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Eating on a Budget at Universal Studios – Maximize your dollars!

We all know that one of the biggest expenses of any vacation can be your food– especially if you’re visiting Universal Orlando! Fortunately, once you know your way around, it is not impossible to eat on a budget at Universal Orlando while enjoying delicious food on vacation.

To help you out on your journey to the Universal Orlando resort, I’ve put together this comprehensive guide to eating on a budget at Universal Orlando. I’ll cover the best tips and tricks that I’ve learned from my travels, as well as the specifics of what you should seek out and what you should avoid. You’ll be a pro at maximizing every dollar for your Universal Orlando trip in no time.

Eating on a Budget at Universal Studio Strategies

Visiting Universal Studios Orlando can be a thrilling experience, but it can also be quite expensive. One of the biggest expenses during your trip is food. However, there are ways to save money and still enjoy delicious meals. Here are some tips for eating at Universal Studios Orlando on a budget.

Research food options in advance

Before your trip, research the different food options available at the park. You can find menus and prices online, which will help you plan your budget accordingly. Also, consider packing some snacks and drinks with you to save money on food.

Utilize meal deals and dining plans.

Universal Studios Orlando offers meal deals and dining plans that can help you save money. These options provide you with a set number of meals or snacks at a discounted rate. The dining plans are only available for guests staying at Universal Orlando Resort hotels, but the meal deals are available for everyone.

I will discuss this more below.

Share meals

Portions at Universal Studios Orlando are often quite large, so consider sharing meals with your travel companions. Many restaurants at the park offer meals that are big enough to share. This will not only save you money, but it will also help reduce food waste.

Eating on a Budget at Universal Studios

Choose quick-service restaurants

Quick-service restaurants are a great option for budget-conscious travelers. These restaurants offer a variety of quick and easy meals, such as burgers, sandwiches, and salads, at a lower price point than table-service restaurants.

Bring your own water bottle

Staying hydrated is important, especially during a long day at the park. Instead of purchasing bottled water throughout the day, bring your own refillable water bottle. There are water fountains located throughout the park where you can refill your bottle for free.

Buy your own groceries.

Buying your own food is maybe the most important tip of this whole post! You will save so, so, so much money by fixing your own meals instead of eating out. We all know that theme parks tend to overprice everything food, and most of those meals don’t tend to be out-of-this-world extraordinary.

I wrote a whole post about buying groceries while traveling, take a look if you’re interested in more budget-friendly grocery tips.

Seek out budget-friendly places to eat in the parks.

Imagine you have already bought a healthy stash of groceries from the local stores, opted out of the Universal Dining Plans, and are ready to enjoy yourself in the spectacular world of Universal Orlando.

Just because you’re eating on a budget at Universal Orlando doesn’t mean you can never eat out during your trip, especially when you’re seeing some quite magical and amazing restaurants to check out! If you have children traveling with you, it might be worthwhile to think about scheduling a meal every now and again that you don’t have to make yourself.

The trick is figuring out how to strike that balance without completely blowing the budget. Fortunately, in the next section, I worked out a dining roadmap to help you decide which places to check out on your coming adventures.

Cheap Eat Universal Orlando

I carefully combed through the restaurants available at Universal Orlando, and worked out the places that deliver both quality and savings. A few at the end are perfect if you’ve set aside a place in your vacation budget for a quality meal out.

The majority of these restaurants are quick service ones, as they tend to run cheaper than a full service restaurant. However, not all of the following restaurants participate in the dining plans, so be aware of that as you plan your trip!

Whakawaiwai Eats

A top rated spot in Universal’s Volcano Bay water park, this Hawaiian-themed restaurant/ pizza shop offers a reasonably-priced refresher after spending a day playing in the water. It does qualify for the Quick Service Dining Plan, and includes an ICEE with most everything ordered off the combo menu.

They specialize in “longboard” pizzas, which are pretty sizeable flatbread pizzas loaded with toppings. You can get the individual pizza for around $10, and make it a combo with the ICEE for about $15. If you’re trying to save money, I would stick to the plain pizzas and possibly consider splitting them, especially if you are a light eater.

