- I satisfy the Disney itch by bringing my toddlers to Disney Springs and keeping our visits cheap.
- The trick to saving money is to pack your own food and start at the Lime Garage entrance.
- Free things include splash pads, a dino dig, a volcano eruption, and playing with Lego race cars.
When my family moved to Orlando, an annual pass to Disney World (which runs between $400 and $1,300 a person) was out of our budget.
But there are plenty of ways to enjoy the magic without spending a lot of money.
Disney Springs, the shopping, dining, and entertainment district, doesn’t require a ticket, and there are plenty of free or cheap kid-friendly activities.
Planning ahead is the first step for saving time and money on Disney property
My first tip for saving money on Disney activities starts with how you plan and pack for the day.
I bring reusable water bottles and bagged lunches, so I only need to buy fun drinks and treats there.
This is also definitely a time you’ll want a stroller if you have younger kids. It’s great for storing everything and for pushing kids while passing through crowds of tourists.
I start at the Lime Garage before grabbing drinks at The Polite Pig
Lime is the second parking lot from the entrance to Disney Springs, so it’s a little farther, but it’s not as busy as Orange.
I usually breeze through security and bag checks, landing directly outside a strip of shops.
We head right to the Polite Pig outdoor bar — my kids grab an apple juice and I get an adult beverage or mocktail while I slather sunscreen on everyone.
Next we usually head over to the splash pads
The splash pads at Disney Springs are a great place for kids to cool off from the Florida sun — they’re a necessary survival tool in the heat.
Shade can be hard to come by at Disney Springs, but I bring my kids already dressed in their swimsuits so they can head straight into the water.
There are also free activities at the Lego Store
Inside the Lego Store, kids can build a race car and test their engineering skills for free. It’s helpful to have hand sanitizer as this is a high-touch zone.
If you have $9.95 in the budget, you can also sort through body parts and create three cars.
We sometimes window-shop for cool sets while we’re at the store, and I take photos to add to their birthday wish lists.
A trip to Disney Springs is never complete without seeing the Paleo Zone at the T-Rex Cafe
We like to head over to the T-Rex Cafe, but not for a meal.
Make a sharp right inside the gift shop to enter the Paleo Zone, where young kids and toddlers can dig around like paleontologists.
I bring my own beach shovels because the ones provided are usually in high demand.
Cross the bridge and play outside Rainforest Cafe to watch the volcano erupt
The walk from T-Rex Cafe to Rainforest Cafe is really nice, with plenty of spots to stop for a snack or happen upon a live musician.
The volcano outside the restaurant rumbles and erupts every 30 minutes, and the lake below it gives off a cool mist that provides the perfect relief any time of day.
Even though you can see the volcano erupt from all around Disney Springs, it’s fun to watch it up close.
For a few dollars, my kids can enjoy a sweet train ride
If you’re willing to spend a little, there’s a train ride nearby. It’s only a few yards of track and seats eight to 10 people, but it’s still thrilling for little kids.
I’m always surprised at how much fun they have for only $5 a ticket.
Grab a refresher at the less crowded Starbucks before walking to the water
The Starbucks outside of World of Disney is usually much faster than the more centrally located one.
Once I have my caffeine, I head toward the Boathouse before turning left and circling around food trucks where my kids can eat lunch, play, and run around near the water.
I like to treat my kids to a Disney ice cream before hopping on the boat
If my kids still have energy after that, I treat them to a Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream and take them on the free boat to Port Orleans Resort, Old Key West Resort, or Saratoga Springs Resort.
The resort grounds are free to wander, most have playgrounds, and you’re not likely to ever be asked if you’re staying there.
The swimming pool is always off-limits without a guest key, but you’ll be surprised at how fun just walking around the resorts can be.
Extend your outing with a nightcap at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Back near the splash pads, you can easily take a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge, where there are animals like giraffes and zebras roaming about.
There’s also a grand staircase my kids love to climb, the Hakuna Matata Playground, and nightly drum circles.
I can’t tell you how many nights we’ve gone there just for the music and animals. And it’s free even if you aren’t staying at the resort.