Epcot is the most expensive park… at least we think so. I can honestly visit any other Disney theme park and spend $0 (tickets excluded, and assuming I’ve packed a lunch or snack). More realistically I can visit any other Disney park and (again aside from tickets) spend $20/person or less on snacks or a quick service meal, and nothing else.
Epcot is different though. The rides are great, don’t get me wrong, and we love all of the shows and entertainment but… so much of visiting Epcot basically revolves around spending money. A good portion of visiting World Showcase is wandering through shops, and you are much more likely to spend money frivolously while you’re visiting from out of town, because you may not know when you’ll be back again and the fear of potential buyer’s regret is real. Even if you can control yourself in the shops, a regular day in Epcot can also turn into eating or drinking around the world, which again can quickly burn a hole in your pocket. Food & Wine Festival must be completely out of reach then for the budget conscious guest, right? Well, only sort of. There is no way to get a deal so to speak on the food and drinks at the festival, but there are a couple of ways to make the cost sting a bit less.
Bring friends and family
The easiest way to trim some of the cost of the festival is to bring your friends and family. The cost of eating around the global marketplaces drastically goes down when you share most (or all) of the plates. While they are tasting portions, there is no question that the costs do add up, but these numbers will not be as painful if you’re splitting this cost among your entire group of friends or family. I’ve personally spent at least 30% more while visiting Epcot during Food & Wine Festival alone. I found myself still wanting to taste a little bit of everything, but since I was by myself my entire per person cost of the day was devoted to just me. And on top of this, it is impossible to try “a little bit of everything” and actually finish all of it by yourself– which means not only did I spend more money during my solo trip, but I also got less value for my money since more of the food went to waste.
I know, this may sound crazy, it is the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival after all. But seriously, choose your drinks carefully. Some of the drinks are full-size and therefore more expensive, and the less expensive ones are VERY sample sized making them difficult to share. This is definitely not to say that you should skip drinking altogether, I would just recommend being more selective with what you order if money is tight. (And of course I would suggest our usual tip of not ordering things you can drink at home. Theme park drinks are at a premium, and if you can order a Sam Adams at home for almost half the price, don’t order it at the festival). You also don’t want to be too drunk at Epcot, it isn’t fun… (I know this from babysitting Chaz one St. Patrick’s Day).
Skip table service meals
Before you arrive, you may think that it’s physically possible for you to eat at a table service meal and snack at the festival. I’m here to tell you that it’s not (or at least that it’s not without feeling extremely bloated and uncomfortable and you don’t want that!) If you have limited time at Walt Disney World and really can’t miss a certain table service meal, think long and hard about how much this is worth it given your tight budget. I would be willing to bet that you’re going to be too full for a sit-down dinner after a day at the festival, and you don’t want to waste money by paying for food you aren’t going to eat.
Research the festival
In addition to the global marketplaces (with items ranging from about $3 to $11), the festival comes with a number of upcharge events. If your budget is that tight, we suggest skipping these events and focusing on the global marketplaces, however if you have a little bit of wiggle room some of the less expensive ticketed events include the beverage and cooking seminars which only run $17/person. The menus for the global marketplaces are released in advance of the festival (in fact you can read them right here!) so you should have time to research how much you see yourself spending before you arrive.
Make your own payment plan
Our favorite budget tip for paying for anything at Walt Disney World can come in handy when planning for the festival too. Once you figure out how much you’re probably going to want to spend at the festival, divide up this amount by the number of weeks you have between now and your trip. Each week add this amount to a Disney gift card, or tuck it away in a safe place until your trip comes. By doing this, you’ll have saved most of your spending money budget ahead of time, and you (hopefully) won’t find yourself reaching for the credit card to finish eating your way around the world. While we usually suggest putting this money straight onto a Disney gift card (so you really have limited options of spending it before your trip) for the Food & Wine Festival you may find it helpful to save it in your bank or in cash– when you arrive at the festival you can purchase gift cards that you can wear as a bracelet, which you’ll quickly see is much more convenient than digging it out of a bag or pocket each time you need to pay.
Have you visited the festival on a budget? Let us know how you kept your budget in check while still enjoying the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival!