Hanging Out at the Disney Vacation Club Member Lounge In Epcot

DVC Lounge

Updated for 2017!

Located in the Imagination! Pavilion, Disney Vacation Club opened a DVC Member Lounge back in 2016 for members to enjoy when they visit Epcot. Who does;t need a break in the air conditioning when walking through that park – Every Person Comes Out Tired. The Lounge is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

location of the DVC Epcot Member lounge

This complimentary space was opened as part of the 25th anniversary of Disney Vacation Club, and current plans call for it to stay open through 2017 through the Membership Magic Ever After celebration.

We read about the lounge in our winter 2016 Disneyfiles Magazine. I was interested immediately because I thought the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot was the coolest place to be back in the 80s. The look of the lounge was retro and reminded me of the furniture I missed back in the 60s, since I wasn’t born until 1970.

DVC Memver Lounge in Epcot

Formerly called  The Journey Into Imagination, Imagination! is a pavilion that debuted in 1982 on the western side of Future World. I remember the movie you watched inside in 3D, which was the coolest thing ever back in the mid 80s when Kodak was the former title sponsor of the pavilion. The movie, Magic Journeys, was played along with a song of the same name by the Sherman Brothers. Those of you my age are singing the song in your head right about now…

After checking in with your membership card and photo ID, you walk upstairs to the second floor of the ImageWorks merchandise location within the pavilion.

DVC member lounge stairs

walk up the DVC member lounge stairs

In 1998, the original Journey Into Imagination was shuttered for renovations. The upstairs ImageWorks was closed, the leap-frog style fountains were reduced in size to accommodate the new gift shop at the exit of the new ride, but the glass pyramids remained intact even though the upstairs ImageWorks was closed.

The glass pyramid ceiling is of course the best part of the building.

DVC Lounge pictures

DVC Epcot Lounge

The lounge space offers many features:

  • Comfortable seating

DVC member lounge in Epcot

DVC Lounge perks at Epcot

  • Complimentary soft drinks

DVC Lounge complimentary soft drinks

  • Children’s play area

DVC Lounge children's play area

  • Wi-Fi
  • Charging stations
  • Computers with printers

DVC perks

  • Member Services Advisors

DVC Lounge at Epcot Member Services Advisors

We visited during Thanksgiving, so Christmas decorations were already on display.

DVC Christmas decorations at the Epcot member lounge

Mickey Mouse Christmas decoration

Important Details

There were a lot of rules members needed to be aware of to visit the lounge without issue.

  • Valid Membership Card and photo ID required at check-in. The name on the membership card must match the name on the photo ID.
  • Party size is limited to the member and up to five guests per membership card.
  • Guests and associates must be accompanied by a member with a valid membership card and photo ID.
  • No automatic re-entry allowed. Members and their guests who leave the space must follow the same entry policy.
  • Strollers must be parked at the attraction stroller parking outside.
  • Children may not be left unattended in the member lounge.
  • Members should remain with their guests.
  • Personal devices should not be left unattended.
  • Personal cups may not be used with the Coke Freestyle machines.
  • Access to the Member Lounge is part of Membership Extras. New purchasers after April 4, 2016, must purchase directly from Disney to have access to Membership Extras.

Was it worth paying DVC membership dues to visit the Member Lounge? No, not by a long shot as a perk by itself, but it was cool experience. DVC perks has started vanishing through the years we have been members.

It felt like sitting in a part of my childhood history. Enjoying free snacks and drinks in the air-conditioning on a hot fall day was certainly fun for 20 minutes or so.

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

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Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

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Now let our vacation planners help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Elizabeth and Erin, our Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations in Florida travel.

You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Amanda Major-Cheapskate PrincessAmanda 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-coastal 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. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Princess Travel Experts with Destinations in Florida travel, Elizabeth and Erin. You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

Holiday Wishes Dessert Premium Package: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

If you are planning on visiting Walt Disney World during November or December, then chances are you will be enjoying some of the amazing holiday experiences and touches that Disney does so well. A lot of guests visit during this time so they can attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. While it can be pretty busy, there is so much to see and do that it really is a magical time to visit Walt Disney World.

dessert party

[Read more…]

Win a Trip to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival and Other News from Around the Mouse This Week

Disney NewsWhat’s new this week at Walt Disney World? At Magic Kingdom, you can enjoy a new Limited Time Princess Character Experience special only for Memory Maker Guests. At Epcot’s Mouse Gear you can enjoy the build your own Lightsaber experience previously only offered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Magic Kingdom. I will focus on something FREE this week, since we all like FREE here at Cheapskate Princess, hey no shame! You can win a FREE Trip to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, OK pay your taxes if you win, but you get it! The fine folks at ABC’s Emmy award winning daytime show The Chew are sending one one lucky winner and three guests a trip to join them at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival between October 5th and 9th.  See below for all the details!

Want info on all the news out of Walt Disney World this week? Click here to download the whole edition to view on your computer, tablet or smart phone OR click here to Watch the Around the Mouse by video.

food-wine-abc-the-chew-event-00-full

So back to my focus this week on The Chew’s Magical Culinary Adventure Trip! The lucky winner will be able to Experience the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and check out brand-new marketplaces, menu items, premium experiences and entertainment at the Festival. Visit all four not to be missed Theme Parks, attend a live taping of The Chew, and stay at a Walt Disney World hotel located in the middle of the magic. But wait there is more, you also get a $500 Disney Gift Card too! You can enter here.

While this is NOT a sweepstakes sponsored by Cheapskate Princess, we like sharing these opportunities with our readers – would love one of our readers to win. Here’s the legal info:  NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 PM ET on 9/2/16. Open only to legal residents of the 50 U.S. & D.C., 18 years of age or older. Winner must travel between October 5 – 9, 2016. Limit one (1) entry per person per day. See Official Rules for full details including entry requirements, eligibility restrictions, odds of winning, prize description and limitations. Void where prohibited.

So what are you waiting for?  Go enter, you could be in the audience at Epcot with your three besties watching a taping of The Chew with a great view of Mario’s orange Crocs. GOOD LUCK!

Need help planning your fall trip to Epcot International Food and Wine Festival? Contact our Cheapskate Travel Experts at Destinations In Florida for your free quote. While we can’t give you a free trip, we have lots of goodies and freebies for our Cheapskate Princess Readers who book travel through us.

Julie FranklinJulie Franklin is a travel agent creating family memories at Destinations In FloridaAn Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. She can plan and book your customized magical vacation anywhere at no extra cost to you. As a blogger, mom and wife of a budget traveler, Julie knows how to get the most magic for you vacation. Whether thinking of heading to the parks in Orlando, cruising, an all inclusive resort or traveling anywhere, let Julie take the stress out of your vacation planning.

You can reach Julie at julie@destinationstoexplore.com or call her at 404 312 8099 for a free no obligation vacation quote. Tell her Cheapskate Princess sent you!

Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

hoop-de-doo-musical-revue-00Photo Credit: www.disneyworld.com

Updated for 2017!

It’s a rootin’ tootin’, not high falutin’, good old-fashioned family fun hootenanny! The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Walt Disney World has the distinction of being the longest running dinner show in America. It also is one of the more expensive dining experiences at Disney World. Let this guide from your Princess Travel Experts help you decide if the Hoop-Dee-Doo is perfect for you and your family.

Read: Over 30 FREE Activities In Disney Springs: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

[Read more…]

Best Disney World Meals Under $20: Beaches & Cream Soda Shop

Disney World Beaches & Cream meal under $20

Updated for 2017!

Food is expensive at Walt Disney World, but if you look hard enough, you can find some excellent places for a great meal that won’t bust your budget. You want to make a reservation and then drop in Beaches & Cream Soda Shop over at the Beach Club Resort.

What can you get for under $20? Tons of entreés and sides, plus a long list of desserts!

[Read more…]

The Disney Holiday Gingerbread House Kit: Is It Worth the $10?

disney-gingerbread-house-kit

Updated for 2017!

