Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Disney World On A Budget - Food

Chef Mickey's located in Disney's Contemporary Resort
You have chosen your travel dates, made reservations at an Orlando area hotel, and decided how you would get to Disney World. Now you need to tackle the question how much money will I need to budget for food during my trip? Aside from lodging and airfare the most amount of money you will spend on your Disney World trip will be on food. Listed below I have information about food costs based on where you choose to stay while visiting Disney World. No matter where you choose to stay, if you want to eat at good table service restaurants you will need to make your reservations as early as possible. Disney starts taking reservations 180 days in advance of your visit.  Most of the good table service restaurants start filling up that early. Planning will get you the meals you want. Reservations are not available at quick service restaurants with the exception of Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. To make reservations you can call 407 939-3463 or visit the Disney Dining Reservation website.

Disney Dining Plan For Guests Staying At A Disney World Hotel: If you choose to stay at a Disney World hotel you will have the option of purchasing the Disney Dining Plan. Basically Disney offers 3 meal plans from which to choose. You can choose the Disney Quick Service, Disney Dining Plan, or the Disney Deluxe Dining plan. Only Disney resort guests have the option to purchase meal plans. We chose the Disney Dining Plan for our trip in 2013. Listed here I have each plan option and the cost:

Quick Service
Dining Plan
Dining Plan
Deluxe Dining Plan
What types of meals do I get with this plan?
2 quick service** meals + 1 snack per night per person + a refillable resort mug. Meal includes an entrée, non-alcoholic beverage, & dessert.
1 quick service**,       1 table service***, + 1 snack per night per person + a refillable resort mug.  Meal includes an entrée, non-alcoholic beverage, & dessert OR 1 full buffet.
2 snacks per night, 3 meals of your choosing (quick** or table service***) per night per person. A meal consists of appetizer, entrée, dessert, & a non-alcoholic beverage OR 1 full buffet.
Cost per adult per night (Ages 10 & Up)
$41.99*  per adult per night
$60.04*  per adult per night
$109.53*  per adult per night
Cost per child per night (Ages 3 – 9)
$16.03* per child per night.
Children must order from Child’s Menu.
$19.23* per child per night.
Children must order from Child’s Menu.
$29.86* per child per night.
Children must order from the Child’s Menu.

*The cost as of 2015 for dining plans are in addition to the cost of your Disney World Magic Your Way package.
** Quick service meals may consist of an entree or a combo meal at a Quick service location. Quick service meals are often referred to as counter service meals and are similar to fast food options such as McDonald's.
*** Table service is a sit down restaurant. 

Disney's Polynesian Resort Ohana Restaurant
What is the difference in cost between purchasing the dining plan or paying as you go? For the budget conscious family I recommend deciding how much you would like to eat while at Disney World. Once you decide how frequently you would get snacks or eat desserts with a meal, then you will need to start crunching numbers. Go to the Disney World dining web page and check out the menus to get an idea of the cost for places you will eat. For my upcoming trip I had the knowledge of how the meal plan worked and decided I would compare going with the plan versus paying as I go.  For each night of my upcoming stay I selected 2 meals from a variety of quick service and table service locations. Two of the meals I planned were at Ohana's & the Hoop Dee Doo Revue - both are expensive table service options. The Dining Plan meal plan would cost my family of 3 adults (10+ in age) $1,275 for 7 nights/8 days. To pay as I go I anticipate the cost being $775.  That is a savings of $500!  Now understand we do not typically eat desserts or snacks. If we did eat snacks and desserts for every meal then our estimated cost would have been significantly higher. Since I could potentially save $500 on my upcoming trip, I opted NOT to purchase the Disney Dining Plan. The only time I would select the dining plan would be if Disney were offering it FREE with your package.  This usually happens twice per year, in the fall and late winter/early spring when school is still in session. 

