Free Things at Disney World

Walt Disney World May 2012 755


Sometimes, it feels like Mickey Mouse himself is pick-pocketing you when you’re at Walt Disney World (maybe that’s the real reason why characters meet in the parks). From the many attractions that end in gift shops to the sticker shock you’re likely to have when you see the price, it might seem like there is no respite from a visit to Walt Disney World being a “SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!” type of week.

It might seem this way because most souvenirs, gifts, and experiences at Walt Disney World are expensive. Fortunately, some things are FREE! No, I’m not talking “Free” Dining, I mean actual experiences and stuff that’s actually free. If you want to get really liberal with the word “free,” so much of what’s at Walt Disney World could be on the list (everything from FastPasses to the air you breathe could quality). If you’re really conservative, nothing is free, as the costs for these things are built into other prices somehow, so you’re paying for these things one way or another (there is no free lunch). Our philosophy is somewhere between these extremes, and this list covers things that we feel most reasonable people might feel are “free vacation add-ons,” and are a little less obvious. If you do Disney on a budget, this list is a great way to give yourself some added fun without breaking the bank!

Here’s the list, broken down into souvenirs, food, entertainment, and the catch-all “other” category.

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Souvenirs 

  • Vacation Planning – Here’s one for before you even leave home! While planning, request a free vacation planning DVD from Disney and also free customized park maps. The maps are really high quality. The DVD is…okay. It used to be better, so maybe you’re better off going to YouTube or Mousebits for that.
  • Celebration Buttons – Starting as soon as you arrive, this is the first free thing you should get (if applicable). As discussed in our Celebrating at Walt Disney World post, celebration buttons are sort of a “gateway” to other freebies. The buttons are a freebie themselves, but your likelihood of receiving random “other” freebies when wearing these dramatically increases. Just don’t abuse the buttons.
  • Park Maps. FastPasses, and Assorted Ephemera – This is probably a “duh” one, but it’s worth mentioning that you can collect all sorts of ephemera from your stays at Walt Disney World. On each of our stays, I collect all of the various paper-goods I can, put them in our hotel folio, and then box them up. It’s fun looking back at park maps, entertainment schedules, and hotel maps from the past. You’ll probably actually want to use your valid FastPasses, so insert your ticket again after getting your actual FastPass to collect an invalid FastPass for saving.
  • Sonny Eclipse Stickers – At Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, Cast Members sometimes have stickers of Sonny Eclipse. This can be hit or miss, so ask on different days if you don’t get stickers the first time. Other Cast Members throughout the parks might have stickers (namely, Mickey Mouse, Duffy, or Disney Vacation Club), but the Sonny Eclipse sticker is the only unique sticker of which I’m aware (and let’s be real–as the coolest singing alien in Walt Disney World, he’s the only one that matters!). Do you know of others?
  • Driver and Pilot Licenses – That’s right, get licensed to drive and fly for free at Walt Disney World! Regardless of age or experience, Disney will grant you these licenses!!! (The Mouse is basically a rogue state that answers to no government…besides the RCID…and the State of Florida…and the federal government.) The Tomorrowland Speedway and Dumbo have “license” cards they will give to kids (or adults, if you ask) certifying that they are licensed to drive or pilot those attractions. Jungle Cruise and the Walt Disney World Railroad used to have similar licenses, but I haven’t seen them in a while. As far as I know, these licenses have no legal weight outside of Walt Disney World.
  • Trading Cards – Cast Members on the various forms of Disney transportation should have transportation trading cards available if you ask. Sometimes they are out of stock, so if you strike out with one Cast Member, just ask another. The Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom attraction/game also provides guests with collectible (and in some cases, valuable) trading cards. Pick them up at the Fire Station on Main Street.
  • Duffy & Perry Crafts – We don’t have kids, so we don’t know a whole lot about this. We do know that there are “Kidcot” stations throughout Epcot where they can color Duffy and Perry crafts and have them for the rest of the day. *Yawn* until they get Figment crafts.
  • Passports – Available during Food & Wine Festival, these passports that each kiosk will stamp can be a fun thing for the kids, or a good way to remember what you had if you’re Drinking Around the World! ;)

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Food

  • Club Cool – For us, Club Cool in Epcot’s Future World is a required stop whenever we pass from one side of Future World to the other. It’s a quick, free jolt of caffeine to keep us going. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, there are 8 drinks here from around the world (all of which are types of Coca-Cola brands). For those also looking for a quick jolt, Mezzo Mix is the only one that has caffeine, although most of the rest have solid amounts of sugar. If you’re a Club Cool newbie, make sure to try the Beverly. It’s delicious! 
  • Cookie, Cotton Candy, or Ice Cream Samples – As you’re heading down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, stop by the Confectionary. If it’s not too busy, there will likely be a Cast Member with samples of cookies, cotton candy, or some other sweet. Likewise, anywhere that serves ice cream will let you sample a flavor before you order. Standard practice here is to actually order ice cream after you take the sample, so it’s not entirely “free,” unless you don’t mind breaking custom.
  • Water – No, not the drinking fountains! Walt Disney World counter service restaurants will give you a free cup of water (ask for a large cup!) or a free cup of hot water.
  • Toppings Bar – Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe both have similar toppings bars with items such as pickles, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc., allowing you to pile on the toppings to your food to get more bang for your buck. I have even known of some people who pile on so many toppings that it’s like they got themselves a free side salad.
  • Ice Cream – This is actually multiple “freebies” all in one. If you take the free Disney Vacation Club tour (not really all that good as far as tours go), you get free ice cream at the end. Each person who takes the tour is also likely to get a free $20 gift card (or FastPasses, depends upon the day). Unlike most timeshare presentations, this isn’t high pressure, but it is highly persuasive. Just remember not to buy into Disney Vacation Club on the spot. (Read our Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide to see why that’s a bad idea.) The tour lasts around 2 hours, which is a lot of time to take away from your vacation just for some “free” ice cream; if you’re not actually interested in owning Disney Vacation Club, you might want to just pay for the ice cream elsewhere.
  • Chocolate – If you do go to Downtown Disney, the consolation is that Ghiradelli offers free chocolate samples.
  • Refills – Sunshine Seasons and Electric Umbrella at Epcot, Tortuga Tavern and Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Backlot Express in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Restaurantosaurus in Disney’s Animal Kingdom all have free, self-service drink refill stations. At all other restaurants, you are given your cup with the soda already in it. We won’t even touch reusing a refillable mug on a subsequent trip (I’ll just unofficially defer to these rules), which is a more hot-button issue among Disney fans than politics, religion, and theories of dinosaur extinction combined.
  • Dining Under Age 3 – At Walt Disney World buffets and family-style restaurants, kids under age 3 eat for free off of a parents’ plate.

