What Would YOU do with $1200?

We are planning a 2-week trip to WDW in early December. The five of us (2 adults, 3 girls ages 4.5, turning 7 on the trip, and almost 9) will be staying in a 3-bedroom timeshare near Sea World. I’m going to bring a crock-pot and some frozen meals (I’m thinking 7-8 of them) and we’ll buy snacks, breakfast stuff, and some sandwich stuff for a few lunches. So, here’s my question: How would YOU allocate your remaining money for food & extras? We have 8-day tickets (may add a 9th while we’re there but not sure on that) and will likely spend 1 HS, 2 AK, 2 EP and 3 MK. We have approx. $1200 left in the budget for food and/or extras (this is not including the money I have budgeted to buy the groceries for snacks/lunches/crockpot/travel day meals…this is strictly the dining out and/or extras category).

We’re going for such a long time (you can thank divorced grandparents who all want to participate but don’t want to be there at the same time as each other) that I need to be budget-conscious but I also want to have some really good meals. I’m not really interested (I mean, I would be if the sky was the limit) in things like BOG fix-price dinner or PPO meals just to get short lines. I also place a high value on decent food, so while I’m ok with spending $200 for our family to have a character meal or two, I don’t want to pay $200 for a mediocre breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs, which we can have at home.

My girls like princesses ok but are not princess-crazy. I have one major dinosaur fan. We have a birthday while on the trip. And my girls are all fairly adventurous eaters. I mean, they like chicken nuggets as much as the next kid but they also like Turkish and Middle Eastern food, Indian, Chinese, etc. Basically we have 13 days of meals: 7-8 of the dinners will be crock-pot meals or things like tacos, and most of the breakfasts will be eaten at our timeshare. How would you allocate the remaining meals?

I’m thinking of Tusker House (is it true that if I book a breakfast at 10:30 that we’ll get to try some of the lunch food, too?), the Bon Voyage breakfast (on our first morning there, not a park day), a BOG lunch and maybe a Flame Tree BBQ meal. Beyond that (or in place of those) I’m looking for suggestions. Is a dessert party worth it, or would it be better to get 3 QS meals with our money instead? Should we pack a lunch and lots of snacks for our HS day since there aren’t many good places to eat in HS, and save our money for snacks or a meal in a different park? Would you do more TS and pack a lunch those days, or would you do 2 QS meals? Would you pay for a dining package like Fantasmic or ROL if it means you’d have to pack a lunch for two days to even it out? Or would you skip that in order to eat decent QS or more snacks? I know everybody is different and has different preferences, so I’m looking forward to hearing people’s opinions regarding the dining budget!

You could look into getting the ROL package with Tusker House. If you’re far enough out you should be able to get close to 10:30-10:45 (I’m pretty sure that’s the right time frame) for both breakfast and lunch. I’ve done days with 2 QS and those with 1 QS and 1 TS. I think as long as your going a Sir down TS would be nice— rest your feet, let the girls rest, etc.

1 Like

Only one day in HS? Will your focus be on ToyStory Land?

Have you already included parking in your budget?

If you are planning on meeting characters during your trip, a couple character meals are a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Tusker House is a great example of that. While the food isn’t amazing, it’s good for a buffet, and we have also done a 10:30am reservation to do both breakfast and lunch. It worked out great! So I would recommend that one paired with the ROL dining package if you plan on seeing ROL. If you wanted a QS breakfast in AK, Yak n Yeti QS has giant breakfast burritos that DH and I thought were delicious, and they’re huge so you could definitely split them and enjoy eating out for cheaper. If you do decide on a sit down meal at HS and plan on seeing Fantasmic, I’d recommend the dining package there as well. HBD has great food, and is a little more adult but not overly so IMO. Best steak of our 2-week trip last year was there. I would consider the HEA and Frozen dessert parties. I recommend HEA to everyone and Frozen if it helps with your Epcot planning. I think value for money Frozen offers the best value of the dessert parties (walk-on FEA, seating, amazing view, and good desserts). I’ll do HEA every trip if I can. If you want to try a really good breakfast TS on the cheap, we loved Kona Cafe at the Polynesian. The res was easy to get, wait was less than 10 minutes, food was delicious and cheap! (By Disney standards anyway).