How do you entertain three older teenage kids during the holidays? Buy them a gingerbread house! We found a Disney “Crafty Cooking Kits” Mickey and Minnie house for $10 at Big Lots.

Here’s what you get for ten bucks:

Mickey Mouse gingerbread house

This is the look we were going for:

mickey-and-minnie-gingerbread-house

First we rounded up all our helpers, including this one…

making a Mickey Mouse gingerbread house

The kit comes in a pretty big box, which you really didn’t need for the contents. The box makes it appear as if you are getting more than you get.

Disney gingerbread kit and instructions

Disney World gingerbread kit

Look closely and you can see our problem, although I didn’t notice the issue until we removed the thin wrapping, 20 minutes away from the store.

trouble making the Disney gingerbread kit

how to repair a broken gingerbread house

We took that kit back to Big Lots and got a replacement with no problems. They were very nice.
 .
The first thing the instructions say to do is to prepare the icing, kneading it for one minute until it reaches a soft, creamy consistency, or you can place it in a bowl of warm water. We kneaded, and knew well because hard icing doesn’t spread very well.
 .
Next, the instructions say you snip the corner of the icing pouch to a 1/4-inch opening. I would start smaller than that and go larger if needed, because you can not un-do that hole once you cut it too big. We actually did this with another gingerbread house from Wal-mart, and once we squirted the icing in a Ziolock bag, we cut the end off way smaller. That worked ok as a solution.
 .
This kit just had a small broken end. The instructions say any pieces of gingerbread that are broken can be mended with icing.
 .
This is us mending:
fix a broken gingerbread house
making a Disney Mickey gingerbread house
You can see why that would not work for large entirely broken pieces.
 .
The instructions suggest you pipe a line of frosting in the channels of the house base. Now, we were scared we would run out of icing, so we did not do this. The house stayed together mostly just fine (see below). If you plan to move your house around a lot, you might not want to skip this step, as it might hold it more securely.
 .
We got the four walls put up, and we let that sit about 15 minutes to harden. The box suggests you wait just five minutes. We say triple that to be safe.
Disney gingerbread Mickey Mouse house
Then we applied the roof and held it for a few minutes. The instructions say 10 minutes wait time, and again, we say 15.
how to make a gingerbread house for Christmas with a Disney theme
And that’s when the wall caved in.
Disney gingerbread house
We took off a roof panel, pulled that wall back out, and reapplied the ceiling icing to glue it together again. That really wasn’t a huge deal, and it held this time.
 .
Next we decorated the ceiling. While the box instructional photo used all white icing, we had purchased some red cookie icing for about $2.50. This added a little color.
 .
My son would tell you straight lines without guidelines are harder to pull off than you think.
Mickey gingerbread house instructions
make a cute Christmas gingerbread house
Then the decorating with the candy enclosed in the kit began, which was probably the most fun.
decorate a Disney gingerbread house
Icing was added to the base for decorating candy.
Disney gingerbread house for Mickey Mouse
What did we think about out $10 investment?
 .
To add a little Mickey and Minnie to your holiday decor, we would give a thumbs up to the $10 gingerbread kit. Again, ours was purchased at Big Lots.
Minnie and Mickey at Christmas
This isn’t professional level material, but then, we aren’t professionals, so…
15713125_10206142741287901_1941437051_n
15683423_10206142741327902_42044158_n
15682742_10206142741207899_2062239437_n
I think if a 17-year-old boy who can’t do the dishes much less decorate anything can put 98% of this house together by himself, you and your kids will have a nice couple hours of family bonding.
 .
Several tips:
 .
Make sure the gingerbread pieces are not broken before you leave the store. Driving back with broken pieces is a bummer.
Make sure you get the icing warm enough by kneading the bag or warming up the container in a bowl of warm water. The kids complained about working with icing that was too hard.
 ,
If you use other icing besides what comes with the kit, make sure it’s not too soft, because soft icing will roll off and down slanted or horizontal surfaces.
best Disney World gingerbread house ever
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you in Big Lots buying gingerbread. They had a cute Snoopy house as well…
To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

.

Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

.

Now let our vacation planners help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Elizabeth and Julie, our Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations in Florida travel.

You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda 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-coastal 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. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Princess Travel Experts with Destinations in Florida travel, Elizabeth and Julie. You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

Cheapskate Guide to Disney World Halloween & Christmas Parties

There is a reason Disney World, especially Magic Kingdom, is considered the most magical place on Earth. For 365 days of the year, children, men and women walk through the gates and experience all the magic the parks have to offer.

But for fifty nights this fall, extra holiday magic fills the air as Magic Kingdom is transformed to a holiday wonderland.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are two of the biggest events every year at Disney World. But, are these holiday parties a perfect fit for you and your vacation? Let this list of tips and information help you decide.

Disney World Halloween & Disney World Christmas Party Basics:

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are both separated ticketed events and are NOT part of your regular park admission tickets. You MUST purchase tickets to these parties in advance or at the gate of Magic Kingdom. (NOTE: If you wait until the date of the party to buy the tickets, you do run the risk of the event being sold out.)

The 2016 prices for each party are tiered and different depending on the date you choose to attend. Each party lasts from 7 pm until midnight.

You are able to gain entrance to Magic Kingdom at 4 pm on your party day. When you arrive and check in, you are given a wristband to wear for the entire party. You want to make sure you get this wristband because once the clock strikes 7:00, Cast Members will be checking to make sure only party guests are left inside Magic Kingdom.

Because you are able to get in at 4 pm, I always prefer to use our party day to sleep in, have lunch in Disney Springs and then head to the party. This is a great way to conserve your park tickets during your vacation!

At both parties, exclusive party merchandise is sold. T-shirts, hoodies, limited edition souvenirs and trading pins are just some of the things you can get and they are only sold during the party. There are also specialty holiday food and drinks you might want to try.

Also, with both parties, you will not be able to make fast passes for rides or attractions during the parties. But, honestly, that is not really a bad thing. Especially with the Halloween party, where this is so much entertainment, you might not want to ride anything that night!

MNSSHP (1)

Disney World Halloween:  Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Dates for 2016:

September: 2, 8, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 29, 30
October: 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31

The best thing about the Disney World Halloween party is that it truly is more fun than scary, which makes it the perfect addition to a vacation with little ones. Costumes are a must for the kids, and you will definitely have fun seeing all the princesses, pirates, fairies, ghosts and goblins. And for kids especially, I think this party hands down, wins over the Christmas party in terms of price of admission, getting to dress up, trick-or-treating, parades, oh my!

NOTE in 2016: Because of Disney World’s enhanced security measures of metal detectors and bag searches, please take note of their policy regarding costumes for the Halloween Party. “While costumed attire may be worn, guests ages 14 and older are strongly discouraged from wearing layered costumes or costume props that surround the entire body as they may be subject to additional security screening. Additionally, costumes may not contain any weapons that resemble or could easily be mistaken for an actual weapon.”

As for costumes, remember, you are in Florida. The lighter weight, the better! If the weather at your home is freezing on Halloween, and you are accustomed to bundling up…don’t do that for this party. You might want to put together a lighter, less expensive version of your kids’ favorite costume so everyone will be comfortable.

Trick-or-Treating through Magic Kingdom is a once in a lifetime experience, and you should come prepared with a couple of bags to hold it all! Now, I’m sure most parents would agree that if your kids KNOW you are about to trick-or-treat, they are going to ask to start right away. I personally recommend keeping that little tidbit of information as secret as possible until you are ready to start, or until you have a plan.

If Character Meet & Greets are what you are most looking forward to, you are in luck! Several very hard to see characters will be available to meet and take pictures with, as well as some old characters, all of whom you would not see any other time. The Seven Dwarfs, for example is very popular and an excellent photo op. Another very popular duo at the party are Jack Skellington and Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas. TIP: Start lining up by 6:30pm to see either the Seven Dwarfs, or Jack and Sally, because these lines will be long all night.

