How to Eat at Universal on a Budget
Are you trying to figure out how to eat at Universal on a budget? You’re in the right place!
Vacationing at Universal Orlando isn’t cheap. After all, you have tickets and park-to-park if you want to ride Hogwarts Express. Universal Express Passes, souvenirs to purchase, etc. Oh, and then you have food because everyone needs to eat!
Before “you know what,” dining plans were available at Universal. However, those have been discontinued. And no one knows if or when they will be returning.
Thankfully, there are tips and tricks you can use to eat at Universal on a budget.
Let me show you how easy it can be to save money on food at Universal Studios.
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How to Eat at Universal on a Budget
Here are some tips to make eating at Universal budget-friendly. Once you’re done, make sure to check out our complete 2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide. Now, on to how to eat at Universal on a budget.
Go Grocery Shopping
I know, I know… Grocery shopping is not at the top of your list of things to do when you are on vacation.
If you add up the cost of restaurant meals and the cost of heading to the store, how much do you think the difference will be?
I guarantee you will save some serious cash, even if you only purchase snacks or breakfast.
There are a few grocery stores within a couple of miles of Universal. So, this will not be a significant event like you might think it could be. You won’t be driving for miles to a store and wasting precious vacation time. It should be quick, easy, and time well spent for savings.
I like Sprouts, it’s just around the corner from Cabana Bay (if you take the exit in the back, it’s even quicker than this), and they have great sales! Whole Foods is just a bit further, and there’s also a Super Target nearby, several Publix stores, and Wal-Mart.
Eat Breakfast Before Heading to the Parks
One of the easiest ways to save money on food at Universal is to eat breakfast before you head to the parks. You can purchase foods you know your kids will eat from the store.
The best part is you won’t need to wait in those long lines to grab a pastry or a cup of much-needed coffee.
Some of my favorite hotel room-friendly foods include:
- Protein bars
Not a gourmet meal, but it’ll keep everyone full for a while.
Bring Snacks to the Parks
Universal Orlando is pretty good when it comes to allowing some food and drinks into the parks. You can quickly bring in bottled water and snacks. Baby formula and baby food are also allowed.
No coolers, full meals, or foods that require heating or refrigeration are allowed. *If you have a health condition, you should have no problem bringing whatever you need.
Bringing in snacks is one of the easiest ways to eat at Universal on a budget.
The snacks inside the parks add up for families on a budget. So, try to avoid purchasing them if you want to save money.
We typically bring granola bars, fruit, and other quick snacks into the park and our Hydro flasks for water.
Order Meals to Split
Some restaurants at Universal Studios offer more than enough food in a single meal. Those restaurants you want to visit so that you can share a single meal between two people.
At Islands of Adventure, Thunder Falls Terrace is your best bet.
You may find this is an excellent option for your family if you have snackers instead of eaters—especially when on vacation. You can order just enough to fill everyone up for a couple of hours. Then do it again when the munchies hit later.
Another tip for Thunder Falls? Order lots of sides! They’re very inexpensive, large portions, and very filling.
Drink Lots of Water
Above, I mentioned how Universal allows you to bring in bottled water. You may think that is great for the first hour. I mean, it’s not like you will lug around water bottles to last your family the entire day.
Thankfully, there are plenty of drinking fountains within the parks to refill your water bottles. You can even ask for cups of water from quick-service restaurants. I recommend bringing your own cups and refilling them throughout the day.
Drinking lots of water will help you stay hydrated throughout your visit. Plus, it is one of the best ways to stay on budget while eating and drinking at Universal.
Consider Purchasing a Refillable Drink Cup
Another option for saving money on drinks at Universal is to purchase one of the refillable drink cups. You can buy one for your family to share and fill it throughout the day. It will give you something other than water to drink. You are limited to refills every 10 minutes, so keep that in mind.
You can even use your cup for multiple days, paying a lower price for those extra days. If you drink soda, this is one of the best tips for how to eat at Universal on a budget.
Currently, the price of one refillable cup is $17.99. The price is reduced to $15.99 when you purchase two and $13.99 if you purchase between three and six cups.
Additional days are $10.99 each for each cup.
Single-serve drinks will cost approximately $4 each, so you can see how quickly the savings can add up if you drink soda. Powerade or lemonade regularly.
Eating at Universal on a budget – Choose the right places to eat
There are quite a few places to choose from when it comes to dining at Universal Studios. If you are trying to eat at Universal on a budget, you will want to select a restaurant carefully. Some restaurants are more expensive than others. Mythos is one of the top theme park restaurants, so you know it will be on the pricey side.
The Hot Dog Hall of Fame offers all kinds of hot dogs for around $9. For $1 more, you can make it a combo with either chips or fries.
The tacos at the Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck are all under $12. And they are all served with tortilla chips and salsa. Eat the tacos and set those chips aside for later in the day when you need a snack.
In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you will find the Three Broomsticks. Usually, this restaurant would be considered anything but budget-friendly. However, they have a meal called the Great Feast for $70.
The Great Feast includes enough food to feed at least four people (at least.) You get a garden salad, rotisserie smoked chicken, spare ribs, corn on the cob, and roasted potatoes.
It would be an excellent option for a late meal that is lunch and dinner combined.
Mel’s Drive-In is another option for tasty food that won’t break the bank. Most of the platters come with a side of French fries. Those platters average between $11 and $14.
Thunder Falls Terrace at Islands of Adventure is one of our favorites due to the large sides I mentioned.
Take advantage of special events.
Special events offer special food, and though they’re typically sold as snacks and not food, you can often make a meal of of them. At Mardi Gras and other special events, Universal offers tasting lanyards (or, this year, cards) which allow you to get even more savings.
The special event food always has something for special diets, too, so if you’re eating vegan at Universal, gluten-free, or anything else, there will likely be something for you!
How to eat at Universal on a budget
These are some of the best tips for how to eat at Universal on a budget. If you have more tips for saving money on food at Universal, let me know in the comments below!
For our family, here’s what we to do to save money on food at Universal Orlando.
- Eating breakfast at the hotel
- Bringing snacks into the parks, like granola bars
- Taking advantage of special event food and making a meal out of it
- Share meals if they’re large portions
Universal Vacation Tips
Want even more Universal tips and hacks? Check out some of our top posts:
- Worst rides for motion sickness at Universal
- The best food at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- What to pack for Universal Studios (and what to wear at Universal)
- The Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Hotels
- The 20 Best Beaches near Orlando for Families
Are you planning a Universal vacation? I highly recommend buying your tickets through Undercover Tourist! There are many scammy sites, so make sure you’re booking through an approved partner (like Undercover Tourist.)
I also recommend staying at a Universal Resort. Check out the links below for pricing during your dates:
- Hard Rock Hotel
- Loews Portofino Bay
- Loews Royal Pacific
- Aventura Hotel
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
- Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Universal Endless Summer Resorts – Dockside Inn and Suites and Seaside Inn and Suites.
We also post about Marriott Cypress Harbour Villas Review near Universal and Disney if your family needs a larger place to stay and tours for every Universal resort on YouTube.
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