A Walt Disney World vacation can certainly make a dent in your wallet, and one of the most significant costs is often food. I’m as gdrinkuilty as anyone of ordering $4.99 cupcakes and $3.50 bottles of water without a second thought. Those costs quickly add up, and that’s before any table service meals! So I embarked to find out if it was possible to survive on $20 a day at the Magic Kingdom.

An immediate sacrifice had to be made to make this work: soda. Beverages in the Magic Kingdom range from $2.50 to over $5.00! However, a fact some people still don’t know is that free iced water is offered at most counter service restaurants. This water is filtered, but my out of town friends still claim our water tastes a little “swampy.” To counter that, I suggest bringing some flavor packs from home. Crystal Light makes great ones! There are even some brands that include caffeine so you don’t have to give up that extra boost of energy. All the below meals assume that you have your trusty ice water in hand!

muffinFor breakfast I decided to grab a muffin at Cheshire Café for $2.99 after tax. While it may seem like a boring choice, these muffins (see the menu) are huge and a very good value! This location is also tucked back into Fantasyland, so it didn’t interfere with my rope drop touring plan. I was able to swing through after my morning of dark rides and grab breakfast without waiting in a line. You certainly can’t say that about the Main Street BakeryBalance after breakfast: $17.01

I thought I’d have a little more fun for lunch with one of my favorite treats, the Nutella and fresh fruit waffle sandwich for $6.84 after tax from Sleepy HollowI know some won’t think that qualifies as lunch, but it is an excellent meal! If you still aren’t sold, check out the menu: you can instead choose a sweet and spicy chicken waffle sandwich or ham, prosciutto, and swiss sandwich for sixty cents more, but remember these are only available from 11am – 5pm. Balance after lunch: $10.17

FishFor dinner I needed some vegetables after all those carbs! I headed over to Columbia Harbour House, which never disappoints (see menu). I decided on Fish ‘n Chips for $8.51 after tax. I had the option of fries, apple slices, or broccoli with my meal. You can see they were very generous with the broccoli! It also tasted steamed and not like frozen bagged stuff. The fish was also pretty good for fried mystery fish! Overall this was tasty, filling, and left me with $1.66 in change!

Not one to leave money on the table I wondered over to the Liberty Square Market to see what my pennies could get me (see menu). It turns out that whole apples, oranges, or bananas are available for $1.60 each after tax. This left me with a nice snack for the parade and $.06 in my pocket. Believe it or not, with a little planning you can absolutely survive at the Magic Kingdom for $20 a day! To help with your planning, check out the Touring Plans Menus!

So what are your favorite money saving tricks for the parks, or do you have any tips as we try to survive on $20 a day at the other parks? Let us know in the comments below!

My Other Disney World “Meals on Just $20 a Day” Posts:



  1. I tell everyone I meet about the free ice water. Most locations give you a BIG cup of it. On a really hot day you can get one to drink and one to dump over your head!

  2. $20 for one person?! Yikes! Here is what we do: Take your own water bottles into the park in a back pack. We just bring 2 and share them, but if you are more germaphobic, then you could bring one for each member of your family. There are water fountains throughout each park. Fill them with ice prior to leaving for the day. Also in your back pack take along apples, fruit roll ups, granola bars, raw veggies in baggies, etc…you know, snacking items. In the morning, eat cereal that you bring from home, buy milk at the hotel market and keep in your mini frig, have fresh fruit either from home or purchased from the hotel market. I usually pack one suitcase with food. We have never been told we could not bring snacks into the parks and we have been to WDW many times. Plan for an early supper time so that you can make it from breakfast to supper with just snacks. Pay for just one meal per day. Otherwise, there are some very good Disney Dining Plans available right now, one is actually free if you can book it soon.

    • we freeze our water bottles in the mini fridge,…so they melt cool up to late lunch time (on a good day) – mid morning when it’s scorching.

    • This is what we do too! We generally don’t budget more than $15 per person, per day, and that’s for lunch and a snack.