One of the best things about the party is you can use the party map (pick one up when you arrive) to hit all the trick-or-treat spots. While walking from one trick-or-treat location to the other, you will find many of the characters as you are walking through the park. We have stumbled upon some great characters just by enjoying walking around the park waiting for the parade.

There are also a couple of locations for Character Dance Parties. A couple of times we have literally run into Monsters, Inc. characters dancing in Cosmic Rays in Tomorrowland or Tarzan in Adventureland. The best thing about running into characters like this is interacting with them. Dancing with The Incredibles or having King Louie recognize your beat skills can be the highlight of your entire vacation, whether you are a parent or toddler!

One of the best things about the Halloween party is the Boo to You Parade! There are always two times for the parade,(8:35 pm and 11:15 pm) and the second one is usually less crowded and my personal pick. However, if meeting characters or trick-or-treating is not that important to you, then you might want to see the first parade AND then watch it again at the later time. (It is that much fun to watch it twice!) Whichever parade time you decide, you will want to find your viewing spot at least 30 minutes before the start time. If you want to view the parade from Main Street, you might want to leaving more than 30 minutes to find your spot.

The Headless Horseman starts the parade off, which is one of the highlights! (If it is raining hard, or has been raining all day, the Horseman might not ride.) But don’t be surprised to see the Horseman and then….wait for it….the parade to continue several minutes later. This parade is not just phenomenal for Halloween lovers, but it really is one of the greatest parades you can see at Disney World. The music, the characters, the choreography, everything is really spectacular.

HalloWishes, the fireworks spectacular, only happens once a night, (10 pm) between the two Boo to You parades. The great thing about HalloWishes is that if you are viewing it from anywhere other than Main Street, you will not be missing any projections or anything happening in front of Cinderella Castle.

Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular happens in front of Cinderella Castle (check party guide for exact times) and is not to be missed. (You have four chances to see this show: 8:00 pm, 9:20 pm, 10:40 pm and 12:00 am) The Sanderson Sisters debuted in 2015 and are back again this year for some double, double, toil and trouble! This show, featuring Maleficient and Dr. Facilier, as well as several classic Disney villains is a fantastic way to celebrate Halloween.

disney world christmas

Disney World Christmas:  Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Dates for 2016:

November:  7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27, 29
December: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 22

Is there anything better than a Disney World Christmas on Main Street, complete with snow, chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate? It is a tough combination to beat, honestly. And of the best things about the Christmas party is that you are able to go in early November and December before holiday crowds make party going uncomfortable.

(Note: After December 22, the Holiday Wishes are shown nightly replacing the regular Wishes fireworks show. Also, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade runs daily through the holiday as well.)

Character Meet & Greets are available and, like the Halloween party, there will be characters you might not normally get to see.  However, with the Disney World Christmas party, you are less likely to need a plan of attack to see characters. BUT, the Seven Dwarfs, Jake Skellington as Sandy Claws and Anna and Elsa are all big draws at this party. TIP: Just like the Halloween party, if you want to see a particular character, you want to start lining up by 6:30pm to see either the Seven Dwarfs, or Jack and Sally, because these lines will be long all night.

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade is truly one of the most magical experiences you can have in Magic Kingdom. It is very difficult to describe the beauty of the lights, the characters, reindeer dancing, tin soldiers marching, the music AND Santa Claus. And just when you think you won’t be able to handle the magic one more second…it SNOWS…on Main Street…at Disney World! Just like the Halloween party, there are two viewing times available for the Christmas parade. And also like the Halloween party, the second viewing of this parade is usually less crowded.

Typically there are two Character Dance Parties you can enjoy as well. The Holiday Hootenanny is in the Gold Horseshoe building, and then Club Tinsel is in Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. The Hootenanny is a fan favorite for most people over Club Tinsel, but both are fun for all ages.

Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration Stage Show is new for 2016, and is replacing Celebrate the Season show, held in front of Cinderella Castle.  Mickey Mouse throws a party with his friends complete with Christmas carols, dancing and special effects!

Holiday Wishes is the nightly fireworks show, and it is as magical as you can imagine. The choreography of the music and the fireworks is a holiday experience like no other. Trying to decide the better show, Holiday Wishes or HalloWishes, for me is like trying to pick my favorite child. It is impossible because I love them both so much. But the Holiday Wishes at the Christmas Party definitely gives me goosebumps every time.

Cookies and Hot Chocolate are given throughout the park and if you want to enjoy them during the parades or fireworks, keep in mind, the lines for refreshments get longer the closer to Main Street you get.

disney world christmas

Are of the Disney World Halloween or Disney World Christmas holiday parties right for you and your vacation? Is it worth the extra money, especially this year with tiered pricing? Let your travel agent help you decide! Contact one of our Princess Travel Experts at cp@destinationsinflorida.com to get started planning your holiday vacation!

Are you ready for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation? Erin is your Princess Vacation Expert! Erin is a Disney College of Knowledge Graduate and Universal Orlando Specialist. Erin’s passion is helping families have a once-in-a-lifetime moments! She provides excellent customer service, attention to detail, magical milestones, and bringing families together.

Erin is ready to help you plan your next magical family vacation. Contact Erin Johnson at erin@destinationsinflorida.com or by phone at (214)697-7732 to get started! You can fill out a quote request form here. Let the magic begin!

runDisney in Your Neighborhood and Earn Mickey Medals!

guide to Disney World Virtual Running Shorts

I’ve wanted to participate in a runDisney race for years, but the timing of the races has never been compatible with my work schedule, and planning a vacation around a race just hasn’t fit into my budget. With the announcement of Disney’s Virtual Running Shorts Series, beginners to seasoned runDisney veterans can get outside for some Disney-inspired fun and exercise this summer and bring home official race bling! You can run with friends and family or all by yourself. What you don’t have to do is actually run in Orlando, and you have from May 15th to June 30th to do it.

Are you ready to bring home some Disney race bling without ever setting foot on Disney property? Then it’s time to get out your Visa and register. 

Walking Miles & Miles at Disney Theme Parks

rundisney virtual race

runDisney short medal

In your own backyard…

RunDisney will now add virtual races to their established park race lineup, and your whole family is invited to join the Disney fun without driving to Orlando. Participants can walk, jog, stroll through your neighborhood, or run a race on a treadmill. You will choose the course that’s right for you, selecting from one of three Mickey-themed Disney 5Ks. You also have the option to run all three for completion of the Running Shorts Series.

Runners track their own times and completion is based on the honor system; you can register here starting April 28.

Many people drive to Orlando for the runDisney races just to enjoy time with friends, dress in Disney-themed race costumes, and of course the exhilaration of running across Disney property. But let’s face it; prices are going up and a weekend stay in Orlando with food, souvenirs, and race registration can cost hundreds of dollars, even thousands if you stay Deluxe and fly into town. But if the funds aren’t there for 2016, or you want some motivation to work yourself up to a half or full marathon on Disney property, then these Virtual Running Shorts could be just what you need.

What will you get for your money, since you will not be on Disney property?

  • exercise (although technically this part is free!)
  • medals: up to four specially-designed Finisher Medals celebrating Mickey Mouse
  • tumbler if you participate in the three-run series

Almost 130 FREE Walt Disney World Resort Activities!

runDisney race virtual registration

Running Shorts 5K – Yellow Shoes Highlights 

  • 3.1 mile run on course of runner’s choosing
  • Proof of run not required

Running Shorts 5K – Yellow Shoes Race Participants Receive

  • Commemorative Mickey’s Yellow Shoes Finisher Medal
  • Yellow Shoes Digital Race Bib

Completion Timeframe: May 15 – June 1, 2016 

 

Running Shorts 5K –2 Red Pants Highlights 

  • 3.1 mile run on course of runner’s choosing
  • Proof of run not required

Running Shorts 5K-2 Red Pants Race Participants Receive

  • Commemorative Mickey’s Red Pants Finisher Medal
  • Red Pants Digital Race Bib

Completion Timeframe: June 5 – June 18, 2016 

 

Running Shorts 5K-3 White Glove Highlights 

  • 3.1 mile run on course of runner’s choosing
  • Proof of run not required

Running Shorts 5K-3 White Glove Race Participants Receive

  • Commemorative Mickey’s White Glove Finisher Medal
  • White Glove Digital Race Bib

Completion Timeframe: June 19 – June 30, 2016 

What You Can NOT Wear to Disney Theme Parks

runDisney virtual race guide 2016

4. runDisney Virtual Running Shorts Series  $142.00

This will be the Disney fan’s ultimate summer running challenge – three 5Ks, four Mickey Finisher Medals, and 9.3 miles of fun!  