Walt Disney World ResortMagic Kingdom Wishes! FireworksThe Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) at Walt Disney World offers one of the best viewing places of the Wishes! fireworks show. The bursts appear larger than life here, and best of all, you can watch the fireworks for FREE here!

Entertainment

  • Fireworks – A lot of different people give a lot of different recommendations for the best spot to enjoy free fireworks at Walt Disney World. The most popular of these seems to be the beach of Disney’s Polynesian Resort. As a self-proclaimed Disney fireworks expert (I did write the book on them), I am here to say that the absolute best free spot to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks is from the Ticket & Transportation Center, just to the right of the entrance to the Ferry to the Magic Kingdom. Since the hard ticket parties (Halloween and Christmas) are expensive, this is a great way to watch those shows for free (or a second time!). You can also watch Epcot’s Illuminations fireworks from most places around the Yacht & Beach Club or BoardWalk. I’d recommend the bridge between the two (nearer the Swan & Dolphin).
  • Electrical Water Pageant – A Walt Disney World classic. This is a cute little light parade on Bay Lake outside the Magic Kingdom. It was originally created for the dedication of Disney’s Polynesian Resort in 1971 and was to run one night only. Due to popular demand, it still shows nightly! Approximate show times are: 9 p.m. at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, 9:15 p.m. at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, 9:30 p.m. at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, 9:45 p.m. at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, and 10 p.m. at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This is a “Vacation Kingdom of the World” classic that we LOVE. So much, in fact, that it was one of our Top 101 Walt Disney World Tips!
  • Art Classes – Disney’s Art of Animation Resort offers free drawing classes that are open to any Walt Disney World resort hotel guests. These classes currently occur at 11 am, 2 pm, and 5 pm. The Animation Academy in Disney’s Hollywood Studios also has drawing classes.
  • Campfires – Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-Along is a nightly campfire show at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground that occurs at 7 or 8 p.m., depending upon the season. A great way to interact with characters outside the parks! No Disney characters, but Port Orleans Riverside offers a nightly “Campfire on de’ Bayou” with storytellers and entertainment. Similarly, Animal Kingdom Lodge has a nightly storyteller around a campfire just outside the main lobby.
  • Restaurant Tours – This is one we’ve never done, and we just learned about from Disney Food Blog. Apparently, the restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offer free 30-minute tours focusing on the culinary selections and architecture. There was a Comcast “On Demand” special about Jiko a few years ago that was very interesting, so I’d imagine that these tours are pretty solid.
  • Resort Tours – Here’s another one that we just learned about and haven’t had a chance to try. Called “The Wonders of Wilderness Lodge” tour, it’s open to any Disney resort-hotel guest. With the richness of Wilderness Lodge, I’m betting this tour is great. We’ve also heard that a few other Deluxe Resorts offer tours. Check with your hotel concierge for which ones and specific times.
  • Christmas Decorations – Visiting resorts year-round is free (and probably such common knowledge that I don’t think it’s worth mentioning here…I’m not going to list every drinking fountain in the parks that offers “free water” or every restroom that has “free toilet paper”), but at Christmas it’s something worth mentioning. Then, you  can take our “Self-Guided Yuletide Tour,” which is a great way to kill a morning before Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (and not waste a day of park admission!) or a replacement for a paid Disney tour.
  • Port Orleans Performers – Most weeks, Yehaa Bob performs at Port Orleans Riverside Wednesday through Saturday. He’s fun, family-friendly entertainment. Check out his schedule here to make sure he’s performing during your trip. Port Orleans French Quarter gets in on the fun, too! It’s lesser known, but Elliot Dyson at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort sings and plays several instruments as he performs jazz classics Wednesday through Saturday. Rix Lounge is another option if you’re looking for a DJ dance scene with no cover. Alternatively, if you go late enough or on a slow night, Jellyrolls on the BoardWalk might not be charging cover. No kids at these last two, though.
  • Monorail & Boat Rides – Everyone knows that transportation inside Walt Disney World is free (and if you didn’t, you do now!), but the monorail and boat rides are worth pointing out as free entertainment. For us, the monorail is a great “attraction, and riding it around the resort loop (and maybe stopping at each of the hotels) is a relaxing and fun activity. Same goes for the many boats on Walt Disney World property. If you don’t have park tickets for a day and need something to do, relaxing on the boats or monorail and checking out the hotels sure beats a day at the highly overrated Downtown Disney (which is also free to visit).
  • Concerts – It seems like the America Gardens Theatre near Epcot’s American Adventure pavilion now has concerts more days than it does not (slight exaggeration). There are concerts in the spring, summer, and fall, with mostly cover bands and once-popular non-contemporary groups. Some of these shows are quite good. Then, in the winter, it’s used for the Candlelight Processional Christmas story. Check here to see if there is any entertainment available during your trip. Note that often people (locals, usually) line up early for these concerts, and if you’re on vacation, it may not be worth your time to do this. You can still grab a decent last minute view from the walkway behind the theatre. We usually just do this if there’s something we want to see.
  • Animal Viewing – At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, guests can walk outside and watch the animals. There aren’t as many species here as there are in the park, but it’s still cool, and there are knowledgeable Cast Members nearby to tell you about the animals. If you’re a hotel guest, there’s a special nighttime viewing available!
  • Movies Under the Stars – Most of the Walt Disney World resort hotels play a Disney film each night that is free to attend if you’re a hotel guest. Many of these are outdoors on large screens. For more information and specific details, click here.
  • Disney Chase Visa Cardholder Perks – We discuss these in depth in our Disney Chase Visa Review, but the biggest one of these is the private meet and greet location in Epcot, which includes a free printed PhotoPass photo. At last year’s Food & Wine Festival, there was also a Chase lounge with free refreshments and wristbands for reserved fireworks seating. If that’s offered again this year, arrive EARLY for the fireworks wristbands; we got to the lounge at 11 am, and they were already gone!
  • Disney Vacation Club Member Perks – From “Welcome Home Wednesdays” to complimentary DVD rental, Disney Vacation Club members receive a lot of unpublicized benefits and perks. Check out a current list here.

