How To Park For Free At Disney World Theme Parks And Why We Didn’t

how to get free parking at disney worldAs we were about to embark on our recent trip to Disney World, I decided to research parking options.

I was shocked to find out that it costs $17 a day to park at each of the four Disney World theme parks, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.

Luckily, I found out a way to get free parking and still make it to the theme parks, but we didn’t take advantage of it.

How to Park for Free at Disney World Theme Parks

Even though Disney charges you $17 per day to park a car at each of their four theme parks in Orlando, Florida, there is a way to get free parking at Disney World.

Essentially, you park your car at their shopping area, currently called Downtown Disney (which will soon be rebranded to Disney Springs). It is currently 100% free to park at Downtown Disney.

Once you arrive at Downtown Disney, you’ll need to take one of the Disney transportation buses to one of the Disney hotel resorts. Technically you have to be a resort guest to use the transportation, but they never check to see if you really are or not when you board or exit the bus. Once at the resort, simply hop off the bus and wait for a bus to the theme park you want to go to.

If you decided to go to a resort on the monorail system, (The Grand Floridian, The Contemporary or The Polynesian Resorts) you can simply hop on the monorail to head to the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT without taking a second bus.

So why pay for parking when you can park for free? I’m glad you are wondering, because we have very good reasons for paying $17 a day for four days to park at Disney World.

Why We Paid $17 a Day to Park at Disney World

Despite the fact that we could have parked for free, we paid $68 over four days to park at each of the four Disney World theme parks. This was money well spent in our opinion and we wouldn’t have done it any other way.

First, by paying to park at each of the theme parks, we were able to cut down our total travel time drastically. If we went to each of the theme parks via Downtown Disney we could have easily added 2 hours or more of travel time each day.

Of course, it could have been much less, but I figure an hour each way would have been a minimum travel time.Β We would have been totally reliant on the bus system which doesn’t run on a set schedule. If we missed a bus, we could have to wait a while before the next bus showed up.

Sometimes Downtown Disney opens up after the theme parks do, so we wouldn’t be able to show up until well after opening which is the best time to go on rides due to short lines. We didn’t want to miss out on that awesome time each morning.

We also wanted our car close by so we could store items in our car and retrieve them throughout the day. We kept my wife’s camera in the car when we went on rides, but we went out to the car to get her camera afterward so she could take pictures of the the highlights of each theme park.

We could have paid for a locker, instead, but we didn’t want to lug all of our stuff around on the buses and then risk something happening to it in a locker that Disney claims no liability over.

As you can see, we thought out our decision to pay $68 for four days of Disney World parking pretty seriously and we decided it was money well spent. Hopefully you now can make your own decision next time you drive to Disney and stay in a hotel off of the Disney World Resort.

What would you have done? Would you have paid for parking or taken the long way and gotten free parking? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by: danuv Text added by: Lance Cothern

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. My aunt’s family just went to the Disney World last weekend! If I were in your place, for sure, I will also do the same. I will definitely pay $17 a day, in that way, it’s more convenient rather than riding a Disney transportation bus.

    • Hah, maybe I saw them there! The buses are a great deal if you are staying on the Disney resort as they pick you up right from your hotel and you don’t even have to worry about driving. However, if you stay off resort it would definitely be a pain just to get free parking.

  2. Hi, Lance! First time commenting here, thanks for sharing your insights!
    Totally agree with the $17 convenience value. I just cannot think of myself or my family making several trips a day from the park to the car. When we went to Disney World last December it was so packed that we had to park like a thousand miles away from the entrances. Besides, we were so immersed that we just didn’t want to get any real world contact until the day was gone πŸ™‚
    A light backpack (and lots of planning) saved our lives these days!
    Thanks for the tip!

    • We didn’t have any kids with us so that made it a LOT easier. We had a backpack for most of our supplies, but we only went out to get the camera and put it away once we were done doing all of the rides. Luckily we were in off season so it wasn’t too crowded.

  3. I think you made the right choice considering the options available and your reasoning behind the tradeoff between time and money. As long as you had it budgeted, then it should have been no issue at all. And, quite honestly, as someone who has (and will again later) be relying the transportation buses from our Disney resort to the parks, it’s very much appreciated that you didn’t bypass the rules. Having a bus show up, only to be full is very irritating, and that might be avoided if people were following the rules. I’m glad you did πŸ™‚

    • Haha yup I have stayed on resort before, but this time we stayed with a friend about 30 minutes from Disney. I never had problems with the buses being full, but I never go during peak season either.

  4. I would definitely pay for the parking, especially with children riding along. If I was alone, I definitely wouldn’t mind or you could possibly drop them off, but that just makes everything a bit more complicated.

  5. I have to agree with the logic you used to support the decision to spend on the parking. I believe in making smart frugal decisions so when saving a little money on vacation takes a bit away from the experience or plans I would go with spending the small amount of cash when compared to what it costs to get there.

    • Definitely. Glad you agree πŸ™‚ Even if you didn’t, I’d still be OK with that because we were happy with our decision and ultimately that is what matters.

  6. Amber Cardamone says:

    We were there in November 2015 and parking at the parks is actually $20 now! We stayed offsite and the resort had shuttle service to the parks but we could manage to catch the first shuttle and the next one was at 1030am which was way too late so we drove every day… cost $140 in parking! Although with our two children being 2&4 it was worth it to have the car close at the end of the night!

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