Free souvenirs anyone? A guide to finding freebies at Walt Disney World
Written by Amanda Jenkins
Being the mother of young boys, traveling to Walt Disney World can cost more than initially planned. One does plan on the price of accommodations, dining, and travel. And then...you find yourself at the end of the ride surrounded by toys. Your children's pitiful eyes look up at you pleading for that Mickey Mouse dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi because, "I need that Mickey Mouse Kenobi." What do you do? One thing we plan on is that we do not allow our children to get any toys until they have seen all that there is. We then allow them to only get one item each day as long as it is something that cannot be purchased at home. Needless to say, Obi-Wan Mickey came home with us. But there is a silver lining to souvenirs at Disney World. Not everything special has to be purchased. There are free souvenirs that are just as special and exciting as a stuffed Mickey Mouse dressed in a new outfit.
Do your children love Disney transportation? If you approach the cast members working at any transportation station and ask, you will be given a set of cards. There are cards with Disney characters and the different modes of transportation on them. Our boys looked forward to our monorail, bus, and boat rides more so this past trip due to the excitement of the new cards they might possibly receive. Our boys actually asked to ride the "friendships" more than once between Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios in hopes of getting more ship cards. Even my husband and I were curious to see what we might get.
Though it is not something I relish, riding upon the Tomorrrowland Speedway with your children will give them something they will enjoy showing to everyone they meet---a driver's license. Thankfully it does only allow the young driver to legally drive at the Magic Kingdom's speedway. Our eldest, who is eight years old, tried to convince us since he passed this driving test he could most likely drive when we came back home.
Our favorite of all the free souvenirs though are the two diplomas one can receive while enjoying the parks. The first is easier to achieve. At the Magic Kingdom, your young ones can be a part of Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial. The times sheet you pick up along with your park map will let you know the different times you can join Jack's crew. This show is across from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. We have seen and been a part of this three times. The show originally was to the side with only a rope and Jack walking around. Happily, Jack and a fellow crew member now have a stage. The rope is still a divider, but now it also allows a Disney photographer to snap pictures of all that is happening. Even if your child is not initially picked to go on stage, they all will be able to join Jack Sparrow on the stage and swear the pirate oath. They are handed their diplomas and you are handed a special Photopass pirate card with all the pictures of the tutorial upon it. This past trip was our six year old son's first time to join Jack Sparrow's crew. He is still quite proud of this and even let his stuffed Captain Jack Sparrow Mickey look at the diploma.
The next place to receive a special diploma is through the Jedi Training Academy at Disney's Hollywood Studios. If your child is like mine and loves Star Wars, then this is a very fun event that is free! For your best chance for your children to be a part of this, one needs to go first thing to sign up their children. Time slots go quickly. In December, we arrived at the park opening. While my husband rushed to get some Toy Story Midway Mania Fastpasses, the boys and I rushed to the side of the American Idol Experience. Next to it and a drink/souvenir area is an opening with a small sign for the Jedi Training Academy. The line was already quite full. While waiting, there is a large screen that plays Disney cartoons, mostly Disney Junior ones. When we finally got up to the front to sign up, our time slot was for 3:45pm. I had arrived in line at 9:05am, moved through the line within 35 minutes and received this time. It is highly popular. You must return 30 minutes before your allotted time. If you do not, your time slot will be given to a hopeful standby. Your children will be given (just for the show) a Jedi robe and lightsaber.
It is something to watch them line up with their lightsabers and walk proudly toward the stage by Star Tours. Here again, during the show, there is a Disney Photopass photographer taking pictures of the entire show. Your children will each get to face off with Darth Vader (on the weekends and during peak season, Darth Maul is also there to battle with a group at the foot of the stage). After they have sent the Lord of the Sith away in defeat, they line up to receive their diplomas. Once you are given your special Jedi Photopass card, you can take it to one of the Photopass stops at DHS to edit out those you do not want. I recommend doing this unless you want a headache of going through over two hundred pictures to find those of your children. I decided to skip Disney editing and got the lovely job of going through those pictures once we were home.
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