Other

  • Parking – Guests of Walt Disney World resort hotels park for free at the hotels and the theme parks. There’s another “hack” for free parking for those who aren’t staying on-site, and that’s parking at Downtown Disney. Please note that this is highly controversial, with plenty in the Disney fan community considering it immoral. I’m not one to judge the morality of exploiting loopholes in Disney’s system (that they could easily close), but I will say that this is a lousy idea, economically-speaking. Buses at Downtown Disney do not go directly to theme parks, which means you have to take a bus to a hotel and then take a different bus to the park. This is incredibly inefficient, and will easily take over an hour. Given the price of Walt Disney World park tickets and the value of your time on vacation (break down the cost of that park ticket per hour of time you are likely to stay in the park each day), you’re much better off just paying to park at the parks.
  • Hair Confetti – The Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom will sprinkle confetti and “pixie dust” on your kid’s hair for free. We’ve never done this ourselves, but we have friends who have, and it can really make the kid’s day. Our recommendation here would be to actually have their hair actually gelled and colored, as it’s less than $10, quick, and will really make your child’s day. Castle Couture (Fantasyland) also has “pixie dust.”
  • Photography – Many guests assume PhotoPass is not useful for them if they’re not going to purchase the CD or prints. That’s not true at all–any PhotoPass Cast Member will take photos of you with your camera. Same goes for character attendants. In the case of PhotoPass, We usually take the card, too, just to be polite, but that’s not necessary.
  • First Aid – It took me years to learn that I get terrible blisters on my feet when I wear flip flops to Walt Disney World (I’m a slow learner). I also didn’t pack Band-Aids. On each day, I’d stop at First Aid to get some Band-Aids. I know they also have things like Aspirin, but I’m not sure how thorough their medicine cabinet is. It’s always a good idea to stop here before leaving the park due to an ailment just to see what they can do for you…for free!
  • Valet Parking at Hotels – Only for Tables in Wonderland members. Remember to tip the valet!
  • WiFi – All of the Walt Disney World parks and all of the hotels now have free WiFi available. Cell service can be spotty in the parks, causing a serious drain on your phone battery. To save battery life, I often put my phone into Airplane Mode and just turn on the WiFi if I’m not expecting any calls.
  • Package Delivery – If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, anything you purchase in the parks can be delivered to your hotel for free. This is not available on the last day of your trip, but for all other days, this free service sure beats carrying around what you bought all day! Similarly, each park has a package storage service for items purchased.
  • Wake Up Call – Guests of Walt Disney World resort hotels can request a free wake up call from Mickey or Stitch on their hotel phone.
  • Luggage Storage & Transfer – If you’re staying at multiple hotels, Bell Services at your Walt Disney World resort hotel will transfer your bags. If your flight isn’t until late in the day on your day of departure, Bell Services will hold your bags. Tips are customary in both of these situations.

A fisheye view of Disney's Old Key West Resort. The original Disney Vacation Club Resort! Visit my blog for info, photos, and reviews of Disney hotels: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disney-resorts/

That wraps up our list of “free” things at Walt Disney World. As mentioned above, depending upon your definition of free, there are many more (or far fewer?) things that are free at Walt Disney World. We’ve left off most of the regular park entertainment (e.g. World Showcase performers) and hotel perks (e.g. leis at the Poly and beads at French Quarter) off the list.

With all we spend on Walt Disney World vacations, it’s nice to see a list with so many things that are basically added bonuses. We think it really shows the way Disney goes above and beyond, and exemplifies one of the reasons we love traveling to Walt Disney World so much!

For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice beyond the freebies, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.

For updates on Walt Disney World, the latest news, discount information, and tips, sign up for our free monthly newsletter!

Your Thoughts…

So that’s our list, what’s on YOUR list of the best free things at Walt Disney World? Any other tips or lost-cost options? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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94 Responses to “Free Things at Disney World”

  1. Kevin says:

    Great list! I knew most of these, but the trading cards on Disney transportation is definitely new to me.

    I’d second the “duh” suggestion of Parks maps and the like. In the digital age, it’s easy to forgo the paper maps and show schedules. But we recently were showing the maps and such from our 1996 trip to our daughter and it was a lot of fun to look back through them and see what has changed. (It was less fun to look back and compare the price of park tickets from then!)

