By Sarah Van Blaricum
Summer is wrapping up, which means a whole host of exciting things are on the horizon for fall: the kids going back to school, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, pumpkin beers, and, of course, the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Disney World. If you’ve been living under a rock and have never heard of this wildly popular Disney event, it’s a food-lover’s siren song: visitors can sample cuisines and beverages from around the world, and attend culinary demonstrations and seminars. It’s held at Disney’s Epcot theme park every year; this year, the event takes place from September 14 through November 14.
First, let me dispel a popular myth: you do not need to buy a separate ticket in order to attend this event; you get complimentary access with your Epcot park ticket. However, each food and beverage sample, as well as some of the demonstrations and seminars, does cost money. Food and beverage samples can range anywhere from $3 to $8 each (certain beverages can be more), and if you want to participate in a seminar, you are looking at another $15. It all adds up, and if you’re not careful, you could be stuck with a credit card bill that’s less than magical. But you needn’t sell your first-born in order to thoroughly enjoy this festival. I have made the Food and Wine pilgrimage the past two years, and have had a blast without breaking the bank. Below are some tips I’ve personally used to save money at this fun foodie event.
Plan It Out
There are a ton of Disney and food bloggers who post the Food and Wine menu — including cost — in advance of the event (my favorite is Disney Food Blog). Take advantage of this, and create a list by country. Include all of the dishes you want to try, along with each associated cost. When you are done, add everything up. If it’s too expensive, go back through and indicate the samples that are must-haves and those that wouldn’t make you too upset if you had to pass. Refine as needed. This method helps you prioritize your wants, and gives you a realistic budget. I did this my first year, and was able to create a list that was a little over $100 in cost (down from an original price tag of $300). I ended up spending $140.
Share with Friends
If you’re planning to go with a group of people, take turns purchasing samples at each country and share. This will allow you to stuff your face with more goodies while spending less cash.
Use Credit Card Points
Credit card rewards can be a great way to get extra money. If you have either of the Disney credit cards offered through Chase, you can load your Disney Dream Reward Dollars onto a redemption card and pay with that at the country kiosks. If you have a non-Disney cash back rewards card, you can redeem your rewards for an account credit or opt to get a check in the mail. Last year, I paid with the Disney Dream Reward Dollars I had stacked up (I have the Disney Premier Visa card), which gave me $70 in extra cash.
Pay with Gift Cards
Once you’ve figured out your budget, load it up onto Disney gift cards, which can be used as payment at the country kiosks. This will ensure you won’t overspend — once the cards are used up, it’s time to call it a day (or night).
Enjoying the Food and Wine Festival doesn’t have to be a financial drain. With the proper planning, a little creativity, and a bit of willpower, you’ll be able to wine and dine and leave with both your tummy and your wallet full.
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