Monday, April 14, 2014

Disney on a Budget

This has nothing to do with any other topics on my blog, but being the bargain lovin' mom that I am, I thought I'd share a few tips on how to experience Disney for cheap.  Here are a few ways we've saved money and had a lot of fun!
  1. Know someone who works for Disney.
    1. One year my sister had a friend whose parents worked for Disney.  They got us into Disney for free and we even got to take a super secret back way into the parking lot past the storage buildings for their different props, etc and park for free.
  2. Win Disney tickets on the radio.
    1. I was driving home from work one day and they were giving away a family 4-pack of Disney tickets to the tenth caller.  As I was sitting there behind a line of cars waiting for the light to change, I started dialing.  Dial - hang up - redial - hang up - redial - hang up... Persistence paid off!  I won!
  3. Know someone who knows someone who has free tickets to give away.
    1. Last year my sister's friend's daughter was in the Walt Disney World Christmas parade, dancing with Neil Patrick Harris.  Because of that event, they were given three free park-hopper passes.  However, they already had season tickets and didn't need the free tickets so they posted it on Facebook to see if anyone wanted them.  Well, they were from out of state so most of their friends on Facebook lived far from Disney and wouldn't be able to make it there by the ticket deadline.  My sister replied to the offer and hooked us up.
  4. Partake in a random Disney give away opportunity.
    1. Several years ago, Disney had a program where they partnered up with different volunteer organizations and charities.  If you volunteered a certain amount of time, you received a free ticket to Disney.  I volunteered at an Equestrian Poker Run event for my free ticket.  How random, right?
  5. Go on your birthday.
    1. I don't think they actually do this anymore but Disney used to give free park passes on your birthday.  It never hurts to Google before you go to see if there are any special ways to get free tickets at that time.
  6. AAA
    1. I assume you can get cheaper Disney tickets at AAA.  However, since the last five time I've gone to the Disney parks it has been free, I really only know about getting free tickets and not so much about getting discounted tickets.
Those are just a few ways we've been able to go to the parks for free in the past.  But Disney is not just about the parks.  There are tons of things you can do for FREE in the Disney area!  Some ways we like to do Disney on a budget are:

  1. Stay at an area hotel or resort off Disney property.  The last time we went, we visited the Westgate Resorts in Kissimmee.  The suites there are very reasonable.  Included in the price, we were able to play unlimited miniature golf, ride free paddle boats around the lake, take a train ride around the property, visit their miniature movie theater which played Disney movies each day, and watch the Disney fireworks from the balcony of our suite.  Suites were less than $100 per night!  Of course we've also stayed at less expensive hotels like the Comfort Inn and the Radisson for even less on Hotwire but I really enjoyed the atmosphere and extra little perks at Westgate.
  2. Visit Celebration.  Celebration is a cute little area that reminds me of the movie The Truman Show.  Everything is picture perfect.  We enjoy going right into the center of town and visiting the little shops and eating ice cream.  The kids enjoy playing in the water areas.  In the past, during the month of July they've had a fundraising event featuring a lot of reality TV stars from Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, The Bachelor and other shows.  My sister and I went one year and met them all and got a lot of autographs.  It was a lot of fun.
  3. Take the kids to the Chip and Dale Campfire Sing Along at Fort Wilderness.  This is something we do almost every time we go over to the Disney area.  Fort Wilderness has a large parking lot where you can park for free in the evening to attend the campfire and sing along.  Just tell the security guard that's what you're going to do.  Each night they have a sing along and the campfire going to roast smores and hot dogs on the fire.  Afterwards, you can stay for their nightly movie under the stars or you can venture down to the campground beach where you can watch an illuminated boat parade and the Disney fireworks set to music.  This is all FREE!
  4. Ride the Disney monorails.  This is on the top of the must-do list for my kids.  Since it's outside of the Magic Kingdom gates, you don't have to pay to ride the monorails around and see the sights.
  5. Ride the Disney ferry.  For some, this is just a means to get from here to there.  For kids, it's an exciting experience!
  6. Visit the Disney Boardwalk.  The Boardwalk has visitor parking in the back where you can park for free if there is room.  The inside of the hotel is really neat to tour.  Out on the actual Boardwalk, there are little places to eat and also a lot of street performers.  We've seen jugglers, magicians, musicians and other great acts... again all for FREE!  My kids also like to watch the guys at the pizza place through the pizza dough in the air as they peer through the windows!
  7. Downtown Disney.  Even though it's free to visit Downtown Disney, it's not necessarily really free unless you want it to be.  There are tons of shops and ways to spend your money there.  However, they do have a Lego store there where the kids enjoy playing with Legos and seeing the different Lego creations.  We've also run into Disney characters there from time to time.
  8. We also like to ride the Disney buses around and tour the different Disney hotels and resorts.  You can catch the buses from many different places such as Downtown Disney, the Disney Ticket and Transportation Area, other hotels, etc.
I'm sure there are other free things to do in the area and of course there are plenty of places to go and things to do if you want to spend money.  If you are traveling to Florida for a once in a lifetime kind of trip, then you'll probably want to visit the different parks and spend lots of money.  However, if you want to have a great time but not break the bank, don't forget to check out the many other things there are to do within the Disney area as well.  You won't regret it!