Some families like being able to sit down for dinner and not have to study the menu and prices.  If you enjoy this luxury then maybe the dining plan is for you! If you decide to purchase any one of the dining plans you can use your meals in any order you wish.  If you want to eat 5 times a day for the first 2 days of your trip, you can do that.  However you will not be eating much on the remaining 3 days of your trip because you will have used your credits.  At the same time, whatever meals or snack credits you do not use by midnight on the day you check out of your hotel, you will lose that number of meals or snacks. People almost always have snack credits left over.  Make sure you spend your credits wisely.  Some ideas include purchasing the Mickey shaped cookies or the premium popcorn for souvenirs. Another idea for snack credits is to use them to purchase breakfast items since on all but one dining plan you only get 2 meals per day.  There are even lunch/dinner options that are on the snack credit list. When we had the dining plan we used one of our snack credits to purchase chicken fried rice at Yak & Yeti's in Animal Kingdom. It was plenty big enough for a meal! When you look at a menu you will see SC next to the items that are on the snack list. 

Paying For Meals As You Go: So you have decided you are not purchasing the meal plan OR you are staying at a non-Disney hotel and you do not have the option.  What do you do about eating in Disney World and not spending every available penny on food?  Listed below are some ideas for saving money on food at Disney World: 
  • Water is FREE from any quick service restaurant.  You just walk up to the counter and ask for water.  When I last went to Disney World in 2013, I received a 20 ounce cup of water with ice.  Prior to my learning this trick I would be a pack mule toting water bottles in the park. Make sure you drink plenty of water if you are visiting during the summer.  It won't take long to dehydrate in the Florida heat. 
  • If you don't like plain water, take Gatorade or Kool-Aid packets with you into the park each day.
  • Share food with members of your family. Instead of ordering 2 combos and throwing away the extra fries order 1 combo and share it.  Cosmic Rays at Magic Kingdom has a rotisserie chicken that could be shared by 2. 
  • If you don't want the side order of fries or a salad ask the cashier for just the entree. You will save money and not waste the side items you would not eat anyway. For example at Hollywood Studios Pizza Planet all personal pizzas come with a side order of a salad. If you do not want the salad tell the cashier and you can save $2.00. 
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Pizza Planet

  • Look for restaurants such as Magic Kingdom's Cosmic Rays or Tortuga Tavern that have toppings bar. This is a salad bar type area that is available for you to add unlimited toppings to your burgers etc. Examples of toppings included lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, sauteed onions & mushrooms, pickles, or sauerkraut. Other restaurants that have similar spreads include Hollywood Studios Sunset Ranch Market or Epcot's Cantina de San Angel.
  • Surf the condiment selection at your hotel or in the theme park. You will most likely find peanut butter, jelly, and honey among other offerings for FREE. Order 2 slices of bread & you have a cheap PB&J for the picky child (or adult).
  • Eat breakfast in your hotel room.  All Disney hotels and most non-Disney hotels now have a refrigerator in your room. Bring breakfast bars, cereal, & pop tarts from home. When we drive to Disney World, we buy milk from a local Walmart or grocery store before heading to our hotel the first day we arrive.  If you are staying off Disney property select a hotel that offers a free breakfast.  Take some of the fruit and boxed cereal with you to the park each day. 
  • If you fly to Disney World you can order groceries ahead of time.  One such website that will deliver your groceries to you is We Go Shop. I have not personally used this service, but it gets good reviews on other blogs I have read.
  • I highly recommend having a Disney Character Meal if you have never done this or you are travelling with children.  This is a great way for the kids to get to see their favorite characters in a more personal non-rushed setting. However, it costs quite a bit for a family on a budget.  To save you money I recommend you have Character Breakfast meals.  If you make reservations for the last reservation for breakfast it is usually around 11 AM.  The buffets are filled with plenty of meats, fruits, and pastries that you will not be hungry again until dinner time. If you have a Character Lunch or Dinner it cost more than breakfast. My favorite Character breakfast is at Magic Kingdom's Crystal Palace. Make sure you make your Character breakfast reservation as soon as you have finalized plans to go to Disney.

Listed below is a list of some of our favorite restaurants and some we are going to try.  I also have the average per person menu prices as of 2015.