Hot Dog Hall of Fame

I seriously cannot think of anything more archetypal of a theme park than a good old-fashioned hot dog. Unfortunately, it’s far easier to be disappointed by a hot dog than to be impressed with it. Luckily, that’s a barrier that Universal Orlando has overcome by setting up this all-star lineup of the best hot dogs ever.

Eating on a Budget at Universal Studios

You can get a plain hot dog for around $7-$10, or a platter (hot dog with fries) for $9 to $11. Flavors range from a Chicago dog dragged through the garden to a Bratwurst sausage and a MorningStar Farms veggie dog. Most of these are fairly substantial, and you can save by leaving off additional toppings or extra sides. Most items are covered by the Dining Plans.

Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar

The Fusion Bistro might have the cheapest and most accessible food available in Universal. It’s essentially just a sushi place, with a wide selection of alcoholic beverages available as well. None of their sushi entrees exceed $11, making it extremely friendly for your budget. This place is positioned in Universal’s CityWalk  area, and could be a great option for an adults’ night out.

Even their sides, sauces, and the extras are not likely to break the bank. Add miso soup for just an additional $2.99, or fried chicken dumplings for under $5. It would not be impossible to enjoy a delicious, authentic Japanese meal for under $10 per person.

Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck

If you’re starting to sense a theme in this post of getting high-quality street food to save your budget and your appetite, you would be correct. The Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck is a hidden gem at Universal Orlando that routinely gets overshadowed by some of the flashier restaurants. Of course, it’s always fresh and hip to eat at a food truck instead of a sit-down place, but it’s also way more affordable.

The food truck’s menu is not particularly extensive, as you have the choice only between Korean beef, chicken, and carne asada tacos, but word on the street is that these tacos are out of this world. The great part is that they ring in at just $10 for two tacos and a side of chips.

This location is also covered under the Universal Dining Plans, entitling you to some Buzz Cola or another drink without worrying about shelling out extra cash to wash down your tacos.

Eating on a Budget at Universal Studios

Croissant Moon Bakery

The iconic dessert of Universal Orlando is maybe classic Dippin’ Dots, those tiny, frozen pellets of ice cream that look vaguely like cottage cheese (but taste much better, I promise). However, if you’re looking to try something new or you’re tired of paying the high price tag for those petite cups, look no further than the Croissant Moon Bakery.

It’s more than just a clever play on words– Croissant Moon has all the trappings of an adorable, tiny bakery. I recommend sticking with their desserts, which generally hover around $3 each. They offer some pressed sandwiches and heavy-duty salads as well, but those are expensive and not necessarily worth the price.

Bonus: All the desserts are covered on the Dining Plans, which is always great.

Mythos Restaurant

Let’s imagine you have scraped and scrimped on some of your other meals on your trip, grabbing some tasty eats at the previously mentioned places and whipping up your own meals a few times. If you have space in the budget after all that, try the Mythos Restaurant as a nice treat.

It’s not impossible to still keep up with your budget at a higher-end place, though. Skip the appetizers, or grab a light Tuscan tomato or roasted butternut squash soup for $7. Steer clear of some of the higher-priced feature items, and instead try out the Gnocchi Bolognese, Cranberry Blue Cheese Crusted Pork, or Plant-Based Tomato Pesto Cresto de Gallo for under $17. This way, you can still enjoy some of the finest dining in the park without spending more than $25 a person.

Three Broomsticks

Have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned any Universal Orlando dining options located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? This is definitely one of the most interesting (and most packed) parts of the resort complex, but you certainly can’t just skip over it.

Being popular and being iconic makes dining in the Wizarding World extremely expensive, which is why you might consider avoiding some of the tourist-heavy places.

That being said, the Three Broomsticks is worth including on this list because tasting a bit of Harry Potter’s world is an experience well worth having.

The great thing about the Three Broomsticks is that it offers The Great Feast, a massive meal that can be shared with four people for about $60. It includes a salad, rotisserie smoked chicken, spareribs, corn on the cob, and roast potatoes. This massive meal breaks down to just $15 a person, with maybe a few extra dollars on top if you want to test out the famous Butterbeer or Butterbeer ice cream for dessert.

