Disneyland Dining – Ways to save on Eating Expenses at Disneyland
Disneyland has many great dining options, but food costs can add up! We have put together some ideas on how to save on food costs and eating out 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!
If you are looking for some great restaurant recommendations for inside the Disneyland parks (in addition to all the food saving tips here), check out this article on The Best Value Dining Options inside the Disneyland Resort here.
After you have read all of our best tips on how to save on food for your Disneyland trip, be sure to 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
- and so many more saving and planning tips here!
Tips to Save on Food at Disneyland:
You will need to consider what the best balance is for your family, when making dining plans for Disneyland. Are you looking to save the most money possible, or are you looking for a balance of convenience and money saving? Do you want to save money, while eating out, or are you willing to eat in the hotel for a few meals to save more. Are you looking to save money without ever leaving the Disneyland resort, or is eating off-site an option too. You can always save some money, with a little planning on your food costs. How much you save, will depend on what things are important to you, so consider those questions above as you begin your planning process. Here are some tips that will help you save, and you can fit them into what things are most important for your trip!
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), or if you have a car there are many stores in easy driving distance. This is a question you will want to consider when you are booking your room. If you get a spot that has a small kitchenette, you can easily do breakfast and a later dinner in your room, and then have lunch at the parks, for example. This kind of planning will save you big time on your food costs, but might “eat” into some of your park time, so you will need to determine ahead of time which is most important to you. If this is something you decide to do, plan ahead of your trip some simple and affordable meals you can have ready. You do not want to have to work too hard after a long day of playing in the park. Things like sandwich fixings, pizzas you can throw in the oven, or frozen lasagne meals with a salad work nice while on vacation.
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).
Coffee and some fruit alone can run at around $30 easily for a family of 4 in the park. If you are doing a full breakfast, you can be up at $50 for a family of 4 in no time. So eating breakfast and brewing your own cup of Joe in the room, could easily save you a couple hundred dollars, and not cause much inconvenience at all.
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 / or Kids Eat Free Options
This is probably one of the best ways to save on food. For my family of 5, breakfast out cost us around $30-$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.
We have highlighted some hotels here that offer free breakfast with your stay. Remember that not all free breakfasts are created equal. There can be a big difference between a continental breakfast and a full hot breakfast buffet, so check into the details of the breakfast offerings too.
We have also stayed at a couple of spots where kids eat free. This was a nice perk, as it saved us three meals for each time we ate there. Again, pay attention to the details of these offers as they can differ (some only allow one free kids meal per adult meal ordered, so if you are two adults and have more then two kids you will want to know this ahead of time for example).
How to Save on Character Meals
Want to do a character meal? Up until recently, some of the travel sites offered discount character meal vouchers, but those programs have now been discontinued, making it harder to find true savings on character meals. One thing you can do is to choose the right meal. Some will be much more expensive then others (find a comparison of them all here). 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 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. Sometimes 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. These character meal vouchers also have a cash value, so you can use them to eat at other restaurants too. Check out this article here, to find out how to use character meal vouchers to help you eat for less if you get them included in your package deal, and do not really care about Character meals.
You can also 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). If you have a Target Red Card, you can get these Disney gift cards at 5% off! You can also find a small savings on Disney Gift Cards here, and you can use the gift cards to pay for your meal.
Some examples of ways to save at recent offerings at 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.
Pro Tip:: 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.
Use Coupons To Save On Food at Disneyland!
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:
- Get Away Today is a great spot to book your Disneyland vacation at a nice savings, plus they offer lots of coupons with their bookings too! Find their coupon page for Southern California here. We got 10% off some of our favorite restaurants in the Downtown Disney area for example with these coupons!
- The Visit Anahiem website has coupons like BOGO item free for McDonalds on Disneyland Drive, and more!
- Groupon has 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 a few options in the area available for dining deals They also offer Groupon Cashback offers. We share all the details on the Groupon Cashback program here, but in summary – if you attach your card to Groupon for the Cashback offers, and then use that card to pay for your meal, they will automatically give you cashback on your card. Some are as much as 25% back, so if you buy a meal that costs $50 for your family through this program, you would get $12.50 put back on your card. That is a pretty nice savings! Find out more about how that works here, and make sure you are signed up and have added the restaurants with cashback offers before heading out.
- 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).
More Disneyland 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?