Disney World is a premiere tourist location right in the middle of central Florida. Consisting of four main theme parks, thousands of resort rooms, and plenty of entertainment, some save their entire lives just to experience the “Most Magical Place on Earth” once! That seems excessive, but as the cost of a Disney vacation goes up, many have to put their ears away for a few more years just to be able to go. Others find workarounds to save a few dollars here and there by staying off-property or bringing their own food into the parks. Unless money is no object, we’ve all probably had to adapt our Disney vacations a bit to keep them affordable. As the old adage goes, nothing worth doing is free.
Although Walt Disney World is constantly running promotions to save a few dollars here or there, the average cost for a family of four to stay at a Disney-owned resort complete with park tickets is anywhere between $4000 and $6000. This does not include transportation, spending money, or dining. It also assumes that you’re staying at a value-style resort. Disney World is tough on the ole’ wallet, and as we can often expect price hikes each, it isn’t going to get cheaper anytime soon. Like the rest of the country, despite popular opinion, Disney World Resort is impacted heavily by inflation, driving the costs of Disney resort hotels, theme park tickets, transportation, and food through the roof. Fast passes are only sometimes free now, as guests to Disney World resorts must buy Genie+ and Individual Lightening Lanes to get their money’s worth. The only thing free you’ll find at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney Springs, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom is a small cup of ice water on a hot day.
As the prices go up and planning becomes more complex, it got us thinking: If we could save a few bucks on one free expense at Disney World, what would it be? Everyone is always looking for a way to find free things, right? I mean, there’s a solid chance that if you found this article through a search engine, you were looking for free Disney stuff. Honestly, we don’t blame you. Walt Disney World has gotten remarkably expensive, pricing out many families that used to attend yearly. No one would blame you for trying to find ways to skimp and save on your next Magic Kingdom day. Most of us can only afford to drink around the World Showcase once, much less stay at a deluxe resort like the Grand Floridian; you’ve got to find what budget works for you. But for the sake of this article, which is to have imaginary fun, if you could only use one of the following options as a Disney freebie for the rest of your days, which would it be?
Free Walt Disney World Annual Passes
No more buying theme park tickets to Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, or Hollywood Studios; instead, enjoy the parks at your leisure with little worry about doing everything in one trip. When you’re done park hopping, head over to Disney Springs and enjoy amazing discounts at World of Disney! Get access to exclusive events and merchandise! Annual Passholders are Disney royalty (at least they feel that way); you’ll find their precious AP magnets peppered on car bumpers throughout Walt Disney World Resort parking lots. You’ll catch them casually hopping on the monorail or Disney Skyliner while you’re frantically finding crowds of other regular guests just to catch a tram. They no longer have to worry about Park Hoppers or park reservations after 2 p.m.; they can just show up. Better yet, they pay one lump sum and no longer have to worry about buying theme park tickets. Isn’t that the sweet life?
If you’re a die-hard Disney World fan, this is probably a no-brainer; ditching the regular tickets and getting free Annual Passes for the rest of your life is probably a super easy decision. Considering the increasing costs of park tickets, an Annual Pass is already an enticing offer for many; getting one for free means potential savings equal to thousands of dollars. In addition, you can save even more money using your AP discount on specific merchandise and dining! Having a free Annual Pass, visiting Magic Kingdom to catch fireworks whenever you want, or visiting any other Disney park at your discretion is a dream come true for many. However, if saving money is your goal in deciding which option is best, you’d want to use your Annual Pass often as that’s the only way it is fiscally responsible when purchasing it outright. Unlike most Passholders, many of our readers don’t have immediate access to Disney World Resort. Therefore, they may come out better financially by picking another option for free stuff at Disney World.
Free Dining and Snacks at Disney World
Picking free Annual Passes to Walt Disney World might be the obvious choice for those looking for free stuff; however, if you aren’t going to be visiting multiple times a week, there may be better options. Another HUGE expense at Disney World is food. Even a quick service meal for a family of four at places like Casey’s Corner or Flametree Barbeque can quickly add up to well over $100. When you start adding on snacks, table service meals, character dining, and drinks throughout the day, you’re looking at hundreds of dollars a day just to eat. For comparison purposes, myself, my wife, and two of our kids would cost around $600 for park hopper tickets for one day at Magic Kingdom. If we ate every meal in the parks, including daily drinks and snacks, with one table service meal a day, we’d be looking at around $750 on food, water, and snacks. Of course, this is an extreme example, including a character dining meal, but the point remains the same: eating exclusively in the park is incredibly expensive.
Many guests to Walt Disney World find themselves confined to budget regarding food and dining. They may want to try Tiffin’s at Animal Kingdom when really they can only afford Columbia Harbor House at Magic Kingdom. Having all of your food and drinks for free at Disney World would open a lot of doors for some who typically wouldn’t be able to enjoy more expensive selections like Victora & Albert’s or Narcoossee’s. What if we upped the ante? What if you no longer needed dining reservations? Instead of vying for that highly sought-after Cinderella’s Royal Table reservation, you could just walk up, be seated, and enjoy a free meal.
Free Resort Room Stays For Life
Much like dining, lodging on Disney property is high-cost. In fact, it is probably the most expensive part of a Disney vacation. Rooms can range from a couple of hundred dollars a night to thousands, depending on the room type and resort you choose. For this reason, many give up on their dreams of staying at Fort Wilderness or Animal Kingdom Lodge and settle for All-Star Music or even stay off-property somewhere. However, with one simple choice, those same guests could stay at any and all resort rooms of their choosing indefinitely. Suites at the Grand Floridian, bungalows at the Polynesian Resort, or the Tree House Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort are all on the table! We’ll even make it more interesting and throw in the Royal Suit located inside of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. If that isn’t enough to make you second guess those free Annual Passes, I don’t know what is.
As lodging continues to be a large barrier for many visiting Walt Disney World, there are certainly a few here who would select this option as their lifetime Disney World freebie. Personally, it would be on my preferred list. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still spend the savings on things I don’t need in the parks, but I’d feel better about it knowing I had a nice room at Disney’s Beach Club with my name on it every night.
So there you have it. You can only pick one, so what’s it going to be? Free Annual Passes, free resort stays, or free dining? Each option has its pros and cons, but for me I think as I’m already an Annual Passholder who visits the parks a lot, I’d definitely take the free resort stays. The Polynesian would bcome my new home. What about you? What other factors would play a role in helping you decide which free perk you’d select?