RunDisney’s Virtual Running Shorts Series combines all three Running Shorts 5Ks for 9.3 miles of fun. Complete the runs within the scheduled dates to earn the first-ever Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler, plus you get the Red Pants, Yellow Shoes and White Glove Individual Finisher Medals.

Note: you must register for the Virtual Running Shorts Series to receive the Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler in addition to individual race medals. Your completion timeframe is May 15th to June 30th, 2016

Running Shorts Series Highlights 

  • Running Shorts 5K – Yellow Shoes, 5K – Red Pants, and 5K – White Glove runs totaling 9.3 miles.
  • Proof of run not required

Virtual Running Shorts Series Participants Receive 

  • Running Shorts Challenge Digital Race Bib
  • Special Mickey Series Finisher Medal and Mickey tumbler, along with Commemorative Running Shorts Yellow Shoes, Red Pants and White Glove Individual Finisher Medals.

How to Pack the BEST Disney World Theme Park Bag Ever!

how to run Disney races for cheap

The Fine Print

  1. Entry fees for the runDisney Virtual Running Shorts Series are non-refundable.
  2. This was stated above, but you must register for the Virtual Running Shorts Series to receive the Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler in addition to individual race medals.
  3. Dates, times, prices and inclusions subject to change.
  4. Disney reserves the right to refuse the entry into, and/or revoke any registration for, any race for any reason in its sole discretion with refund of any applicable registration fees being the sole remedy of any such refusal and/or revocation.
  5. Disney reserves the right to refuse the entry into, and/or revoke any registration for any race for any reason in its sole discretion with refund of any applicable registration fees being the sole remedy of any such refusal and/or revocation.
  6. All races are non-transferable between individuals.
  7. You can share your experiences with all the races at #runDisneyShorts.

The Ultimate Disney World Tinker Bell Gift Guide

When you finish your summer races, you might treat yourself to one of those PANDORA race charms, because now you’ll be an official runDisney runner!

runDisney virtual races

So for the first time, you can now participate in a runDisney race without ever setting foot in Orlando. Or for more fun, complete your race on Walt Disney World or Disneyland property!

Use this link for more information and to register. 

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you lacing up your running shoes, deciding where to hang your medal (or medals!)

 

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

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Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Erin or Julie, our Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations in Florida travel.

You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Early Morning Magic & Disney After Hours: A Cheapskate Guide

Early Morning Late Night Disney tickets

Disney World has become a really busy place to take a vacation, some would say almost too busy. With some wait times reaching more than three hours during holidays and parents taking kids out of school for trips, there isn’t really ever a down time anymore to visit the Mouse in Orlando. So if you have the money, you can have the parks almost to yourself on certain days before the general public arrives and after they go home, but it’s going to cost you a pretty penny.

What do you get and is it worth it?

Tips to Stay Cool on a Summer Disney Vacation

Early Morning Magic Disney World

Disney Early Morning Magic in Fantasyland

First, you need a regular theme park admission ticket, and that cost will depend on how you bought your tickets, annual passes, single day admissions, seven-day admissions, whatever you purchased. Then add that to $69 per adult and $59 per child (tax not included) for a limited-entry, first-access experience in the park.

What You Get

Rides: Early Morning Magic guests can ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight. Warn the kids – these are the only attractions that will be operational during this special event.

You will receive an event sticker for identification upon check-in.

Breakfast: enjoy a morning meal breakfast at Pinocchio Village Haus featuring the following items:

  • Chilled juices, coffee and teas
  • Seasonal fruit and berries
  • Freshly baked pastries
  • Cheese and cured meats
  • Scrambled eggs with assorted toppings
  • Vegetable frittata
  • Smoked bacon
  • Pork and turkey sausages
  • Fried potatoes with caramelized onions
  • Waffles with butter and syrup

Top Three Disney World Souvenirs You’ll Use Every Day

Disney World Early Morning Hours prices and dates

When Can You Go?

This ticketed event is available on select Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The number of available tickets will be very limited. Dates have not been announced as of yet.

How Do You Purchase Ticket?

You can purchase tickets online, call the Disney Reservation Center at 407-827-7350 or have a Travel Agent book your tickets for you. Remember that all tickets are non-refundable, non-transferrable and are only valid for admission during the special event date and hours.

The Details

  • At 7:30 a.m., check-in near the far left turnstiles of the Main Entrance to Magic Kingdom park starting.
  • Starting at 7:45 a.m., event guests will be admitted into the park and guided into Fantasyland.
  • From 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., breakfast will be available at Pinocchio Village Haus.
  • Around 9:00 a.m., Magic Kingdom will open to guests with regular admission tickets. Your event-only attraction access will end.

Again, dates for this event have not been announced yet; we will update our information when they are.

20 Cheapskate Tips for Accommodations and Tickets at Disney World

Disney After Hours ticket prices

Disney After Hours

If morning park time with limited-entry is not your thing, maybe you would rather stay up late. You can enjoy Magic Kingdom at an after-hours special event filled with characters and attractions with almost no wait times!

The cost? $149 per child or adult (tax not included).

What You Get

Well, for about $50 per hour, you get three hours in the park with almost no crowds and very short waits, plus ice cream and bottled beverages.

When Can You Go?

Disney After Hours will take place on the following remaining dates in 2016:

  • Thursday, April 28, 2016 from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM
  • Thursday, May 5, 2016 from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM
  • Sunday, May 8, 2016 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
  • Thursday, May 12, 2016 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
  • Thursday, May 19, 2016 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM

I am sure if these dates are successful, they will announce dates for 2017 as well.

How Do You Purchase Ticket?

You can purchase tickets online, call the Disney Reservation Center at 407-827-7185 or have a Travel Agent book your tickets for you. The number of tickets available is limited. In addition, all tickets are non-refundable, non-transferrable and are only valid for admission during the special event date and hours.

The Details

  • At 7:00 p.m., check-in for the event at the Main Entrance to the theme park beginning.
  • Magic Kingdom park will officially close to guests who haven’t purchased Disney After Hours tickets at 10:00 p.m. on April 28 and May 5, 2016; and at 11:00 PM on May 8, 12 and 19, 2016.
  • Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests may use Walt Disney World Transportation after the event for up to two hours.

Disney World Preferred Parking: Do You Need It?

Disney After Hours information

Cheapskate Thoughts

Do you really need tickets to these events. Of course not.

Could you benefit from snacks/breakfast and park time all to yourself? Certainly. So it all comes down to money; how much vacation money you have and how much you want to spend?

I’m traveling with five adults in my party, so in terms of my cheapskate budget, Disney After Dark is out of the question. If my party was smaller or I was traveling for a special occasion, then $150 might be more of a personal desire. People pay big money like this for concert or sporting events all the time, just not cheap people like me! But if it was a one-time trip, the trip of a lifetime, I just might splurge for the experience.

TwoBits stopped by with a money saving suggestion for DVC members. “In regards to the after-hours promotion, it has been recently reported that DVC members and annual pass holders are being offered after hours tickets for $75. At that price, getting in at 7:00, fighting regular crowds for a couple of hours, then getting the park with virtually no wait AND all the ice cream I can eat may make it worth it. I can’t imagine trying to make this work with young kids, though.”

