Cheap Eats - Penny Pincher's Guide to IOA

Food & Merchandising

You've heard the rumors about food being expensive at the Florida theme parks. Maybe it was Homer Simpson being stiffed for a $9 churro at the Magic Kingdom (don't worry, it's not that much -- and it's just $2.50 at Islands of Adventure if you're curious). Will you pay a premium to eat inside the park? Of course. You're a captive audience. But there are ways to save a little coin at the park. Here are four tips to savor:

1. Flash your annual pass or AAA card at most of the restaurants for a 10-15% discount. The smaller food kiosks don't provide discounts. Still, it never hurts to ask. $3 off a $20 tab is, well, churro money, is it not?

2. Water, water, everywhere. Don't want to pay two bucks or more for a soda or a bottled water? You can always ask for free ice water.

3. Dare to share. If you find yourself at Enchanted Oak Tavern and come into sticker price shock when you see a $10.99 ransom for the ribs and chicken platter, just wait until you see it. Two people can realistically share one of the huge portions of fries, corn on the cob and a quarter chicken and two huge beef slabs.

4. Be a kid at heart. While kid meals will run you about twice as much as they do at fast food chains outside of the park I've seen more than a few adults order them. Complete with a drink for $5-6 is a solid relative value to the full meal choices. Is this ethical? You came to the wrong person if you wanted a lecture. You can always ask at the counter or, if you're at a table service restaurant, ask the wait staff. They are unlikely to turn you down.

5. Take advantage of great food deals. In January of 2006, Universal Orlando rolled out the Universal Meal Deal that will allow you to eat off a select menu at three of the fast food restaurants all day long for one reasonable price. Always be on the lookout for deals like that which are often advertised as you enter the park.

As for park merchandise, your annual pass is good for a 20% discount. When that $25 Spider-Man toy is actually $20 that's, well, good for two churros, right? Flashing your AAA card is good for a 10% discount, though they have sometimes gone ahead and rung it up as 20%. The discount is also good, believe it or not, for on-board ride photos.

Some of the stores will also have sale-priced merchandise. Look for the signs. Ask. Yes, live the adventure, but do it on your financial terms!

Back to Penny Pincher's Guide -- Hotel Discounts -- Cheap Tickets

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