Dining that won't break the bank?

This will be our first time at Disney so it’s all so overwhelming! We are a party of 10 and looking for dining options that will not break the bank. We are not doing the dining plan as we are not staying on property. Maybe buffet style would be best! Thanks in advance!

If you have a car you might find pretty good, affordable options off site. Trail’s end (at Ft. Wilderness) gets great reviews and it is one of the most affordable buffets. The Wave ( at CR) have a very affordable breakfast buffet. Consider sharing some no buffet meals. The portions are usually large enough to share. I also sometimes order myself a kids meal. The heat makes me not as hungry and that leaves room for snacks later. Also keep in mind breakfast and lunch is usually less expensive than diner at the same restaurant.


I think sometimes a buffet with a cost of around $40 per person can be shocking but I actually think most TS meals at Disney will cost that. I like Sanaa dice we often share a bread service and split an entree, or 50s, where we will share a plate of fried chicken.


I think you’ll find that having one sit down meal every other day (and sharing appetizers and sharing the entrees during those meals) will be plenty. If you do breakfast in your room (cereal/bagels/whatever you like) and then a couple of snacks throughout the day, you’ll have plenty of food and save money (relatively speaking). You can do the counter service meals when you’re hungry. But, sit down meals are expensive no matter how you cut it.

I think it’s important to go into the trip understanding that you will spend a ton on food. I couldn’t believe how much we were spending on food (our first trip this year), but it ended up being a spectacular trip and I don’t regret what we spent on food as it was part of the experience. We ate like kings/queens and enjoyed it all. Just prepare your budget ahead of time and then enjoy! You could also buy gift cards every month when you’re buying your groceries and, mentally, that will help with the expenses because you will have pre-paid the food over time and in smaller amounts.

Have fun and good luck!


The Plaza in Magic Kingdom and Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness are a little less expensive than some of the other table service restaurants and are both places I enjoy when I want a sit down meal while traveling on a budget. Some food courts also work well for large groups, like Sunshine Seasons in Epcot and a bunch of the value/moderate resorts. It may not be the same experience as a sit down meal, but the good is pretty good and there are many different choices to please just about anyone and you shouldn’t have a hard time finding seating for your large group.

Earl of Sandwich in Disney Springs is also a good, less expensive choice (and they offer a small discount for AAA members), and you can find a variety of chain restaurants not far from Disney property. If it were me, then I’d also search Yelp reviews for places near my off-site hotel.

We have a family of nine and we always go off site. We go the Sweet Tomatoes during off hours between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. when it’s easy to get a large table. The kids can eat until their full at $8 per person, get healthier food, and it gives us a break from the crowds during the busiest part of the day. Sweet Tomatoes is in the Target parking lot near where 192 and 429 cross over each other.

If we don’t want to leave Magic Kingdom due to the inconvenience we eat potatoes and hot dogs at the outdoor market at Liberty Square.

If you have a kitchenette where you are staying, you can prepare food in collapsible igloo coolers and rent a locker for $12 to store the food in. We haven’t had any trouble keeping the food cool with ice packs. Disney will credit you $5 on the locker when you return the key.

Last week it was really, really hot when we went and we packed two lunch size igloos with cut watermelon, grapes, cherry tomatoes, and granola bars. We went to the lockers at 3:00 at the heat of the day and brought out our coolers and sat in front of the train station and watched the parade and ate. It was refreshing and helped us to make it through the rest of the day. We had a party of seven that day.


If staying on property to eat, most cost effective considerations are:

  1. Hit quick-service locations. Many of them have a sit-down feel and good food, like Colombia Harbor House in MK (upstairs in the quiet quaint air-conditioning), Tangierine Cafe in Morocco, Sunshine Seasons food court in Epcot, lots of others that you can ask about here.
  2. If you’re looking for a nice, but less extravagant Table Service restaurant for a longer break, in-park options are things like Tony’s, The Plaza, many TS in World Showcase at Epcot, and even Sci Fi at HS isn’t too bad. Some great TS restaurants at resorts very close to the parks (Whispering Canyon at Wilderness Lodge is a boat ride from MK entrance, Captain’s Grill at YC is a 5 to 10 minute walk from back entrance to Epcot).
  3. We’re big believers in packing in food. Every day I pack granola bars, a baggie of trail mix, and special treats like Teddy Grahams, smarties, Disney Themed fruit gummies for my crew. Snacks on the go are rare luxuries only. We often bring in PBJ sandwiches and fruit for lunch. Always bring our own (frozen) water bottles.
  4. If going to splurge on a character meal, consider late breakfast hence breakfast prices but brunch timing. Usually latest breakfast reservation is 10:40 am, perfect break after a couple hours of park touring, and cheaper than lunch. Can do this at Crystal Palace, Tusker House, probably others.
  5. Buffets and family-style AYCE meals are the most expensive restaurants on property.