Food has become synonymous with the Disney parks, and chief among it all are iconic snacks like Mickey pretzels, Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars, dole whips, and churros. Yet, among all of the Instagram-worthy classics and special new treats sits an old-school favorite that’s as affordable as it is varied: popcorn.
There are prepackaged packs of popcorn with all sorts of unique flavors at nearly every store that sells snacks on property, and while they’re great to toss in a bag or take home, that’s not where the real value is.
Every popcorn stand, of which there are tons of scattered about the parks, carries refillable souvenir buckets. So, okay, I know what you’re thinking. A souvenir bucket is a blatant waste of your money and is just plastic junk that’ll get tossed in your cabinet after one use and never get touched again. This shouldn’t be the case with these.
The buckets start in the $10 range, and often sport different art on them, which rotates out from time-to-time so for some guests there could be some collection value there. Added to those collector’s buckets are the limited-time character-shaped ones, but if you’re looking to not add more plastic to your cabinet space, that probably isn’t convincing you. Instead, maybe the $1.75 refill is.
Every time you go to refill the bucket at any popcorn stand on property, it costs less than $2 to refill. It doesn’t matter where you got the bucket. Regular popcorn snacks count as a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan or cost $5 without it, and you don’t get nearly the amount that you do with the bucket. A snack credit can’t be used on the bucket, although it can be used on a refill. That doesn’t quite make the credits of any value though, so it’s worth paying for the refills and using your credits on one of the fancier snacks that you can put filters on and add to your Snapchat story.
What adds to the value are the flavored popcorn options, which cost the same as a refill of caramel and the standard kind. Epcot® is where you’ll find those most consistently, as right outside of the Imagination Pavilion is a cart that houses cheddar cheese, buffalo bleu cheese (a personal favorite), and sour cream and chive flavors. They’re all great, and you’ll probably find yourself heading in that direction later in the day to fill up on your favorite before you leave the park.
If you’re looking for one of the themed collectible buckets, think about the bucket’s design in order to find it. They’re often only available in a handful of spots, so you’ll have to be attentive if you don’t just want the regular one. For example, during the holiday 2019 season, there are green alien men dressed as Santa Clause-designed buckets, and they can be found in Disney’s Hollywood Studios® Park. Be aware that these special buckets cost up to $25 (and refills are often a quarter more expensive, too), but they might be a little bigger and double as a limited-edition souvenir. Standard-issue buckets can still be found around the parks if you want to stick with the cheapest option.
It’s best to pick up one of the buckets at the beginning of your stay, so that the option to refill it is always there and you can maximize your value. Be sure to have some empty space in your backpack in case you need to stow it away for a bit!