March 30, 2012

What's FREE at Disney World? Quite a bit, actually!

Food, hotel, airfare, and ticket expenses quickly add up! Depending on your choices, a WDW vacation can become very expensive. So what can you get for FREE at Disney World? Here's a list of 10 "Freebies" you can receive, watch or do at Walt Disney World. (There's plenty more... perhaps a "Part 2" post will be made in the future).

Magical Express: Disney's Magical Express is FREE round-trip transportation from the airport to your Disney Resort hotel. They'll handle your bags too, so there's nothing to worry about! As long as you've made your reservations 24 hours in advance, the service is completely complimentary. More info here.

Cup of Water: Yes, a water bottle purchased at the parks is $3+! Pretty steep. But if you walk up to any quick service restaurant, you can ask for a cup of water with ice, and they will give it to you for FREE. (Personally, I recommend you carry your own refillable water bottle in the parks, but this free cup is a good back-up plan should you run out.)

Buttons: Are you celebrating a Birthday, Anniversary, Honeymoon... or something else at WDW? Head to any Guest Relations office at the Parks and ask for a Button specifying your celebration. They'll happily give you a button for FREE! There are 9 buttons available for your choosing.

Tours at the Resorts: These tours are mainly held at the deluxe hotels, but ask the front desk if there are any available at your resort hotel. To name a few, there is a Landscaping Tour held at Disney's Old Key West, a Hidden Mickey tour and Culinary tours at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, a Horticulture tour at Disney's Yacht Club... again just ask Guest Services at your Disney Resort to see about FREE tours or activities offered at your hotel.

Chip and Dale's Campfire Sing-a-long: There is a FREE Campfire Sing-a-long with Chip and Dale at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground. Typically at 7 or 8 PM (just check with any guest services desk). The show lasts about 40 minutes, and Chip and Dale show up to mingle with the guests and sign autographs.  For a small price, you can purchase a mini-smores kit and roast marshmallows over the campfire. This Campfire is free to ALL Disney guests, not just those staying at the Wilderness Resort. (Extra idea: Don't forget to check out Fort Wilderness's petting zoo too!)

Electrical Water Pageant: A nightly display of barges pulling 40-foot-long lighted floats sails around on the Seven Seas Lagoon. You can view this "water parade" from 9 - 10:20 PM from the beaches of the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary or Wilderness Lodge.

Disney Transportation Cards: Disney Transportation Cards are a great example of FREE souvenirs that are available at Walt Disney World. The Transportation Cards are trading-card-sized cards that you can collect while experiencing the various modes of Disney transportation. The best thing about these cards is that you cannot buy them. The operators of the different modes of transportation will give you one for free!  All you have to do is ask.

Hidden Mickey Hunt: Are you a hidden Mickey hunter? Some hotels (such as Animal Kingdom Lodge) will give you a list of hidden Mickey's to find. If you find them all... you just might get a prize!

Some Hidden Mickey's are obvious...

Other Hidden Mickey's aren't so obvious...

Disney Transportation: I hate to have to mention this, but so many first timers just don't figure it out. The monorail, boats, and buses on the WDW Property are all FREE to use to get from point A to point B. You don't have to be staying at a Monorail Resort to ride the Monorail - you can ride it just for fun - the same goes for Boats and Buses. 

Fast Passes: Here's another idea that shouldn't need mentioned, but I've seen wrong information given out about Fast Passes. Fast Passes are FREE to anyone with an admission ticket that has entered the parks.  Simply scan your admission ticket at any FP distribution box and receive a Fast Pass ticket to enter the ride at a later time and move directly to the front of the line!

Enjoy your freebies!

March 28, 2012

Disney Junior, the Channel - now 24 hours a day!

Are your kids into Disney Junior?  Last Friday, March 23rd, 'Disney Junior, the Channel' made it's debut.  Twenty-four hours of Disney Junior cartoons that your little one will love!  And they've even brought back some of the former shows, such as Jo-jo's Circus, Gaspard and Lisa, Charlie and Lola and more!  And all of the current favorites are still on too - Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Special Agent Oso, Doc McStuffins... plenty of fun for your little one!

March 21, 2012

Save money on WATER at WDW!

You can't live without it; Water is a huge necessity at Walt Disney World.  Some people ship cases of water to their resort ahead of time, others attempt to pack water in their checked luggage only to find their suitcase is soaked upon arrival, and still others just figure they'll buy water bottles at the parks for $3+!!!  My best advice for drinking water at the WDW Resort is to buy and take a Filtered Water Bottle!  Fill it up anywhere (water fountain, drink station, even your hotel sink) and it will filter the water of impurities and make the water taste great!  Toss it in your park bag, and you're all set for the day!

Here's the bottle I use: Rubbermaid 20-Ounce Filtration Personal Bottle -Blue.  I went through 3 different types of Filtered Water Bottles before finding and loving this one.  You can squeeze and pour water out of the bottle and fill up kids cups very easily.  You don't have to sip from a straw like other bottles.
Hint: Don't throw the bottle in your checked luggage if you are flying - bring it "dry" in your carry-on bag.  As soon as you pass through airport security - fill it up at a water fountain!  You'll immediately save money as you won't need to buy yourself a beverage at the airport while waiting to board your flight.

