Disney World ticket prices are at an all-time high — and Disney’s Annual Pass program hasn’t gotten any cheaper either. You’ll pay more than $100 a night just to camp at Ft. Wilderness (Disney World’s campground), and Disney did away with the free FastPass+ program in favor of the paid Genie+ service, where you pay extra money to skip the line.
That raises the question: Is it still possible to plan a Walt Disney World vacation on a budget? And are there still solid Disney freebies to take advantage of?
You might have to look a little harder for that discounted magic, but there are still free things to do and collect at Walt Disney World Resort. You’ve just got to know where to look to find those Disney freebies.
Disney Freebies to Take Advantage of on Your Next Disney Vacation
You might have to pay to get into the theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort — plus pay to park or stay the night in one of the hotels — but once you’re on Disney World property, there is plenty of secret free stuff to find.
Here are 17 of our favorite free things to find on a Disney vacation:
1. Celebration Buttons
You don’t need a reason to take a vacation to Disney World, but if you’re celebrating an important milestone — birthday, anniversary, graduation, new job, you name it — the trip can be even more magical. Head to Guest Relations or an indoor merch location and ask a Cast Member (Walt Disney World employee) for a celebration button.
You can wear this free Disney souvenir throughout your trip. You’ll usually garner special attention from Cast Members throughout the park, who may shout, “Happy birthday!” from across the path or ask you about your new job while you board Space Mountain.
Disney characters may even offer extra magical interactions if they spy you wearing a birthday button or a button commemorating your first visit.
Speaking of Disney characters, you can take advantage of special meet-and-greets at each of the parks. Each is free and allows you to interact with your favorite characters, like Mickey and Minnie, the Disney Princesses, and even Pixar and Star Wars favorites.
You can offer something for the character to autograph, but many of the costumed characters (who can’t easily sign their names) will hand out autograph cards, totally free. You’ll find the most character interactions at Magic Kingdom, but every park — from EPCOT to Animal Kingdom — offers unique character experiences.
There are plenty of free things for kids to do in Disney parks — and some of them even come with prizes. For example:
- Collect treasure cards (one’s signed by Captain Jack Sparrow) when you play A Pirate’s Adventure at Magic Kingdom.
- Collect badges (stickers) for animal observation activities via Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers.
- Collect stickers on a Finding Dory treasure hunt at the Seas Pavilion (aquarium area) at EPCOT.
- Collect various mementos from “around the world” at the Kidcot stations along EPCOT’s World Showcase.
Speaking of EPCOT, its festival food strolls are in no way free — you’ve got to buy five food items at various food booths during each festival to collect a stamp — but if you collect five stamps, you can claim a sixth free food item. If you were planning to eat your way around the world during an EPCOT festival anyway, this is an easy Disney World freebie to claim.
Feeling thirsty? You don’t have to buy an expensive plastic bottle of water while at the Disney World parks. Instead, just ask any vendor selling food and drinks for a cup of ice water.
You can also pack an empty water bottle and refill it at drinking fountains throughout the day.
Water isn’t the only free beverage at Walt Disney World. While you’ll pay for Coke products at restaurants at the Disney resorts and parks, there’s one place you can get soda for free: Club Cool at EPCOT.
Club Cool is a Coca-Cola shop located in EPCOT’s World Celebration neighborhood. For free, you’ll be able to sample eight different Coke products from around the world.
Be warned: These aren’t your Grandma’s Coke cans. The soda flavors are not all the carbonated goodness you’ve come to expect. The most divisive Club Cool flavor is Beverly, an Italian non-alcoholic aperitif.
If you want a full serving of your favorite Coke from around the globe, head to the Coca-Cola Store Rooftop Beverage Bar at Disney Springs. But the Coke doesn’t flow free here.
If you’re staying at any of the Walt Disney World resorts, like Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Pop Century, or even the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, transportation around the resort is totally free. Your day at Disney World might include a ride on:
- The historic monorail
- The Skyliner (gondola system)
You can also ask Cast Members for free transportation cards while aboard. These Disney freebies make great collectibles to commemorate your trip.
While it doesn’t get you to any of the parks, there’s a free boat that runs the Sassagoula River between Disney Springs and Port Orleans Resort. Catch a ride to Scat Cat’s for a Mickey-shaped beignet.
6. Parking at Disney Springs
Free parking at Disney World? Not a chance… You have to pay to park as a resort guest, and you have to pay to park at each of the Disney World parks. If you’re flying in from out of town, it’s cheaper to arrange travel from the airport to your resort and just rely on the free Disney transportation during your stay.
However, if you are heading to Walt Disney World Resort by car, there is one place where you can find free parking — and that’s Disney Springs. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to Disney World, you may know it as Downtown Disney. It’s Disney’s outdoor shopping mall, and its massive parking garages don’t charge a fee.
The catch? The free Disney parking garages are for Disney Springs shoppers only. That means you shouldn’t park for free at Disney Springs, catch a bus to one of the Disney World resorts, and then take another bus to the parks. (Disney doesn’t really police this, but regardless of your moral code, doing this to avoid $20 in parking fees is a huge waste of time.)
But if you’re planning to spend the afternoon at the outdoor mall and then head to the parks in the evening, you’re probably in the clear to leave your car at the parking garage for the day.
7. Disney Springs Entertainment
There are plenty of free things to do at Disney Springs to fill your day. Window shopping is always fun (as long as you can resist the urge to spend), and kids love to snap photos with the LEGO sculptures outside the LEGO Store.
On certain days, you can hear live music at Dockside Margaritas. The margaritas aren’t free, but the music is!