  2. Loralei says:

    If you purchase your Disney vacation through CAA in Canada, you get preferred parking spots depending on availability. Also, in Epcot, a Disney character will read a story to a small group of children. Two years ago, Mary Poppins read a story to about 10-15 kids, including my two kids. It was great for my kids. They loved it.

  3. Chelsea says:

    Great list. On our last trip two weeks ago, we stopped into the Confectionary to browse. As we wandered towards the CM making cotton candy we noticed a small sign in his window with “Today’s Password.” We said it aloud ( Rock-n-Roll Pluto) and were immediately awarded with a HUGE sampling of cotton candy! What a great, unexpected treat.

  4. Jacky says:

    I ordered the parks map about 4 years ago and I never ever got them. I wonder if anyone else has had this problem?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Everything that Disney is supposed to send me is pretty hit or miss (Mickey Monitor, Disney Files, etc.). Not surprised that you didn’t get them. Just give it another try!

  5. Don Livingston says:

    I always stay on property but the free parking at Downtown Disney sounds like a decent idea on a day when you are touring EPCOT. Taking a bus to an EPCOT resort and then a short walk to the back entrance wouldn’t be too big of a time commitment.

    • Matthew says:

      I’m actually a Cast Member at WDW so free parking (or even admission) isn’t an issue in my case but I will point out that anyone can visit any of the WDW resorts for free and there’s no time limit at all.

      Whenever I have friends and family down here on vacation I always encourage them to visit any of the resorts (some are well worth checking out – especially during Christmas) and then take a resort bus (or boat, or monorail) to whatever park they’re visiting that day. And in some cases it’s even less of a hassle, as is the case when visiting the Polynesian or Contemporary resorts. After you’re done touring the grounds, a quick ride on the monorail will have you at the Magic Kingdom entrance and you will have actually spent less time getting from your car to the park entrance than if you would have parked at the MK guest parking lot.

      You can read between the lines… And like Tom pointed out, Disney certainly has the way of preventing this. Asking guests for their resort keys (just like they do during Extra Magical Hours at the parks) prior to getting on a bus/boat/monorail would easily “fix” this situation if they were truly concerned about it.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Haha, I love it. A wink, wink, nod, nod tip! :)

        It boggles my mind to see all the venom spewed over some of these “moral” issues in Disney forums. I can’t say any exploitation of the various loopholes really bothers me. It’s Disney’s revenue to lose/gain.

      • Marc B says:

        Depending on when you go, us non CMs have to sometimes get a little “loose” with why we’re visiting a few resorts. Getting past the guards at Boardwalk or Contemporary and not feel like you’re crossing the DMZ gives you butterflies. Quite often at BW they’ll direct you across the street to the CM lot behind Hess. And sneaking past the guard at Contemporary, walking to MK, wearing the same shirt you JUST drove through the guard shack and said “um yes, we’re going to Chef Mickey’s” gets your heart racing. Many times they have signs up at BW, BC, YC saying “Due to a high traffic weekend. Resort guest Parking Only!” I’m sure that turns many away from even trying.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That’s actually not a bad idea. assuming you don’t have ethical qualms with doing it!

  6. Lisa Peck says:

    This is so helpful! We leave in 2 weeks & can’t wait to take advantage of these freebies!! Thanks.

  7. Shannon says:

    Never heard the transportation trading cards one!! May have to pick those up for my godsons this trip…

    And boy howdy, what have you got against DTD? I LOVE it – it’s the way I kick off my trip. (Altho, I guess I can see it if you live there and go all the time……but, still….)

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I just don’t think there’s anything unique or special about Downtown Disney as it currently exists.

    • Tricia says:

      Make sure you ask for Transportation Cards from a variety of different drivers– My son has been collecting these for years & has a ton of cards including monoral, bus, and even water taxi! The drivers have the cards for the mode of transportation they are driving. Sometimes you will get a really extra nice cast member who will give you several at a time.

      • Debra says:

        The transportation trading cards were a huge hit with our son, who was 8 during our last visit. We just missed the boat to our cabin at Fort Wilderness and we were all feeling tired and disappointed to have to wait. The next boat captain arrived for his shift and noticed this immediately. He took out a deck of these cards and told our son all about them and how he could collect them during our stay. The whole episode is still one of our favorite magic memories. The wait for the next boat passed quickly and happily for all of us thanks to that nice captain! Our son still has the cards, too.

  8. Matthew says:

    I enjoy reading this blog and really appreciate all the great tips and knowledge you share of WDW but, often, your biased remarks can be off putting.

    Calling a trip to Downtown Disney a “mistake” and referring to the performers booked for Food & Wine Festival as “washed up” are borderline insulting towards those of us who do enjoy going Downtown Disney (it certainly trumps visiting Monorail loop resorts) and actually like the entertainment lineup for F&W. I’ve read plenty of your articles and tweets and I get it, you loathe Downtown Disney. But there’s no need to constantly keep taking jabs at it. The majority of guests who visit DTD actually do like it, so I don’t think it’s fair for you to continuously paint it in such a negative light simply because it’s not your cup of tea.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Almost every post here is presented with my subjective take on things. I don’t think I really purport to be a “just the facts” type blogger. If readers are looking for cut and dry information, there are countless other blogs and Disney’s own site that do that far, far better than this blog.