Should You Use Universal’s Dining Plans

One of the first decisions you’ll have to make when planning your Universal Orlando vacation is whether or not to opt for the prepaid dining plan. It’s worth spending a little bit of time to understand the options for these plans, especially if you don’t want to go through the hassle of planning all your meals yourself.

(The Universal Orlando website breaks the whole thing down for you right over here!)

I never recommend always going with the park-sponsored dining plan options 100% of the time. I think they can be great if you know you are going to make the most of them, or it’s less of a hassle for your family by avoiding making your own dining plans.

However, if you are looking to stretch your dollars as far as they possibly can go, you’ll probably be better off exploring other options to feed your group.

Universal Dining Plan

This one is only available with the purchase of a Universal Orlando vacation package, which bundles your hotel and entry tickets into one price. After a little bit of research, I determined that this plan works out to be around $32 per adult per day. It includes one full-service meal, one quick-service meal, one snack, and one non-alcoholic beverage.

So what does that really look like? Lunch and dinner would be covered for you under this plan, with at least an entree and drink provided at each. You also get a qualifying dessert at dinner, plus a bonus drink during the day. The catch is that only certain restaurants qualify under this plan and only certain menu items can be selected.

Universal Dining Plan- Quick Service

The Quick Service version of the Universal Dining plan is available to everyone, even if you don’t book your room and tickets through Universal itself. The only other difference between this plan and the first plan is that this does not include one full-service meal each day.

By only covering one quick service meal a day (plus a snack and drink), this plan does come cheaper at just $24 per adult per day. Of course, $24 is still a lot for a quick grab-and-go meal, so it’s worth carefully weighing your options when it comes to deciding which plan might work better for you.

EnhancementAdult Pricing (Age 10+)Child Pricing (Ages 3-9)
Universal Dining Plan*$69.21$26.61
Universal Dining Plan
Quick Service**
Universal Dining Plan
Quick Service plus Coca-Cola
Freestyle® Souvenir Cup***
All prices are USD, per person, per day, tax inclusive.
Valid theme park admission required.

Universal Dining Plan — Quick-Service + Coca-Cola freestyle® Souvenir Cup

Another plan that is available to everyone, the Souvenir Cup plan is identical to the Quick Service version with the exception of the free drink. You get a Coca-Cola reusable cup that can be refilled throughout the day at a variety of participating locations.

This plan weighs in at around $30, which is a better value than the Quick Service plan if you are likely to use the bonus Coca-Cola cup. Would you be buying multiple soft drinks throughout the day anyway? If the answer is yes, then this plan could save you more than the Quick Service plan’s one single free drink per day. However, if the answer is no, then this plan might be a waste of your money.

There is a little bit of fine print with these dining plans. They don’t cover everything on every menu in the park, which means your options will be limited if you opt into the plans. It’s not terribly convenient for people with food allergies, and Universal Orlando’s snack selections are not particularly impressive (think popcorn, ice cream, Butterbeer, etc.).

Final Verdict – Should You Use Universal’s Dining Plans

The Universal Dining Plans do offer a reasonable deal, provided you take full advantage of them. If you don’t mind having limited options and you are willing to max out your plan each day for each member of your party, then you could save quite a bit of money.

Eating on a Budget at Springfield U.S.A: Home of the Simpsons

This section of the park is based on the popular TV show and features a variety of dining options that are both delicious and affordable. Here are two tips for eating on a budget in Springfield U.S.A:

  1. Dine at Krusty Burger – Krusty Burger is a quick-service restaurant that offers a variety of burgers, sandwiches, and sides at a reasonable price. The signature Krusty Burger is a must-try, and you can also opt for sides like curly fries or tater tots.
  2. Grab a snack at Lard Lad Donuts – Lard Lad Donuts is a great place to satisfy your sweet tooth without breaking the bank. They offer a variety of oversized donuts, including the famous giant pink donut, that are perfect for sharing.

