In our house we love all things Disney! But most of all we love visiting Walt Disney World. My family and I like to visit multiple times a year. Since my husband is in residency and we are on a tight budget, Disney vacations for a family of five can get costly quick, so I have to get creative. Here are a few budget friendly ideas that are sure to bring that Disney magic to your vacation just without the additional theme park ticket cost!
Spend the day relaxing by the pool– The number one complaint I always seem to have about our vacations is I always wish we had more down time. So make sure to plan a day to do just that. Pool days are my favorite days to sit back and relax! Be sure to pack a bag filled with drinks & snacks. Don’t forget the sunscreen and some pool toys for the kiddos! The one benefit for staying on Disney property is they have the best pools (in my opinion). They also have life guards and cast members who have all kinds of fun events and pool activities. My kiddos have made Mickey Tie-dye t-shirts, played bingo, and have played Disney trivia. The amazing pool bars are also a huge benefit, too!
Spend the day at Disney Springs– I love to shop and ever since Downtown Disney has become Disney Springs it has nearly doubled in size and doubled in fun! We have gone at least a dozen times and still have not seen or done everything they have to offer. Disney Springs has a little of everything for everyone in your family. They have several toy stores for your kiddos to choose from. They also have amazing boutiques for the fashionista in your family. For the little ones in your family they have a carousel and a small train they can ride for a small fee. For the adventure seekers in your family, be sure to check out Characters in Flight. If you love bowling and billiards be sure to check out Splitsville, which is a luxury bowling alley. Maybe you are in the mood to kick back, see a flick and grab a bite to eat? If so, then head on over to the AMC theater in Disney Springs. For the car lovers in your family you can ride in a vintage amphicar at the Boathouse. These guided tours are the thrill of a lifetime as they drive on land and into the water. As you can see, there is a little something for everyone!
Go miniature golfing– Disney has two miniature golf experiences just outside the parks. Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf is located in the Epcot Resort area just outside the Walt Disney World Swan hotel. This course is great for families and beginner golfers. I love the Fantasia theme, it makes you feel like you stepped into the movie! The Winter Summerland miniature golf is the second course. My family loves this one because you can choose either the winter side or the summer side. Both take you on a crazy adventure that lead you to Santa’s workshop in the end. My kiddos love the magical surprises you come across as you make your way through the course.
Check out the Disney Resorts arcade– All Disney Resorts have arcades. Now I know what you are thinking, I must be crazy listing this as a suggestion. But on our most recent trip to Disney the weather was not the best and this was a great way to entertain the kiddos for a few hours. They even have a few massaging chairs for the adults to relax in while the kiddos are off playing games. We also found that not all the games cost money, which is always a plus when you’re on a budget! We found a few that were free of charge and those ended up being my kids favorite games. Disney uses an arcade card system which is usually located at the entrance of the arcade. You can load cash or card onto an arcade card which is then used to swipe at all the arcade machines. These arcade cards can be reused so be sure to hold onto them for future use. Some of our favorite games were pinball and the air hockey table!
Ride the Monorail– My kids love to spend a few hours every Disney vacation riding the monorail. We have to do it every trip we take. My kids love to stop at all of the monorail resorts and go into all of the shops. Plus, the views of the Magic Kingdom and the Disney Resorts are spectacular. It is such a magical and unique element that only Disney offers. Another fun up and coming ride is the new Disney Skyliner! We still have yet to ride it, but if you have then it let us know if you enjoyed it in the comments below!