I would definitely make it a point to get over to AKL and take in a meal at one of the fabulous restaurants there. My personal favorite is Sanaa but Jiko gets high marks from many (I just haven’t dined there yet) and might be nice for a special meal.

1 Like

Y&Y is not serving breakfast at this time. One is limited to Creature Comforts (Starbucks) or the Joffrey’s cart before the tapstiles if one is looking for QS breakfast at AK for now.

Yes, we were planning an open to late day at HS with a day off afterwards. We’ll probably do lots of the shows and any of the rides that my kids want to do (or that I can get a FP for). I want 2 days in Epcot and the kids will want 2 in AK. I think 3 in MK is a must. Most people consider HS a 1-day or even 1/2-day park, right? I know TSL is opening but I still don’t think it’d be worth more than that?

And yes, I already have that $176 included in the budget for parking! :wink:

1 Like

I have Sanaa on the list! I’m thinking maybe the grandparents will watch the kids and hubby and I can go for a date!

1 Like

Oh, I was thinking the kids would love it, but it will make a great date location.

@sarahraegraham thanks for the recommendations!

@OBNurseNH we still may take all the kids…but it will make a great date if our other plans for a date fall through (namely let the grandparents watch the kids so we can go back to Epcot, but I’m not sure how they’ll feel about doing bedtime…)!

1 Like

Random thoughts:
You’ve got your work cut out for you, and I think you are going about this the correct way. If you live in an area with decent ethnic options, don’t go to WDW expecting ethnic food to be as good. It won’t be - unless you eat offsite. Eating offsite has a better chance of better, cheaper food.

Character meal: decide which one (s) would be right for you, perhaps based on the characters first?
The characters, and the experience are what you are paying for. If you know how to navigate a buffet, you’ll eat well, but the price is nowhere near worth it for food alone. They will never be worth the price for food alone. Tusker House might be your best bet for the classic characters and food choices, and yes, going near the end of breakfast will net you some lunch choices. if you do a char meal, GET A TON OF PICTURES, and enjoy it. GET A TON OF PICTURES. I don’t think either TH, or CM is BAD, you just have to realize that the food is not the primary reason for the hefty cost, and make sure you get a ton of pictures - don’t be shy. Those memories are what you are paying for (and a break, and a meal, and not waiting in a line to “meet” those characters. They will come to you for pictures at the meals.)

Make sure you investigate which qs meals are shareable. Some of the qs meals are waaaaaaaaay bigger than most ppl expect.The kids meals are usually very well priced for the quantity, too. Going on rides, walking in the heat - I’m a pig, but I don’t want to be stuffed for that. Some, if not most qs meals, can be easily shared - Flame tree full slab meal - if i’s still offered - was a BARGAIN, in that we could have split it three ways, and it was very good, for wdw food, AND the price. Oh yeah, walking around with doggie bags because you ordered too much - not a great thing, either.

Also, keep the kids sated before the hangries kick in with healthy things that they like. Empty salt and sugar laden snacks…I’m probably telling you something you already know. Bust out the snacks before they ask. I…lol…I had things like, “9:45am: almonds and water while walking to Test Track.” Sprinkled throughout the day, just so I wouldn’t forget.

I think with proper investigation like you are doing, you’ll be fine - just don’t stress on the food too much. It’s not that good for the prices, and with two weeks, you will hopefully have ample time to do what you’d like, especially if you have a car? When ppl take shorter trips, and do not have a car, time is at a premium, so travelling for better, cheaper food has to be weighed for the time premium.

If you have a car, and enough time, I’d be checking on better/cheaper meals offsite, to offset the cost of char meals / dessert parties.

