3 May

Things I hear frequently that make me cringe:


1. “Food in the park is too expensive.”

2. “We are going to leave the park every time we eat.”

3. “All they have are hamburgers, so let’s leave and eat somewhere else.”


What I say to you is this:


1. You are in Disneyland. By entering those turnstiles you make a silent oath that you recognize everything in the park is more expensive than in the real world. It’s a fact of life. It’s best to accept it rather than let it ruin a vacation, but please, accept it with grace. There is nothing worse or more magic-killing than having someone complain loudly about how expensive everything is the entire trip. Do your research and have appropriate expectations.

If you go to the parks more than once a year, look into buying an annual pass. Depending on the pass you buy you can get 10-15% off food, 10-20% off merchandise and other discounts on hotels and parking. This can make it worth it in itself.

2. Wow. Really? You are soooo concerned about how expensive the food is in the parks, yet you’re willing to waste precious time leaving and returning to the park multiple times a day? Time=money and you just wasted a lot of it. Utilize your expensive park tickets in a smart way, the McDonald’s across the street isn’t going to save you that much money. {Note: While I haven’t been to that McDonald’s, I’ve heard it is more expensive than normal McDonald’s and they do not have a dollar menu.}

3. When I hear this I know the person is NOT a planner. There is such a wide variety of food in the parks these days, that I can’t tell you the last time I’ve had a hamburger in Disneyland. A sourdough bread bowl with New Orleans style gumbo? Yes. Bacon wrapped asparagus? Yes. Chicken and sun dried tomato pasta? Yes. What was the closest thing I’ve had to a hamburger in Disneyland in the last year? The fried green tomato sandwich topped with a jicama mango slaw on a multi-grain roll at the Hungry Bear (go get it, it’s awesome!). Disney has heard the cry of foodies everywhere and have been making an effort to increase variety and food quality in the last few years.

There is some amazing food to be had at the parks. Do some research. Put your trip off for one more month to save enough to eat well on your trip. Isn’t that what a vacation is all about anyway?


Here is my formula for planning a food budget for a Disney vacation. It has never failed me.

I always start off with $30 per person per day.


This is the average of what a person will spend when having 2 meals and a snack. We prefer to eat lighter while at Disneyland. This ensures a better experience, as roller coastering and excessive walking on a full tummy is no fun. This is not a good idea for everyone. Some families need 3 meals plus snacks to be happy. It’s not worth a grumpy family to save a few bucks. Determine what is best for your situation. To offset the cost of an additional meal, bring things like granola bars or other small snacks to replace breakfast or eat between meals as needed.

The ‘$30 a day’ rule applies to a normal day in the park, counter service restaurants and snacks only. If we are going to a nicer restaurant, such as a table service restaurant (ie. one you can make a reservation for) I will look at the menu online (you can do this by going to this awesome website). My husband and I look at possible things we would order, determine the most expensive one and add it onto the $30. This will ensure you have plenty of money. I never know what I’ll be in the mood for, so this keeps all my options open.

Here is an example of a day from one of my last trips to Disneyland:


Jolly Holiday Bakery (located on Main Street, next to the Adventureland entrance):

Ham and Cheese Quiche – a flaky crust with a delicious ham, cheese and egg center, (Came with a side of fruit, not pictured). $7.19

Fruit Tart – assorted fresh fruit on a flaky crust with a creamy custard. $4.99

Water. free


Hungry Bear (located next to Splash Mountain in Critter Country):

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich – cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes layered with two slices of fresh heirloom tomatoes, topped with havarti, remoulade, jicama-mango slaw and served on a multi-grain roll and included sweet potato fries. $8.49

Lemon “Bumblebee” Cupcake – with lemon cream filling and honey-lemon frosting. $4.99 (I split this with my sister, so I paid $2.50)

Water. free


Jolly Holiday Bakery (located on Main Street, next to the Adventureland entrance):

Seasonal Cupcake – chocolate cupcake with fresh raspberry filling, chocolate mouse and ganache, and white chocolate shavings on top. $4.99 (again, split with my sister {two cupcakes in one day, don’t judge}, $2.50)

Milk. $1.79


Total (with tax): $29.60

Total after AP discount (with tax): $25.16


We aren’t soda or coffee drinkers. If you are, add $3 to each meal.

Some days are going to be a little over, some a little under, normally ours evens out pretty nicely. Whatever we have leftover is a bonus snack or souvenir.

I looked up the prices for McDonald’s inside an airport (assuming the elevated prices will be similar to those across the street from Disneyland). A grilled chicken club sandwich in a meal is $8.19, practically the same price as my delicious sandwich above, but without the hassle of leaving the park. I guarantee McDonald’s won’t have the atmosphere, convenience or variety of the park either.


4 Responses to “Planning”

  1. Krystle Callaway May 3, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    We try to have a $40 per day budget when we travel as well. Like you said, some days you have to make adjustments depending on what your plans are, but it’s a good starting point. Thanks for the travel tips, I haven’t been to Disneyland in almost 20 years! Time to go again!

    • Lisa Q May 6, 2012 at 7:47 am #

      Thanks for reading! You must go again! It’s fantastic.

  2. Ron Cale May 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Great Blog!

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