An itinerary to do free stuff at Disney World for a full day

Let’s face it, Disney World is expensive. Maybe expensive enough that some folks will start to imagine how they might be able to experience some Disney magic without paying the high ticket prices. As many have pointed out over the years, there are in fact a lot of things you can do for completely free at Disney World. It gave me an idea. What might a full day of such “free” activities look like? The following is an itinerary written for a Disney World novice (those experienced visitors reading this will doubtless think of variations that might make more sense for them).

  • Eat a big breakfast because lunch will be at 1:15 pm (also consider bringing a bag full of snacks; you won’t be stopped or bags searched on this itinerary). Your first destination is free parking at Disney Springs. Driving directions for your phone GPS: 1486 Buena Vista Dr, Orlando, FL 32830
  • 9:00am – arrive at Disney Springs. Park in either the Orange or Lime parking garage (or park anywhere; it doesn’t matter).
  • 9:15am – tour Disney Springs at least briefly. There are internal ferry boats from one end to the other that you should try once, just to squeeze in all the free transportation you can in one day.

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  • 10:00am (or earlier) – the Disney Springs bus loop is between the parking garages. Take a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge. (might be up to a 20-minute wait for a bus)
  • 10:30am – start touring Animal Kingdom Lodge. Be sure to go “out back” to see real life safari animals, all for free. You can skip the Kidani Village expansion.

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  • 11:30am – take a bus from Animal Kingdom Lodge to “Disney’s Hollywood Studios” (this is one of the theme parks). After you get off the bus, do NOT head into the park with everyone else. Instead, locate the lake nearby. There’s a boat landing on the far side of the lake from where you are standing. Go there and wait for a boat. The boat is free. It will take you past the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, the Boardwalk hotel, the Yacht and Beach Club hotel (we’re busy today, so you’re just seeing the outsides of these hotels). You want to get off the boat at Yacht and Beach Club, then walk through the lobby to the “front” of the hotel to find the bus loop.

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  • 12:30 pm – take a bus to the Magic Kingdom
  • 1:00 pm – do not follow the crowds to the bag/security check. Instead, go past that area to the “Resort Monorail” at the end of the sidewalk (hug the left side). Follow these crowds onto a monorail. It will stop at Contemporary Hotel. Get off here and find the “Contemporary Cafe” on the main floor (no need to switch levels after you take the escalator away from the monorail). Here’s the menu: http://allears.net/dining/menu/contempo-cafe/lunch-dinner
  • 2:15 pm – reboard the monorail. The next stop is the “transportation and ticket center” (this is the Magic Kingdom parking lot). Exit the monorail and follow the signs to the “Epcot Monorail.” This will drive you pretty far and let you tour the Epcot theme park from the air. When the train arrives at the station, they normally want you to leave. I suggest you pretend that you got on the wrong monorail and just want to go back to the Transportation and Ticket Center. They should let you, but if they insist you get off, you’ll have to go through Bag Check before you can get back in line for the monorail. Either way, the monorail will bring you back to the Transportation Center.

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  • 3:15 pm (or so) – After you exit the monorail and go down the exit ramps, look to your right. You’ll see a sign near the lake for the Ferry Boat – go there. You’ll take a boat across this lake back toward the Magic Kingdom.
  • 4:30 pm – Exit the ferry boat and stay with the crowd through the first left turn, until just before the Security/Bag check. Everyone at that moment goes right, you go left to another boat dock. Stay left for the boat to Fort Wilderness (don’t be confused; there is also a big hotel called Wilderness Lodge that looks a lot like Animal Kingdom Lodge). This is a long, relaxing boat ride. You’ll pass a former animal-themed island and a former water park with slides. When you get to Fort Wilderness, get off the boat and explore. You are at the “Settlement” area of this big hotel. It’s not a hotel; it’s campsites. You don’t need to explore the campsites directly, but the Settlement Area has some atmosphere to explore, especially pony rides (for cost) and seeing the Clydesdale horses. http://www.wdwinfo.com/resortmaps/fort-wilderness-map-1.jpg has a map of the bigger area, but you don’t need it. There is a bus system internal just to Fort Wilderness, but you don’t need to take any busses here, so this is just background info.

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  • 5:30 pm – If hungry, you could do the $25/person buffet right here in Fort Wilderness called “Trail’s End” (here’s the menu: http://allears.net/dining/menu/trails-end/dinner)
  • 7:00 pm – If you’re not tired yet, take the boat back to the Magic Kingdom and again board the Resort Monorail. Go past the first two stops and then exit at the Polynesian Resort, and explore the great atmosphere! Re-board the monorail to explore the next stop, Grand Floridian Resort.
  • 9:00 pm – If you are behind schedule, or if you are otherwise willing to slow down and wait a while, you can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the Polynesian Beach (you might have to take the monorail around again). They even pipe in the music! Note that the fireworks are sometimes at a different time of day, so ask a Cast Member to be sure.
  • Another option, going all the way back to Fort Wilderness. If you stay here long enough (or return late enough), there is a free Disney movie “on the lawn”. There are fire pits and many people bring their own marshmellows or hot dogs, but this is not required. If you do this, you’ll need to take the internal bus at Fort Wilderness to the “Meadow” stop (not all bus routes – colors – stop at Meadows. You want Yellow or Orange).
  • Ultimately, you need to be at a hotel to take a bus back to Disney Springs, then drive home!
There it is. Free except for food! This agenda didn’t include French Quarter hotel or Art of Animation, two of my favorites for theme and atmosphere, so if you prioritize those, you’ll need to make your own adjustments.

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