Want groceries for your 2018 Walt Disney World vacation? Using a grocery delivery service is a great and inexpensive way to get snacks and healthy foods brought to your hotel. This post offers tips and a comparison of options available from Garden Grocer to Amazon Prime Now or Pantry to Ubering to Trader Joe’s, plus some other methods. It also details our first-hand experiences using Garden Grocer and other options we’ve used, plus potential hacks for getting groceries.
The absolute easiest way to buy groceries (aside from bringing them yourself in checked luggage) is to go to the gift shop in your Walt Disney World resort hotel. Every hotel has a limited selection of groceries, including refrigerated stuff. While a banana isn’t actually quite $5, there is a substantial markup on everything in these shops.
These items are still cheaper than buying prepared items in the parks, and it’s a nice option to have in a pinch, but you really shouldn’t expect to go “grocery shopping” at your hotel. It’s impractical from both a cost and selection perspective.
Okay, let’s take a look at some of the best options for getting groceries at Walt Disney World…
The easiest and most robust alternative to this is a grocery delivery service that takes the items directly to your hotel at Walt Disney World, leaving them with bell services (which refrigerates perishable items). Of these, our recommended option and the most popular with Walt Disney World guests is by far Garden Grocer.
We have never been disappointed by Garden Grocer, and have always found their service to be top-notch. Our first time using them, we ordered a variety of different options, so we could prepare breakfast in our room and also have some healthy snacks for our trips (in Sarah’s case…in my case, unhealthy energy drinks). Garden Grocer had been recommended to us by friends who are Disney Vacation Club members and swear by it.
For those unfamiliar with grocery delivery services, the gist of the service is that you go on their website, order from a preset selection of groceries (you can also make special requests that they typically fulfill) at prices that are slightly marked up meeting a minimum dollar requirement for the order, they go to Publix or Whole Foods and pick up the items, and drop them off at your hotel for a delivery fee. It’s basically exactly what it sounds like: a personal grocery shopper.
Our experience with Garden Grocer has been so positive that we’ve used them even when we’ve had a rental car. I know it doesn’t take that long to go to a grocery store, but on vacation I’d rather be spending time in the parks than shopping. Garden Grocer is efficient and cheap enough that it makes more sense for me to have them do the shopping than me do it myself. (Your mileage may vary on that one.)
After our first time using Garden Grocer, we realized preparing meals, even something small like breakfast, was not at all for us. We’ve instead used Garden Grocer since primarily for healthy snacks and caffeine. From my perspective, this is one of the best uses of grocery delivery, as healthy options are really overpriced in the parks, and something I admittedly don’t get enough of on vacation. (I was heartbroken to learn that cupcakes don’t have as many “vitamins and stuff” as I thought.)
We eat some carrots and grapefruit as we get ready, throw a couple pieces of fruit in our bags to take to the park, and find this works really well. With a single banana, apple, or orange costing $2+ in the parks, this savings adds up quickly. It’s also probably better “natural” energy than the copious amounts of caffeine I consume on any given day at Walt Disney World, too. If you drink, another great money-saving use of Garden Grocer is for beer; for less than the cost of a single beer in the parks, you can get a 6-pack!
My biggest recommendation when using Garden Grocer is to order 60 days (or more) in advance. This saves you 10%, and ensures you a good selection of delivery times. Given that prices at Garden Grocer seem about 10-15% higher than in-store prices at Publix or Trader Joe’s, this discount makes the service pretty close to “at cost” of doing it yourself.
The shopping experience on the site is solid. The user interface and ordering process is easy and efficient on Garden Grocer, so I don’t think I need to walk you through that. Selecting enough stuff to meet the minimum ($40), and then place your order. Delivery is $14 on any orders costing $40 to $199, and is $2 on orders $200 and above.
Orders are delivered to bell services at your hotel within the delivery window selected. When we’ve used the service, I sign up to receive both an email notification and a text message (optional) when the goods arrived. Our delivery experiences have been flawless. Groceries are picked up from Publix, and cold items were separated out and refrigerated by bell services at the hotel (so be sure to tip them).
Random tip: one thing I recommend everyone order is Honey Mustard & Onion pretzel pieces. If you’ve never had these, frankly, you’ve never lived. I think we can all agree that Synder’s should take over sponsorship of Epcot’s Imagination pavilion, with a new subtitle for the attraction: “Imagine the Pretzelbilities!” Yes, they will make your breath smell like onions for days, but some might argue that’s actually a pro, not a con.
Now, onto alternatives. In addition to Garden Grocer, there are some other, similar services in Orlando. Four of those options are: Grocery Express, Goodings, WeGoShop, and Shipt. The newest of these is Shipt, which is a start-up with a membership fee, so it’s not exactly ideal for tourists.
I’ve never tested any beyond Garden Grocer, so I can’t vouch for the others. If your groceries arrive from one of those other places with an armadillo munching on the tomatoes you order, don’t come crying to me. (If you get a free armadillo with your groceries, I would hope you don’t go crying to anyone.) Frankly, given our positive experiences with Garden Grocer, I have no reason to try the rest.