      To my recollection, I’ve only taken (offhand) jabs at Downtown Disney in three posts this year (although two of them are in the last week). Out of all the posts I’ve written, that’s not too many.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t think that Downtown Disney just isn’t my cup of tea. I truly think it’s an overrated waste of time (although I am hopeful that Disney Springs will change this) for tourists with limited vacation time. To its credit, it has some unique dining, but it’s mostly just a mix of retail you can find in the real world and Disney stores with merchandise you can find in the parks. Couple that with the commute time to get there and back, and it’s not a place that I would recommend visiting. I love Earl of Sandwich and a few locations at Downtown Disney, but overall, I don’t think there’s enough of a draw there to make visiting worthwhile. By contrast, the monorail resorts have countless restaurants, lounges, and details that are distinctly “Disney,” and really make them fun to visit–for me.

      My opinions are just that: mine. It doesn’t mean they are right, or even popular opinion, but I’m not going to refrain from sharing them on my blog. I have open comments on this blog, and those who disagree with me are more than welcome to present their reasoned cases for why they enjoy visiting Downtown Disney. I have absolutely no issue with that, and the only time I ever remove comments is if they’re vulgar or spam (usually that’s one in the same!).

      As for my comment about F&WF performers being “washed up,” you’re absolutely right. That was out of line and disrespectful. Sorry about that, and I’ll remove that remark from the article.

      • Marc B says:

        I know what you mean about DTD. We used to go spend a lot of time there 10 years ago but now I’m like “meh, what are we going to do other than eat?” The kids like Rainforest, House of Blues, and Splitsville, so they usually involve a trip to Ghirardeli for a chocolate afterward, and maybe once a trip, a walk through WoD store, but usually because we saw something elsewhere and we want to see if we can get it there with the 10% discount. I feel like there is a huge untapped potential at DTD that Disney is missing out on, both in food and entertainment.

      • John says:

        I think DTD has it’s place. I’ll be at WDW a Sunday through Saturday this year. Being that I have the FR Weekday Select Pass, I won’t be in the parks on Sunday night, so why not check in to POFQ and take the boat to check out DTD?

      • Jess says:

        We usually visit DTD just to get the VISA discount at WoD and to shop at the Christmas store. Although, the Christmas store has been soooo disappointing the last few times, the ornaments don’t seem to change much from year to year. As a rule, we try to avoid DTD after 4:30pm. That seems to be the time that everyone and their mother heads over, looking for a place to eat dinner. One minute you have plenty of space, the next you’re dodging dazed vacationers and trying not to get separated from your party. It’s like instant stress and really brings the party down.

    • Aly says:

      Meh, it’s just an opinion. I personally like walking around the shops with my mom when I visit Downtown Disney, but I don’t think it’s a “must-do”. In any case, this is an opinion blog and not everyone is going to feel the same way. I think Tom is very entitled to write however he feels about a subject.

  9. Matt says:

    -gasp- NOT THE BEVERLY!!!

  10. Jonathan Dixon says:

    There was a post a couple of months back on the WDWMAGIC forums about Elliot Dyson. Apparently his last performance at POFQ was in May.

  11. Gary F says:

    As a previous poster mentioned above regarding the CAA, people who book a package with AAA here in the States get a parking placard that gets you free “Diamond” parking at the parks. I feel like this is a great value at some parks and not so much at others (and I am not sure how much this “free” perk is built into the price of the package (like how Magical Express is “free”). When we parked at Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom I felt like it was a pretty sweet spot (we were in the first row of Epcot parking right by the turnstiles) but at the TTC parking lot to go to the MK we were still taking the tram and I didn’t feel like it saved that much time so it might not be so worth it if you are going to spend a lot of your time there (caveat is that our arrival at MK was the latest in the day we arrived at any of the parks so the spots in the early am might be a little better but you still have to wait for the various transportation vehicles anyway) . Also, keep in mind, this is only true if that parking is “available” at the time of your visit. I guess this means either if the slots are all filled or I guess this also gives Disney leeway to feel like they can reserve the right not to offer it at any given time. The areas shouldn’t shift too much from day to day as there are painted stripes on the ground they tell you to follow when you present the placard at the parking booths.
    -Gary

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Interesting stuff I’ve heard reference to this parking-perk before, but don’t know anyone who has made use of it–thanks for sharing!

  12. Wendy says:

    Great tips. And I just wanted to say that, while I don’t share your disdain for DTD, I find the humor intended in every remark you make about it (or anything else we disagree on). Keep on keepin’ on!

  13. VmKid says:

    A couple notes:

    Water: That’s not really a Disney-only freebie, considering that in the US it’s illegal to charge for a cup of water.

    Disney-Visa Cards: At the start of your visit, go to Downtown Disney’s Guest Relations near Arribas Brothers and Team Mickey and get your rewards card. It’ll net you free-ish parking and free-ish meals. I don’t think we’ve paid for either of those out-of-pocket in three years.

    Art Classes: The classes are also offered (albeit on a tablet screen) at DisneyQuest.

    Pilot Licenses: They also used to give them out to kids lucky enough to be sitting in the front cabin of the Monorails. Obviously, they don’t allow people up there anymore.

    Wi-Fi: This isn’t an in-park freebie, but I recommend getting the My Disney Experience app. It’s useful as both a map and to know how wait times/Fastpasses are. iOS and Android.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That bit about charging for water being illegal is not true.

      Thanks for the rest of the tips!

    • Jess says:

      I have used the Disney Experience app and find it to be pretty useless. It’s the same info you can get on the website and from any cast member. A better app is the Lines app from TouringPlans.com. It’s updated by other users in real time. A few years ago, the wait time for Toy Story Mania at the entrance was for 90 minutes. The Lines app had just been updated at 40 minutes. (Trust me, that’s SHORT for this ride.) So, we snagged the opportunity! This ride also has great decor inside so the wait isn’t boring.

  14. Frank D says:

    My daughter picked up a pocket full of free Mickey Mouse shaped confetti after the afternoon Magic Kingdom parade. It would make good scrapbooking material if you’re into that it.