Extra Hint: If you really want to be frugal and skip carrying a bottle of water around, you may go up to any quick service food location in the Disney parks and simply ask for a cup of ice water.  They'll give you one for free!

Note: I earn a very minuscule commission if you use the links in this article to purchase the products I mentioned. I only recommend products that I use myself. Your purchase helps support this site and my ongoing research of helpful hints.

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March 12, 2012

Storybook Circus - Soft Opening Today!

Storybook Circus has it's Soft Opening today in the Magic Kingdom!  The Great Goofini, Dumbo and the FantasyLand Train Station are now all open and operating.  Personally, I can't wait to check this newest section out next month!  For those of you who create touring plans, I'd suggest getting to the park before opening and heading straight to Storybook Circus to ensure you get a good experience of it!  Then continue on to the rest of Fantasyland, or move to the other popular headliners - such as Space mountain or  Splash mountain.  Remember, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is currently under refurbishment through May.

March 8, 2012

99 Cent Kids Meal at Rainforest Cafe or T-Rex Restaurants!

Here's one way to save on a table service meal in Disney World.  Have your child read at least 20 minutes a day for a month (or read to your child for 20+ minutes each day) and be rewarded with a 99 cent kids meal (for every 99 cent kids meal redeemed, an adult meal must also be purchased).  Click here for the PDF reading chart.  Fill it out completely, and then take it to any Rainforest Cafe or T-Rex Restaurant for an inexpensive kids meal.  And if you're in the Walt Disney World area, use it at the Rainforest Cafe near the entrance of Animal Kingdom or at either the RFC or T-Rex Restaurant in Downtown Disney!  This offer is good through Dec 31, 2012.  (Limit two 99 cent kids meals can be redeemed 'per visit'.)
UPDATE (08/08/12):  Although this chart is no longer offered on the Rainforest Cafe website, it is being reported that RFC and T-Rex Restaurants ARE still honoring this certificate!  Happy Reading!

March 7, 2012

Disney's FastPass makes changes to Return Time Rule

The dreaded rumor became a reality today, when Disney's FastPass machines now print "Not able to accomodate late arrivals."  Yes, they did spell accommodate wrong on the FastPasses!  Yikes - fail!  Disney will no longer accept FastPasses after the printed time frame on tickets.  It was one of Disney's best "secrets" that you could use a FastPass long after the window time had expired - we used to collect FastPasses all day long and use them one after another in the evenings.  No more.  Rumor does have it that "GP" down in the right-hand corner means Grace Period, and the cast member accepting your FP ticket will admit you in 15 minutes past the end of your return window.

EPCOT's 2012 Flower & Garden Festival

Today, March 7, marks the beginning of EPCOT's International Flower & Garden Festival.  The displays of colorful flowers and gardens, Disney character topiaries, live music and educational programs & presentations will go on through May 20.  I have attended the Flower & Garden festival in '05, '06 and '07.  It's been 5 years since I've attended, but am excited to go see it again next month!  These are picture from 2007, but you get the idea.  Enjoy!

March 5, 2012

#1 Piece of Advice... Get to the parks BEFORE opening!

I can't say it enough... for anyone visiting the Walt Disney World resort, get to the parks before park opening! Ten minutes before the Magic Kingdom opens, there is an Opening Show with Pixie Dust, fireworks and lots of Characters - perfect way to start your Disney day! The other 3 parks have done away with their opening show, but usually do some sort of small Welcoming.

Characters arrive on the WDW Railroad to Welcome Guests at the MK.
The biggest reason to get to the parks before opening is the fact that you can accomplish MORE park attractions in that first hour that the park is open, than you can in the following 3 hours that you're there.  Many people think that if the park opens at 9 AM, they can "make it" if they get to their bus stop by 8:50 AM.  Wrong. They end up waiting until shortly after 9 AM to catch that bus, wait another 5 minutes for the bus to completely load, make any other resort pick-ups, then travel 10 to 20 minutes to the park. Take 5 minutes to unload, another 10 to walk to the park entrance, get your bags checked and enter the turn styles. These people end up entering the park around 9:45 (or later!).... that's 45 minutes of a very "empty" park for the wise, early birds to get some great park touring completed with little or no wait times for attractions!

The Walt Disney World transportation department will tell you that WDW buses begin showing up at your resort every 15 minutes 1 hour prior to park opening. But the key words there are "every 15 minutes"... Buses actually start park transportation 2 - 2.5 hours prior to park opening - they just might not pick-up every 15 minutes like they will 1 hour prior to park opening. So, if you've got an early morning ADR - you'll still be fine using Disney Bus transportation, no need to get that taxi. 

It's 100% true that 'the early bird gets the worm' in this case! And if you're worried about missing out on sleep because you're waiting up early... leave the park at Noon (the most busiest time) and head back to your resort for lunch and a nap/break. Head back to the parks anytime after 3 PM (many people exit the parks after they've watched the 3 PM parade) when it's beginning to clear out - and enjoy the cooler evening hours.

More touring plan tips to come!