If you have a rental car, you might just go to the grocery store yourself–unless you want to save time. Even if you don’t have a rental car, you might consider going yourself. Thanks to Uber, you can make a round-trip grocery run yourself for about $25-35 depending upon your Walt Disney World hotel, the store to which you go (see addresses below for closest location, and how long it takes you to shop.
For starters, use our Tips for Using Uber at Walt Disney World post as a primer if you’re unfamiliar with Uber. Next, when you request an Uber, make sure to contact the driver immediately and inform them that you’re doing a grocery run, to see if it’s okay with them. Drivers will more likely be okay with this if you tell them they can drive around the parking lot while they wait for you (drivers are paid in miles and minutes, so if they sit parked waiting, they won’t make much while you shop).
If you’re a Whole Foods enthusiast or move at the speed of Big Al in a grocery store, and plan to spend 60 minutes getting to intimately know the place, you might just have one driver drop you off and then request another to pick you up. Most drivers don’t mind passengers with groceries but, again, you might want to contact them to confirm (it doesn’t take a detective to deduce that a pick-up at a grocery store is going to have…groceries, though).
Personally, any visit I make to the grocery store is conducted Mission: Impossible style–I want to get in and out as quickly as possible before my tolerance for being in a store explodes. If you’ve never used Uber, use this link to get your first ride (up to $15) free.
If you’re going to get groceries yourself, hit up Whole Foods (8003 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando, FL 32819), Publix (Regency Village Shopping Center, Vineland Avenue, Orlando, FL), SuperTarget (4795 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746) or Trader Joe’s. TJ’s is Orlando’s newest grocer, with the local populace rejoicing that they can now purchase Two Buck Chuck and Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s. It’s located at 8323 West Sand Lake Road, Orlando, FL 32819, which is about 10 miles off property.
Another option if you don’t have a rental car and don’t want to pay for Uber or a taxi is to hit up the Hess gas station that’s located within walking distance of the Swan & Dolphin, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn (just outside the parking lot), and Yacht & Beach Club. If you’re staying at the Swan & Dolphin without a car, this might be your best option as those two hotels no longer allow grocery delivery.
Selection is limited (…it’s a gas station), but if you need to stock up on air fresheners and Rockstar energy drink, this is the place for you. The selection isn’t quite that limited, and it’s actually a good, low-budget option. I would strongly not recommend doing this unless you’re staying at one of these hotels. You might look a little crazy carrying a bag of groceries on two separate buses en route back to your hotel, and frankly, you wouldn’t just look a little crazy doing that, you’d be a little crazy going through all that hassle.
Another, newer and growing option is Amazon Prime Now. When ordering via the Amazon Prime Now app, you can have items delivered within 2 hours for free if you have a Prime membership (or within an hour for an extra $7.99). Selection is more limited on the Amazon Prime Now app, but they have tens of thousands of daily essentials including numerous dry foods and perishable items like deli meat, pizza, cheese, bread, juice, etc.
When Amazon Prime Now has what we want or we don’t need much or need something last minute, it’s a great option. You might notice the sweatshirt in the screenshot above from our recent trip’s shopping cart–the temperature dropped from 80 degrees two days ago to a low of 38 degrees today making some warm clothing necessary.
Now, we didn’t actually order that sweatshirt because we packed accordingly (and also because we just bought a couple awesome Disney ones on clearance at the Disney Springs UNIQLO for $19.90), but <$10 for some warm weather clothing in a hurry is another good hack (…and one we should probably add to our Tips for Winter at Walt Disney World post!).
Amazon Prime Now is a good option because you can place your order the moment your plane lands in Orlando, take Disney’s Magical Express to your Walt Disney World resort hotel, and have your groceries arrive pretty much simultaneously to when you do.
We’ve used Amazon Prime Now many times and the experience has typically been flawless. (Lately, it’s become our most-used way to get groceries and other supplies.) We’ve used it at Pop Century, the Polynesian, Fort Wilderness, and most recently, Disney Springs Resorts. In most cases, we’ve had the package left with Bell Services–in one cases, we’ve met them in the lobby. You can tip in the app and specify in the notes how you want the delivery made.
In terms of the logical options, I think that about covers it. I say logical because there are likely some “out there” solutions like buying different snack items at each gift shop in World Showcase and spending $593 in the process, but that would defy logic. If you don’t want to spend your limited time going on grocery runs, both Garden Grocer and ordering in advance from Amazon.com are both great options. Alternatively, those with a rental car or willingness to use Uber and an extra hour or so to spare might consider going to one of the many grocery stores located about 10 miles off-site.
How do you get groceries at Walt Disney World? What are your favorite items to order when you have groceries delivered to you? Have you had any positive or negative experiences with the grocery delivery services? We love to hear from readers, so if you have any thoughts or questions, post them in the comments!