  15. Ed(Mouse) says:

    Five things you missed:

    1) Free passports are also available during the Flower and Garden Festival at EPCOT.

    2) The Voices of Liberty performances at The American pavilion at EPCOT are NOT to be missed.

    3) The Dapper Dans wander Main Street USA and perform some amazing barbershop harmonies.

    4) Main Street USA transportation via bus, horse-drawn carriage, and other amazing vehicles.

    5) Smiles! If you need one, just approach any cast member and flash one – You’re certain to get one in return.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks! Items 2-4 are regular park entertainment that I wouldn’t consider “free” (anymore than being able to go line up for Space Mountain and ride it is free); now, if those performances weren’t regular (like the Epcot concerts), because seeing it would be a “bonus” that’s not regularly possible with park admission. Make sense?

      Of course, that’s just my personal line in the sand. To each his own!

  16. Thomas says:

    I’ll add one thing about your suggestions for Photopass: If you’re not too concerned about high resolution (i.e. being able to blow up a print to an 8×10 or larger size) then every picture you had taken with Photopass can be acquired with the help of a friend or relative that’s familiar with web development.

    The photos you acquire for free are relatively small (jpegs ranging from 600k to 1MB in size) but are decent enough for sharing on Facebook or other social networks.

    If you’re still looking to reproduce that image in print, you’re going to want to pay for the image.

  17. Wendy K says:

    Hi Tom – I’m new to your blog, but really like it. I know that if you stay at the Grand Californian at Disneyland, you can request free trivia challenges. When you turn them in, and if all your answers were correct, you receive a button corresponding to the ride the challenge was based on. Do they have anything like that at WDW? I love doing trivia challenges. Thanks!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I have never heard of such a thing at Walt Disney World, but then again, I had never heard of that at the Grand Californian until just now. Wouldn’t hurt to ask!

      • Gary F says:

        At the Art of Animation Resort there are trivia questions that they put up on a white board in the gift shop every morning. They are a lot of fun! If you get them both right you get some little Mickey Mouse stickers (like the old school ones) or other characters (I think we got a Simba at one point too). It’s just something fun to start the day!
        Some examples are, “How many thing-a-ma-bobs does Ariel have” or “What’s the one thing Mufassa is afraid of” or “What was the first full-length animated movie from Disney” when I got that one right, the CM asked me what year it was released for bonus points. PSHAW! :)

        Cool Runnings
        Gary

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Awesome, thanks for the tip!

    • Karen says:

      Wilderness Lodge has a find the hidden mickeys search game for kids.

  18. Reginar says:

    The African cast members at Animal Kingdom Lodge also have trading cards with information about their native country. I love chatting with them about their lives back home and it’s a great little souvenir. Just ask for one.

  19. Julia says:

    I’m a former Cast Member from Innoventions (Epcot). At the The Great Big Bank Adventure (Innoventions West) we gave stickers to kids (and some adults too) for free –it’s a great way to make kids stop crying when they have to say goodbye to Piggy.

    Another freebie, from Innoventions East: on the paper venue, you can actually make a small piece of paper, stamp with Jiminy Cricket and take home! :)

    Thank you for all the tips on the blog, I really like it! I’m planing a back-to-Disney trip and it’s been very useful!

  20. Donald says:

    Being cheeky about the Beverly. Meanie.

  21. Emily says:

    Another “sometimes” freebie……when you go to the Art of Animation drawing class, sometimes the artist of the day will do a little trivia at the end of class (if there’s still some time to kill). If you get it right, they will give you their drawing that they did when they taught the class. I’ve gotten two drawings that way (felt like such a Disney Dork cause they were semi-hard questions about non Fab Five characters).

    Also, when my daughter was small, we took some laminated business sized thank you cards to the parks with us. Whenever a cast member was especially nice or did some small favor for us (taking a group photo, really engaging my daughter in a conversation, letting us ride up front on a ride, etc….) my daughter would give them one of these thank you cards. We were not just willy nilly giving them out….they had to do something a little extra to get one. Because of her little thank you cards, we’ve gotten some nice perks. The highlights have been getting chosen to sit in the front row of the Lion Section at Festival of the The Lion King show in AK, a free frozen banana and a free trading pin. Small things, but well worth the effort of making the cards.

  22. steve hickling says:

    we haven’t been since 2006 but back then if it was your birthday you could ask at the park entrance if there was a phone message for the birthday boy/girl or even adult and you were given the phone to receive a birthday wish from goofy .
    also on some rides when wearing your birthday button you could be given a birthday card.we stopped in the grand floridean and it was our childs birthday , we had advised them in advance and the birthday person received a character signed birthday card in our room .
    if you purchase a year pass, this did not used to be too much more than 2 week pass you used to get free parking in all Disney parks.as on our last 2 visits we have stayed for 4 weeks we saved a load of cash , these passes also gave you a 10 percent discount at world of Disney in dtd we also had a free behind the sceens tour in the world of Disney which was really interesting , but as I said it was in 2006 so it may have changed since then

  23. Michelle says:

    I don’t know if anyone else mentioned this in a previous comment so just in case…At the Animal Kingdom Park, children can get a Wilderness Explorer book at any of the WE booths set up around the park. At each booth, kids can do a puzzle, activity, etc. to earn a badge sticker to place in their book. My 7-year-old son loves his and can’t wait to go back to earn more badges. Also, the AK Lodge (and possibly more) of the resort hotels offer free Hidden Mickeys scavenger hunt sheets specific to that hotel. They are available at the check in/guest services counter.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Awesome tips–thanks! How was the Wilderness Explorer game?

