We had a momentous occasion in our household this past December – my son turned 10 years old. While I was thrilled to see my young boy grow further and continue developing into a nice young man, I wept a little inside because I knew it meant that he was no longer a “child” as defined by Disney. Yes, according to ticket prices, dining plans, and other restrictions around Walt Disney World, my dear boy is now an adult. I expect him to move out and start supporting me in my old age soon. Yep, any minute now…
While I’m waiting, though, I thought it would be best to share with you other parents how we are managing to get around the “adult” price tags for things at Walt Disney World. As I mentioned, since Disney now considers my 10-year-old an adult, everything has gone up in price. A 7-day park hopper pass, for instance, is now $342.93 including tax, vs. $322.70 for the child’s ticket. Sure, that’s only $20, but it still hurts. The big issue is food; in fact, that is increasingly the greatest challenge when we plan a trip to Walt Disney World.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it costs more to eat at Walt Disney World than just about any place in the United States, and it keeps getting more and more expensive every year. When you reach the stage of having an “adult” joining you at the table, that only makes things worse. Whereas a dinner at Crystal Palace used to be one of our favorite splurges, spending $40.99 for my son to have the exact same food he used to get for $19.99 at dinner (see menu) just is not worth it. So, while he is filling out job applications, here are some tips we have for saving money with our new adult in the household.
Don’t eat at buffets or fixed-price meals. Sure, you may want to have fond memories of the halcyon days when your little one adored Mickey or Pooh, and you ate breakfast (see menu) with Chef Mickey in the Contemporary, but remember that the little ones are now big, and as they have grown, so has the price to feed them. I gave the Crystal Palace example above, but for breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, the price goes from $19.16 for kids to $35.14 for an “adult.” That extra $16 adds up quickly, because it’s not like the kiddo will eat more than he did when he was 9 years old.
- Do NOT get the Disney Dining Plan. If you have read some of my earlier blog posts, you know I am a huge proponent of the Dining Plan when you have kids. Depending on when you travel, for $15.04 or $16.02 per day you can feed your children a sit down meal, a counter service meal, and a snack. You probably couldn’t do that at home for that price. But when they reach the magical age of 10, that price jumps up to $51.54 to $53.54 per day. Is your little darling going to eat an additional $36 per day of food? I’m guessing not. At that point, it makes no sense to go for the Disney Dining Plan.
- Use the Kid’s Meals. It’s a well known fact that adults can still order off the kid’s menu if they would like. So, if you, like me, sometimes need a good table service meal to break up a long day of park touring, your new “adult” 10 year old can still order a kid’s meal. Not to say he has to, but the option is still there when you’re not visiting buffets or character meals. Just taking the time to do that can save you $20 or more at some restaurants.
- Weigh your counter service options carefully. Again, your 10-year-old can still order off the kid’s menu at counter service restaurants, but sometimes, that might not be the best deal. Here’s an example: at Fairfax Fare in the Studios, a kid’s meal (see Kids’ Menu) will run you $5.49 for macaroni and cheese, applesauce, carrot sticks and small juice box. Meanwhile, the new hot dog meal (see Lunch/Dinner Menu) comes with macaroni and cheese on top and coleslaw on the side for $8.19. Which do you think is more likely to fill your child up? For my 10-year-old, it’s worth getting the hot dog meal so that we don’t have to stop and get a box of popcorn later.
- Snacks. Lots of them. I know, that’s counter intuitive to what I just said, but snacks can be key. If you are trying to save money, splitting items at table service restaurants and ordering kid’s meals, followed by a well timed snack makes a lot of sense. A nice $3.79 pretzel shared between you and your 10-year-old could stave off a larger meal later, saving your $20 or more for an adult portion.
Those are just a few of the things we tried in January to keep from going bankrupt trying to feed our newly minted “adult.” I’m sure we are not the first people to face this dilemma. While I take this kid to job interviews, what are your tips for saving money on these Disney adults?