We’ve had the Disney Dining Plan on our last two visits and are opting for it again when we return in a few weeks. You’ll hear some people say it’s a lot of food and I don’t disagree. You can get a lot, and we certainly feel like we’ve used it to the fullest by selecting many character meals with all-you-can-eat buffets. I admit we were a bit conservative of snack credits on our first visit for fear of running out (a common theme among first-time visitors). The second time we had no trouble using up snacks– much thanks to the chocolate ice cream and Mickey brownies at the Riverside Mill Food Court at Port Orleans. But, while there’s a lot of food at mealtime and the ability to purchase snacks throughout the parks and resorts we still needed than the meal plan was providing us.
Even before we had children we traveled with a few snacks. When the kids came along it became vitally important to have snacks on hand at a moments notice. As we prepared for visiting Walt Disney World for the first time I knew there were things in addition to snack credits that we would need. But how were we going to get them? We opted to stay on Disney property and rely solely on Disney transportation. A brief passing thought about traveling off-property was discussed and then quickly thrown out. A taxi was not really feasible with two small children and Uber was something that we were rather unfamiliar with at the time. It also presented the problem of not having a place for the children to ride.
Delivery became the key. Several discussion boards and groups regularly broach the topic of grocery delivery to Walt Disney World and the Orlando area. At the time there were two main recommendations: Garden Grocer and Dizzy Dolphin. The first option being the most popular and the latter seems a newer competitor. Instacart received occasional mentions and sometimes there were smaller vendor names thrown out as well. Most of these services offered some kind of promotions to order from them–like a free case of water with qualifying orders.
Ultimately Amazon was mentioned and a quick search of their available products met our needs. We had already been prime members for five years at that point and were comfortable and familiar with the service. In 2016, we were utilizing PrimePantry. I loaded our pantry box and as the trip approached I finalized and scheduled a delivery date for our arrival date. I must have checked the address a dozen times or more to ensure that I had properly followed directions to ship to the resort.
And I did! I received the delivery notifications just as I did for our normal packages. I called the front desk and our food was delivered to our room.
Some things have changed since then. Walt Disney World is charging for package delivery (currently, $5 per package) and Amazon is offering PrimeNow in the Orlando area. PrimeNow provides 2-hour delivery services and added the benefit of order perishables which local delivery services had already done since their inception.
Reviewing the Options
I did a quick search of each site to compare. Dizzy Dolphin and Garden Grocer charge a $14 delivery fee unless your order reaches $250 or $200, respectively. Garden Grocer also charges higher fees for same day and next-day deliveries. Instacart delivers free for orders over $35, but there is a caveat that “Busy Pricing” may apply a “high demand” periods. These aren’t specified but it says that it’ll be clear if Busy Pricing applies.
I found Garden Grocer’s site easy to navigate through the various categories of groceries available. The selection included any basic products we would have needed and many items outside of groceries– like diapers, personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and even a few baking pans. I can see how those may come in handy if you have a Villa on property or are renting a home in the area. Once a few items were stacked up in my cart I could view the week’s calendar and select a 4-hour delivery window.
Dizzy Dolphin required I register an account to look around the website. I found that to be rather annoying since I was just trying to figure out what groceries/brands may be available. But when I created an account I was even more confused. I clicked around several times to find the selections before locating the “Create New Order” function under “My Account.” My next step is to write out a list of what I want and then Dizzy Dolphin will find the pricing and get back to me. If I had read the homepage a little closer I would have understood that this is the process. I don’t get to put items in my shopping cart and worse I have no idea what the cost is going to be. I find it to be very unappealing.
Instacart also required an account but had a one-click sign up through Google and Facebook. Publix was the grocery store associated with the delivery area code for our Walt Disney World resort. Once logged in it was back to shopping through departments and adding items to the cart. The selection that I browsed appeared similar to Garden Grocer.
After browsing through these I’m ready to stick with my trusty Amazon account and place a PrimeNow order for our next visit. Delivery is free unless I place a last-minute order that I need in one hour. The options are comparable to both Garden Grocer and Instacart. The one major difference that jumped out right away was in the produce section PrimeNow has many more items priced by the pound rather than per piece. Let’s face it, if I order bananas I’m going to pay $.49/lb long before I pay $.49 for one banana. The only drawback is that it seems to only allow me a short delivery window. I feel like I was able to put my order in more in advance than the day before last year. Maybe I just left my cart full and placed the order while we were getting ready to travel.
The selection is sufficient for a trip and there are plenty of non-food items including batteries and hair straighteners which we needed to order last year during our trip! My hair straightener broke one more and we realized we forgot our extra batteries for the misting fans at home. While we rode the bus to the park, I hopped on PrimeNow, found both and ordered them to be delivered that evening and they were waiting at the desk when we returned.
What to order
Of course, there is a lot of personal preference in every order. However, some things to consider:
- Stay away from chocolate – Florida is too hot to throw chocolate, chocolate-covered, or chocolate-filled snacks. This is so hard for me to say because I love chocolate. Disney just isn’t the place for it.
- Avoid frozen foods too – Unless you have a 1+ bedroom villa or are staying off-site ordering any frozen foods isn’t useful. There is not enough space mini-fridge’s freezer compartment to store much that needs to stay frozen until use.
- Pantry items are best – crackers, peanuts, and pretzels are easy to manage snacks and hold up throughout the day in the park bag. We generally will throw a sleeve of crackers or a container of peanuts in our bag the night before as we prep to head out. Pretzels are more of an in-room snack.
- Individually packaged treats like fruit snacks or one of our favorites, rice krispie treats are simple grab-and-go options. Mini-cereal boxes are good for breakfast, snacks, or even lunch according to my kids.
- Limit the refrigerated selections – A half gallon of milk and some yogurts for breakfast are nice to have.
- Load up on drinks! – Resort refillable mugs are only refillable at the resorts. Using snack credits for drinks in the parks is not a valuable use of the credit, though we’ve done it. Waiting in line for free water at a quick-service location isn’t always feasible and when there are cups of water available for the taking (we found some at Tortuga Tavern) they were small and one wasn’t enough. We like to buy Powerade Zero and a case of water. We don’t load up the refrigerator because we like to get these drinks very cold/frozen overnight to take the parks.
- Drink mixes – Crystal light and other brands make on-the-go individual drink mixes that can be mixed with a regular bottle of water. It’s a quick and inexpensive way to have a juice drink.
If you are staying at the Art of Animation family suites, All-Star Movies family suites, or a Disney Vacation Club studio villa you’ll have the added benefit of a microwave and can consider adding microwavable items like mac and cheese or other family favorites.
If you’re not on the dining plan and have a full kitchen either on or off property any of these services can provide a lot of value and ease to your trip. If you just need a few snacks like us PrimeNow and Instacart look to be the most cost-effective options.