Walt Disney World may be the Most Magical Place on Earth, but that magic can certainly be expensive. It’s been a challenging past few years to be a Disney parks fan with massive budget cuts resulting in guests losing access to a wide range of perks that used to be included in a Disney trip such as MagicBands, the Disney Magical Express, and Fastpass+.
That doesn’t mean all the freebies are gone, however.
We’ve talked about Walt Disney World freebies before, specifically focusing on perks to take advantage of during a birthday. What about the rest of the year, though?
1. The Animation Experience (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
Some of the best freebies at Walt Disney World are experiences that feel like VIP offerings but are available to all guests at low to no cost. The Animation Experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a perfect example of this—a charming, hands-on experience that gives guests the chance to create a piece of personal art under the instruction of a Disney animator.
Tucked away inside the Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, the Animation Experience is easy to miss. Just getting to it requires a short, relaxing train ride from the Africa pavilion, but the trip is well worth the detour. Throughout the day, guests can take part in an interactive class where a Disney animator will teach you how to draw an iconic animal character, such as Dumbo, Shere Khan, or Simba. The mini classes are enticingly relaxing compared to the average hustle expected on a Disney day.
Best of all, you will always leave the Animation Experience with a free keepsake—your personal piece of Disney art to treasure for years to come.
2. Sodas, murals, and butterflies – Epcot’s ever-rotating freebies
Epcot remains my personal favorite park overall, and one of the reasons is that you never fully know what to expect from one visit to the next. Thanks to the implementation of seasonal festivals, guests visiting at different times of year can engage in a range of fun activities, many of which are offered totally free.
Enjoy soda and trying international flavors? The free soda samples at Club Cool remain Epcot’s most popular freebie, available year round in a new location at the center of Future World / World Celebration near Spaceship Earth. All the sodas are worth giving at least one try, though make sure you have your camera out when your travel mates try the Beverly (proof that there really is a taste more bitter than defeat).
As for seasonal offerings, all four of Epcot’s rotating festivals offer activities for guests to enjoy at no additional cost. In January and February, guests can participate in group mural painting and other artistic fun as part of the Festival of the Arts. The Flower and Garden Festival includes access to a stunning butterfly pavilion, and Disney has even been known to give small gardening freebies out like bookmarks containing seeds you can plant. Guests attending the Epcot Food and Wine Festival might be able to watch a culinary demonstration (or participate in a class for an additional cost) or enjoy rare free food samples like Ghirardelli chocolates. All four festivals also include special concerts and ever-changing artistic exhibitions.
BONUS FREEBIE: Disney+ Day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
This one only applies only one day a year, but the past few years, Disney has surprised park guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios one day a year with free swag related to Disney+. We aren’t sure if this tradition has survived into Iger’s tenure (it was weirdly the only freebie Chapek ever pushed), but it’s a nice opportunity to get a free button, hat, or other piece of limited edition Disney+ gear.
3. All the things you forgot at First Aid
I say this one with an asterisk as it seems like Disney has tightened up just how many courtesy items they are willing to dole out, but in years past, Disney has been surprisingly generous how many things they are willing to provide for free to guests visiting First Aid stations inside the parks.
The gist is that just about anything you would normally get from a pharmacy store, there is a chance that Disney First Aid (available in all four parks) might have for free. This can include singles for over-the-counter medications, band-aids, ice packs, blister treatments, and in the past, even some items for contact lens users. A few things they’ve tightened up on include sunscreen and feminine products, so don’t expect to find those, but don’t hesitate to stop by if you need medical help or a medical-related convenience item to make your trip a little more comfortable.
4. Bug repellant
Disney’s mosquito control measures are impressive, but Walt Disney World is still in Florida—biting insects are an inevitable problem, particularly around dusk. I’ve made it through entire Disney days bite free only to be absolutely devoured by mosquitos and no-see-ums on the way out of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
If you find yourself surrounded by a cloud of bloodsuckers without any repellant, don’t panic. Back in 2016 (when the Zika virus arrived in Florida), Disney started placing bug repellant stations inside the parks. These are generally found near Guest Relations (look for a table with a big pump jug), though we have seen them inside and outside of shops near the front of parks as well.
The more surefire way to get some repellant is to make a stop by Disney First Aid. In years past, they have kept small repellant wipes available for guests that work like a charm.
5. Play Disney Parks
We didn’t mention My Disney Experience because it’s become pretty central to a Disney visit, but many people still don’t know about Play Disney Parks. At first glance, the app can seem pretty dismissible—just a source for phone games to pass time in line.
The thing that makes Play Disney Parks special is the way Disney has used the app to gamify interactions with attractions and lands throughout Walt Disney World. For example, at Epcot, guests can participate in a queue-wide trivia challenge about world travel destinations or participate in a DuckTales themed scavenger hunt in World Showcase. At Magic Kingdom, guests can compete in space games in the queue for Space Mountain.
Our favorite, of course, is Star Wars Datapad.
Star Wars Datapad is basically a hidden attraction tied into the fabric of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The app turns your phone into an in-world computer from the Star Wars universe that can interact with elements throughout the land, including droids, signal towers, ships, panels, and crates. Many of these will activate in tangible ways with lights and sounds. Guests can also participate in hidden jobs and quests throughout the land, winning reputation for the Resistance or First Order (or just skimming a few credits for yourself), including special quests tied to the queues for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Continue reading for more great freebies at Walt Disney World...