Updated for 2016!
A trip to Disney World is magical and expensive, two words that seemingly don’t go together. Or perhaps they do, because sometimes magic is costly. But when you think about those memories you made or plan to make, then you just deal with the cost and try to find a… a deal. At Cheapskate Princess we love deals, even more if they’re free.
Many people don’t realize that while Disney World is pricey, you can find many activities and items that are actually free. Free is sort of a relative term, because you had to pay to get yourself to Orlando and into the parks, and yet to get something else for free past that point? It’s like icing on your Mickey Mouse cake. We have done huge articles describing all the freebies you can pick up at Disney, but how about a quick-reference “Best of the Best” list!
These freebies are in no particular order, and remember what may be great to one person because it’s free may be no big deal to you, and that’s Ok. You get to tell us your favorite freebies at the end, so hold that thought…
1. Park for Free
You can park at Disney Springs for free. If you’ve ever paid to park at Universal’s City Walk, you can appreciate this. Now parking at Disney Springs has been pretty crazy during the remodeling construction, but in a couple of years, this won’t feel as painful as you pull into the multilevel parking lots. Just be patient. The parking lot open now fills up pretty fast, but if you arrive early in the day, parking is seriously a breeze.
You can also park at the Disney Resorts for free when you go resort hopping, at least for now. Rumor has it this may be changing, but nothing has been confirmed.
If you are staying on property or have an annual pass, you will not pay for parking at the theme parks.
2. Wishes Viewing
Watch the Magic Kingdom Wishes fireworks show from one of the many Disney resorts on the monorail circle for free. My favorite resort for this view is the Polynesian, with the fireworks directly across the Seven Seas Lagoon. Music is piped in, so while you might not be at the Magic Kingdom for Wishes, it’s the next best thing.
You can also see Wishes at a great angle from the Ticket and Transportation Center. It’s rarely crowded at this location, and you are one step closer to your car, beating the huge crowds of thousands that will soon be right behind you on the way to their cars.
3. Marshmallow & Movie
Come for the campfire, and then stay for a movie.
WDW resorts have campfires at their resorts with free marshmallows. After this, take in one of the many free “Movies Under the Stars” outdoor movies. Huge screens are blown up for nightly movies outside, which of course will depend on weather. At some resorts, you will need to bring a towel or blanket to sit on, while at other resorts, they provide chairs.
Movies and entertainment are subject to cancellation or change without notice. For movie schedules and info. on seating, drop by or call the resort desk for specific details. The phone number is 407- WDW-PLAY ( 407- 939-7529.)
4. Ride a Monorail
How often can you ride a monorail at home? Monorails are a huge part of Disney “history,” loved by both kids and kids at heart. Circling the resorts and winding up at the Magic Kingdom, this mode of transportation can be quite congested first thing in the morning and at closing.
For a longer monorail journey, ride over to EPCOT from the Ticket and Transportation Center. This ride takes about 20 minutes round trip, not including time to wait for a monorail to arrive.
5. Hear Holiday Performances
During the Christmas holidays various choirs, from elementary and middle school through retirement ages, are frequent presences in the resort lobbies singing holiday tunes. The choirs are especially delightful to hear at the Contemporary Resort, where the sounds echoe all over the large open area.
Disney Springs has free performers during the holiday season as well, from individuals performing along with tracks and full bands and orchestras to dancers and stilt walkers.
6. Night Time Water Parade
Visit the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Ft. Wilderness, or the Contemporary Resort to catch a glimpse of the nightly water show, The Electrical Water Pageant. This water-light parade was created in 1971 for the dedication of Disney’s Polynesian Resort. While this is not as amazing as Wishes, it’s a cute show with catchy music that the little ones will enjoy.
Approximate show times are the Polynesian Resort, 9:00 p.m.; Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, 9:15 p.m; Wilderness Lodge, 9:30 p.m.; Fort Wilderness Campground, 9:45 p.m.; and the Contemporary Resort at 10:00p.m.
7. Play with Toys
At the Lego Store in Downtown Disney, giant Lego sculptures abound for photos, with multiple play areas for Lego fun. In the outdoor area, kids can build cars and then race them against each other, and the indoor area allows a child’s imagination to run wild as they build anything they can create.
Speaking of free, they offer a Lego VIP card which is free with a purchase. You can activate that for future discounts in Lego stores and online shipping. Use this link, shop.Lego.com, to sign up for a FREE Lego VIP card today.