      • Andrea says:

        I also got a wilderness explorer book for my 7 year old and it was great! Before earning the sticker, you would learn very interesting facts. I was even able to surprise one CM (when learning about his culture – south Asian) when I was able to say thank you in his first language. I would recommend this for anyone with kids (or kids-at-heart!).

  24. Daniell says:

    Great tips!! The celebration buttons are fun and well worth the time to pick them up. A few years ago my husband and I were visiting Disney World on our anniversary, we wore our buttons to dinner and received a beautiful chocolate cake for dessert that said happy anniversary! It was so special…and FREE!!

  25. FREE BALLOONS!
    We stay at Port Orleans French Quarter where they always have balloons at the check in and concierge booths that they will give your child a free balloon if you just ask! We took my 4 yr old several times to get one and we would attach it to our stroller to walk throughout the park that day. I took a black marker to draw on it our favorite disney character, Wall-e!

    • Sydney says:

      Don’t know of this has been mentioned, but if you’re staying at Saratoga Springs, when you check in your little princess might be lucky enough to get a free tiara in the lobby. My sister and I were given one a few years ago. You might be able to just ask for one.

  26. Amanda says:

    Hey Tom,

    Just an FYI. You said you’re not sure about the license for the Jungle Cruise. We went back in November 2012 and my daughter was lucky enough to actually “drive” the boat through the cave.
    She did received an Official Guest Skipper card. I’m not sure how it works since we’ve road many times and not seen this. She sure was excited and it was definitely the highlight of our day.

  27. Steve says:

    I didn’t search through the comments to see if anyone mentioned this or not, but another “freebie” comes at a cost. When you purchase your souveniers from the shops in any of the 4 parks and even perhaps downtown disney, instead of carrying it around with you all day, you can request to have it taken directly to your room.

    This is something that is nice when we find something that we really liked with small kids so they’re not begging to go back to the store and get the gift or wanting to play with it all day while ignoring the other things at the parks.

  28. Jodi says:

    Tom, you do a great job! Anyone who will take the time to teach others about things is super (especially about Disney). There is always an opinion in every case, along with facts too (you have that difference in the medical field as well). I love reading your take on things & sometimes I disagree but you provide the other side that needs looked at so that a person can make a decision. Keep up the great work!

  29. Annette says:

    In June 2012, we received free stickers from the captain of the boat that runs between the Ft. Wilderness campground/Wilderness Lodge/Contemporary Resort. Of course, the new Wilderness Explorer program at Animal Kingdom gets you a sticker to wear & you can earn up to 30 merit stickers for the handbook.

    Elliot Dyson has been replaced at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter. Tom Casey now performs at Scat Cat Lounge on Friday – Monday nights at 8:30, 9:30 & 10:30PM.

    The schedules for the outdoor movies shown at each of the Disney resorts is posted on the first of the month at http://www.buildabettermousetrip.com/activity-outdoormovie.php

    • Annette says:

      Can you still push the buttons on the bridge above Kali River Rapids that spray the riders below? I think this counts as a freebie when you consider the fact that Universal charges you for the evil joys of soaking total strangers on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.

  30. Annie says:

    I just found your blog and I love it! I am always looking for new tips and ideas to enjoy Disney. My husband and I have been annual pass holders for 3 years and we go to Disney world at least 25 days a year. We have the Tables in Wonderland card. We love the discount on dining but we equally love the free parking that comes with the card. If we go to a park before 5pm, for less than 3 hours, we get reimbursed for parking at guest relations. After 5pm we don’t have to pay for parking at all. We just show our card at the parking kiosk and they don’t charge us.

    We are 2 adults with no children so we don’t usually start the day too early. We usually start our days around 11am. We like to start the day with a treat, my personal favorite being an Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake from Liberty Tree Tavern at M.K. It costs about $8.00 after discount and gratuity is added. Parking is $15. Therefore we save $7.00 AND we get an awesome dessert.
    Sometimes we start the day with a milkshake or sundae from the 50’s prime time café at Hollywood Studios. On these days we save $9 in parking fees. The TIW card will save us at least $150 in parking this year alone(that savings includes the prices of our food and the $100 fee for the card!)

    The Tables in Wonderland card says before 5pm you need to be at the park for dining only, and leave after 3 hours in the park. We usually do leave within the 3 hour window and go to another park after 5pm, but they don’t follow you out to your car to make sure you leave after 3 hours if you want to stay in the park. If anyone has issues with this being “immoral”, than don’t do it. For us, we have spent thousands over the years at Disney(gladly!) but if we can save money on parking we will.

  31. Kerry W says:

    We took advantage of a lot of these on our last trip. The one that we missed out on was the Art Classes at Hollywood Studios – we left it for too late in the day, and couldn’t do it, and make it to Fantasmic on time. So it will have to wait for the next trip!

  32. Carrie says:

    Hi! Could you please direct me to your post about the Chase Visa benefits at Epcot? I have a Disney Visa (Chase) card and have a half day planned at Epcot but cannot find your post on it! Thanks!

  33. BA says:

    Love the perks and try to use them as much as possible over the years. Thanks for the updates though!

    Excited to learn about the hidden Mickey and other books/stickers as well as the transportation cards etc.. My Grandson will be 9 when they come for a visit this year and being a cub scout I am sure this will really be a fun experience for him! :)

    I was just at WDW about a month ago and flashed my Birthday button at the Wave Lounge and scored 2 free glasses of champagne :) They were also giving away really nice stickers that day at The little mermaid ride :)

    Did I read right about free VALET parking with a Tables in Wonderland card???!!! I am a DVC member and live in Florida and also have to pay the 15.00 a day resort fee (Don’t get me started on this!) but if it is true my week or more stay will more than pay for the card!!