Restaurants - highlighted ones are our favorites. Some of the non-highlighted ones we are trying for the first time this year but they get good reviews.Avg Meal Cost
per Person
Boatwrights @ Disney's Port of Orleans Riverside - UPDATE: Food was bland & not good.$20.00
Ohana @ Disney's Polynesian Hotel - We LOVE Ohana's. This is our favorite restaurant in all of Disney. . UPDATE: Food, service, & atmosphere was good as always!$30.00
Hoop Dee Doo Revue dinner AND a show all you can drink beer and sangria as well as down home good food while watching a good ole family fun show. We are trying this trip - gets great reviews online.UPDATE: Great food & entertainment - highly recommend worth every penny!$58.00
Animal Kingdom Flame Tree - good BBQ with a nice view @ the tables around back of the restaurant Closed for refurbishment when we visited.$11.00
Animal Kingdom Pizzafari Did not eat there this trip.$9.00
Animal Kingdom Yak & Yeti Local Foods - Asian food. We really like the chicken fried rice which is a snack on dining plan UPDATE; Food was good.$10.00
Downtown Disney Earl of Sandwich - The BEST use of a counter service meal. Great food! UPDATE: Great sandwich - worth the wait in the long line.$8.00
Downtown Disney Cooks of Dublin (Behind Raglan Road) Serves food similar to Raglan Road but is less expensive.Did not eat there this trip.$12.00
Downtown Disney Raglan Road - It's pricey but if you like authentic Irish food & drink - it's a must! UPDATE: Excellent food, service, & atmosphere.$22.00
Epcot Sunshine Grill Future World - like a food court serving Asian food, burgers, chicken, etc one of the few places that give FREE drink refills. Our favorite quick service restaurant.UPDATE: Great food & still has FREE drink refills.$10.00
Epcot Japan Katsura Grill$11.00
Epcot France Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie Sandwiches & Pastries$8.00
Epcot America Liberty Inn UPDATE: Food was average.$10.00
Hollywood Studios ABC Commissary UPDATE: Food was good for counter service.$11.00
Hollywood Studios 50s Dinner - Our fav. restaurant @ Hollywood Studios downhome food & fun! The waiters are in character from the 1950s. UPDATE: Food was good as usual, service was slow & not as themed as in years past... Maybe I just had a bad waitress.$20.00
Magic Kingdom Sleepy Hollow (behind castle) Must try Waffle Chicken Sand. $7.49 UPDATE: We did not like the waffle chicken OR ham sandwich - would not recommend.$8.00
Magic Kingdom Crystal Palace great character meal we always had the breakfast late in the morning. My favorite character meal restaurant.$20.00
Magic Kingdom Be Our Guest Lunch supposed to be the best counter service restaurant in Disney - I haven't tried it- yet.$12.00
Magic Kingdom Columbia Harbor House - Serves food similar to Liberty Tree Tavern but less expensive. UPDATE: Good counter service restaurant - highly recommend especially if you do not want a burger.$11.00
Magic Kingdom Cosmic Rays - set up like a food court with burgers, chicken, or sub sandwiches.$11.00
Port Orleans Riverside Hotel Boatwrights - Cajun food gets good reviews we will be eating there this trip for 1st time.$20.00

Great Smoky Mountain - Eating Out

When you are on vacation you are on vacation, right? I venture to guess that NO ONE wants to cook while on vacation.  Therefore, your family will eat out most of the meals. For the budget conscious family this can be a deal breaker on whether or not you go on vacation this year. Below I have some tips to help you save money on food while on your family vacation:

