Okay, so we all know that Disney vacations can be expensive (and exhausting). But did you know there are lots of ways to spend a day at Disney World without spending a ton of money?
Many, many families come back from this vacation feeling like they need a vacation. If families are at Disney for a week or more I always recommend you take a day off from the parks. This is my list of ten things your family can do to fill all or part of a day at Disney, without breaking the bank and without stepping foot in a park.
1. Disney Springs Splashpad, Lego Store and Goofy’s Candy Kitchen (or Ghirardelli depending on your need for a snack) and lunch at Earl of Sandwich.
This may only be great if you have little people in your family but I have a 7 and 3 year old. After awhile they need to run around and be free. Did you know there were water jets at Disney Springs (aka Downtown Disney)? Yes, happy, accidental, discovery on our last trip. My kids played for quite awhile in the big, circular, open area. I watched from a bench. If you want to kill even more time you can visit the giant bins of Legos in front of the Lego store. If your children are like mine they can probably play happily for hours in the Lego bins. I totally, openly, admit to bribing my children- like, if you are okay with leaving the water you can go get a treat at Goofy’s Candy Kitchen (please, no judgment). But another wonderful little gem in Disney Springs- Goofy’s Candy Kitchen. I let the kids pick a treat or make one. I don’t let them get anything but I let them think they are picking, and it costs me less than $10. Everyone is happy. Adding lunch (or even dinner) at Earl of Sandwich (the sandwiches are all under $10) would fill most of the day. If you wanted to splurge a little bit more there is a carousel or train for the kids to ride for $2/ride. You don’t have to go into a shop, you don’t have to get the giant Mickey, but you can definitely spend most of a day doing nothing but kid stuff at Disney Springs.
2. Spend an afternoon at Animal Kingdom Lodge.Many families don’t realize that if they are not staying at a resort they can still visit a resort. Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of our favorite places to visit. If you head out of the hotel mid-morning you can grab lunch at Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge (counter service). Your kids can go wander and watch the animals on the Savannah, maybe even talk to one of the many, very friendly, cultural representatives who are there just to answer guest questions.
Thinking that this may not fill your entire morning, afternoon or day? Wait, there’s more. Ask at the front desk for the Hidden Mickey Safari Hunt- your family can hunt all the Hidden Mickey’s at Animal Kingdom Lodge. At 1:00 pm there is cookie decorating at Boma (free). Every morning at 9:00 they feed the flamingoes at the pool. Every afternoon at 3:45 pm there is a FREE tour of the resorts restaurants. There is a lot to do here, most of it free.
3. Mini-Golf.If you buy a 2016 Disney Travel Company package it includes four vouchers for a free round of miniature golf at either Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course before 4:00 pm. This is a great way to spend an afternoon or morning, for free. If you don’t have a package the cost is $12/person. For a family of four it would be under $50 for several hours of family time.
These courses are located right by the Boardwalk and Beach/Yacht Club Resorts. If you wanted to make more of a day of it you could get pizza from the window at the Boardwalk, tackle the Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream or just wander the resorts, which are all beautiful.
4. Monorail Resort Tour. One of my family’s favorite activities. My three year old loves the monorail and he considers an attraction in itself. Maybe you have one like this. But anyway, last trip we spent an entire afternoon wandering the monorail resorts and at one point we sidetracked, via boat, to the Wilderness Lodge. My husband and I had an adult beverage while we rocked. The geyser is always fun for the kids to watch shoot off. Eat at one of the counter service restaurants for a meal while you wander. Or go over to Trader Sam’s Tiki Lounge and get appetizers with the kids. Seriously, you could spend an entire day wandering these resorts.
5. Restaurant. com – Garden Grove Character Meal and Boardwalk Resort Area.This one requires pre-planning on your part. Many of you have probably heard of Restaurant.com. You may have even used it. Did you know that there are some restaurants in Disney World you can buy the certificates for? One of them is the Garden Grove Restaurant at the Swan Resort. (I cannot guarantee that this certificate is available at all times) You can buy a $25 or more certificate for as little as $10. These certificates work like this, if your meal is $50 and you have a $25 certificate your meal is $25. Characters appear at dinner and at breakfast on Saturday and Sunday. After your meal you can take the boat over to the Boardwalk and if its after dinner you can enjoy the entertainment on the boardwalk, free. Or you can wander the pathway between the Boardwalk and Yacht/Beach Club.
6. Spend a morning catch and release fishing at a resort.You can rent poles (they come with worms) at either Port Orleans Riverside or at Ft. Wilderness. The poles cost $4/30 minutes or $9/full day. They have a family special for $14/30 minutes for 4-6 poles. Both of these resorts have lots of other activities that you could add on, or a meal to make this take most of the day up.
7. Go on a pressed penny hunt.I have seen some really elaborate pressed penny hunt ideas on Pinterest. Or you can make your own. My seven year old is obsessed with pressed pennies. You can get one at every resort. You could spend an entire day collecting pressed pennies. To make it more interesting and fun you can design a hunt for the pennies. It wouldn’t cost you anything but time and the .51 cents for each penny.
8. If you are a huge Disney snack fan you could create your very own “Food Crawl” through the resorts. Many resorts have something they are known for or are excellent at. Examples include the Zebra Dome at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beignets at Port Orleans French Quarter, the Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream, Dole Whips at the Polynesian and cupcakes at the Boardwalk Bakery. You could make this as elaborate or as simple as you want. Because you would be stopping and snacking throughout your crawl your family could share the treats as you go.
9. Scavenger Hunt/Amazing Race, Disney Style. I have seen some fairly elaborate “Amazing Race” type games that people have set up for families at Disney Parks. If you wanted to do this at resorts, it might actually be easier than at parks. This is a link to a pin all about how to create an amazing race for your family!
10. Go spend a day at Ft. Wilderness. so much to love at this resort, it’s hard to know where to start. Little people will love visiting the horses at the Tri-Circle D Ranch. They can also have a pony ride (must be at least two years old and not taller tan 48 inches) for $5. There are three playgrounds at the resort for the kids to run around on. In addition to these things there are bike rentals, canoe and kayak rentals (these start at $11/adult), shuffleboard, horseshoes, hayrides and a wonderful little gem of a restaurant for lunch, Trails End. This place is a wonderful, unhurried, family time resort where you can escape from the noise, crowds and bustle. You can spend an afternoon, a morning or a full day.
So yes, Disney is expensive. Yes, you will probably spend more than you want. But there are at least ten ways to spend a day for under $100 at Disney World. Did I mention that your kids would love all of these activities as much as going into an actual theme park? I am sure that there are more ways to spend a day under $100, these are just ten I have done or had happy family experience.
Feel free to ask me any questions, I can be reached at Dana@Smallearthtravel.com.