gate Character Dining
- $28 Child Gate Premium Character Dining
- $47 Adult Gate Premium Character Dining
Get Away Today – offers up to $6 off per ticket, if you are want to do a character meal for dinner (note – you wont want to buy these for a breakfast character meal, as they are cheaper onsite).
If you plan to stay at one of the Disneyland Hotels, and there are not great offers available (be sure to check out ways to save on Disneyland Hotels) you can consider booking through Costco. Currently their packages offer a free Character Meal voucher with them, so that is some savings! If you are booking a Disneyland vacation package, sometimes you have the option of getting a character meal added to the package. If you can do this at some savings (so you are not paying full price for the character meal in your package), then its a great way to save on food. Thats because they have a cash value, so you can use them to eat at other restaurants too. See how Christy at Thrifty and Thriving used her character meals to help her and her husband eat for less. Buy a Disneyland Gift Card at your Grocery Store during rewards offers – and then use it to pay for your character meal once on site at Disneyland. This is a unique way to get some savings on the expensive character meals (and you can use it for anything on Disney properties, so if you change your mind while there you can use it to purchase other meals or merchandise too). Some examples of ways to save at recent offerings at NW grocers include:
- Safeway runs a get 4x the gas rewards on gift card purchases from time to time. They sell Disneyland gift cards in their gift card section. It cost my family over $100 to enjoy a character breakfast, so that is about $.40 off per gallon discount (saves me around $10 for a fill up, so I consider that $10 off my meal)!
- Fred Meyer (Kroger Stores) pays you on your rewards points in cash back rewards
- Albertsons runs promos from time to time where you will get a certain Dollar amount off your next grocery store purchase with gift card purchases.
- Target offers 5% off if you use your Target Red card to purchase Disney Gift Card.
You can also ask for a to-go cup for your coffee or drinks at the end of your meal. We always do this and then have around $15 in beverages to take with us, which takes a bit of the sting of the price away.
There are a couple of sources for coupons, or dining vouchers I always check before our trips to see if they will help us save on food costs:
- The anahiem convention center website has coupons like BOGO item free for McDonalds on Disneyland Drive, $5 off Rainforest Cafe and more!
- Groupons Anahiem Dining Deals (just put Disneyland in the search box and select dining deals if it does not bring them up for you at this link) – Currently they have the Pizza Press (which is also right across the street from Disneyland on Disneyland Drive) and Fire+Ice Grill (fun restaurant in the Garden Walk area) and more! Check what dining deals they have in Anahiem before heading out on your trip (could save you half off a meal).
- Entertainment Books for Anahiem (select Anahiem as your city) – there are lots of great coupons in here, including buy one get one free coupons, so you should make your purchase price back and then save lots too!
The Garden Walk is a collection of restaurants in walking distance (long walk, short drive) from Disneyland. There are many ways to save here on some favorites, like California Pizza Kitchen, McCormick & Schmidts, Cheesecake Factory and more. If you visit many of the restaurant websites directly and sign up for their email clubs you can get coupons sent to you (do this around 15 days out from your trip so they are still valid at the time of travel). Costco sells $100 in gift cards to a few of the restaurants in the area for $79.99 (so $20 discount off). Best part is that gift cards act like cash when you are paying, so you can use them with coupons. One example is to pay $79.99 for the Bucca Di Beppo cards, and then sign up for their emails to save $15 off (so you could eat two $57.50 meals for $40 each, or $17 off per meal, for example). Does anyone in your party have a birthday somewhere in the 60 day window before your trip? If so, be sure to sign up for this birthday freebie: a $30 or $50 birthday offer to help you celebrate from the Pantina Restaurant Group. They will send you a certificate that is valid for 60 days after your birthday. You can use it to save big at –
- Tortilla Jo’s
- Catal Restaurant (and UVA Bar)
- Naples Ristorante & Pizzeria
MouseSavers has a few more ideas on where you can find coupons here too.
Eating In the Park VS Outside of the park
Many tip sites tell you to save by eating outside the park. We found this to be true IF you are using one of the other tips listed here (like using coupons, or getting breakfast for free with your room), or if you eat someplace like a McDonalds. Otherwise, we have not found it to be true that we save much by eating outside of the park. We have done well with some coupon offers in the past, and my husband and son love a special trip to In and Out Burgers (requires a short drive), but if we just hop into the local restaurant without special savings we have found it costs us as much as it does to eat on Disney property with some of these savings tips. Here are some ways we have used to save eating offsite though – IHop offers a Kids Eat FREE promotion (with a paid adult) 4:00 pm to close daily. They are also located over on Disneyland drive. Happy Hours – Some local restaurants have a family friendly Happy Hour, if you can eat during these times. A couple of ideas include: Tangerine Bar and Grill (in the Annabella Hotel). This is about a 2-3 block walk if you go out the front of the Grand California Hotel. They offer a Happy Hour each day of the week (we took our kids and ate out on the terrace), or you can check out their specials here too (like Taco Tuesday or $1 items, etc). McCormick and Schmicks allowed seating for families during their Happy Hour the last time we were there. I recommend calling ahead to confirm that is the case when you visit though, as other McCormicks require you to eat in the bar area.