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Gatlinburg TN
where the food is good but PRICEY!
  • Eat breakfast in your room - Make sure your lodging accommodations have a refrigerator in your room.  This can save you lots of money because you can keep breakfast foods in it. Better yet, if you can find an affordable hotel/motel that offers FREE breakfast stay there. As you leave for the day grab some non-perishable fruits and cereals to take with you that day to snack on. 
  • Join every restaurant club you can - Most chain restaurants have loyalty programs where they reward you for being a member with free food on your birthday. When you sign up for the club, state that your birthday is around the days you will be travelling. About 1 week prior to your "birthday" you will get free food that you can use while on the trip. 
  • Stay AWAY from the tourist spots for food - In Gatlinburg we quickly learned that if we ate on the main strip through town we would pay 2 to 3 times the cost of a meal off the main drag.  Eat where the locals eat.  Some of our favorites in Gatlinburg include Mountain Lodge Restaurant (our favorite with great lunch specials) & Hungry Bear BBQ. Both are locally owned and operated and serve good, reasonably priced food. We also enjoyed the Texas Roadhouse on the main strip but that was the ONLY restaurant we enjoyed on the main strip. 
  • The days you plan to hike, take a lunch - We stopped at Subway & picked up sandwiches for our hike before heading out each day.  You can also go to the grocery store and get beef jerky, bagels, nuts, or other non-perishable high protein foods to give you the energy to make it until dinner.  Make sure you take plenty of water to avoid dehydrating.\
  • If you have the option of eating out at lunch or dinner - CHOOSE LUNCH.  At sit down restaurants the cost of eating out increases by as much as 35% from lunch to dinner. Therefore if you are going to eat out at a sit down restaurant, CHOOSE LUNCH it's less expensive.
  • Drink water instead of sodas/tea - The average cost of a soda or tea in a restaurant today is $2.80 per glass.  For a family of 4 that is an additional $11.20 added to your meal price just for drinks.  If you drink alcoholic beverages you will spend even more! If you want to save money, opt for water.  If you do not like the taste of plain water ask for a lemon wedge to place in it. 
  • Do NOT order appetizers or desserts - In many sit down restaurants the cost of an appetizer is almost the same cost as a meal. Forgo the appetizer unless it is a meal for one of your family members. If you MUST get a dessert, share it with multiple people in your party.
  • Order kids meals for any members of your family - Fast food restaurants do not ask to see the child before handing you the kids meal.  If you don't need a full meal then order the kids meal at fast food restaurants.  Sit down restaurants tend to have strict guidelines on who can order from the kids meal. However, you can ask for a smaller portion and save money that way. 
  • Use coupons -  Go to the chamber of commerce (website or actual location) for the town you are visiting and ask for vacation booklets.  Often times there will be coupons for area restaurants. You can also find coupon books at area hotels too. 

New England On A Budget - Eating Out

Eating out was our second most expensive part of our trip. The price of food in New England is overpriced.  I don't know how the average person affords to eat out in this region of the United States. 

Note about saving money at restaurants: 

  1. Get a junk email account and join every restaurant club you can.  Go on the Internet and find your favorite restaurant's website and sign up for their club. If you travel the same time each year, make that time of year your "birthday" in the club.  I did this and get all kinds of FREE food from my favorite restaurants for my "birthday".  This really helps cut the cost on our trip.
  2. Eat breakfast at your hotel. Try to stay at a hotel that offers FREE breakfast. At the FREE breakfast grab a banana or apple to take with you for a snack during the day. If they do not offer breakfast then buy Nutri-Grain bars and pop tarts and keep them in your room.  Grab a milk from a convenience store and you have a cheap breakfast.

As I had done for hotels, rental cars, and airplanes I researched the best restaurants for each area we visited.  I read reviews and looked at menus and was still concerned about being able to stay in budget on this trip. I even tried to find church benefit suppers we could attend thinking the price of the benefit would not be as expensive as the restaurants. Sadly I was unable to successfully find a church supper during the time we were visiting.  It's worth looking into that for future travels though.  Think about it, have you ever been to a church benefit with bad food?  The answer is no because the church ladies are going to bring their best dish for everyone to eat.

So where did we eat?  I must preface the rest of my blog with giving you a bit of knowledge about me - I don't really like seafood.  There I said it... I know it is hard to believe but it is true! I will eat it but it is not my favorite.  However, if you do like seafood then you will love New England.  I, on the other hand, really wanted a good steak by the end of our trip.  They must get their beef shipped from Texas up there based on the prices they charged for beef!