Without using a DVC discount, I think I’m still out at that price level, but breakfast for my family might be different…

If I wanted to pay for an “experience,” breakfast for $69 per adult and $59 per child is not that much more expensive than a character meal at Chef Mickey’s. Plus you get park time with no huge crowds. This is an extra ticket event I would definitely consider if I was already paying for character meals.

Disney World Vacation Planning: Non-Holiday Dates to Avoid

Let us know what you think! Has Disney gone crazy with all these extra ticket options, or are they just offering the public what they want, which is more time on rides with less of a wait?

Disney ticket prices

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

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Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Erin or Julie, our Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations in Florida travel.

You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Disney World Vacation Planning: Non-Holiday Dates to Avoid

plan a better Disney World vacation

Heading off to Disney World these days requires a lot more planning than it took years ago. In the olden days, or perhaps the Golden Days, you could throw some bags in the car and drive to Orlando for a week or a simple weekend without doing very much in advance. In this new era of technology, you’ll need hotel reservations, Advance Dining Reservations, and ride reservations using FastPass+, if you don’t want to pay a fortune, get shut out of restaurants or stand in long lines. Disney World planning has become complicated.

Many vacation planners are well aware that travel during holidays can seriously affect the quality of your trip, since many families choose major holidays to vacation in Orlando. I’m talking about summer holidays when school is out, Christmas holidays, Spring Break, etc. It’s natural to expect these times of year to be busy. But when you start to look at a calendar to schedule your trip, you should be aware that there are other events and actually sports competitions that can have an impact on crowds and general traffic at WDW. 

Over 10 Ways Kids Can Earn Money for a Disney Vacation

avoid these dates at Walt Disney World

Many of the following competitions and events that take place on Disney property may not have that much of an impact on the amounts of people entering the theme parks. Sometimes athletes and chaperones travel to Orlando for competitions, but just covering that expense alone does not always allow for the purchase of park tickets. What they can affect your trip in particularly are the crowd levels at your resort, since in an effort to save money, many student groups stay at the Value Resorts like the All-Stars and Pop Century Resort. Cheering, chanting and people everywhere can take a toll on your sanity during what was intended to be a time to relax. If you typically choose the Value Resorts, these may be dates you want to avoid. 

While Mardi Gras is not an actual event that takes place at WDW, many school children get off for several days or the entire week in southern states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Our coastal Alabama school system shuts down for Monday and Tuesday of Mardi Gras week every year. We live four hours away from New Orleans, but that is close enough for local cities to have their own Mardi Gras parades. 

Teens from Argentina and Brazil frequently take school breaks at Disney World in large groups. There are intense discussions on the Internet about the chanting, singing and clapping that occur within these groups. While I am all about having a good time with other students on a trip, many people have complained these large 100+ teen groups (did I mention loud noise and chanting?) created tranquility issues for their time in the theme parks. The word chanting is like the opposite of the word relaxing. 

Understanding Disney Park Closure Phases: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

IMG_7323

Around the 1st/2nd week of November, New Jersey schools have a teachers’ convention when many families head south to Disney, a time known as “Jersey Week.” This is like the Spring Break of winter for New Jersey schools, and park attendance will definitely increase. 

During “Pop Warner Week” in December, Disney hosts the The Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer & Dance Championships. Again to save money, football players, cheerleaders, coaches and family members will pack out the Value Resorts, as well as some of the Moderate Resorts. If you can imagine almost 70 football teams and over 400 cheerleading squads there for competition, you will know to expect noise and crowds, especially on busses, and higher there park crowd levels at night when competitions are completed. 

Will it be the ruination of a great vacation if you schedule a trip during these events? Absolutely not, but it’s just a good idea to be aware of what is going on at the parks and resorts so you can make an informed decision. Everybody handles crowds and kids differently.

Understanding Disney World Bus Transportation: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

when is Jersey Week at Disney World

Use this simple layout so you can see how these dates might affect your trip.

January

College Cheerleading & Dance Team National Championships – January 15-17, 2016

National Dance Team Championship – January 30-31, 2016

South American Tour Groups

February

National High School Cheerleading Championship – February 6-7, 2016

Twirlmania – February 12-15, 2016

March

Contest of Champions Nationals – March 4-6, 2016

International All Star Cheerleading Championship – March 12-13, 2016

Mardi Gras Holidays – February 9 is Mardi Gras day in 2016

April

All Star Cheerleading & Dance Worlds – April 23-25, 2016

July

South American Tour Groups

November

Jersey Week – November 10-11 in 2016

December

Pop Warner Super Bowl – December 5-9, 2016

National Cheer & Dance Championships – December 5-9, 2016

Cheapskate Princess Extravagance: Platinum Disney Jewelry

best time to go to Disney World

When people ask me why I use a travel agent to help with our trip planning, I say it’s because they are professionally trained to think of things I never in my wildest dreams would have taken into consideration. I work on planning articles, and yet I struggle to keep all the details straight.

What used to be so simple has become vasty more complicated, and we are so lucky to have FREE help. Perhaps it’s time for you to…

Let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

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. 

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Understanding Disney Park Closure Phases: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Disney theme park closure phase

There are a LOT of people taking vacations to Disney parks, which these days can pretty much be year ’round. There seem to be no “down” times to go to Disney with short lines and low crowds like in years past. And during holidays, things can be just downright crazy! If you are one of those people planning a trip to Disney, you need to be aware that all these visitors in one place at one time can affect your vacation in more ways than you may realize.

Walt Disney World will limit the amount of people they allow through the gates so guests have more fun and stay safe. What happens if you are vacationing during these crowd-intense times? Can you get shut out of the theme parks?

Use this link for more Cheapskate Guides!

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Parking Lots Closing

The first thing to close when crowd attendance levels start to peak will be the Disney parking lots, because they generally reach capacity levels before the parks start closure procedures. At this point, your car may be diverted to an alternate parking lot. You will be provided bus transportation back to the park with the closed parking lot, provided that park is still open to visitors.

Time = Money. Driving over to another parking lot will take a lot of time, with traffic moving slowly, bumper to bumper. You will use up time getting to the new parking lot, plus time to get to your destination. When parking has reached the point of diversion, your day is going to get off to a slower start. 

Parks Closing

Now remember that the phrase “park closure” does not mean Cast Members simply shut the gates immediately; there are levels of closures.

Every single Disney World theme parks has reached a level of closure at some point, even if it was a lower level, and predictably because of its popularity, Magic Kingdom is the most likely to start closure procedures based on high crowd levels.

Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are less likely to reach closure phases, but it is definitely possible because they are smaller parks with less standing around room than Magic Kingdom.

Epcot has massive amounts of space, so it’s less likely to close than the other three parks.

Even Disney’s water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, can close due to high crowd levels, which can occur during Easter holidays and the week of July 4th.

“Best of the Best” Walt Disney World Freebies

Disney World park closure phases

Phases for Closure

The Disney Company does not currently publish any specific information regarding park closure phases. What we assume about closure phases can change at any time with no notice to anyone, so this is our best guess guide. 

“Closure phases” are initiated by Disney to restrict the amount of guests coming into theme parks. There are four phases to closures. These closure phases also may not last all day long. If enough guests leave mid-afternoon or in the evening, closure restrictions can be listed and more guest will be permitted entry. 

Phase One

Guests allowed to enter:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Multi-day or multi-park tickets holders
  • Guests staying on Disney Resort property
  • Guests re-entering the same park that day
  • Guests who entered another park that day (park hoppers)
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments
  • Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation

Guests not allowed to enter:

  • Visitors with no park tickets
  • Visitors with one-day, single-park tickets
  • Visitors intending to use Cast Member passes

Phase Two

The only guests allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots are:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Guests staying on Disney Resort property
  • Guests re-entering the same park that day
  • Guests who entered another park that day (park hoppers)
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments
  • Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation

Guests not allowed to enter:

  • Visitors with no park tickets
  • Visitors with one-day, single-park tickets
  • Multi-day or multi-park tickets holders
  • Visitors intending to use Cast Member passes

Phase Three

The only visitors allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots now:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Guests staying at a Disney Resort
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments

Phase Four

The theme park and the parking lot is now closed to all arriving guests. You can assume the entire world is now standing inside that park. 

