The Best Way to Feed Picky Kids at Disney World

You don't have to wait in line for a Mickey pretzel or an egregiously priced bucket of popcorn.

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Mickey Mouse at Disney World restaurant greeting families
Photo: Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World Resort (Getty Images)

I recently took my family to Walt Disney World, where we stayed at one of Disney’s resorts. To save myself from going completely broke on snacks, I had an Amazon Fresh order delivered to my hotel. There are other options as well, such as Walmart Grocery Delivery, Instacart, and others; I went with Amazon because I have Amazon Prime and it felt like the easiest option. I’m here to tell you that no matter which service you use, vacation groceries are a game-changer.

Why get grocery delivery at Disney World?

We didn’t have a rental car, because staying at a Disney resort meant we could walk to some attractions and take free Disney transportation to others (FWIW, the Skyliner is lovely). It also meant we were essentially trapped in the bubble that is Disney World, without access to a normal grocery store.

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Why is this a problem, you ask? You’re on vacation, just eat out! you might say. I agree, but I also have little kids who subsist on snacks like yogurt pouches, Goldfish crackers, and cut-up fruit. I have one daughter who would only ever eat cherry tomatoes and cucumbers if she could. If we pieced together all these preferences within the parks themselves, items like fruit and cheese were going to put a dent in our vacation spending quickly.

For example, a single Cutie mandarin (what my family calls a clementine) costs $1.99 at the park, and Babybel cheese is $3.49 for a pack of three. On Amazon, Babybel was about half that price, and three pounds of Cuties were $7.79, which is a lot of Cuties for the price of roughly four in the parks.

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Disney resorts do have stores in them that sell essentials like medicine, milk, and nonperishable foods. Once upon a time, I worked in one of those stores, which means I’m pretty familiar with their offerings. I knew I could get ketchup, but I wasn’t going to get a pint of cherry tomatoes. Some of these shops have added prepared foods and cooler sections with things like Lunchables and other packaged easy foods, but I still knew I wasn’t going to find a full-blown grocery store with fresh produce when I arrived.

Plan your theme park grocery order ahead of time

While I was still at home and in planning mode before the trip, I built my Amazon Fresh order online. Doing so required me to change my address to my hotel’s address, because Amazon Fresh deliveries are available in Orlando but not where I live in Vermont.

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I built the initial order about two weeks out, and then over the next two weeks, whenever I’d think of something I wanted to include, I’d add it to the order. This made it all feel very low-key. I just had to be careful not to accidentally check out when I was making normal Amazon purchases in the meantime—my normal Amazon cart and my Amazon Fresh cart were separate entities, but I could view both on the Amazon checkout page.

Check in with bell services when you arrive

Our hotel had a robust bell services counter. People arrive at Disney World resorts at all times of the day and, since there’s plenty to do, they drop off their suitcases and head out to explore. So while I’m not sure if the sleepy Marriott I recently stayed at in Vermont even had bell services to speak of, in my Disney hotel, it was bustling and easy to find.

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I asked someone what was going to happen when I got my Amazon Fresh delivery, since I’d never ordered to a hotel before. She kindly explained that the Amazon delivery person would bring the order, in grocery bags, to bell services, which would then store it for me. Refrigerated bags are marked as such and are stored in a big cooler. Clearly, grocery orders have become more common at Disney, and the resort is keeping up with the trend by making the process as frictionless as possible.

Once I placed my order, it arrived within two hours. The bell services cast member I talked to said I could choose to have my delivery brought up to my room by hotel employees—Amazon delivery people were not allowed beyond the lobby, she said—but if the order wasn’t big, we could come grab it ourselves. That’s what we did. It was packaged in a bunch of paper bags, some of which were marked as refrigerated items.

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The downside of getting groceries at Disney World

To be honest, packing some of these snacks to take with us into the parks was kind of a pain. Getting out the door to the theme parks in the morning was oddly reminiscent of getting my kids out the door for childcare and school—the very things we were taking a break from.

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This phenomenon was not helped by the fact that I had essentially tasked myself with packing mini lunches each day. But alas, I did it. I filled a pouch in our giant backpack with individual Ziploc bags of snacks, plus perishable items like yogurt and individually wrapped cheeses. We were ready.

The pros and cons of bringing outside snacks into the parks

Having snacks on hand saved us a lot of money and also saved us big on frustration. Each Disney eatery is different, and a lot of them were crowded. Not only would our kids have been taking one bite of a $4 muffin and then wasting the rest, but we wouldn’t necessarily have always found a muffin at all. Our pre-bagged snacks allowed us to plan three square meals throughout the day but not worry as much about those in-between hunger spells.

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However, sitting inside a backpack in the Orlando heat in August, the perishable items got gross fast. Yogurt and cheese are very helpful to have on the go with little kids, but they didn’t keep well. I suppose I could have brought an insulated bag and hunted down some ice in the mornings (my hotel fridge didn’t have a freezer to chill a reusable ice pack), but seeking out ice would have been another item on the to-do list, on top of what already felt like a rushed morning.

The bottom line

Grocery delivery to the hotel during vacation is helpful, especially with little kids, and especially at a resort like Disney World, where you might not have access to the outside world for one reason or another. It’s probably worthwhile to be conservative with what you buy; we ended up leaving a few things behind in the end. In retrospect, I wish I’d done two smaller orders throughout the week rather than one big one at the start (delivery was free over $35, which these days is a pretty easy threshold to reach).

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Ultimately, though, this is a cost-effective way to feed kids with particular appetites while at the resort. It requires a bit more planning on the front end, but it saves you the mental energy of waiting in line for the ideal snacks all day long, leaving you free to explore the most fun areas of the park.