ETA - don’t scoff at the price tag, but EMM at MK, do your research, and give it a thought. You probably have enough time, but it might be worth it in your plans.

1 Like

You can do both! Sanaa food to me was OK, but their bread plate was amazing! You can get that in their lounge anytime… so you could technically do both Jiko AND Sanaa!

A girl can dream, anyway.

We saw a bunch of animals while waiting for Sanaa outside the windows as well. A really big tortoise as well, it was really cool!

1 Like

You certainly could but I would not recommend it in one night. For us, anyway, bread service and dessert makes a meal. Definitely couldn’t hack bread service for appetizer and a full meal at Jiko. Two visits, for sure.


I heard they changed the Jiko fillet back to the mac-and-cheese that was there before, and people are pretty happy about it. But it’s two dining credits, so we weren’t sure it was worth the trouble this time around.

1 Like

Personal favorites-
Tusker House breakfast
Ohana dinner (no characters)
1900 Park Fare dinner
Columbia Harbor House (no characters)
Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin - Disney Springs (no characters)


I think Tusker House is a great character meal. I think Garden Grill is a great one as well. BOG lunch is also one of my favorites so those are good choices. Flame Tree is good but I didn’t think it great and not air conditioned. You might want to look at the Pandora quick service.

I would just look at spreading them out over the week so you have a good balance of eating out and staying in.

Sounds like you have a good plan!

1 Like

@seebee So you would eat off property more or pack lunches and do the dessert parties or other extras? We are driving down from NC so will have a car and a kitchen. I’m not opposed to cooking some but I don’t want to cook all vacation. We’re not food snobs by any means but we live overseas so our kids have had a variety of foods. I know that prices at Disney are high and that’s ok. I just really don’t want to pay $40 for breakfast and come out hungry because I thought it was yuck. I’m not stressed about food, just hear about things like dessert parties! and dining packages! and I want to do it all but we do have a budget and I need to at least try to stick to it. Since we have a car and a kitchen I know I have options that many people don’t have. So I’m loving hearing what people would choose!

@imaginette we’ll try the bread plate if we go! Mmm, bread…:yum:

@SillySamsMom I think we’ll be trying Columbia Harbor House if for nothing else other than the upstairs out-of-the-crowds tables! And if we do MK three days we’ll be looking for decent QS.

@LaurenB thanks for the recommendations! It’s always good to hear when others think you’ve made good choices! I’m looking forward to AK QS…there’s supposed to be good places to eat in Africa and Pandora!

1 Like


Make sure you read the assumptions.
The intent is to compare it the Disney dining plan - which you cannot get. However, I have found it the most concise place that will show how much to expect to spend for each meal.

My next trip is 9night/10 days Oct/Nov. I’m going to do in room breakfast about 5 days, and pbj to eat in the parks for about 4-5 days as well. I’m trying to also keep my food budget between $1000-$1500 for 2 adults and 1 child.

Does the $1200 include souvenirs?
We get an autograph/picture book every trip. Roughly $20. I would say, each child will want their own.
I also limit my daughter to approx $50-75 in things to take home…fitting in the suitcase is important!

It’s hard, this budgeting stuff! With our travel day budget and groceries our food budget is like $1800. I’m hoping I don’t spend as much on groceries as I’ve budgeted for but honestly…I live in Russia and don’t know how much groceries cost in the US these days. So I’d rather over-budget for those and have an extra $100 at the end of it, you know? I’ve figured that most QS places I’m budgeting for $60 a meal (on average…BOG would be more, etc.) and TS would be around $100. Character meals range from $160-250…I just don’t think I can swallow the $250. We’ll save those meals for a trip in the future when maybe we have the dining plan! It’s just hard to balance it all out…some nice meals, some PB&J, some Mickey bars, some granola bars. And hubby wonders why I’m spending so much time planning a trip that’s still 8 months away…:grin: