A Walt Disney World vacation can be pricey, especially if your work schedule means you need to go during some of the more expensive times of the year, and it sometimes seems as though the resort is carefully designed to extract more money from you at every turn. You exit the ride and, oh look, you’re in a gift store. The sun goes down, and, oh look, here are people selling glow-sticks from little carts.
But explore a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of fun freebies. Here are some you might not know about:
- Activities for all ages at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Head over to Jambo House at this deluxe hotel, and you and your children can join in crafts, learn drumming, listen to African story-telling and music, join in a free tour of the hotel’s authentic African art, or take a tour of the restaurants Jiko and Boma, complete with free samples of the food. Walk outside to one of the viewing areas and a guide will be delighted to tell you more about the animals; at night they will provide you with special binoculars to see the animals in the dark.
- Evenings at Fort Wilderness: Visit this Disney campground and you can join in a free sing-along with Chip and/or Dale, followed by a Disney movie shown under the stars. Bring your own marshmallows and you can toast them over the campfire (or buy a s’mores kit there). Some of the other Disney resort hotels also offer free showings of Disney movies. If you are there during a holiday, especially near Christmas, take some time to tour the campsites; many are elaborately decorated.
- Enjoy live music? Several of the resort hotels offer excellent entertainment at no cost. The Grand Floridian features live piano music and a small orchestra throughout the day and evening, in the elegant lobby. At the Port Orleans resorts, you can enjoy live entertainment at Scat Cat’s lounge (French Quarter) or the River Roost lounge (Riverside). Be prepared to participate!
- Downtown Disney is a double freebie. There’s no charge to visit this shopping area, but there are live musical performances throughout the year. You will also get a free square of very yummy chocolate when you walk into the Ghiradellis. For kids and kids at heart, there’s a large Lego play area (as well as some amazing statues to enjoy outside the Lego store).
- Got kids who love stickers? Look for the Disney Vacation Club sales booths all over Disney World – the salespeople are generally happy to pass out free stickers featuring Disney characters.
- Disney transportation is free. The buses may not be especially fun, but many children in particular enjoy boat rides, so consider doing a little travel on the water. You can ride a boat between Epcot and Hollywood studios, for example, or take a pleasant river cruise from Downtown Disney to Port Orleans French Quarter, buy a fresh, hot beignet at the French Quarter food court, then hop on the next boat back to Downtown Disney. You can also enjoy a monorail ride between Magic Kingdom and Epcot that ends with a circle over Epcot’s Future World section.
- Refillable mugs cost you money, but can pay for themselves. If you enjoy soft drinks and/or coffee, you may want to purchase one of these mugs. For $14, you get unlimited refills at your resort for the length of your stay – and get to keep the mug as a souvenir afterwards.
- Once you’ve paid to get into the park, the attractions are all included. But there are other free activities that many people miss. For example, at the Japan pavilion in Epcot, Miyuki makes elaborate and beautiful candy figures and gives them away to some of the children who are watching (check the park schedule to know when she’ll be doing a demo). Kids can also do crafts at the Kidcot booths in each pavilion, ending up with a decorated mask to take home. Another fun free activity is the Kim Possible mission. Sign up your child, and you’ll get a “cell phone” that sends him on an assignment to save the world. Using the cell phone at various designated spots around the park causes various surprises (such as the eruption of the volcano in the Mexican pavilion). Keep an eye out for similar “mission-type” activities in Magic Kingdom (these are currently being tested) and Kidcot activities in Animal Kingdom.
These free activities can make your trip to Walt Disney World a little more magical by giving your family a few more fun things to do without putting a bigger dent in your budget.