The Official Ticket Center ~ Having worked in the theme park guest service industry for over 2 decades, I would have to say that one of the most common questions that I have been asked is, “Can I take food into the parks?”
Well the answer is a big, “YES”.
There are many reasons that a person or family may need to bring their own food or drinks into the theme parks and here are a few. The biggest reason is budgetary as it is very expensive to eat in the parks, religious reasons or someone might have a medical issue which requires special dietary needs. Whatever the reason, Disney theme parks do not turn away guests with food or drinks. Here are a few questions that I and my staff have been asked over the years and here are our responses.
1. Can I bring my own food and drinks into the parks?
Answer: Yes you can, but there is a limit to what you can bring into the parks.
2. How much food and drinks can I bring with me into the parks?
Answer: Think of it like this, do not bring a cooler with you that you would bring to the beach. Bring a small 1 person lunch size collapsible cooler that can fit in a locker or under a stroller per person. If you bring in massive amounts of food in a big cooler, you will be turned away and that’s no fun. That being said, there is no limit to the amount of food you can bring in, it’s the size of the cooler that’s the issue here. The last time I checked, no cooler, bag, box or any other container larger than 24″ x 15″ x 18″ is allowed into the parks. Think a couple of sandwiches, 2 or 3 sodas, chips and a snack sized personal cooler and you will be fine.
3. What can I NOT bring into the parks?
Answer: As always, you cannot bring in Beer, Wine, Liquor of any type and no glass containers. Leave this back in the other cooler in the car J
4. Where should I store my food when I arrive at the Disney parks?
Answer: When you arrive, the first thing you should do is rent a locker at the front of the park. This will drop a considerable amount of weight off of your soon to be hiking adventure and weight is everything. The locker will set you back a small $5 and is worth it, so save up for this must have expenditure! When you get hungry, just come back to get your food. This also makes for a go meeting place in the odd case that you get separated from your party.
5. Where can I eat my food inside the Disney parks?
Answer: You can eat anywhere inside the Disney parks as long as it is not inside a reservation required sit down restaurant. Inside the Magic Kingdom for example, I have packed my own food and went to eat it inside Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe sit down restaurant over in Adventureland with no issues. You can even help yourself to their condiment station which has pickles, lettuce, onions etc. Just don’t show up at the new, “Be Our Guest Restaurant” and expect to be seated.
6. Is there a place where I can heat up food if it is required?
Answer: Yes, if you need to heat up something i.e. baby formula, baby soft foods etc. you can go over to the Baby Care/ First Aid Area up at the front of the park and do it there. By law, the Disney restaurants cannot handle outside food brought in by a guest, so don’t ask as you will be denied no matter the case. I have heard that you can go over to a Disney owned resort and heat up your food in one of their microwaves or toaster ovens at one of their counter service restaurants. This is also a great way to have a beautiful and peaceful dining experience away from the noisy, crowded parks while enjoying the inside a/c and Disney amenities for free.
7. Just how much money can I save by bringing my own food and drinks?
Answer: The answer to this big question is a lot, and by a lot I mean hundreds when you include the whole family. Think about it for a second. If you pack a small collapsible cooler for 1 person with 2 sandwiches or subs, a couple of bags of chips, 2 or 3 sodas/waters and small snacks, this will set you back about $20 compared to spending $50 to $60 dollars per day on walk up counter food inside the park meals. Even if you have a Disney Dining Plan and let’s say you have the smallest basic plan, this is going to cost you $55.59 per day which includes one table-service meal, one quick-service meal, one snack and a refillable mug. I don’t know about you, but I would rather save that $30 bucks for a stop at the sweets store or a Mickey head ice cream on the way out. The biggest savings is to bring a reusable water bottle and refill it at one of the many Disney drinking fountains. This will save you at least $20 a day just for
8. Should I even Care?
Answer: Look, if you have the money and you want the full Walt Disney World food and dining experience, then leave the cooking to the parks. The Walt Disney World food experience is out of this world and should be on everyone’s list of things to do before they leave this universe. Nothing beats a Dole Whip on a hot Florida day, or a Mickey head ice cream while watching the parades, or my personal favorite, eating and drinking around the world at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. But, if you are the family that has saved all year just for your flight and attraction tickets with little to spare, these helpful tips are sure to help you enjoy your vacation without going into the poor house.
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©Patrick Pulliam 2014