Regina Pizzaria North Boston, Massachusetts

Boston: We spent a total of 2.5 days in Boston.  It was the most expensive place we ate with mediocre food.  Maybe it was because we did not shell out $50+ per plate for food. Remember I am budget conscious and $50+ times 3 is NOT in my budget!  The restaurants we ate at in Boston included:
  • Regina Pizzaria North End: One of the top rated restaurants in Boston - for a reason. We ordered a large pizza that was WONDERFUL. The cost was "reasonable" considering where we were.  The pizza and 3 drinks cost $30.  There were no free refills. I found this to be true all over New England. You get a souvenir Regina Pizzaria cup to take home.  I still have mine.. makes me want some more of that pizza even today! Cost: $30 Recommend it? Yes!
  • North End Mike's Pastry:  According to Trip Advisor, Mike's Pastry's claim to fame is the "best cannolis in all of Boston".  I ordered a cannoli, my husband ordered the Boston Cream Pie (when in Boston you must  try it right?) and my son ordered gelato. The staff was incredibly rude. I tried asking questions about which item I should select and the woman seemed less than happy to answer my questions. The Boston Cream Pie was pretty good.  The gelato was mediocre.  The cannoli was not very tasty. Cost: $12 for only the pastries, no drinks. Recommend it? I don't think so...
  • Mccormick and Schmick's: This is a chain restaurant that specializes in Irish cuisine.  The food was average and prices were too high. Cost: $48 for 2 adult meals, 1 kids meal, and 3 waters. Recommend it? I don't think so...
  • Flour Bakery Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Flour Bakery Cambridge: Flour is one of the top rated restaurants in all of Boston - not sure why... The reviews were spectacular and there was a line out the door at 11:30 A.M. when we arrived.  This SHOULD have been a sign I had made the right choice for lunch. It was not... My son ordered the kids meal pizza (the strangest pizza we have ever experienced), my husband ordered the honey mustard roast beef sandwich, and I ordered the horseradish roast beef sandwich. None was tasty in the least. My sandwich had so much horseradish on it that it burnt my nose when I was eating it.  I can still taste it today, nearly a year later... Cost:$30 for 2 sandwiches, a kids meal, and 3 waters (very small cups of water) Recommend it? Nope.

Maine: We spent 6 days in Maine and tried some food we had never tried before. The restaurants we visited included:
    Libby's Market Brunswick, Maine
  • Libby's Market Brunswick, Maine: After reading the rave reviews on Trip Advisor, we decided we would have our first ever lobster roll at Libby's. Don't let the exterior looking like a gas station or having to leave the main highway to find it stop you from going. Some of the nicest people you will ever meet own Libby's Market.  We spent time visiting with the owner who gets the lobsters each day from the lobster traps and brings it fresh to the store. She took the time to show my son how the lobsters are cleaned. While we waited on our sandwiches we waited outside at the picnic table on a lovely summer day.  The owner brought us a game to play and even took the time to explain how to play it. If you happen to be near Brunswick, Maine you must stop in at Libby's Market! Cost: $30 for 3 lobster rolls, we brought our own drinks. Recommend it? Yes!

  • Denny's Rockland, Maine: There are not a lot of restaurant choices in Rockland, so we chose Denny's.  I would not normally bother to review it but it was the best Denny's we have ever visited.  The food AND service was good.  In Texas I don't think I have ever been to a Denny's where the food AND service was good.  To top it off it was well within our budget. Cost: $30 for 2 meals and 1 kids meal and drinks. Recommend it? Yes - good food and decent prices.
  • Harbor Gawker Vinalhaven, Maine
  • Harbor Gawker Vinalhaven, Maine: Vinalhaven is a small lobster village located on one of Maine's thousands of islands. You get there by ferry service that only runs twice per day.  There are less than 5 restaurants or lobster pounds to choose from In Vinalhaven. We chose the Harbor Gawker. I had the BEST clam chowder ever at this restaurant.  The rest of the food was fried seafood and was pretty good.  If you find yourself in Vinalhaven you will not be disappointed eating at the Harbor Gawker. Cost: $30 for 3 meals with drinks. Recommend it? Yes - especially the clam chowder.

