Updated for 2016!
Happy Birthday to you! Or your child, or your friend, or grandma. Did you know that you can “celebrate” a birthday at Disney World six months before your actual birthday and up to six months after your actual birthday? Using my math, that gives you about 365 days a year to celebrate a birthday at Walt Disney World. Why would you celebrate a birthday on vacation? Because Disney makes it WAY more fun than celebrating at home!
There are tons of great birthday activities that you can spend a lot of money on while you vacation in Orlando, but can you score anything FREE for your birthday? There is always Internet chatter about how Disney Cast Members go out of their way to make you feel completely special on vacation. So if you want to give it a shot, use some of the ideas from our Cheapskate Princess Guide to Birthday FREEbies.
1) Tell Someone Pre-Travel
Before you leave for Disney, let someone know you are celebrating a birthday. Tell the Cast Member when you make your travel reservations, or just tell your Travel agent to let them know. Give the birthday person’s name and age.
2) Tell Someone at Arrival
If you are staying at a Disney Resort, let a Disney employee know when you check in that you are celebrating a birthday. Our readers have submitted stories about Cast Members doing special things for kids upon check-in, from delivering balloons or character autographs to special towel decorations in the room. There is no guarantee anything will happen, but you have potential free fun to gain by mentioning there’s a birthday in your party.
(So these tips might get you one small balloon, not a whole bunch like this. This bunch pictured below will cost you a fortune…)
3) Set up a Phone Call
Tell the front desk Cast Member that you or someone in your party are celebrating a birthday, and ask them to set up a special birthday phone call from a Disney Character. While this would be really fun for kids, it would actually be fun for adults as well, especially if they are not expecting it. Unless your info gets dropped from the computer, this FREEbie should be easy to get.
4) Tell Someone at Dinner
Headed for a table service meal? Be sure to tell the Cast Member at the desk when you arrive, and tell the Cast Member serving your table about the birthday. You can even have this noted if you make an ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation.) Go as far as mentioning it to any Disney employees you talk with. Several of our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans told us they received a cupcake or a sweet treat with a candle. Maybe some pixie dust will be sprinkled or a birthday certificate presented? There is no guarantee you will get this kind of treatment, but you have nothing to lose by mentioning it.
We celebrated my two son’s birthdays at Chef Mickeys two months after their birthday, and we received special colored napkins that indicated “birthday.” Lots of people stopped by to say Happy Birthday, and our server brought two cupcakes for my sons with candles.
5) Drop Hints at Every Meal
In fact, make sure you mention the birthday at every meal you eat on Disney property, sit down or counter service. Again, it can’t hurt. Maybe they’ll sing you a song, and songs are certainly free!
6) Get a Button
You’ll definitely want a FREE Birthday button. Where can you pick these up?
- Magic Kingdom – City Hall on Main Street
- Epcot – Guest Services
- Hollywood Studios – Guest Services
- Animal Kingdom – Guest Services
- Downtown Disney – Guest Relations
What will that button get you? Lots of special attention and greetings, not just from Cast Members who are actively looking for those buttons, but also from park visitors. Complete strangers wished my sons Happy Birthday when they noticed their buttons. No guarantees the button will get you a part in a parade or show, but what can it hurt? And what a great surprise if it works!
Special attention and greetings are certainly free, plus you can wear the button you take home next year at birthday time.
7) Drop Hints at Character Meet and Greets
So with your child (or you!)(or your husband!) wearing the “It’s My Birthday” button, make sure Cast Members notice this when you get character autographs. They may give you an extra special birthday greeting from the characters.
8) Fill Out a Passport
Headed to Epcot? If you buy a passport to have stamped in the countries, be sure to mention the birthday to the Cast Member. Cheapskate Princess fans report you can receive a birthday greeting in different languages.
9) PhotoPass Magic
So purchasing Disney’s PhotoPass is certainly not free, but if you are using it already, simply tell the Cast Member taking the pictures that someone is celebrating a birthday. Your photo may later contain some birthday magic.
And if free isn’t cutting it for your little Disney Princess, then you can always book a party here:
What will birthday buttons NOT get you for free at Disney?
