Sunday Savings Series: Does Leaving Walt Disney World for a Meal Make Sense?

One will save you money. But is it a better value? 

No one will argue that meals at Walt Disney World are expensive. You can easily spend $12 or more on a hamburger combo or the equivalent. That price can be hard to swallow (pun intended), especially when you know that you can leave the property and head to a nearby fast food restaurant and dine for less than half the cost. The question is, does it make sense to do this? The choice is up to you, but here’s my take on it.

You need to look at value as well as dollars when it comes to a Walt Disney World vacation. Of course you can easily pay less if you leave Disney property, there are plenty of cheap places to eat locally. But you need to look at it from a different angle. How much are you losing if you leave the theme park to eat? You’ll need to find your car, drive to a local restaurant, order and eat, drive back to the park, park your car again, then get to the front of the park and go through bag check again. This will easily take two hours, possibly closer to three. Are you willing to give up two or three hours of your theme park time just to save a few dollars on a meal?

There are ways that you can save a bit of money on meals in the parks. As mentioned in the past, you can bring in snacks. If you’re ordering a meal that is listed as a combo, order just the entree. That will not be listed on the menu board, but it can make a real difference in the cost of your meal. Share an order of fries, and skip dessert. Another way that you can save money is to order a cup of ice water to drink. You won’t be the only one.

The atmosphere at most of the Walt Disney World restaurants is another thing that you will miss out on if you decide to leave property to eat. If you leave, you won’t experience the song stylings of Sunny Eclipse or dine inside a former RDA mess hall. If atmosphere is the only reason why you decide not to leave property, though, you might be disappointed in some places.

If you do decide to leave property to get something to eat, make sure that you fill up. There are many all-you-can-eat buffets in the area if you like that type of thing. There are also both fast food and full service restaurants that will save you money over the Walt Disney World restaurants.

One final tip if you leave property. Overestimate the amount of time that it will take. You don’t want to miss your FastPass+ reservation for Mission: SPACE because you didn’t give yourself enough time. Then again, riding Mission: SPACE after indulging in an all-you-can-eat buffet may not be the best idea…