Pros and Cons: Bringing Your Own Food to the Walt Disney World Theme Parks

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While there is near infinite availability of food on property at Walt Disney Disney World, everything from quick service burgers to gourmet table service meals, some guests prefer to bring their own food to the parks.

Disney sells packaged snacks in the parks, but if your toddler has a set-in-stone brand preference, your vacation might run more smoothly if you bring your own.

There are pros and cons to bringing your own food to the theme parks. But before we get to that, here are some FAQs about bringing your food with you.

Lots of amusement parks don’t allow outside food. Is it really okay to bring your own food into the Disney World theme parks?

Yes. Absolutely.

They’re not going to confiscate my food at the park security screening?

Nope. The security screening is for weapons and the like, not foodstuffs. There are a few specific food items that are prohibited from being brought into the parks, notably alcoholic beverages and glass containers (though small baby food jars are okay), as well as those with “pungent odors,” other than that you’re good to go.

Is there a limit to the quantity of food I’m allowed to bring into the parks?

Not specifically. There are, however, restrictions on the size of the container you can bring into the park. Coolers and bags can be no larger than 24″ x 15″ x 18″. But there’s nothing from stopping you from bringing more than one cooler or bag of this size if you have multiple people in your group. TouringPlans stats guru Steve Bloom and his family once brought an entire Thanksgiving dinner into the Magic Kingdom.

PROS

  • Saving Money: Saving money is probably the number one reason to bring your own food into the Disney parks. Even the most basic foods are ridiculously priced at Disney World. I can get an entire case of water bottles at my local supermarket for about the same price as a single bottle sold at Disney World.
  • Medical or religious need: The second most common reason guests bring their own food to the Disney World parks is to help navigate a medical issue such as food allergy or a religious issue such as need for kosher products. Disney does a great job of providing food options for many medical and religious needs, but some issues can only be handled by preparing your own meals.
  • Brand Preference: For example, Disney sells soda, but only Coke products. If you’re devoted to Pepsi, then you’ll have to bring your own. If you’re an adult it might not be a big deal to compromise on your favorite product, but if you’re the parent of a toddler who only likes a particular flavor of Goldfish, you know that to avoid a vacation-derailing meltdown you’ll have to bring your own rather than substitute Disney’s version of cheddar crackers.
  • Saving Time: During busy times of the year, you might have to wait several minutes just to order a hot dog or popcorn. A table service meal will probably take at least an hour. If you’re a theme park commando, you might want to save every second for park touring by bringing your own food and eliminating the need to wait to purchase food.

CONS

  • Access to shopping: If you’re not driving to Orlando or renting a car upon your arrival, then it can be a challenge to get to a supermarket to access food to bring into the parks on your own. There are grocery delivery services, but not all of them are cheap and this can take a bit of planning.
  • More things to carry: Bringing food into the parks means bringing more stuff into the parks. If you already have lots of camera gear or baby supplies, toting an extra bag around could feel like a lead weight, particularly during the hottest months. You could rent a locker, but there are costs involved with that and the locker locations are not always convenient.
  • It’s hard to keep things cool and fresh: Disney will not refrigerate food for guests in the theme parks. If you’re bringing items other than dry snacks, it’s likely that some of your food items will need to be kept cool. You can bring ice packs into the parks, but loose ice is no longer permitted. But even with cooling systems in place, summer at WDW can be so hot that the risk of food spoilage is high.
  • There is no place to heat food: While there are microwave ovens available for guest use in the resort hotel food courts, there is no similar availability in the parks. [Note: There is a single microwave oven available in each of the baby care centers that can be used exclusively for warming baby food and bottles.]
  • It takes you out of the vacation bubble mindset: For many folks, being on vacation means being on vacation without engaging in chores like meal prep. Eating a sandwich you made yourself can feel less fun than indulging in a restaurant meal.

Do you like to bring your own food into the Disney parks? Or do you prefer to purchase meals on site? What are your pros and cons?

 

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

11 thoughts on “Pros and Cons: Bringing Your Own Food to the Walt Disney World Theme Parks

  • May 25, 2021 at 9:24 am
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    We spent 11 days in the parks from rope drop to fireworks and only bought 1 meal inside. Another reason to bring your own food is if your kid is an extremely picky eater, like in our case.

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  • May 25, 2021 at 9:47 am
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    We brought lunch in everyday due to multiple food allergies. It got monotonous, sure. But when your kid is hungry NOW. It’s great to find a bench and not have to Mobile order, stand in line, get food, and Find seating

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  • May 25, 2021 at 10:57 am
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    We’ve never gone as far as bringing full meals to the parks (too much work), but we always bring ziploc bags with an array of dry snacks (trail mix, cheezits, etc) to easily and inexpensively keep the munchies at bay between meals.

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    • May 25, 2021 at 1:22 pm
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      Exactly this. Little snacks here and there go a long way to staving off hunger and keeping you busy in lines. Cheese sticks, nut bars, jerky, etc. We basically only need a dinner or a big lunch and are fine the rest of the day with snacks.

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      • May 25, 2021 at 3:38 pm
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        We almost never buy lunch in the parks. I have often felt super intelligent watching the huge line for CHH while sitting peacefully on a shaded bench eating. Even better it allows me to plan for all three of my picky eaters!

  • May 25, 2021 at 2:21 pm
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    We might eat one or two meals in parks during our trips, but most of our meals are eaten from our rented condo or restaurants off property. We will eat a decent breakfast and take in snacks to satisfy our hunger until we can eat dinner in the evening.

    We will fill a suitcase full of dry food at home, then eat out of for our trip. When its time to go home, we now have an empty suitcase that can be used for all the new souvenirs we bought.

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  • May 25, 2021 at 8:16 pm
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    So, considering particularly the cons about sketchy cooling and no way to heat, how the heck did Steve Bloom actually prep that entire Thanksgiving meal for service?

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    • May 25, 2021 at 8:29 pm
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      Click on the link In the article for the full article. I think that may have been a time when loose ice was allowed, but those involved will have to confirm that. Looks like it took a lot of planning (and that being the case, you know the TP crew was capable of pulling it off!)

      Reply
    • May 26, 2021 at 11:35 am
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      @Mike Steve’s process is described in the linked article. The upshot is, they prepped everything to the correct temperature in a nearby off-site condo. They served the meal and ate it at 8:30 in the morning, before anything had time to go bad.

      Reply
      • May 26, 2021 at 8:45 pm
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        Ah thanks! Duh, I somehow missed that link…

  • May 25, 2021 at 8:49 pm
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    We never used to bring any food to the parks, but on our last vacation, we tried out doing our own shopping the first day using Lyft, and grabbed things like kale and spinach for salads, dressing, bread and deli meat for sandwiches, yogurt, and some fruit. It’s kind of a novelty for Canadians, since you have a lot of things in the US that we don’t. We go in winter, so it’s easier to keep the food fresh if we eat it for lunch, and we felt much better than we had on previous trips. It actually required a bit of planning to make sure we could still eat at all the places we wanted to! I still look forward to that fantastic caesar dressing I got at Publix that we can’t get here in Canada. 🙂 I’m pleased that there are so many light and healthful options being added to the menus, but sometimes I just want to stuff some kale in my face on a quiet bench and then be on my way. Even just having that little bit of something makes it easier to indulge without feeling so rundown, especially after several days.

    Reply

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