Celebrating a birthday will probably not get you whisked away to the front of a roller coaster line. Birthday buttons probably won’t get you any sort of merchandise, meals, or accommodation discounts. You never know, but it’s doubtful.
Speaking of free, anyone can get a birthday button. Cast Members are not checking I.Ds for a birth date when you arrive at Guest Services, so you don’t have to fear celebrating before or after your actual birth date.
For years, my own children skipped having a birthday party with their friends so they could celebrate their birthday at Disney. They had no trouble announcing to Cast members they were at Disney World to celebrate their birthday, even if their birthdays were actually months before. Our family started planning “birthday meals” at Disney. We cook a meal at home on their actual birthday and eat at a table service restaurant to celebrate the birthday while we’re in Orlando. This year we ate at T-Rex. My sons and daughter wore their birthday buttons, Cast Members made a fuss, and it was loads of fun.
There are no guarantees every Cast Members will greet you, hand you any certificates or sprinkle your child’s hair with glitter while singing Happy Birthday. But you have nothing to lose by pointing out the celebration. The least you may receive are a big smile and a Happy Birthday greeting.
Does all this sound too good to be true, this birthday celebration stuff when it’s not even your actual birthday? We asked our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans if they scored anything free for their birthday, and their answers can help you plan your next vacation:
Brittany let us know another point to remember. “This is not just limited to birthdays but includes things like honeymoons too. My husband and I went to Disney World for our honeymoon and made sure to tell our Disney travel agent while booking, also making sure we picked up a ‘happily ever after’ button as soon as we got to Magic Kingdom. Everywhere we went, people were telling us congratulations and just about every dinner we had provided some sort of special surprise (confetti on the table, a special message made out of chocolate with dessert, at Ohana one of the Cast Members actually played the ukalalie and sang to us as we danced during dinner in the restaurant). It was wonderful!
I will say though, the generic ‘I’m celebrating’ buttons don’t do the same thing though. I got one of those when running my first half marathon event at Disney. My mom also got one on that trip, because it was her first vacation after surviving a stroke. We didn’t get much attention for those, but then again, we were staying off resort property. Still, I think the more specific you can get with the buttons/what you are celebrating, the better.
Currently, I’m pregnant with twins and already told my husband I want to take them for their birthdays and make it a second honeymoon for us as well. Hope they still have the buttons and such when we go!“
Randy had the same experience for a different type of celebration. “We went last year to celebrate my wife beating breast cancer. We told the lady at check in(port Orleans riverside) they left a signed picture of Minnie in a pink frame with two pink balloons floating off the side of it…pretty awesome after going through such a terrible ordeal.”
Several of our readers dropped by to leave comments on their experiences.
Melinda, “My mom went for her 75th birthday. She was taken to the front of Haunted Mansion. She also got a free hot dog, a free small book from the gift shop, and the gray stuff with a candle and a card at Be Our Guest. She felt so special.”
Jennifer, “We took a trip to WDW celebrating my daughter’s tenth birthday. She felt extremely special with practically every Cast Member we passed greeting her with ‘Happy birthday, Alyssa.’ Her brothers, who are 5 & 6 years older than her, also benefitted because when a Cast Member saw her button when they rode the Rock ‘n Rollercoaster at Hollywood Studios, he let them all go around through a shortcut to ride it again with no wait! They still talk about that at 20 and 21 now. We are going back this year for her 16th birthday. She is already planning a Sweet Sixteen T-shirt to wear.“
Dianne, “On my birthday, I had the button on. All the Cast Members wished me Happy Birthday, and a lot of the guests too. I got a free dessert, and at the Haunted Mansion, they chose me to be the Line Timer. They gave me a box timer on a hanger, and I had to carry it though the line and hand it to a Cast Member once I was seated on the ride.
Lacey, “My niece received a free Mickey ears hat that said Happy Birthday on it when we were entering Epcot. It was the day before her birthday, and she was so excited. I love that they go above and beyond to make the kiddos feel special.”
To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.
Everybody loves FREE perks on a trip, and what better way to celebrate a birthday than by going to Disney World.
Thanks for stopping by for some cheapskate tips. If you ever waited months to celebrate a birthday, just so you could have your birthday party at Disney World, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.
Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-costal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast.
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