As a VIP Member, you will enjoy these benefits:
- $1 Spent = 1 VIP Point Earned
- 100 VIP Points = $5 VIP Reward
- Get access to exclusive member-only gifts
- Be the first to purchase exclusive and hard to find sets before anyone else
- Be invited to member-only LEGO® Store events
- Take advantage of special bonus and double points offers
Further down in Downtown Disney you will find Once Upon a Toy, which sports interactive play stations plus (according to Disneyworld.com) the largest assortment of toys and games in all of the Walt Disney World Resort. Look for a table full of Mr. Potato Head toys and create your own spud. You can make your own Lightsaber or roam the plush toy room and princess rooms. Another room is dedicated to video games and DVD’s, which lets you test out the newest and latest games. They sell and trade Vinylmations here too.
Quick cheapskate tip: While walking in-between these two stores, stop and get a free piece of chocolate at the Ghirardelli Store.
8. Trading Pins
Disney Pin Trading is an interactive experience where guests can trade Disney pins with Cast Members and other guests. It’s fun for the whole family; you can start a new collection or exchange pins for others you like. While purchasing the actual Disney trading pin is not free, trading them is.
There are Trading Pin boards or books you can find around the resorts and gift shops, and Cast Members all wear lanyards for trading. Guests can make up to two pin trades per Cast member per day.
The Disney park maps you pick up as you enter the parks are visually appealing reminders of vacation, and they’re free. There are also time schedules and park maps located at the resort front desks. These are great to put in scrap books later when you return from vacation. The maps are colorful and kids enjoy looking at them when they get home. These maps also make nice backgrounds to put in picture frames.
Google maps also have some really cool, almost-cartoon-like maps of the Disney parks and resorts. These are great for kids entertainment and adults that need a mental vacation. Use this link: FREE Disney Virtual Vacation…Check Out the Walt Disney World “Parks” Maps.
10. Free Water
And I’m not talking about the water fountain water here, although obviously that is free too.
Visit any food counter service restaurant and ask for a cup of ice water. If they don’t hand you a cup of water, you may get a cup of ice. This can save you a TON of money, especially if you would be buying water for a large group. For more information and ton of our reader’s personal tips, use this link: Want to Save Money on Drinks at Disney World? Order This Drink for Free!
Quick cheapskate tip; fill up your water bottles or drink containers with this Disney water for consumption later on.
11. Kids Under 3 Eat & Play Free
Children under the age of three eat for free off their parents plates at Disney’s buffet and family style table service restaurants. Children under the age of three also get into the parks for free.
Do you really need another reason to schedule a vacation with toddlers? You know they grow up fast, so they won’t be free for long.
12. Get a Button
Special occasion buttons are given to celebrate a variety of personal milestones.
- Happy Birthday
- Happy Anniversary
- Just Married
Special events like this can be celebrated six months before the actual date and six months after the date, (really, we looked up the “rules!”) so go ahead and celebrate a special event with a button. Cast Members give you special greets and sometimes, you’ll get all sort of free special occasion perks. For more information and a ton of our reader’s personal tips, use this link: Why Celebrate with a Birthday Button at Disney World? Let a Cheapskate Princess Tell You!
13. Free Planning DVDs
You’ll be hard pressed to find Disney movies for free, but they can’t wait to give you a vacation planning DVD. To request a free planning DVD, use this link. Here’s what you get:
- A complete visual tour of the 4 Theme Parks, 2 Water Parks and over 20 Resort hotels at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida
- A tour of the Disneyland Resort in California, including 2 enchanting Theme Parks and 3 Resort hotels
- Affordable ways to play and stay during your Disney vacation
- Pocket-sized planning guides, planning tips, and information on special events
14. Free Photographer
Many guests assume PhotoPass is not useful for them if they are not going to purchase the CD or prints. The truth is any PhotoPass Cast Member will take photos of you with your own camera. All you have to do is ask (politely) and then hand them your camera. This is an excellent way to get the entire family in the shot.
15. Free Samples and Snacks
Disney Cast member love to give out samples and free bite size treats so you get a chance to sample the products. This is genius marketing, because that $.10 sample often leads to years worth of future repeat purchases. (Main Street cotton Candy, anyone?)
You have to look hard to find some of the samples, considering the Disney Parks and Resorts cover HUGE areas, so we rounded up a list of suggestions from our fans. For more information and our reader’s personal tips, use this link: Where to Find FREE Disney World Snack and Drink Samples!
Want to do some in-depth research on all the Freebies you can find at Disney? Pull up YouTube, type in “Wishes” for some musical accompaniment, and do some reading with two of our most popular articles. We told you this list as short and sweet; these articles are very detailed and chock full of FREE information. Ya just gotta love FREE!
Now back to you…did your favorite freebie make our list?!! Leave us a comment below to let us know if you like some other freebie better.
To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.
Thanks for stopping by. As our reader Angela told us, “If you ever visit the Ghiradelli store in Disney Springs multiple times a day to get their free samples, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!”
Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!
Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel. She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17. We know our readers love free…
Give Erin a call at 214-697-7732, or send an e-mail to erin @ destinationsinflorida.com.