5 Steps for Planning a Disney Vacation: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

crowds during holidays at Disney World

How Can You Ensure You Get In?

1. Scheduling

So we really love celebrating holidays at Disney World, with all the decorations, music, and special fireworks. But traveling during really busy times means long lines, people standing elbow to elbow, waiting in traffic, etc.  Our first suggestion to beat the huge crowds is simply to avoid taking vacations during major holidays like Easter, July 4th,  and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Schedule a trip close to a holiday, but not too close, and crowd levels will be lower and more manageable, way below the point of initiating closure phases.

Use this guide: Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

2. Arrive at the Parks Early

If you want to secure a parking spot and get yourself through the park turnstiles, you need to get an early start.  Standing around before the park opens will be way better than sitting in a car stuck in traffic later on, hoping you don’t get directed to a different parking lot.

Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

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3. Stay on Resort Property

Booking your stay on resort property has several advantages, even if you pay more for this privilege.

By waking up already located on Disney property, you can utilize Disney resort transportation. Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation are allowed through the turnstiles through a level two closure. 

Disney Resorts guarantee their guests access to a Disney World theme park. However, just because you are guaranteed to get into a park does not mean you will be able to get into the specific park that you want to visit. And just because you get in, standing side by side with all those people, this does not ensure you’ll enjoy the low-stress holiday you were looking forward to enjoying (see scheduling tip #1.)

Where to stay? Use this guide: *Differences in the Disney World Resort Levels: A Cheapskate Guide

4. Make In-Park Reservations or Appointments

Guests with in-park reservations get into the parks through a level three closure, so save up your money and schedule a special event or meal just to be sure. 

You can start making ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations) 180 days in advance of your trip. This is very important as dining reservations fill up fast during holiday seasons. Use this guide: Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Surviving Disney World at Christmas: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

 

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you considering what you and the fam. are doing during Christmas vacation…

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Erin, our Cheapskate Princess travel agent

Erin, our Cheapskate Princess travel agent

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. 

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Disney World Tips for Kids: “Free Day” Fun Activities

Free Day ideas for Orlando and Disney World Resort

We always to suggest a “free” day to those planning a Disney World vacation. Not necessarily “free,” as in it costs nothing, but free as in you do not have regular park tickets for that day. You and the family are not waking up early, walking for miles, and shutting down a park late into the night.

Many parents new to all this Disney planning stuff don’t realize that Disney vacations are tiring, and it’s a good idea to plan a “free day” mid-vacation just to keep from stressing everyone out. (If you can afford it, we actually recommend two days if you are staying for six days or more.) For those parents not into tantrums and meltdowns, be aware that heat, exhaustion, overstimulation, and an altered schedule starts to wear out little bodies. If you are already in Orlando, you might as well make plans for a day to enjoy life beyond the theme parks, because there really is a lot to do besides roller coasters and in-park character meet and greet lines.

Over 190 Disney World Tips for Kids!

These are our favorite tips for a free day at Disney World.

1. Sleep Late, Go for a Resort Swim

Staying on or off property, many resorts have great swimming pools available for your use. Most kids love to swim, so put on the sunscreen and head to the pool. This is a free option in that you paid to stay there, so swimming is thus free.

If the kids want to do some more serious swimming on a free day, there are several ways to purchase tickets to the Disney World Water Parks listed below.

swim on a free day at Disney World

2. Water Park

Water Parks Fun & More Ticket Option

You can add the Water Parks Fun & More Option to any valid Magic Your Way ticket For just $60 plus tax, you and the kids can experience Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, as well as admission to one of the following for each day of your ticket:

  • DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park This is closing, so don’t count on this.
  • Disney’s Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf
  • Winter Summerland Miniature Golf
  • ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
  • Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course (one round) Tee times are required for Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course and are subject to availability.

Individual Tickets

Tickets for Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach start at $53 per day before taxes. With both thrill and chill rides, relaxing lounge areas, wave pools, snorkeling adventures and much more, these water parks makes your local pool look like a $20 plastic back yard kiddie pool. Both parks have areas specifically for younger children. Use this link for more info. on Disney water parks and ticket options. 

when to visit Disney water parks

3. Resort Hop

Resort hopping is simply looking around the Disney resorts where you are not staying, which is 100% allowable and 100% free. What better way to decide where you want to stay on your next trip than by looking around? Each resort has a different theme, so ask the kids which location they like best. Use this opportunity to talk about finances, because there are big price differences in the three resort levels of accommodations.

The All-Star Resorts, Art of Animation Resort, and Pop Century Resort have the most to offer young children in terms of looking around and taking pictures. Here’s our guide to making the most of time spent looking around: Disney World Resort Hopping: A Cheapskate Guide To Free Fun!

Resort hoppng at Disney World

4. Disney Springs

Wow, is there a lot to do at Disney Springs, which has been completely renamed and re-imagined from Downtown Disney, with some free activities and other things to do that are definitely not so free.

  • Shopping – Over 40 stores from toys and games to clothing and jewelry
  • Dining- Over 40 restaurants, including kid favorites T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe
  • Bowling – 30 lanes, billiards tables, live music, and dining opportunities
  • Movies – 24 Theaters
  • La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil. Tickets start at $59 before tax.
  • DJ Kids Dance Party – everybody can dance at the Waterside Stage
  • Characters in Flight – ride a balloon 400 feet up in the air
  • Goofy’s Candy Co. – No trip here is complete without stopping by this delightful candy store.

Traffic and parking is nuts while Downtown Disney transforms into Disney Springs, so our recommendation is to arrive early. Use this link for our best plan of action:

Use this link for our ideas on what to do at Disney Springs for free: Over 30 FREE Activities In Disney Springs: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Use this link for our ideas on how to experience the Disney Springs balloon and save money: Characters in Flight at Disney Springs: A Cheapskate Guide.

best time to go to Disney Springs in Orlando

5. Character Meals

While you can schedule a two-hour meal break on a day when you have park tickets, why not enjoy a character meal at one of the Deluxe Resorts when you have nothing else more pressing to do? Character meals are pricey compared to counter service meals, and you will be responsible for tipping, but you are paying for an event that kids (and adults) are sure to love.

Beach Club Resort – Cape May Cafe – Breakfast and Dinner, ($30 to $60 per adult)

Contemporary Resort – Chef Mickey’s – Breakfast, Brunch, and Dinner ($30 to $60 per adult)

WDW Swan Hotel – Garden Grove –  Breakfast and Dinner- ($30 to $60 per adult)

The Four Seasons – Ravello – “Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and His Pals” ($22 per child, $42 per adult) Thursdays and Saturdays only.

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – 1900 Park Fare – Breakfast and Dinner – ($30 to $60 per adult)

Polynesian Village – ‘Ohana – Breakfast and Dinner – ($30 to $60 per adult)

Here are some suggestions from our readers about their favorite restaurants on Disney property, both in parks and resorts: The Top 20 Best Disney Restaurants, So Says the Fans!

when to schedule a character meal at Walt Disney World

6. See a Dinner Show

Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

Take the kids to celebrate the spirit of Aloha with entertainment including dancers, drummers and a show-stopping fire-knife performer all within the confines of the Polynesian Village Resort’s open-air theater in Luau Cove.

Adults will enjoy Island pulled pork, BBQ ribs, roasted chicken and a vegetable medley, honey-lime slaw, pineapple-coconut bread, and for dessert, warm pineapple bread pudding with caramel sauce. The kids will enjoy mini corn dogs with tater tots, cheese pizza, and either grilled chicken or mahi mahi with rice and green beans.

The price here is over $60 per adult, and advanced reservations are highly recommended. Make those up to 180 days prior to your visit.