Favorite Budget Friendly Breakfast Ideas:
- Earl of Sandwich was one of our favorite breakfasts on budget. Its at the end of Downtown Disney so less crowded then La Brea Bakery. We found their prices to be fairly decent for Disneyland. Breakfast sandwiches are $3.99, and although its not on the menu we got a side of bacon for $1.99 and and fruit cup for $2.49. We were able to feed everyone for around $5 pp here, which we thought was a great deal! We also found it to be a good spot to grab coffee ($1.99 ea).
- Ralph Brennons Jazz Kitchen has a walk up window that serves donuts. You can get a Small (4) $4.99, Large (6) $6.99, Family Size (10) $9.99 , so its a great option if you are a coffee and donuts kind of crew. Pick up your coffee for $1 less at Earl of Sandwich and a couple of $2.49 fruit cups there too, and you can have breakfast in your room for your family for around $20.
- Taquria Joes Express Window has a 9 in. Egg and Cheese burrito for $3.95.
- Flos V8 Cafe in Cars land has a Seasonal Fruit plate with yogurt and a muffin for $5.95 (and fun atmosphere if you love cars land)!
- Your best bet for breakfast in the California Adventure Park is the Pacific Warf. You can get oatmeal for $3.99.
- There is a new Starbucks in Downtown Disney, and one on Main Street in Disneyland too. We did not find their prices to be too much more then a stop at Starbucks generally costs us.
Favorite Budget Friendly Lunch Ideas:
- One spot I like in Disneyland is the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country (over by Splash Mountain). Its a walk up window, so you can order kids meals if you want. Its a great way to save if your crew is looking for burgers and chicken nuggets ($6.49 for a kids meal). Plus all Disney locations now offer healthier alternatives for kids meals, if you prefer to go that route. I enjoy this spot, as its not overly priced for Disney, and its set along the river. You can eat outside with the river as your view, and its generally less crowded then other spots.
- If you will eat hot dogs, Plutos Dog House has a Premium Hot Dog basket for $6.29, or Kids meals for $6.49, you can also grab a corn dog basket on main street for around the same price, or at Corn Dog Castle or Hot Dog Hut in California Adventure.
Another way we save here is to eat a later breakfast, and then get a snack at this time, and then dinner some days!
Favorite Budget Friendly Dinner Ideas:
- The Express Windows in Downtown Disneyland are on of our favorite ways to get a decently priced meal.
- My favorite is the Ralph Brennon Jazz Kitchens Express Window. They make some good old southern dishes like Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice and more, and they start at around $6.99 at their Express Window. My husband I would each get a different dish and then share.
- Tortilla Joes Express window also has some decent prices on Tacos, Quesadillas and more at their express window.
- You can get pizza by the slice for $4.95 if you are not starving at Napolli. Depending on how many ppl you are buying for, it could be a better option to buy a pizza though.
- The Earl of Sandwich is again a great choice for lunch or dinner too. We found it to be comparable to eating at a sandwich shop at home, and their food was fresh (and lots of outdoor seating).
Photo Credit: Disney Food Blog
More Dining Tips:
Snacks My kids love the Churros for $3.75 ea. My younger kids will share one, so its a good value for us in the parks. They are generally sold out of carts in both parks. Dole Whips and Turkey Legs are two more classic Disney favorites, also sold out of the carts. Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland has meat skewers for around $4 per skewer too. Splurge Tips Blue Bayou is a very popular restaurant inside of the Disneyland park. Its in the Pirates of the Carribean attraction and the restaurant is set on shores of the bayou. Its a fun atmosphere (although dark), but the food is pricey. One idea is to stop in there for dessert. You will want to make reservations for here, as it can be tough to get a table if you don’t. As of our trip in 2014 you could order the following dessert options: Crème Brûlée — $8.99 Chocolate Cake — $8.99 Key Lime Pie — $8.99. Pick a couple to share as a family, with some coffee or milk, and you can have a fun treat and experience the restaurant for much less then lunch or dinner would cost you. The Steakhouse 55 restaurant is a popular spot for a nice steak dinner. It is however, very pricey! If you are wanting to try one of their steaks, I would recommend making a reservation for breakfast there. We had promised one of our kids a special steak meal as a reward, and so we did this. The Steak and Eggs breakfast cost us $17, vs the $35+ steak will cost you at dinner. Plus, for a sit down breakfast they have some fairly affordable options for Disneyland ($11 for stack of pancakes with fresh berries) and a very nice ambiance (old Hollywood). Carthays Circle, is another very popular restaurant in the California Adventure park. Its a beautiful restaurant, but again comes with a high price tag. If you want to experience this gem, considering enjoying some small plates at the Carthay Lounge vs eating a full meal in the restaurant. You can find their menu here – but you will find options $15 range for adults, and in the $7 range for kids. Two of my favorite planning resources were:
- All Ears Menus Guide (I love this one, I can check the menus ahead of time to see spots that my family would enjoy at prices that we were comfortable with).
- Disney Food Blogs Disneyland Restaurant Guide – this is a nice place to check out reviews and pictures to see if they are restaurants your family will enjoy!
Be sure to check out our Disneyland Deals page for more great savings ideas for a Disneyland trip!
How about you, what are your best tips on how to save while eating at Disneyland Parks and Resort areas?