How Much Should I Budget For Food at Disney Parks?

How Much Should I Budget For Food at Disney Parks?

Food is probably the most difficult thing to plan for when going on vacation. Something as small as an impulse snack or dinner out can completely blow your budget. The amount in your budget is going to differ significantly based on the choices you make. The trouble with Disney is they make every meal an experience at their parks!

How Much Should I Budget For Food at Disney Parks?

Here are some things to consider:

Cooking “at home”

If you’re staying at a resort or hotel with a kitchen or renting a house this is by far the cheapest option. By taking advantage of a grocery store trip or delivery service you can pack your lunches and snacks for the park and cook bigger meals in your room. Although this is cheaper, definitely consider how this dinning option will affect things.

To figure out how much you might spend in this area look up local grocery store flyers or, if you just want to estimate, look at your family’s weekly grocery budget and maybe add a 25% buffer to that cost.


  • Way cheaper, and usually healthier, than park food
  • Best choice if you have special dietary needs
  • Flexibility when travelling with children or large groups


  • Having to carry food with you in the parks
  • Might feel like you’re “missing out” on popular park food choices
  • Extra work while you’re on holidays
  • Disneyland does not allow large amounts of food inside the park (there is a picnic area)

Inexpensive or “fast” park food

These meal options are a great choice for lunch or no-fuss dinners. Averaging less than $15 per person you can get a decent sized meal for a lot less than the restaurants. Something to note is there are different dining options around the park so make sure you plan your day around that if you want a specific thing to eat.


  • Mid-tier pricing while still being convenient
  • Lots of different food options that accommodate kids
  • You get to sample some of the fantastic Disney specific cuisine


  • Can get pretty expensive and is often unhealthy
  • Line ups can be quite long especially at peak times
  • Seating is sometimes limited

Sit-down restaurants

If you’re planning a sit down meal you can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to over $60 per person depending on where you choose. These are the only places where character dining is available, though, so that’s a great reason to try out a Disney restaurant. Just make sure you book early because most places are impossible to get in without a reservation.


  • All-inclusive experience so you can have a nice, relaxing meal
  • Character dining and some unique themes you can’t get anywhere else
  • Really good quality food


  • For certain places reservations must be made weeks in advance
  • Very costly especially for a big family
  • Dining out with small kids isn’t always the best choice

Don’t forget the snacks

Snacks in the park can run you up to $15 but expect to pay around $5 on average. There are snack stands everywhere and plenty of temptation. If you’re trying to save money make sure you pack some tasty treats to fight off the temptation of a Mickey ice cream cone or churro at every booth.

A mix of everything

This is probably the best, and most reasonable, choice for food on your Disney vacation. Even if you don’t have a kitchen in your hotel room you can still make things like sandwiches and pack snacks to take into the park with you. Try and pick one or two sit down meals you really want to experience and plan for a couple lunches out at the kiosks. It’s almost impossible to completely avoid the overpriced snacks so make sure you work those into your budget too.

The thing about food is it’s sometimes hard to anticipate what everyone will want at each restaurant. In those cases use the highest number possible and (hopefully) come under budget rather than spending more than you anticipated.

A mixed dining plan for 2 adults and 2 kids might break down like this:

Day 1, 3, and 5

Breakfast: Fruit and yogurt for 4 people ($5)
Lunch: Packed sandwiches for 4 people ($7)
Dinner: Fast food at the park $15 per person ($60)
Snacks and drinks: Fresh fruit, cheese, crackers, cookies, granola bars, bottled water ($8)

Day 2 and 4

Breakfast: Fruit and yogurt for 4 people ($5)
Lunch: Packed sandwiches for 4 people ($7)
Dinner: Fancy character dinner $60 per adult, $30 per kid ($180)
Snacks and drinks: Fresh fruit, cheese, crackers, cookies, granola bars, bottled water ($8)

Total: $620

Of course when you have 5 kids like we do you would probably opt for just one character dining experience and only a couple fast food meals out, but you get the idea. Don’t forget to include any meals you might eat while travelling in your food budget too!

If you just want to ballpark your budget

It’s probably safe to budget $30 per day for each child and $40 per day per adult that you’ll be feeding during your trip if you’re mixing take out and store bought.

When you’re working on your Disney vacation budget don’t forget that you’d already be spending some money on groceries if you were at home. The number can seem staggering at first but try deducting your weekly grocery spending from that number (if not on the actual budget then in your own head) and see if that’s a little more reasonable.

When thinking about food choices really focus on the actual experience rather than the food itself. You’ll get many opportunities to eat great (or cheap) food in your lifetime but your Disney vacation will only last a short while.

What you need to know about Rider Switch

What you need to know about Rider Switch

ne of the worst parts about travelling somewhere like Disneyland or Disney World with young kids is that you can’t do all the rides that they’re too small for! This is especially challenging when you have an older kid and a younger one. Disney has the answer: Rider Switch. (Sometimes it’s also called Child Swap or Rider Swap.)

What is Rider Switch?

Basically, Ride Switch is something unique to Disneyland. If for whatever reason one person in your party has to be supervised, like a young child or special needs person, and someone who would be riding has to stay and supervise that person, you can switch out who is riding and who is supervising so everyone gets a turn. 

It’s different than just waiting in line a second time because Rider Switch lets you jump back into the FastPass line.  

How it works

Let’s say you’re like us and travelling with 2 adults and 3 kids, like we did on our recent Disneyland trip. The twins, though, were less than 44″ so they couldn’t ride Indiana Jones. Now, us adults and the 9 year old did want to ride Indie. What do you do? 

Rider Switch.

So one adult stays with the kids who can’t ride, the other one goes on with the kid. Before you go on you ask a Cast Member for a Rider Switch pass. Then when the adult and the kid come off the ride, give the other adult the Rider Swap card, and they can ride again with the older kid. That way everyone gets to ride! 


  • Cast members near the Rider Switch rides have them in their pockets so you’ll have to ask!
  • Passes are good for up to 3 people to ride the second time.
  • They’re a great way for older kids to ride multiple times if they want, just as long as you have a legitimate reason for asking for one. 
  • There’s no limit to the amount of Rider Switch passes you can use in a day but each pass is only good once.

What Disneyland rides support Rider Switch?

 Disneyland, California

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (40″)
  • Indiana Jones Adventure (44″)
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds (42″)
  • Space Mountain (40″)
  • Splash Mountain (40″)
  • Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (40″)

Disney’s California Adventure

  • California Screamin’
  • Grizzly River Run
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
  • Incredicoaster

Some of our best moments were spent waiting for “big kids” to ride.

Waiting for the older kid to get of a ride - we met Frozo instead of using Rider Switch

Which Walt Disney World rides support Rider Switch?

Magic Kingdom Park

  • The Barnstormer (35″)
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (40″)
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (38″)
  • Space Mountain (44″)
  • Splash Mountain (40″)
  • Stitch’s Great Escape (40″)
  • Tomorrowland Indy Speedway (32″/54″)


  • Frozen Ever After 
  • Mission: SPACE (40″/44″)
  • Soarin’ (40″)
  • Test Track (40″)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Alien Swirling Saucers (32″)
  • Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring (48″)
  • Aerosmith
  • Slinky Dog Dash (38″)
  • Star Tours® – The Adventures Continue (40″)
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (40″)

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • DINOSAUR (40″)
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain® (44″)
  • Kali River Rapids (38″)
  • Primeval Whirl (48″)

You can also take advantage of Rider Switch on certain WDW Waterpark attractions.

If you’re visiting Disneyland or Disney World with young kids it’s definitely a good idea to take advantage of the Rider Switch (Rider Swap) program!