Spirit of Aloha Dinner show prices Disney World

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

Located at rustic Pioneer Hall in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, the Pioneer Hall Players provide two hours of Wild West dancing, singing and zany vaudeville comedy.  You and the kids can clap your hands, stomp your feet, and sing along. For dinner, you will dine on buckets of all-you-care-to-enjoy fried chicken and smoked BBQ pork ribs, as well as a tossed green salad, baked beans, fresh-baked cornbread and strawberry shortcake.  Unlimited draft beer, wine and sangria are included for Guests 21 years of age and up. Soft drinks are also included. Prices are $59 to $68 per adult. 

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue prices

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

Over at the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, there is a covered, open-air pavilion for a music-filled hoedown with some favorite Disney Characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Chip ‘n Dale. You will enjoy an all-you-care-to-enjoy BBQ spread including barbecue ribs, smoked chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs with all the trimmings, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, lemonade, fruit punch and soft drinks, plus complimentary wine and beer for Guests 21 years of age and up.

Guests will enjoy cowboy rope tricks, a live country-western band, and line dancing with Disney friends. Several times each night, Disney Characters mingle with guests for photos and autographs. The cost is $30 to $60 per adult.

7. Visit Celebration

Just a short 15 minute drive away from the Disney property is the planned town of Celebration, Florida. Adults will enjoy the shopping, Starbucks, and restaurants. Kids will enjoy a large fountain just right for splashing by the lake, plus candy and toy stores.

Every night during the Christmas season, the snow falls at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Stop to have your photo made with Santa, plus there is other entertainment like strolling holiday carolers, an ice rink, entertainment and more. This is our guide to locating the free activities in Celebration: Free Fun in Celebration Florida: A Cheapskate Princess Guide.

Celebration Skating

Skating is a reasonable $10.00 for a 1/2 hour minimum skate, with your skate rental included.

8. Visit Ft. Wilderness

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground offers campsites starting at just $69 (2015.) On 750 acres of pine and cypress trees, you can see wildlife like deer, rabbits, ducks and armadillos roaming the woodland trails inside this woodsy backcountry retreat. We mentioned two dinner shows located at Ft. wilderness, but there are a lot of other activities here kids would enjoy as well. 

Explore the Ranch  

(Day) At the Tri-Circle-D Ranch from to  through the stables to see Cinderella’s Ponies and the horses of Main Street, U.S.A.. You might get to see the blacksmith make and apply horseshoes. There are many different horse breeds residing at Tri-Circle-D Ranch, including Appaloosas, Arabians, Belgians, Clydesdales, paint horses, Percherons, quarter horses, and Shetland ponies. Advise the kids that as a free activity, they will be doing far more looking than petting.

Pony Rides

(Day) If your children want to touch ponies, for a very reasonable fee of $8.00 (cash payments only), children can take a pony ride. Offered daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. near Pioneer Hall, no reservations are necessary. Riders must be:

  • at least 2 years of age
  • under 80 pounds
  • no taller than 48 inches
  • be able to hang on by themselves.
  • lead on their pony by a parent or guardian at all times.

Campfires/Singalongs

(Night) Ft. Wilderness is home to a free campfire program sing-along and movie, although there is a charge for refreshments. This event usually begins around 7 p.m. in fall/winter and 8 p.m. after the time change in April through summer.

Christmas Lights

(Night) During the Christmas season, vacationers staying at Ft. Wilderness adorn their campers, golf carts, and tents with a huge display of Christmas lights and decorations. It’s wise to take small flash lights with you, as some of the woodsy roads through the campground are not well-lit.  Smaller children with darkness issues might feel better with some extra lights.

Wagon Ride 

(Night) Take an old-fashioned, 25 minute horse-drawn wagon ride on a tour of the campground property. Available on a first-come, first-served basis, wagon rides depart daily at 6:00 PM and 8:30 PM (weather permitting) from the front of Pioneer Hall. The cost is $8 for guests ages 10 and up and $5 for guests 3 to 9 years of age.

Traveling with a really big group? Group wagon rides (for 30 to 35 Guests) cost $300 per hour and are available with 24-hour notice.

For more information on any activity at Ft. Wilderness, call (407) 824-2832 for information. Here is our guide to wagon rides: Doing Di$ney 4 Le$$: Wagon Rides Under $10

where to find horses at Walt Disney World

9. Water Parade & Wishes

If you are resort hopping after dinner, be sure to catch a glimpse of the free nightly water show, The Electrical Water Pageant at the Polynesian Village, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Ft. Wilderness, or the Contemporary Resort. The water-light parade was originally created in 1971 for the dedication of Disney’s Polynesian Resort. In my opinion, this show is geared more for younger children, but many adults say they enjoy it too. Approximate show times are:

  • 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.
  • Contemporary Resort 10:00p.m.

If you have stayed for the Electrical Water Pageant, now stay to watch the Magic Kingdom Wishes fireworks show from one of the many Disney resorts on the monorail loop. At the Polynesian Village Resort, the fireworks are visible directly across the Seven Seas Lagoon. The show music is piped in, so while you might not be at the Magic Kingdom for Wishes, the kids will still get the show feel. Before or after the fireworks, grab a bite to eat or a snack. Hang out in the remodeled Polynesian lobby, which is beautiful at night.

You will also have a clear view of the fireworks from the Ticket and Transportation Center located next to the Polynesian. 

where to watch Wishes fireworks for free at Walt Disney World

10. Mini Golf

Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf

At Fantasia Gardens, you and the kids will putt your way through five scenes featuring tutu-clad hippos, marching broomsticks and pirouetting ostriches. This course is perfect for families and beginner golfers.

Fairways Miniature Golf is more challenging. Resembling a traditional golf course built on a miniature scale, this course emphasizes skill over chance. Sand traps, bunkers, water hazards and sloping greens make the Fantasia Fairways Miniature Golf Course an exciting challenge, where par-3 and par-5 holes range in length from 63 to 109 feet long.

Both courses are located in the Epcot Resort area by the WDW Swan Hotel. Prices are $12 for children ages 2-9 and $14 for everyone over age 10.

Winter Summerland Miniature Golf

The elves then built 2 distinctly different 18–hole golf experiences: a sand course named “Summer” and a snow course named “Winter.”

On the Summer Course, putt among surfboards, sand castles and ornaments hanging from palm trees, peppermint-striped inner tubes, snapping clam shells and a melting snowman. Disney advises you try not to wake sleeping Santa buried in the sand!

On the Winter Course, watch out for Squirty the Snowman, who sprays water at golfers when golf balls pass beneath him. Holiday themed obstacles include giant peppermints, hockey sticks and the drawbridge of a fantastical, melting castle. The courses combine for the last holes, and after sinking the last putt on Hole 18, you will receive a special message from Santa Claus, courtesy of the WinterNet.

The courses are located next to Blizzard Beach water Park. Prices are $12 for children ages 2-9 and $14 for everyone over age 10.

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Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf prices

11. Movie Under the Stars

Each night at Disney resorts, a complimentary movie screening is available to Guests of Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Whether on the beach, poolside or surrounded by the woods, enjoy relaxing evening entertainment that’s fun for the whole family, plus this is FREE! Some resorts have chairs while other resorts just have guests sit on the ground, usually on their own towels, so it does;t hurt to ask what the seating arrangements are beforehand.

For movie schedules, please check with the Front Desk at your Walt Disney World Resort Hotel, or call (407) 939-2273. Movies and entertainment are subject to cancellation or change without notice.

Here is a link to our free movie guide: FREE Movies at the Walt Disney World Resorts: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

12. Parasailing

By taking a parasail ride at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre, think of the views of Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Magic Kingdom you have from high up in the air. For those not into getting soaked with lake water, you won’t even get wet! 

Set out on a standard flight, where you’ll coast through the air for 8-10 minutes, 450 feet off the back of the boat. Or, float even higher in the sky on a deluxe flight where you’ll flutter gracefully for 10-12 minutes, 600 feet behind—that’s as long as 2 football fields!