Eating on a Budget at The Hollywood Section

Firstly, consider bringing your own snacks and drinks to the park. This can save you a lot of money in the long run, especially if you’re traveling with a group. If you do plan on eating at the park, try to avoid the most popular dining spots in the Hollywood section, such as Mel’s Drive-In and the TODAY Cafe, as these tend to be the most expensive.

Instead, look for smaller food stands that offer more affordable options. For example, the Hollywood section has a number of food stands that offer classic American snacks like popcorn, hot dogs, and pretzels.

Another option is to opt for combo meals or shareable items, which can be more cost-effective if you’re traveling with others. The Hollywood section has a few quick service restaurants that offer combo meals like the Mel’s Drive-In, which offers a combo meal that includes a burger, fries, and a drink.

Eating on a Budget at KidZone Pizza Company

If you’re looking to eat at a budget when visiting Universal Studios Orlando within the Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone section specifically, consider KidZone Pizza Company.

While this restaurant may not be the most budget-friendly option, it does offer combo meals that include pizza, breadsticks, and a drink, which can be a good option if you’re looking for a filling meal.

Eating on a Budget at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando can be an exciting and magical experience, but it can also be quite expensive. As a budget-conscious visitor, finding affordable food options can be a challenge.

While there are several dining options within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the prices can be steep. However, there is a simple solution to this problem – sharing meals.

Sharing meals with friends and family is a great way to save money and still enjoy the delicious food at the park. For example, at The Leaky Cauldron, the portions are quite generous, and sharing a meal can easily feed two people. The same goes for the meals at the Three Broomsticks.

You can also opt to share a refreshing beverage, such as a Butterbeer or Pumpkin Juice, which are available in larger sizes.

Eating on a Budget at the New York Section

One budget-friendly dining option in the New York section of Universal Studios Orlando is Louie’s Italian Restaurant. This restaurant offers classic Italian dishes such as pizza and pasta at affordable prices.

Another option is Finnegan’s Bar and Grill, which serves pub-style food like burgers and sandwiches at reasonable prices. Both of these restaurants offer a great atmosphere and delicious food without breaking the bank.

Eating on a Budget at Minion Land

If you’re looking for budget-friendly dining options at Universal Studios Orlando within the Minion Land section, consider checking out the following options:

Illumination’s Minion Cafe: This cafe offers a variety of snacks and drinks, including pretzels, popcorn, and frozen treats.

Bake My Day: This outdoor cart serves up a variety of snacks, such as churros, cotton candy, and ice cream.

Freeze Ray Pops: This gelato shop offers a variety of flavors and sizes, allowing you to satisfy your sweet tooth without breaking the bank.

Eating on a Budget at San Francisco

If you’re looking for budget-friendly dining options at Universal Studios Orlando within the San Francisco section, consider checking out the following options:

  1. Richter’s Burger Co.: This burger joint offers a variety of burgers, fries, and onion rings at reasonable prices.
  2. Ben & Jerry’s: This ice cream shop serves up delicious scoops and sundaes without breaking the bank.
  3. Chez Alcatraz: This snack cart offers hot dogs, pretzels, and popcorn, perfect for a quick bite on a budget.

As always, a little bit of extra planning is all you need to manage your budget dining at Universal Orlando. You can eat delicious, substantial food without splurging too much, once you know the right places to go.
Looking for more budget tips for your Universal Orlando trip?

Eating on a Budget at Universal Studios

Ruth I

Friday 21st of June 2019

The fireworks looks like from the movies. I guess you are right, it is difficult to go splurge on eating outside of budget. I am sure my next trip will be wiser.


Thursday 20th of June 2019

Great eating tips when going to Universal Studios. It can be more expensive than you thought!


Wednesday 19th of June 2019

Great post, really appreciate these tips to save money. Every little bit helps.


Tuesday 18th of June 2019

We had a meal plan when we went. We got it ahead of time and got a deal where the kids ate for free.


Tuesday 18th of June 2019

I haven’t gone in years so this is a good way to get back in and save money!

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