Disney Trip Planning: A Day Outside the Parks


When visiting WDW, you may, for whatever the reason, find yourself with a day during your vacation that you don’t have park tickets for or a partial day where you are waiting around before you have to catch your flight. During said day, you might be wondering what to do! Well, luckily for you, I’ve had many a day like this, so here’s my list of how to still enjoy yourself by doing “free” things in WDW.

If you pick a few things on this list and make it last all day, you will essentially be having a full day of free fun, or you can just do one or two things on the list before you leave for your flight back home, but take into account you might still have to factor in the cost of food at Disney restaurants (unless you plan ahead and bring your own food from home) and possibly an extra night at the hotel! Also, my list assumes your hotel choice is on property, so you will either be taking the Disney buses or driving your car and getting free parking!

Hotel Hopping – eventually visiting every single WDW hotel once is on my “bucket list,” and I’m slowly working to accomplish that with each trip! The intricate theming and backstories of each hotel on Disney property are well worth the trip! Some of my can’t-miss favs are: Art of Animation, Fort Wilderness, and Animal Kingdom Lodge! Some of the ones I’ve got to see but either haven’t yet or did but was too young to remember: Boardwalk Inn, Port Orleans, and Fort Wilderness Campground! There are various ways to get to the hotels from your own hotel! It can get confusing, but once you figure it out, you’ll be a pro! Here are the ways, excluding walking:

Using buses– Buses do not run from hotel to hotel, so if you are planning on taking a bus to another hotel, pick a bus going to one of the parks, then once you get to the park, look at the signs on the bus stops to see which one goes to the hotel you are planning on visiting. If you are going to be going late at night, you may have to take the Downtown Disney bus to and from the hotels, because some parks close earlier than others, so pay attention to the park closing times while you are there. It’s fun (NOT) when it’s 7pm and you think you can wait for the bus to take you to Animal Kingdom and you wait there forever and find out it closed at 6pm and you should have just taken one of the 5 Magic Kingdom buses that came while you were waiting – definitely happened to me. It’s a great strategy to figure out which parks are either closer to your hotel or closer to the hotel you are visiting, to minimize the time spent on the bus! You can quickly figure out the quickest route this way by looking at a map provided by your resort hotel!

Using the Monorail– There are a few ways you can get to the monorail loop that goes to the Polynesian Resort, The Contemporary, and The Grand Floridian. First of all, there are 3 monorail loops: 1 goes from MK (The Magic Kingdom) to all three of these resorts PLUS the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), the other goes around from MK to the TTC only, and the last goes around from EPCOT to the TTC. essentially you want to get yourself to MK by any mode of transportation, including the other 2 monorail loops. From MK and EPCOT, you can take the monorail for free, without entering the park first!


Using Boats– There are a few boat options around and to get to these starting places, you will have to think about what your best mode of transportation is to start with. 1. There are a couple ferry boats from MK which go to Fort Wilderness, The Wilderness Lodge, and The Polynesian. 2. There are also a couple boats you can take from Disney’s Hollywood Studios that go to The Boardwalk, Swan and Dolphin, and Yacht and Beach Club. 3. And lastly, from Downtown Disney you can catch a ferry to Port Orleans and Old Key West!

Using your car– You have to drive to one of the parks in your car, then transfer to one of the 3 methods above. You cannot park at a Disney resort hotel if you aren’t a guest at that particular hotel unless you have dinner reservations!

Going for a Boat Ride– Sometimes just going for a ride in one of the ferry boats mentioned above is enough of an event, even if you have no particular place you want to go!

Downtown Disney– To make this free, you’d basically have to “window shop.” There are a considerable amount of shops here and you can go around like me and pretend you are going to decorate your home with all the expensive art and figurines!

Pool Time– Chill-out in or next to your resort pool! Be warned, even though some resorts don’t have a system in place to enforce it, you aren’t supposed to swim in a pool at a resort that you aren’t a guest of. Some resorts do have a system in place, though, like the gated off Art of Animation pools that require the swipe of a card key to get in!

Fireworks– If you take a bus, monorail, or ferryboat over to the Polynesian Resort (my advice is using any of these modes of transportation via MK), then you can find yourself a spot on the beach (with complimentary lounge chairs) to watch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. The normal-non-special-occasion fireworks show is called Wishes Nighttime Spectacular and is performed MOST nights, but check the schedule before you go to confirm the night and time! It’s completely free to watch from across the bay, and if you’re lucky the Electrical Water Pageant will be going on that night as well!


There are extra things you can do that cost some money, but that aren’t as expensive as a theme park ticket might be. (Once you already have in your package 7 day park tickets, the cost of adding on one more ticket ends up being less than $20, so you will probably just end up adding on an extra day if you are going to spend extra money. BUT if you only have, say, a 1 day or even 3 day ticket, it might be worth just taking a Park-less day and paying for some fun little extras in combination with the activities I mentioned above.) Things like:

Bike Ride – Rent a Surrey bike at the Boardwalk (starting at $25) or regular ol’ 1 person bike (starting at $18 for a day, or $9/hour) at various locations including Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Boardwalk, Old Key West, Port Orleans, and Coronado Springs!

Mini Golf – There are two courses here: Winter Summerland (close to Blizzard Beach, in the Animal Kingdom area) and Fantasia Gardens (EPCOT area). They are both $12 per child and $14 per adult.
Bowling – Located in Downtown Disney, Splitsville just opened up. As far as the theming of this place goes, Adam Rucker might say it’s “pretty cool.”

Catch a Movie – Also in Downtown Disney, theres a considerably impressive AMC theater! Regular theater tickets are similarly priced to what you’ll find back home, with night time rates like $15 for an adult and $11 for a child. There’s also the option of doing a dinner/movie combo at their Fork & Screen Dine-InTheater. (They also serve alcohol, yum yum!)

I must have missed something great! Come on, tell me about it in the comments below!

Angie Carreiro


About The Modern Mouse Crew

Modern Mouse Radio is a multimedia Disney fan site run by Josh Taylor and put together by a crew of amazing individuals. Check us out. You won't be disappointed.

Posted on July 22, 2013, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I could spend all day just touring the different resorts. 🙂

  2. Totally made the same mistake about the buses! We had 8:00 AM reservations at 1900 Park Fare for breakfast and were going to Animal Kingdom afterwards, so we just decided to hop on a bus to Animal Kingdom and then switch. Little did we know that the only buses running that early were to the Magic Kingdom since Magic Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours that morning. After watching three buses go by, we finally figured it out!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: