Walt Disney World is full of tempting treats, to be sure, but purchasing every snack, drink and meal on property during a vacation can get expensive — especially with young kids. That’s why many visitors choose to bring at least some of what they plan to consume with them. (Of course, there are other reasons for toting food, such as medical and dietary needs.) With very few exceptions, Disney allows guests to bring what they want to eat into its theme parks. Here’s what you need to know.
First, the exceptions I mentioned above include glass containers and alcohol. The folks at the baggage-check tables at each Disney World theme park absolutely won’t budge on these items, so don’t even try to slip that beer into the Magic Kingdom. A exception to the exception is glass baby food jars, which are allowed.
There is no limit on the quantity of food that each guest, or family, can bring in. If you can carry it in a cooler, or multiple bags, that are each no larger than 24 inches by 15 inches by 18 inches, you are set. Be aware that no coolers with wheels or wagons are allowed. (Strollers and motorized scooters are the only wheeled items permitted at Walt Disney World parks.)
Still, Disney’s policy is generous compared to other local theme parks. SeaWorld Orlando, for example, only allows guests to bring in baby food or those items needed for a restricted diet. Universal Orlando’s published policy on outside food states the following items are permitted inside its parks: bottled water, small snacks that do not require heating, any food necessary for medical purposes, any food needed for dietary needs, baby food, and insulated bags that are no larger than 8.5 inches by 6 inches by 6 inches.
As an Orlando resident with elementary-school-age children, I almost always take food and drinks into Walt Disney World. When my kids were very little, we filled the bottom of their stroller with small coolers that housed toddler meals and other necessities. As they outgrew the carriage, we transitioned to backpacks for everyone, including an inexpensive cooler backpack that my husband usually wears. The bottom portion is insulated, and we typically take along juice pouches for the kids as well as any snack items that could melt. Because space is at a premium in the backpack, we don’t use it for bottles of water. Instead we bring reusable containers that we fill at water fountains or with cups of ice water that are handed out at counter-service restaurants.
We have brought an entire meal — sandwiches, chips, drinks — in the backpack cooler on days when we expect to eat two meals in a park. This definitely helps keeps costs down and it saves on time. But if you don’t want to carry your meal all day, each Disney World park does have lockers for rent that typically cost less than $10 for the day.
You may be wondering where to eat your meal if you do bring it with you. Disney allows guests to grab any available bench or table at a counter-service restaurant, whether it is indoors or outside. If it is during an exceptionally busy period and cast members are seating guests after they have purchased food, you may be asked to try another spot.
If you do bring an insulated backpack or soft-sided cooler, the bonus is that after you have consumed what you brought into Disney World, you will have a place to store any perishable treats you want to take home.