One reason to consider staying at a Disney resort is the free Disney World benefit- good even at the parks. One of the reasons I don’t recommend the Swan and Dolphin is the parking fee. Luckily, I have two simple free Disney World parking hacks that get you free Disney World parking.
Parking at Disney Springs is free and frequent shuttle buses go to the parks via the resort hotels.
Even better, Disney Springs now has buses directly to and from the parks after 4PM.
Tips and Tricks for Free Disney World Parking at each Park
To get to a specific park your best bet will be to take the shuttle from Disney Springs to the hotels within walking or monorail/boat distance of your desired park:
- Magic Kingdom or Epcot front entrance: Take a bus to Polynesian, Grand Floridian, or Contemporary than take the monorail. You can also walk from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom.
- Epcot World Showcase or Hollywood Studios: Take a bus to the Swan/Dolphin, Boardwalk, or Beach/Yacht Club. Any of those will get you within walking or a short ferry distance.
- Animal Kingdom: Animal Kingdom Lodge is the closest, but there’s nothing within walking distance so just change buses.
A similar way to accomplish the same result: park at Disney Springs and walk over the footbridge to one of the Disney Springs hotels. The buses from there go directly to and from the parks. They start an hour before opening.
Yes, you’ll add a few minutes each way, but you’ll be taking a tram to and from your parking space anyway so might as well bus it and save $25. If you’re leaving at closing, the buses to Disney Springs might actually be less crowded than the parking lot trams. I understand this isn’t for everyone- but if $25/day is a budget buster, the extra time might be worth it.
A less crowded but also less convenient alternative: the water parks and mini golf courses. The buses from the water parks aren’t as frequent as their hours are limited. There’s also parking at the Boardwalk but that lot can fill up so I wouldn’t recommend it for all day.
Eat and Park for Free
Another easy free parking hack is to have a meal at a Disney World Resort hotel and park there for free. This works especially well if you plan your meal at one of the monorail resorts for Magic Kingdom or Epcot or one of the Boardwalk area resorts for Epcot or Hollywood Studios. For breakfast the clear choice is Kona Cafe in the Polynesian- although that one might be hard to secure a reservation. Two of my favorites for lunch- The Wave in the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian Cafe – pretty much always have availability. You can have the reservation anytime in the day. Just show the guard your reservation and you’ll get right in to the hotel lot. Note that I’m not recommending a fake reservation as you’ll get charged- plan for the meal. The food is really good and it’s a nice break from park fare. The rules technically state you get three hours free parking but I’ve never heard of this being enforced.