The Secrets to Saving Big at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival
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The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is one of Disney World’s most popular annual events. Now in its 23rd year, the festival has grown every year and encompasses hundreds of food samples from around the world. It’s simply impossible to try everything. Trust me: I’ve tried! You can, however, get the best of the festival’s offerings without exploding either your budget or your waistline. Best of all, the kids can have as much fun as you do.
What Is the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival?
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is an event that takes place every fall. The 2018 festival runs from August 30 through November 12. In addition to Epcot’s everyday attractions, more than 40 stalls offer treats from all over the globe. The festival also features unique and interactive activities and stage shows that change daily.
Tips and Tricks to Save at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival
I’ve been to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival many times and here are some of my best tried-and-true tips to save money without sacrificing fun.
Save Before You Go
The Epcot Food & Wine Festival is not a ticketed event like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Your regular park admission ticket includes festival access. You can save on Disney tickets by using a third-party vendor such as Undercover Tourist. By using a third-party vendor, you can use flexible points, such as the 70,000-mile bonus (after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days) available from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard to offset your costs. Most ticket brokers code as travel, while tickets purchased directly from Disney do not — unless they are part of a larger vacation package that also includes a hotel stay. We have a helpful rundown of many ways to use your points to cover the cost of Disney World tickets.
Note that Disney World ticket prices just changed, but you may be able to pick up some remaining inventory at the old prices from Undercover Tourist if you act quickly.
Use a Disney Gift Card to Set a Budget
Another great way to save on a visit to the festival is to set a budget on a Disney Gift Card. My favorite way to save on Disney Gift Cards is buying them at Sam’s Club and paying for them via a card stored in my Dosh App. By doing so, I quadruple-dip savings:
- I save on the actual gift cards: paying $484.98 for a $500 gift card.
- I get 2% ($9.70) back due to my Sam’s Club Plus membership.
- I get 2.1% ($10.18) back using my Arrival Plus card.
- I get 5% ($20 maximum daily) back using the Dosh App.
Stacking all of the discounts, I can get a $500 Disney Gift Card for a net cost of $445.10, or 11% off. Sam’s Club also offers $150 gift card packs (three x $50) for $142.98, a net cost of $129.97, or 13% off. The $50 ones are useful for daily budgeting.
Other ways to save on Disney Gift Cards include using a Target RedCard for 5% off, or using a Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card for 5% back at office supply stores (on the first $25,000 per year) — this can be the same as 5x Ultimate Rewards points, depending on which other Chase cards you hold.
If you don’t have one of the handy $50 gift cards from Sam’s Club, you can buy some really cute customized Food & Wine Festival ones once you get there. They can be loaded with as little as $15 if you want each family member to have his or her own daily “Mickey allowance.”
Don’t Make Disney Restaurant Reservations
Most times I recommend making restaurant reservations, especially at Epcot. However, during the festival you’ll save by snacking your way through the day instead of splurging on a big meal. You’ll have more fun this way, too.
For the same reason, I don’t typically recommend the Disney Dining Plan during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. You can redeem a meal for three snack credits, but most times you’ll come out ahead by paying a la carte as the individual items are usually well under $10 each.
Plan Your “Eat to the Beat” Preference
A highlight of the Food & Wine Festival is the rotating free concert schedule. The list of performers reads like a soft rock station’s playlist: the best of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Acts range from Air Supply to Taylor Dayne to Everclear and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and you may have a strong preference between the acts available during your visit. Each band plays for two or three days, so you might even get to see two if you plan your trip correctly.
During Your Epcot Food and Wine Visit
Once you’re in Epcot, there are other tricks you can leverage to get the most out of the festival.
Don’t Worry About Breakfast
Festival booths in Future World open when Epcot does: 9am. You’ll have plenty of breakfast-y options, including cronuts, cheese plates and even mimosas.
Start at the Festival Center
Located near Test Track in Future World, the Festival Center is where you get your map, “passport” with menus and information about the day’s events. Be sure to check out the Chocolate Experience stand at the back of the Festival Center: the drinking chocolate is one of my favorite festival treats.
Only Get One of Whatever You Buy
I highly recommend going to the Epcot International Food & Wine festival with a group. Otherwise, you’ll be stuffed before you get to your second booth. I went with two other friends on a kid-free trip and we sampled 25 items in a day, which included breakfast, lunch and dinner. We enjoyed so much by only getting one of whatever we wanted to try. Most times, a taste was enough to satisfy. The only exception I’ll note below.
Check Out the Rat Race
Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak is a fun scavenger hunt that takes you throughout the festival. At $6.99, it’s an inexpensive and fun way to keep the kids entertained. Who am I kidding? I had fun doing it, too. Best of all, you turn in your completed map for a souvenir prize at the end.
Skip the Slushy Drinks
My only festival disappointment was the Le Passion Martini Slush from France. At more than $10, it tasted like a Slurpee and contained about as much liquor as an eyedropper. The $4 to $6 wine and beer pours were a much better value.
Our Food and Wine Festival Favorite
With 40 booths and hundreds of food samples, it should be hard to choose just one favorite but it wasn’t for us. I’ll do this like a beauty pageant and award the honorary mention prizes first. They go to the pao de queijo (cheese bread) from Brazil and to the kalua pork slider from Hawaii.
The “gotta have two” prize is awarded to the banana almond soft serve sundae from The Almond Orchard. The “ice cream” made from almond milk is creamy while still being light and the berry mix on top set it off perfectly.
There’s still time to visit this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival as it runs until November 12. If you are feeling up to it, you could double it up with an evening spent at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, or on the final few days of the festival, you could even tack on an early-season experience of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Arm yourself with these tips, grab a few friends or family members and hit the theme park to satisfy your culinary cravings. If you’ve been to the festival before, what are your secret tips to make the most out of the event?
If now is the right time to plan a visit to Disney World and the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, here are some other articles to get you started in the right direction:
- The Best Points Hotels Near Disney World in 2018
- TPG’s Ultimate Guide to Disney World
- Renting Disney Vacation Club Points: Saving Money at Disney
- Best $69 You Can Spend at Disney World
- Six Things to Know About Disney Minnie Vans
Featured image by Summer Hull / The Points Guy
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