      • These are great ideas. Before we lived here we ate breakfast in the room and had big lunches so we could skip dinner (or snack from the backpack). I’m taking notes! 🙂

  3. What a great idea! I always come home from a “Disney weekend” and think “How did I spend so much money?” You made it possible to not overspend (or overeat). Great article. Thanks for sharing.

    • Another thing I do to save on beverages is bring my own Brita water bottle. I’m from FL so I’m used to our awful water, but the Brita is the best. It helps me drink more water too.

  4. This is our first year having to pay for dining. We decided to get the quick serve plan for our 5 day trip. It comes out to about $115 per day for our family of five. We only get 4 days worth of meals, but we figure we can get our breakfast each day by using snack credits and desserts from our regular meals. Having the refillable mugs means that we can take the drinks that cone with the meals to the parks instead of having to buy any. Plus I really love not having to think about how much we’ve spent each day. As the person who handles the finances in our home it’s nice to get a break from thinking about money. 🙂

    • I love the dining plan when we stay on property – but being local that is few and far between! Enjoy those meal credits!

  5. We ship pepperoni rolls from our local bakery in West Virginia to our resort. This year we ordered 88 rolls for just short of $50 and shipping of $25; a total of $75. Five lunches for 7 people with extras for the larger appetites. Cost per person on average for lunch with free waters was give or take $2.25. We stayed 10 days and ate the pepperoni rolls every other day. On the off days, we ate peanut butter or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch with a price per person below the $2.25 mark.
    We use Garden Grocer to deliver groceries which enables us to eat breakfast in our room for $1.50 per person. We have fresh fruit, cold cereal and milk.
    Having the grocery delivery enables us to have ready snacks and cold cut sandwiches in the evening or when returning from the parks. We do eat meals and snacks in the parks, but we are very selective.

    • Wow – what a good idea! I’m taking notes for my next DL trip! We normally pack snacks in an extra suitcase (Like Louise) and then use that bag to bring goodies home but this sounds yummy!

  6. I love this! I’m a pretty big eater, but after running around in the Florida heat with my touring plan, I’m not usually all that hungry. At the same time, I don’t want to miss out on the fun of WDW food. This is a great way to not only save money, but also to try different things without getting sick on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Thanks!

  7. My kids are very picky eaters so it’s not worth the costs to purchase any of the Disney Dining Plans. Like an earlier poster mentioned, we too ship a box of food to our resort. I send the box from work to make use of my company’s corporate shipping discount. (I needed to pay a $5 delivery fee when I picked up the box at our resort, the Contemporary). I mail items “light” in weight, like cereal. I include 4 of the pre-packaged cereal cups, plus a box of cereal. We reuse the cups the rest of the week. We purchased fruit daily from the resort cafe to add to the cereal to change it up a bit. I also bring snack bars and the like into the park. This works out great for grabbing a snack while waiting for things like a FassPass time to come around. I also send 4 of the smallest sized water bottles to bring to the park for refills. Fountains are everywhere and my bag doesn’t get heavy carrying the smaller bottles. We do a character sit down table meal every other day or so and this is when my kids (and me!) fill up on our favorite desserts. I don’t feel bad splurging on these meals when we haven’t really spent too much on breakfast and snacks because of the food we shipped.

    • Never heard of resort charging delivery fee. Last time I received shipment, CM left it in our room at Polynesian automatically. Wasn’t even a club level room.

      I’ll be shipping bottled spring water (via Amazon Prime) to resort this fall to save money and always have fresh, cool water available. 4 bottles a day will save me over $50 for the trip compared to buying Dasani, which isn’t even spring water anyway.

  8. Does anyone know if you can use a quick service credit for the waffle sandwich at Sleepy Hollow? I know they have snack items but wondered if waffles could be a quick service meal? Thanks. I also always bring my own snacks and water. I still have young ones and its easy to tote in stroller. We only buy one meal. But this year have free dining!