    Love your blog Tom and have been a Disney freak err fan since 71 but your articles have brought me over the edge and rejuvenated my passion TY! :)
    P.S. I even moved to Fla. in 99 to be close to the mouse house lol Tue story!

  34. Lacey says:

    Don’t forget about magic cookie hour at Wilderness Lodge! Every saturday from 2-3 they have a free sugar cookie and decorating for kids. I know that Animal Kingdom Lodge does something similar as well.
    http://fromnicevillewithlove.blogspot.com/2012/06/disneys-wilderness-lodge-magic-cookie.html

  35. Erin says:

    Hi Tom!

    We will be at WDW March 25th – April 1st and are DVC members staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo). I read that there are black-out dates for pool hopping during this time. How strictly do they enforce this? I would like to think that my husband, daughter, and I are very conscientious and respectful of our fellow vacationers, but we really did want to check out other pools. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  36. Liz says:

    I love the free maps you can order online. We don’t use them at the park (especially with My Disney Experience app) but we scrapbook with them after our trip. We’ll order them with our family name and the attractions we love most on them.

  37. Merrick says:

    In the past if you’re in American Adventure at the right time of the day (when the Fife and Drum corp come out to announce the Declaration of Independence) you can get a free copy of the Declaration! My kids still have theirs from 2007.

    We were given leis when visiting the Polynesian (not resort guests) in December 2013.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Whoa…are you sure they still do the Declaration of Independence thing? I haven’t heard about that anywhere and a lot can change in 7 years. I sure hope they still do it!

      • Stephanie says:

        Yes, they still do this. I was just there a few months ago (May 2014?) and they asked any of the children in the crowd if they wanted to volunteer (about 15-25 did) and they marched around with the men reading the declaration. The kids all got to keep a rolled up scroll of the Declaration of Independence.

  38. Michele says:

    Another thought about the Photo Pass – getting pictures with every cast photographer you see – a free way to share your trip with family! You will get the website address and password on your free card. The pictures are uploaded usually at least twice a day and grandparents can see where you are and share in your vacation as it is happening! Especially sweet if they have contributed to the expense! :)

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That’s a great tip–never thought of using it for real-time (more or less) updates for friends and family back home!

  39. Ama says:

    Thanks for reminding me of these. I learned a few new things, too! My favorite stop is Club Cool. Your tip about Beverly? Spot on! ;) My family all agreed!

  40. Carol says:

    Great tips! Thanks! Another free entertainment we always enjoy are the magicians, jugglers, etc that appear nightly along the Boardwalk. Usually near the Flying Fish and the Mercantile Shop under the Boardwalk Villas. Some of our family members have been chosen from the crowd to assist on occasion. We have a great picture of our son-in-law spinning a plate on a stick!

  41. Terri Torrez says:

    The new Pirate Adventure game in Magic Kingdom uses paper maps that you get to keep when you’re done. They’re pretty cute. We dressed up like pirates for my son’s birthday trip and spent the morning riding POC, playing the game and doing Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial. That’s another one that gives away a souvenir.

  42. Carole Canto says:

    Hi: Several years ago when I took my scouts to Disney we picked up some “Wild about Safety” cards with Timon and Pumba. They were available at Guest realtins in each park and numbered. They were really neat, talking about Disney safety, keeping you hooves inside the car and things like that. I was wondering if they still pass them out since I didn’t see it here. I found this webpage, with coloring pages. It is a fun way to prepare kids for going, http://disneywildaboutsafety.com/downloads/coloring-sheets/ Online I found differetn mentins about the cards, At Guest relations, At guesta relations in Animal Kingdom, and differnt cast members in the park. I love your Blog!

  43. Hilary says:

    Disney’s First Aid kit also includes stuff to treat and cover burns. One trip I burnt myself pretty badly on my last day of work before vacation (I work in a restaurant and put my arm down on a coffee pot warmer). When we got to Orlando, the first thing we did was go to Hollywood Studios (then MGM Studios) and ride the Rock n Roller Coaster. This pulled off whatever skin was left covering my burns. Every morning we would stop at the First Aid station at one of the parks and they would dress the burn for me. They told me to take the dressing off every night in order to let the burn breathe. They took very good care of me.

  44. POCM says:

    I realize that this is a bit dated. I work at Port Orleans and it’s worth noting that Elliot no longer performs at French Quarter. He hasn’t in quite some time. Very sad as it was always fun to listen to him while working.

  45. Marisa Torok says:

    I recently got a Snow White and 7 Dwarfs sticker and a Woody and Buzz Lightyear sticker.Great Freebies.

  46. Penny says:

    Just to post this info in case anyone should need it.
    My daughter and I flew down to WDW celebrating her 21st birthday ( husband and son stayed at home) we were staying on property when I got ill (our first day there) and had to go the the Emergency room via ambulance (not my idea of my first ride at Disney World, lol) The manager of our resort told me they would get us back to our resort after I was treated. (A taxi picked me and my daughter up and took us back to our resort.) They even faxed my prescriptions to a local pharmacy and had them delivered for me ( I of course paid for the scrips.) It was comforting under the circumstances that they made sure that I was well cared for being a guest of theirs. They went over and above to check up on me throughout our stay. So hear is a shout out to the Staff at the WDW resorts for looking out for their guests. THANK YOU WDW

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  49. Rachel says:

    Hi Tom – LOVE your blog! Pictures are gorgeous and information very helpful! Plus, you and Sarah make an adorable Disney-loving couple! Question… What is the second picture on this post? It looks like some type of vintage Magic Kingdom booklet, and I LOVE vintage Disney so I had to ask :) Thanks!

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    Don’t forget that if you are staying at a Disney property, anything you purchase in the parks can be sent to your hotel for you for free. At least they used to do that several years ago.

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