Secrets to save money at Orlando Theme Parks

Everyone loves a fun time, but expensive food prices at theme parks can be a real party pooper! Here are a few easy ways to save money on food, which will allow you to spend more money on experiences and merchandise.


Food smaller size

How to Save Money at Orlando Theme Parks

1) Bring your own bottles of water and snacks.

With bottled water reaching $3 and up at some theme parks, you can purchase a pack of 6 or 12 bottles of water at grocery stores for approximately the same price. All the big Orlando theme parks allow visitors to bring in bottled water.

It is important to note that Sea World’s restrictions are much more stringent than the other theme parks (see below). However, it is important to note that even through Sea World’s website lists no bottles of water, there are signs at the entrance to Sea World allowing bottles of water and small soft sided coolers. In addition, I have had no problems bringing in snacks over the last 4 years.

2) Go to almost any quick counter service restaurant in the park and ask for a cup of water.  They should give you a cup of ice water for free. If you can’t find a quick counter service restaurant, use water fountains to refill your water bottles.

apple sauce in park

3) Bring your own food.  Although each park’s policy on food differs, bringing your own picnic lunch is easy and affordable.  Here are a few hints on what you can bring to each park:

  • Walt Disney World is the most accommodating when it comes to food. As long as your cooler isn’t too big, you can bring in sandwiches or any other food that does not require heating or a real knife for cutting (for example a knife to cut an apple or watermelon). I have seen family’s rolling around coolers full of goodies. Disney parks have lots of benches and tables to eat on. So grab a quiet corner and enjoy!
  • Sea World prohibits picnic lunches from being brought into the park, but they have no problems with you eating on Sea World property. In fact, Sea World and Aquatica have nice picnic areas right outside the front gate area. With the parking area close by, you can get your food out of a cooler stored in your car and enjoy a nice lunch in the picnic area before returning to the park for more fun.
  • Universal Orlando: Although Universal is a little more restrictive than Disney, I have heard stories of people bringing in sandwiches without any problems. If you want to be safe, you can have a picnic lunch in your car when you get hungry. Since your car will be in a parking garage, it’s a great way to get out of the sun for a little bit while eating lunch.

food packaged up

As food and cooler policies are subject to change at any time, check with your park of choice before you arrive. However, at the time this article was written, the following are the official food and cooler policies for the big Orlando theme parks:

  • Walt Disney World (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon):
    “Guests are allowed to bring food items—such as snacks or foods that do not require heating—into Disney theme parks. Inform a Security Cast Member of any food items when you enter the park.”
    “Suitcases, coolers or backpacks with or without wheels larger than 24″ (61 cm) long x 15″ (38 cm) wide x 18″ (46 cm) high.”
    There is also a rule against bringing straws and plastic lids into Animal Kingdom.
  • Sea World and Aquatica:
    “Large hard or soft coolers, glass containers, food, drinks and picnic lunches may not be taken into the park.”
    There is also a rule against bringing straws and plastic lids into Sea World and Aquatica.
  • Universal Orlando (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure):
    Acceptable items: “Bottled water; small snacks that do not require heating; any food required for medical purposes and medically–indicated nutritional supplements; any food required for special dietary needs; baby food/baby formula; and soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6” deep.  Prohibited items: “Picnic lunches; food that requires heating or refrigeration; alcohol and glass containers; hard-sided coolers; and soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6” deep; coolers, suitcases, and bags with wheels…”

soft sided cooler

I hope this article helps you save money on your next trip to Orlando!