    • Yes. I was able to do it last year at least. It was basically a waffle sandwich, chips, and a drink for one counter service credit. It’s probably not the best use of the DDP because it’s not that expensive, but I really wanted one and chose to look at it as free because we had the free DDP too. 🙂 The nutella and fruit one is YUMMY.

  9. Someone I know, flew Southwest (free bags!) and carried an extra suitcase of food which, when emptied, became extra souvenir storage for the return trip home. This same someone packed, amongst other things; oatmeal, snacks, cereal, bowls, spoons, and Parmalat milk (the kind that doesn’t require refrigeration). Said family of five ate breakfast in room each morning complete with milk. This same family also had many snacks and treats at their fingertips. No vending machines for that bunch. I…er…someone I know saved oodles of money!

  10. Love this article!
    We rented a studio villa at Wilderness Lodge through David’s. The cost was worth it for us, since we got a nice kitchenette. The price wasn’t bad, either. I think something like 1400 for 7 nights?
    We brought a ton of food from home — shopped at Aldi’s and Wal Mart.
    I made a huge batch of very healthy and hearty pumpkin pancakes and froze them. We packed these in our cooler and ate them almost every morning. We brought filling snacks to the park with us, but often stopped for a “snack-y” sort of lunch. Our favorite was the Tortuga Tavern. Kids got cheese quesadillas and my husband and I shared an order of nachos. He kept 2/3 of them on his plate. Since I am on weight watchers, I rounded mine out with a scoop of shredded lettuce and tomatoes from the fixin’s bar. It was very tasty and not expensive.
    We did the dining plan the last time we went (deluxe) and totally enjoyed eating our way through the parks. But the budget route was much healthier for us — not to mention that my kids are incredibly picky and don’t eat much. They ate almost nothing when we did the dining plan. The waste was terrible.
    The other fun thing about our “eat in the room” budget strategy was that we were able to splurge when we wanted to! And we did!

    • Yum! I doubt you’ll find a breakfast as good as pumpkin pancakes on property. (Okay – maybe Tonga Toast). Good luck on WW! 🙂

  11. I shop before we leave for WDW and bring assorted granola bars, a couple of loaves of bread, peanut butter, jelly, nutella, bottled water and juice boxes. We eat granola bars for breakfast in the room (the hubs and I do stop and pay a couple of $ for some non-hotel room brewed coffee, although Starbucks may now force us to expand our coffee budget slightly!). I alternate making peanut butter and jelly or nutella sandwiches each day and feeze some of the juice boxes and water bottles to keep everything cold (agreed that nutella for lunch is an excellent meal, especially on vacation!). This way, instead of spending a fortune on boring hamburgers and chicken nuggets for lunch every day, we budget about $15-$20 a day for our family of 4 to share some snacks like ice cream, pop corn or a waffle with nutella because you can never have too much nutella! For dinner, we alternate between being economical and splurging. One night we might grab dinner at the Earl of Sandwich, while another night we might go somewhere like T-Rex or go completely crazy if we can score a reservation somewhere like Ohana! I’ve done it both ways – going all out on everything and then regretting wasting so much money on meals no one cared about and weren’t great, and skimping on every meal and then feeling like we missed out on a specific restaurant/experience we really craved. Striking a balance between the two is definitely the way to go for us, but I always tell people that food is one of the best and easiest ways to save $$ on a Disney vacation!

  12. If Im going to WDW, Im going to enjoy myself and that means partaking in whatever I want to eat. I think if you need to budget yourself while here, you need to save more, prior to even going.

  13. Thought I’d share a tip that I found invaluable on our trip last year – my daughter & I stayed at All Star Movies, (& coming from Australia we were obviously unable to bring our own food): If you are a light breakfast eater (like me) you can buy slices of bread from the grab & go in the food court, then toast them yourself using the toasters provided (butter & spreads are free!)I had a cup of tea each morning & 2 pieces of toast for around $3 – more than enough for me & certainly good for the budget.

Comments are closed.