There are some not-so-hidden costs that you don’t always think about when planning a Disney vacation. Tipping your servers, your Mousekeepers, and parking fees all fall into this area. One of our favorite Disney World parking secrets actually is going to cost you more money- but we think it’s worth it! Here’s why you may want to consider upgrading to Disney preferred parking on your next Disney World trip. Affiliate links may be included in this post.
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Disney World Parking Secrets
Disney World parking is a source of contention for those who drive to the parks.
Huge parking lots with so many cars- and there’s not always a tram available (more on this in a bit).
So what are the Disney World parking secrets you need to know?
We have a few that can help make getting into and out of the Disney World parking lots a little easier!
First some Disney parking basics.
Do You Pay For Parking If Staying At The Disney Resorts?
NOT ANY MORE!
Just announced: Starting January 10, 2023 hotel resort guests will not be charged for parking during their hotel stay.
This is a much-desired reversal to an unpopular change that began in 2019.
Disney World hotels started charging a nightly fee back in 2019.
Parking costs at a Walt Disney World Resort varied depending on where you stayed.
As of January 9, 2023 the rates were:
- Value Resort Parking Fee: $15 per night
- Moderate Resort Parking Fee: $20 per night
- Deluxe Resort Parking Fee: $25 per night
But starting January 10, parking a car at a Walt Disney World Resort is once again FREE and included in the price of your hotel stay.
Disney World Parking Secrets: Stay Using DVC Points For Free Parking
You can also get free resort parking if you are booked using Disney Vacation Club membership points.
And if you are not a DVC member, you can rent points (and get that free parking!) by reaching out to rental companies such as David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
How Much Is Theme Park Parking At Disney World
If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, you do not have to pay for theme park parking. It is included with your stay.
If you have an Annual Pass, parking fees at the theme parks are also waived. This is part of your Annual Pass perks.
For all other guests, Disney World charges $25 a day to park at their theme parks.
While adding $25 per day may not sound desirable, the good news is you will only pay it once per day if you park hop.
Visit A Theme Park Late In The Evening? The Parking May Be Free (Disney World Parking Secrets)
Disney parking tip: keep your parking receipt and show it at the turnstiles when you hop to another park later that day.
If you’ve paid once, you will not be asked to pay for parking again.
But if you happen to park hop much later in the evening, you may even score completely free parking.
Disney World sends cast members home after a certain time (no set time; it will vary by day). You may pull into a parking ticket booth to find it dark and empty: go ahead and enjoy that free Disney World Parking!
This only happens at the end of the evening, generally about an hour before the theme park closes.
Can You Park At Disney Springs For Free And Still Visit A Theme Park? Disney Parking Tips
We’ve seen this Disney World parking hack float around online.
Yes, you can, but trust us: YOU DO NOT WANT TO.
This falls into the “just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should” Disney parking tips. But there’s also a very good reason NOT to attempt this method.
In order to skip Disney’s theme park parking fees, some guests park at the Disney Springs garages for free parking.
Then they wait for a Disney Resort Bus to pick them up and drop them off at one of the hotels on property. Then they use resort transportation to get to the theme parks (another bus, ferry, boat, Skyliner or Monorail).
While, yes, this is a 100% free way of getting to a Disney park, it will take you 2-3 hours to accomplish unless you are really lucky. We’re not exaggerating.
On paper it looks like it wouldn’t take long to move from points A to B to C, but the reality is very different.
Disney transportation takes a big chunk of time out of your day.
And remember: that will have to be repeated to get back to your car at Disney Springs when your theme park day is done.
Honestly, it’s not worth it- we promise. Your theme park time is valuable so go ahead and pay for parking.
At the end of the night, you’ll thank us for this advice.
Disney World Parking Secrets: Pay For The Disney Preferred Parking Upgrade
Our favorite Disney parking hack is to go ahead and upgrade your parking to the preferred locations, especially if you are arriving mid-morning.
We don’t think you need to do this at every park, but at two of them, it can be a huge time (and energy!) saver.
Here’s what you need to know about Disney’s preferred parking.
How Much Does Preferred Parking Cost?
Preferred parking will cost $45 to $50 per day.
The rate may vary and is dependent upon the season.
When you pull up to the parking ticket booth, just let the Cast Member know you’d like preferred parking.
They’ll provide you a pass and instruct you to turn your hazard lights on and follow the next Cast Member’s directions.
Do Annual Passholders Or Resort Guests Get A Discount on Preferred Parking?
While it’s not a true discount, you will pay less than $45-50 that the day guests will be charged.
Since Annual Passholders and Disney resort guests get free standard parking, they can pay the difference to upgrade to preferred parking.
This will be $20-25 per day depending on the season and or day-to-day availability.
When we visited in November 2022, we paid $25 one day and $20 another.
Where Is Disney’s Preferred Parking Located?
You will be directed to a section of the parking lot that is closer to the entry of each theme park.
At Magic Kingdom, you will be able to walk to the Ticket and Transportation Center within 2-3 minutes, max.
At Epcot, you are going to be in the first 10-20 rows of cars on the right hand side of the entry plaze.
Hollywood Studios parks you in close proximity to the Skyliner and bus drop off area.
And at Animal Kingdom, you will be close to the right hand walkway that brings you to security.
How Close Is Preferred Parking At Disney World?
It depends on a little luck, but we found Hollywood Studios and Epcot’s preferred parking locations to be very close to the entrance.
Is Preferred Parking At Disney World Worth It?
We think so, especially if you plan to park hop.
One of the Disney parking secrets we learned when upgrading to the Disney preferred parking is that you can score great preferred parking when you park hop.
Remember: you only have to purchase parking once per day at Disney. And this is the same with your preferred parking pass.
The folks who bought it early in the morning often leave by 2 pm, which means those front rows are just waiting for you and your preferred parking pass!
We also think preferred parking at Disney World is worth it if you are visiting two parks in particular: Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
Why these parks?
Because the parking trams have still not returned to these parking lots.
Walking to and from the car from the far corners of those parking lots will add miles (yes, miles!) to your day. This tends to happen if you arrive at the theme parks mid-morning.
With a tram, it’s not a problem.
But in the two parks without trams, at closing time you will be regretting your choices on that very long hike back to the car.
Our biggest Disney parking tip:
Go ahead and buy the Disney preferred parking if you plan to spend all day in the parks: it’s totally worth it at the end of the night!
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Patty Holliday has been running Disney since 2011. She knows just about every tip, trick, and hack there is to cover the runDisney Magical Miles at Disney World and Disneyland. She knows every mile isn’t *always* magical- but with training, tips, and a little bit of pixie dust, they can be a lot of fun! You can also find her at noguiltlife.com and noguiltfangirl.com