And at Christmastime, you could spend a whole day hunting down all the special Christmas trees on display, and sometimes Disney Springs even offers free outdoor fitness classes.
9. Live Entertainment — Inside and Outside the Parks
Disney Springs doesn’t corner the market on live entertainment and your Disney World ticket unlocks more than just roller coasters and dark rides. Whether you’re in Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you can catch an abundance of live entertainment.
Magic Kingdom is the pinnacle of live entertainment, from multiple parades and cavalcades throughout the day to the fireworks show each night. You can also catch castle stage shows each day.
Hollywood Studios is famous for Fantasmic while Animal Kingdom has Festival of the Lion King and the Finding Nemo music. During each of EPCOT’s huge festivals, you can usually catch a concert with big headlining acts, like Smash Mouth, Boyz II Men and Air Supply.
Sure, you paid the price of admission — but once you’re in the parks, live entertainment awaits. But there’s also plenty of free live entertainment outside the parks:
- You can catch the fireworks from several prime locations at some of the hotels, like Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. No theme park ticket needed!
- You can also catch the free Electrical Water Pageant on Bay Lake each night just outside Magic Kingdom.
- Head to the Grand Floridian Resort to hear live piano music or to Fort Wilderness for Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long — totally free (just bring your own marshmallows; you’ll pay for those at Disney World).
The BoardWalk area outside of EPCOT comes to life each night with street performers, and you can head to Atlantic Dance Hall to boogie all night. But steer clear of the nearby Jellyrolls dueling piano bar; there’s an $18 cover.
Each night, the Disney resorts host Movies Under the Stars. Cozy up with your favorite snack and watch classic Disney movies up on a big screen outside. Depending on the Disney resort hotel, the movie might be poolside or in a clearing surrounded by trees.
11. Drawing Lessons
Animal Kingdom is packed with rides and animals to check out, but leave time for the free art class at Conservation Station. You’ll have to board Rafiki’s Planet Watch to get there.
Before the pandemic, Disney’s Art of Animation, one of the more affordable hotels, offered free art classes as well, but they haven’t come back yet. If you’re interested in art at the resorts, hop on a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge, which has a massive collection of museum-quality African art for visitors to explore, free of charge.
Animal Kingdom Lodge also has multiple savannas to check out. That means you can get your fill of animal spotting without paying for a ticket to the park!
12. Glow Cubes
Drinks at Disney World are expensive, whether you’re ordering a cocktail or a mocktail. If you’re going to shell out for a special beverage, you may as well find one that offers a free glow cube.
These reusable light-up ice cubes are offered in select beverages across the Disney parks. They’re often part of special season menus, so you’ll need to do some digging before your trip. It’s totally worth the cost — adding a glow cube to a cocktail back at home can instantly transport you back to your Disney vacation.
13. Pixie Dust
A princess makeover for your little one at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique can cost hundreds of dollars — yes, really. But there’s one special Disney transformation that’s completely free: getting sprinkled with pixie dust at Sir Mickey’s inside Magic Kingdom.
Sure, it’s just a Cast Member sprinkling some glitter in your hair. But on a Disney vacation, some whimsy and make-believe are OK, even for adults.
Much of your Disney World vacation will be spent waiting in line — there’s no way around it. The themed queues usually offer enough excitement to make it worth the wait. But if you find yourself bored, you can download the free Play Disney Parks app for some fun games. Some of them are related specifically to the queues you’re in, like Peter Pan’s Flight at Magic Kingdom or Soarin’ at EPCOT.
If you paid for a MagicBand+, you can also use the Play Disney Parks app in the Star Wars area of Hollywood Studios to play Batuu Bounty Hunters. The game is a cool way to interact with Galaxy’s Edge (the name of the land) and put yourself into the Star Wars saga.
15. Disney Genie
Like it or not, you’ve got to pay for Disney’s Genie+ service, which lets you use Lightning Lanes to avoid long lines for crowded attractions. But the Disney Genie service (no plus) is free for everyone — and it’s got some helpful tools.
Download the My Disney Experience app to your smartphone ahead of your trip to access Disney Genie, and then check it throughout the day. Based on what you tell the app are your must-do rides and experiences that day, it can guide you through each Disney World park efficiently. In essence, it optimizes your trip.
Pack a portable charger. Between using your phone for Disney Genie, to mobile order food, to snap selfies and to check ride wait times, you’ll run out of battery before the day’s end.
16. Travel Agents
Planning a Disney trip can be overwhelming. You’ve got to keep track of your booking window for restaurants, you’ve got to figure out which hotel offers the best location for your park experiences, and you’ve got to master weird Disney jargon like “Park Hopper” and “Boarding Group.”
Disney travel agents make it a lot easier — and they don’t cost a thing. Instead, Disney travel agents make their money from Disney, and their primary goal is to help you plan your trip stress-free and often at a discount. Travel agents have access to discounts and deals most casual travelers aren’t aware of.
17. First Aid
Here’s a Disney World freebie you never want to use, but it’s a good one to keep in the back of your mind. You can find first aid stations at each of the parks, and visiting one of these can save you from spending extra money on things like Band-Aids and Tylenol back at the resort.
You’ll find all the staples of your medicine cabinet here: cough drops, painkillers, bandages, cold meds, tissues, you name it. There are also on-site nurses in case you need medical attention.
Contributor Timothy Moore is a writer and editor who covers banks, loans, insurance, travel and automotive topics for The Penny Hoarder. He is also the managing editor of print for WDW Magazine — and has plenty of experience doing Disney on a budget.