  • Thirsty Whale Bar Habor, Maine: Bar Harbor is a tourist town.  There are plenty of restaurants from which to choose. The price of these restaurants rival Boston.  After looking at several menus the Thirsty Whale was one that fit within my budget. It is a tavern that serves typical tavern food.  I had the clam chowder and thought it was okay.  My husband had the haddock sandwich and my son had fried shrimp. The portions were not overly large and the quality of food was good but not great. I would not eat here again because I found a better restaurant in Bar Harbor, West Street Cafe.Cost: $35 for our meals. Recommend it? Probably not.
  • Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound Trenton, Maine: Prior to visiting this lobster pound I researched online and decided this lobster pound would be the one we would try. It had the best reviews so I thought it would be worth a visit. I was WRONG. We got to the pound around 4 PM to avoid the rush. When we arrived there were a couple of people ahead of us. We had never visited a lobster pound and were curious about the offerings and how to order. I found the staff to be rude and not very helpful. They seemed annoyed that we did not know what we were doing. The Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound is located on the outskirts of Acadia National Park, I am quite sure there have been other tourists who were just as confused as we were so this could not be the first time they encountered this... When we were about to order I stated to my husband that we should share a lobster since we did not know if we liked it or not. The next thing I know the guy grabs a BIG lobster and says it will take about 25 minutes for it to cook. So we pay $38.65 for this lobster before I know what happened. Get this... BUTTER costs 80 cents. REALLY?? Butter does not come WITH the lobster. We had a HUGE lobster and literally 2 tablespoons of melted butter to dip it in. Had the people been nicer to us we would have paid (begrudgingly) for more butter, but did not because of the staff. I also ordered clam chowder. It was literally milk, melted butter, and WHOLE clams. I felt like I was eating grub worms and the flavor was awful! The HUGE lobster finally came and guess what? It was tough. I have a feeling that lobster was probably dying of old age when he landed in the lobster trap. Had we had more time when we were ordering we would have thought of that possibility and ordered 2 small lobsters instead of 1 HUGE one. Overall this was the WORST place we ate during our 11 day vacation.Cost: $55 for the tough lobster and a bowl of clam? chowder. Recommend it? Never..
  • Take your own lunch: We spent 4 days in Acadia National Park.  Each day for lunch we would have lunchables and summer sausage with crackers that we had purchased at Walmart in Ellsworth, ME that morning. I also purchased an inexpensive lunch kit at Walmart and used ice (from the hotel vending machine) in a Ziploc baggie to keep the food cold while we were in the park.  We did this for lunch in New Hampshire when we hiked the White Mountain National Forest. This a great way to save money and works well when you are not near a restaurant.
  • West Street Cafe Bar Harbor, Maine: The food was wonderful! The service was top notch. Do not miss out on the blueberry pie ala mode. I had the tarragon chicken and my husband had the crab cakes, both were excellent. My son had the kid's shrimp basket. We were very surprised at the quantity of shrimp on the kids meal! This was the BEST meal we had during our travels throughout New England. Cost: $45 for all our meals and drinks. Recommend it? Yes!!! I wish I had some of the blueberry pie today - yum.
West St. Cafe Bar Harbor, Maine

West St. Cafe's Yummy Blueberry Pie!
New Hampshire: We spent 3 days in New Hampshire and ate at the following restaurants:
  • Dairy Queen Grill & Chill: We chose to eat at Dairy Queen because it is one of our favorites in Texas. In New Hampshire the menu is slightly different but the food was just as good.  The prices were somewhat higher than in Texas but not terribly high.Cost: $20 for three meals, blizzards, and drinks. Recommend it? Yes.
  • May Kelly's Irish Pub
    North Conway, New Hampshire
  • May Kelly's North Conway, New Hampshire:  North Conway has lots of choices of restaurants because it is a tourist town. There are many fast food restaurants.  The sit down restaurants tend to be pricey.  After reading reviews I chose May Kelly's, an Irish pub. I had Gaelic Chicken, my husband had the Ploughman's Dinner, and my son had the kids meal fish 'n chips.  The food and service was really good. We especially liked the Irish potato cake.  Can't get that in Texas! Cost: $55 for our meals and drinks (my husband had a Guinness - you have to at an Irish pub right?) Recommend it? Yes!!