Explore other Disney Resorts– If you are looking for a fun way to add a touch of Disney to your vacation be sure to explore the Disney Resorts. You can grab a bite to eat, shop in the resort boutique, rent bikes, or even take a stroll to take in the unique Disney decor. Some of my favorite resorts to explore are Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort. I love Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort because it’s one of the only places to get a Dole Whip outside the parks! Right now, if you head on over to the Barefoot Pool bar you can even check out the Lime Dole Whip Margarita which features Disney’s Special Heart of Te Fiti Lime Dole Whip with margarita mix. I can’t wait to try it myself on our next trip! I love Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground because they offer an archery experience (which makes me feel like Merida, from the Disney movie Brave!). They also offer Horse-drawn carriage rides, pony rides and wagon rides. Be sure to check out the Chip ‘N’ Dale Campfire Sing-A-long, for some good ole’ fashion fun roasting marshmallows over the campfire. I also love Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge because it feels like you just stepped into the heart of Africa with the exotic animals to view on the savannah and the spectacular African decor. Don’t forget to grab a Zebra dome and some Jungle Juice in the quick service on property called the Mara. While you’re exploring the resorts be sure to check out the amazing restaurants on property.
Go For a Round of Golf– Tee off and hit the greens! Disney has four gorgeous golf courses on property:
- Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course
- Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course
- Disney’s Palm Golf Course
- Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course
Disney offers discounts for Florida Residents, Annual Passholders, Cast members, DVC as well as Resort Guests. They also offer FootGolf, which is a 9 hole course that is like traditional golf but instead of a golfball you use a soccer ball.
Run in a Fun Run at select Disney Resorts– As you all know there is nothing I love more than running and Disney. Well I am here to tell you that select Walt Disney World Resorts host Fun Runs pretty much all time! (how cool is that, right?!?) Here is the list of resorts that participate:
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s Boardwalk Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside & French Quarter Resort
- Disney’s All Star Movies Resort
Be sure to check with your resort for times and weekly schedules as well as Fun Run fees!
Rent a Boat or Sea Raycer- Set sails on Seven Seas Lagoon! I will be honest this is a bucket item for us. Every trip we talk about renting Sea Raycers and we never have enough time but that is not going to stop me from telling you all about this nifty little activity! The Sea Raycers seat up to two people and cost $32 plus tax for 30 mins. Drivers must be at least 12 years old and at least 5 feet tall. There are two kinds of boat rentals you can rent in Disney. One is the Boston Whaler Montauk. This love boat seats up to six people and costs $45 plus tax for 30 mins. Drivers must be 18 years of age. Lastly, you can rent a Sun Tracker Pontoon boat which seats up to 10 people for $45 plus tax for 30 mins. Drivers must be 18 years of age. Disney also offers Specialty Cruises but those are very pricey and I could never afford them on a residents budget.
Check out Disney’s Boardwalk– Our favorite time to head to the Boardwalk is just after dinner once the sunsets, this is when the fun is just about to begin on the Boardwalk. You never know what kind of entertainment you will find from magicians to jugglers. You can even have a caricature artist draw a picture of you to capture the magic! My daughter loves to get her hair wrapped and beaded by the hair wrappers. They also have some carnival games, for a fee of course! One of my favorite things to do on the Boardwalk is grab a slice of pizza from the Boardwalk Pizza Window the head on over to the Boardwalk Joe’s Marvelous Margaritas stand and grab myself a frozen strawberry margarita! (They are sooo good!) Then my husband and I like to get a sitter and head on over to Jellyrolls which is a dueling piano bar (Don’t be fooled by the name, trust me this place is rowdy and a ton of fun!) They do have a cover charge of $15 and doors open at 7:00pm. If you love to dance head on next door to the Atlantic Dance Hall where you can dance the night away… well actually only on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9:00pm-2:00am. The Boardwalk also has restaurants and shops so while you are there, be sure to check them out!
I hope you enjoyed my tips and I can’t wait to hear what your favorite non-Disney park day things your family enjoys to do! Be sure to check out my article, What’s in my Disney Park Bag for Disney packing tips! I hope you have a magical trip!
Disclaimer: This article is based on my opinions and is not affiliated or being endorsed by Walt Disney World or any other Disney company. If you are looking to rent a boat please contact Walt Disney World, as I can not rent boats on your behalf.