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Earlier this year, we were able to take a trip we’ve been talking about foreverrrrrr – Disney World.
It’s the happiest place on earth, but it’s also one of the most expensive!
We had just taken a trip of a lifetime to visit relatives in Norway & Sweden eight months earlier, so our Disney trip had to be on a strict budget.
Since this will probably be our only trip to Disney World while our kids are young, we wanted to make the most of it. We wanted to see & do everything.
With some careful planning, we were able to go on every ride (except one we opted out of), see every show, and meet 14 characters at all four parks in 6 days without getting Park Hopper.
To learn more about how we did every ride & show at Magic Kingdom in two days, read my post here.
Because we didn’t have unlimited budget or unlimited time for rides, shows, characters, dining, and shopping, we needed to decide what our priorities were.
We decided to prioritize experiences such as rides and shows over other things the parks offer (like dining and shopping). Everyone has different priorities — that’s great! What’s incredible about Disney is that they are amazing at everything, so no matter which areas you prioritize, it will be a memorable experience!
We know lots of people have different thoughts on dining. When we travel, we view food simply as energy to fuel us for our next experience. Eat some food quickly and move on to the next thing! But we know many people who think that dining IS the experience. We totally get that – it’s just not us.
As we were planning allllll there is to do at the parks, we realized the most cost & time-effective solution would be to pack food for Disney. We’re used to packing lunch for Family Fun Days, so lunches didn’t seem too overwhelming.
But lunch, dinner, and snacks? For 12+ hours? That took some thought, and I’m excited to share some tips with you!
Disney welcomes outside food.
It’s easy to pack food for Disney. We’re so thankful! They checked our bags each morning with no issues. The main restrictions for bringing outside food are:
Strollers are your friend.
We had debated bringing a stroller, and we’re grateful we chose to bring one. Our water bottles & dinners were typically stored in the stroller basket. The stroller was also great at the end of the day, since our youngest fell asleep as we were leaving the parks almost every night.
We donated our old stroller long before we realized we were going to Disney. After researching which strollers are great for Disney, we bought a Chicco Liteway Plus Stroller on Craigslist. We used it at Disney and resold it for the same amount we bought it for! It was the perfect size & weight, had a large basket, and had all the functionality we were looking for — with no money out of pocket.
We could have packed all our food & other essentials in two backpacks, but it was nice to carry just one backpack and have the rest of our belongings in the stroller basket.
Bring Water Bottles
We brought these Nalgene Kids Water Bottles for the kids and these for the adults, and we were so glad we did! We filled them up the night before in our hotel, allowed them to chill overnight, and kept them in a collapsible cooler lunch bag in the bottom of our stroller.
You can ask for ice water at all quick-serve restaurants and there are drinking fountains all over the parks (typically by restrooms). I drink a LOT of water, and it was never difficult to find a place nearby to refill my water bottle.
Pack (lots of) Snacks
We brought two snacks per person each day (I usually threw in a couple extra for desperate moments of hunger, but they weren’t needed). We had all the day’s snacks in one gallon-sized bag in our backpack. Over the course of the trip, we rotated through these snack options:
Lunch: Protein Box
We opted to have our largest meal for lunch, and we usually ate around 1 pm. There are plenty of benches and other places to sit in the shade for a quick lunch!
Each person’s lunch was stored in Square Containers with Lids. We placed these Ultra Slim Cooler Packs between each stacked container to keep our meals cool, and our five containers stacked in a Round Collapsible Cooler. The cooler stayed in the stroller basket until lunch and, after eating, we nested the food containers and collapsed the cooler as much as we could.
We rotated between three different combinations of protein boxes. We used either plastic baggies or silicone muffin wrappers to separate food types.
Protein Box #1:
Protein Box #2:
Protein Box #3:
We don’t pretend to be fancy! Our dinners were almond butter & jelly sandwiches plus some “side items” which were stored in our backpack.
We typically ate our dinners while sitting & waiting at our spot for the park’s nighttime show.
Options for side items were:
- 1-oz box of raisins
- Applesauce pouch
- Carrots & celery
Even with walking 8 miles and spending 12+ hours per day at the parks, we didn’t have any real complaints about hunger. I can’t say we ever felt “stuffed,” but we were satisfied enough to accomplish everything we wanted to each day PLUS avoid any hunger meltdowns!
While at Disney, we ended up spending about the same amount of money on food that we typically do while at home. We cooked some easy dinners at the hotel that didn’t leave behind any leftover ingredients; learn more in this post.
Because our grocery/meals budget was so low, we were able to buy tickets to spend one day at the Kennedy Space Center — which was incredible and, in our opinion, a good trade-off!