It seems like every day we’re talking about price increases at some of our favorite theme park destinations.
Ticket costs are continually on the rise – particularly at the Walt Disney World Resort – with day tickets and Annual Passes increasing in price alongside extras like Lightning Lane, Disney Genie+, dining, and merchandise. An Orlando vacation can be very pricey for a family after also factoring in a visit to the Universal Orlando Resort and other local attractions.
But did you know there are free theme park tickets out there, just waiting to be claimed? Well, here’s our handy guide to getting free entrance into Orlando’s theme parks – but only if you’re eligible.
Summer is fast approaching, and with it, comes school breaks and dream vacation planning. Orlando Florida has long been a hot destination for families during the summer break, and with new theme park experiences like TRON Lightcycle / Run, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and Illumination’s Villain-con Minion Blast, there’s no better time to plan a big theme park trip to Central Florida.
But before you do, make sure you know what ticket discounts you’re eligible for at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens, and SeaWorld. The availability of free theme park tickets may surprise you!
If you want to save big this summer on theme park tickets and have money left in your wallet for merchandise and fun dining experiences, then look no further than SeaWorld Orlando or Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
Admission is completely free – for those eligible. SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment has the Waves of Honor Complimentary Admission program, “a tribute to the men and women of the U.S. armed forces including active duty military, reserve soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen.”
Waves of Honor allows any United States Active Duty military, activated or drilling reservist, or National Guardsman to one complimentary admission per year to either SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, or Sesame Place for military personnel and as many as three direct dependents.
Service members and their dependents, of course, must have a valid active military ID in order to participate. Sadly, inactive, standby, and retired reserve members, military retirees, U.S. Merchant Marine, and civilian Department of Defense workers are ineligible for the program.
To qualify for this free theme park ticket promotion, Guests must be registered with ID.me. The offer is valid for one Park and one visit only.
SeaWorld Parks and Resorts Orlando is made of the SeaWorld theme park, Discovery Cove, and Aquatica water park. The marine zoological park offers up-close animal encounters, thrilling roller coasters like Mako, Kraken, and Manta, and Orca Whale shows in its Shamu Stadium.
And all of this can be free on your next visit to Orlando!
Busch Gardens, an animal-themed safari theme park , is located about an hour’s drive from the Orlando area. Military members are still required to pay the $30 per vehicle parking fee.
Busch Gardens is renowned for its multiple roller coasters including Kumba, SheiKra, and the new Iron Gwazi hybrid coaster. The theme park also has a “family-style” thrill coaster themed around cheetahs called Cheetah Hunt, as well as two water rides — a river rafting ride and a classic log flume.
It is important to note that SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Universal Studios Resorts do not require Park reservations like their competitor Walt Disney World currently does.
Sadly there aren’t free theme park tickets offered at Universal Orlando or Walt Disney World (unless you’re a Cast Member), but they do offer some pretty decent Park ticket discounts.
Universal Orlando, featuring two theme parks (Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure), Volcano Bay water park, Universal CityWalk, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and the eagerly-awaited Epic Universe Park, also salutes the military.
Universal Orlando Resort offers active duty and retired United States service members the Military Freedom Pass Promotional Ticket, a ticket that works like an Annual Pass and is available for use every day through December 24, 2023.
The special military annual pass has blackout dates from April 3 to April 9, 2023. Guests can choose from 2-Park or 3-Park options and can purchase up to six promotional tickets. To activate the Freedom Pass, Guests must present a valid Military photo ID at any Universal Orlando theme park front gate ticket window. And best of all? These Freedom Passes for Universal Studios Orlando start at only $199.99!
Eligible Guests must present a current military or Department of Defense identification at any participating Authorized Military Ticket & Travel office to receive the offer, including Active Duty Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, Reservists, and their spouses, Retired Military service members and spouses, and
Department of Defense Civilians.
There may not be free tickets available for Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but there are some pretty good deals out there for military members and Florida residents.
Disney offers 4 and 5-Day Military Salute Tickets, available to purchase at U.S. Military Bases, Shades of Green, and Walt Disney World Resort theme park windows.
These are highly discounted rates on Walt Disney World tickets that offer a cheaper way to access attractions like TRON Lightcycle Run, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. The ticket price for this year is as follows:
5-Day Disney Military Salute Tickets
- With the Park Hopper Option: $369 plus tax
- With the Park Hopper Plus Option: $379 plus tax
4-Day Disney Military Salute Tickets
- With the Park Hopper Option: $349 plus tax
- With the Park Hopper Plus Option: $379 plus tax
Eligible Guests can purchase these discount Disney theme park tickets now through December 11, 2023, valid for visits from January 1, 2023, through December 15, 2023.
Florida residents can also get a discount Disney ticket, with a new limited-time 2-Day Disney Weekday Magic Ticket for $175 plus tax, or a 3-Day Disney Weekday Magic Ticket for $195 plus tax.
So, next time you’re planning a big family vacation to Orlando, remember to check for discounted tickets and perhaps even a free theme park ticket! Your next visit to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, SeaWorld, or Busch Gardens could be a lot cheaper!