  • Come dressed the same way you would if you were heading into one of the parks; no swimsuit is required.
  • Bring sunglasses along for the ride, and don’t forget some sunscreen.
  • All fliers must be six years of age and up, and the combined passenger weight in the parachute must be between 130 and 330 pounds.
  • If a flier is under the minimum weight requirement, he or she may ride tandem with another child or adult to reach the minimum weight.
  • Please arrive 15 minutes early for check-in. Minors under 18 years of age must have an adult present to sign waivers prior to boarding.

Per U.S. Coast Guard regulations, Sammy Duvall’s parasailing excursions allow up to six passengers on board. Flyers have priority, but friends or family members can ride along in the boat free of charge, if room allows. (Rider inclusion is not guaranteed.)

Operating hours are 9 am to 9 pm, and the cost is $95 to $170 per personUse this link for more information. 

Disney World parsailing information and prices

13. Rent Personal Watercraft

Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre offers two adventures on personal watercraft (PWC.)

Adventure One – Explore Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon on a guided tour, where you follow the leader to an array of one-of-a-kind sights, including Discovery Island, Magic Kingdom park and more. On this one-hour adventure, you may see animals like river otters or elusive Bald Eagles.

Adventure Two- For those who want to chart a new course, set off into our buoyed-off private riding area under the supervision of an official Sammy Duvall’s Watersports guide.

Either choice offers you an all-new view of Walt Disney World.

  • All PWC drivers must be 16 years of age and up, and will need a form of photo ID present at time of check-in
  • While up to 3 passengers may ride a single PWC at once, combined weight must not exceed 400 pounds
  • Minors under 18 years of age must have an adult present to sign waivers prior to departure
  • Any age can ride with an adult
  • PWCs are governed to 35 mph
  • Private riding area is approximately the size of 3 football fields, and is strictly for PWC use
  • Up to 4 PWCs can be rented at once

Before taxes, the price is $135 per PWC (not per person), and allows up to 3 riders or 400 lbsUse this link for more information.

14. Other Water Fun at Sammy Duvall’s

Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre, located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort marina, offers other water activities in addition to tubing and PWC rentals.

Tubing
Ride atop an inner tube towed by the pros. From mild to wild, you will control the ride with a set of hand signals.  The price is $165 which includes a ski boat for 60 minutes, driver/instructor, equipment and up to 5 guests. Cost is for the boat rental, not the price per passenger, and does not include tax.  Use this link for more information.

Water Skiing

World-class instructors can accommodate all ages and skill levels, from first-timers to first-rate. Kids and beginners will have a private dry lesson will show you all the key tips you’ll need. More advanced skiers will enjoy top-level instruction to up your skills. The price is $165, which includes a ski boat for 60 minutes, driver/instructor, equipment and up to five guests. The cost is for the boat rental, not the price per passenger, and does not include tax. Use this link for more information.

Wake Boarding

Towed at high speeds, tearing back and forth across Disney’s Contemporary Resort marina like a true champion of the water, there are wake boarding thrills for all ages and skill levels. For kids and beginners, a private dry lesson will explain all the necessary know-how to become an aquatic wonder once you hit the wake. For the advanced, a little top-level instruction can help you improve your technique and show you how to bust that big trick you’ve been after.

The price is $165, which includes a ski boat for 60 minutes, driver/instructor, equipment and up to 5 guests. The cost is for the boat rental, not the price per passenger, and does not include tax. Use this link for more information.

First Trip to Disney World? What You Probably Don’t Know

Sammy Duvall's watersports activities

15. Specialty Cruises

A free day could provide the opportunity to celebrate a special occasion or enjoy a relaxing cruise aboard a deluxe pontoon boats. Drop your anchor for the world-class fireworks of Magic Kingdom park or Epcot during an evening cruise, where you will experience the fireworks within Epcot when your pontoon boat sails up International Gateway near World Showcase Lagoon.

  • 21-foot pontoons hold up to 8 guests.
  • 25-foot pontoons hold up to 10 guests.
  • A Captain accompanies each Specialty Cruise.
  • Assorted snacks and soft drinks are served.

On the 21′ Tracker Pontoon, the Magic Kingdom show price is $292.88, tax included for your group of 8 guests. Water, soda and bagged snacks  are included. The sound from the fireworks show is not provided on the boat.

On the 25′ Tracker Pontoon, the Magic Kingdom show price is price is $346.13, tax included for your group of 10 guests. Water, soda, and bagged snacks are included. The sound from the fireworks show is provided on the boat.

The price for the only IllumiNations cruise is $325 plus tax for up to 10 guests. Price includes pontoon boat, driver, water, soda and bagged snacks.

Celebration and Dining Cruises

You can transform any cruise into a “Celebration Cruise” with balloons and a banner, and order onboard feasts from Private Dining. Private Dining can deliver customized menus, personalized birthday cake, champagne and strawberries, dessert platters, and light appetizers. You could even order a full meal to be enjoyed during your cruise, from intimate brunches to reception-style dinners. Celebration Cruise packages and Private Dining are available at an additional cost. A professional Butler service is available for order as well. Call Private Dining at the Disney Resort where your cruise launches:

  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort: (407) 824-2955
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa: (407) 824-2473
  • Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort: (407) 824-2165
  • Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts: (407) 939-3160

Fireworks are not guaranteed = On the rare occasion, fireworks shows may be rescheduled or canceled. Guests are encouraged to call to reconfirm the fireworks schedule at least 2 weeks prior to arrival.

Also, it is customary to give your “captain” a gratuity. For more information, use this link. 

Disney World specialty cruises

16. Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage

How about a boat trip where everyone dresses up as pirates?!

Leaving from Disney’s Contemporary Resort, this experience used to be called Magical Fireworks Voyage. You will begin with cookies, snacks and beverages before you head out for a boat trip with prime viewing of the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes and the Electrical Water Pageant. Before you board, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee arrive for fun and photos, and your host for the night is “Patch.” As you sail along the Seven Seas Lagoon, Patch leads sing-along, Disney Trivia challenges, and tells the story of Peter Pan, who actually greets you when you arrive back at the dock. Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance, and there is a 48-hour cancellation policy  

The price is $33 for ages 3 – 9 and $57.50 for anyone age 10 and up.

Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage

17. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Your daughter will receive her own “Fairy Godmother-in-training” who will wave her magic wand, then break out the beauty tools, and turn your darling into a princess!

Depending on what services you want to pay for, you will choose a hairstyle, make-up, and nail color. You can add accessories, a Disney princess costume, and keepsake photo in a princess-themed photo holder if your brought $$$.

Packages start at $54.95 plus tax and go up to $189.95.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique can be found inside Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom, but on a free day, you’ll want to visit the other location inside the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney Springs. Use this guide for more information: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

18. Fireworks Dessert Cruise

Ferrytale Wishes: A Fireworks Dessert Cruise lets you see the fireworks show Wishes from a completely new viewing location. You’ll be on board one of Disney’s ferrys, enjoying all sorts of fabulous food and drinks. Guests will board the ferry at the Ticket & Transportation Ferryboat Dock one hour prior to Wishes Nighttime Spectacular.

The cost is $99 for guests over the age of nine and  $69 for children ages 3 to 9. These prices include taxes and your gratuity.

Disney World ferrytle wishes dessert party prices

19. Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea at Garden View Tea Room is held at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  Afternoon Tea is offered seven days a week and is held from between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.  The cost for tea and assorted finger foods range from $13 to $45, For more information including menu items and specific prices, use this link. 

Disney-Moms-fun-outside-the-parks

How a Walt Disney World Trip Alters Your After-Vacation Reality

And there you have it, tons of activities for a day at Disney World that doesn’t include park tickets. Your “free day” can be as relaxing or exciting, or as free or expensive as you want it to be. The true beauty of a trip to Disney World is never running out of things to do. You will just never be able to see and do it all without running out of time.

Running out of money, well, that’s a different matter altogether.

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you after you woke the family up late, headed for your resort pool and perhaps a movie at Disney Springs. 

 

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Erin, our Cheapskate Princess travel agent

Erin, our Cheapskate Princess travel agent

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. 

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida