Everyone visiting Walt Disney World will at some point typically need a ticket in order to enter the parks. Of course, there are many guests that simply enjoy the resorts and never set foot in the parks, but that’s a scenario and story (which I’ve experienced first hand at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter resort.) for another day. Disney World park tickets are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ve thatkfully found a few workarounds and best case scenarios that will minimize ticket costs and create a more budget friendly Disney ticket buying situation. As always, your mileage may vary utilizing these recommendations, but you can save money on Walt Disney World tickets in 2018 and 2019 utilizing these helpful hints and special offers.
Is a “Magic Your Way” Vacation Package Your Best Option?
The answer to this question regarding Disney World tickets is going to vary vastly from case to case. Sometimes Disney themselves will offer unique theme park ticket and resort accommodation combination offers that are worth their weight in gold. However, when they do create these specific combination deals, you almost always have to book your vacation as a package. By doing so, Disney largely guarantees that you will purchase everything from them and eliminate the “middle man.” However, something you may want to consider is that these deals can sometimes be beneficial monetarily, but other times may end up costing you more money that alternative options.
The first thing I recommend every individual looking to book a WDW vacation ask themselves is, “Can I get this cheaper elsewhere?” While these combination offers are great in a majority of circumstances, take a few minutes to look at other options before jumping on Disney’s package offer. Head over to Disney’s site and see what the best combination price you can find may be, no matter if it is discounted or not, and then head to a third party site like the Official Ticket Center, or even consult a travel agency, and compare your overall costs of each portion of the vacation expenses. Look into stand alone tickets, look at dining plan vs no dining plan, and compare each portion of the costs individually to develop the most cost effective vacation experience you can piece together.
Disney’s vacation packages are definitely an easy and convenient avenue, but in some instances it may not be the most cost effective option. Reach out to those in the industry with experience (Travel Agencies, Bloggers, Me, Friends, and Family) and see what saved them money. You may be surprised with some of the answers they come up with.
What About A Disney World Annual Pass?
Annual passes are really an animal all of their own. For most guests they’re a bit overkill when booking a family vacation, if I’m being completely straight forward with you. At one point I was a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder, and likely will be again in the near future, but we live in Kentucky. We do have the opportunity to travel to the parks quite frequently, which is wonderful, but certain years make the annual pass a better opportunity for us that other years. For example, last year we went to Walt Disney World in December and then returned for the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, we had not planned our July trip until after we had returned from our December trip. As a result, we did not buy annual passes. However, in hind site we certainly should have bought AP’s because we gave away some money in not doing so.
As a rule of thumb, an annual pass will save you money if you intend to spend at least 4 days in the parks within one calendar year on two separate occasions. A 4 day park hopper ticket will typically cost you around $480 and a platinum annual pass will cost you $894. If you do the math, you’ll realize you could potentially save a lot of money just by going ahead and buying the full annual pass.
Of course, there is one main caveat to that great plan (isn’t there always a catch?) and that is the initial cost of the annual passes. They are not cheap in any way shape or form and most guests will not have the means necessary to buy 4 or more annual passes for a typical family on top of the costs associated with the resort accommodations. However, there is one solution to the issue this presents. If you plan far enough in advance and book a vacation package through Disney, you have the option to upgrade your packaged tickets to an annual pass before you leave your resort and all it costs you is the difference in price. By doing this, you not only save yourself the financial burden of throwing a large sum on a credit card or other payment form all at once, but also allow yourself to take advantage of the package cancellation policy (explained below) that does not apply to stand alone tickets. There’s also a discount on Disney annual pass renewals when yours inevitably expires the following year.
Is it Cheaper to Buy From Official Disney Resellers?
Personally, I’ve heard this question time after time. To be quite honest with you, when you compare across the board one day tickets, the benefits of booking from a reseller aren’t that pronounced. The benefits really reveal themselves when you either book multi-day tickets or if you are buying tickets for larger groups and the small savings really starts to build exponentially due to the number of guests. You receive the same discount, but a $2 saving for four guests amounts to $8 total, where as a $2 savings for 50 people accounts for $100 saved.
If you’re booking a longer stay, you’ll want to consider Disney authorized ticket sellers. For example, occasionally The Official Ticket Center offers a 5th day free when purchasing a 4 day park hopper or base ticket. Disney rarely makes that same offer on their own, but it will save you money if it works for your vacation strategy and length of stay.
As always, there are many other authorized ticket resellers (Undercover Tourist, etc.) and many will push out comparable offers to help create sales. You will be purchasing the same ticket you would have bought from Disney, but simply at a discounted price.
Which WDW Tickets to Buy?
The reality of the entire ticket buying situation is that your needs may or may not align with certain offers and ticket buying scenarios. Personally that is why I recommend a good travel agency. Notice how I said a “good” travel agency. No travel agent should ever ask you to pay them for their services in my opinion. A vast majority of the time, agents work with Disney and other organizations to drive revenue through commissions. If an agent asks for money up front, you should take your business elsewhere or really consider doing so unless you have a special reaction to that individual. I mean no disrespect to anyone who offers such a paid service, but it’s not in the guests best interest to book with a paid for travel agency booking when they could go elsewhere for no additional cost at all. A quote request form for my personally recommended agency is below this article, but I would feel comfortable booking with any authorized Disney vacation planner. They go through this ticket buying process daily and know the ins and outs of the best situation available for your vacation timeframe and can typically figure out exactly what works best for you.
In regards to length of stay and ticket length, I recommend first time and returning resort guests purchase a Disney 5 day park hopper ticket at a minimum. The Walt Disney World Theme Parks are vast and to be quite honest, there is no way to see and do it all. I haven’t seen it all and I’ve been touring the parks for 19+ years. A five day ticket gives you the opportunity to see each park for at least one full day, plus it gives you the opportunity to return to any park on your last day to revisit favorite attractions or dining locations. Some of our top plans for touring the parks can be found here on the site and may be able to help you out (Each of these touch on different resort lengths of stay and even a few ways to save money along the way.)
Additionally, a park hopper is a must-do add-on in my humble opinion. With the park hopper option, you can start your day at Animal Kingdom for Pandora, then when you wrap that up, you can head over to Magic Kingdom to view Happily Ever After that night. It truly frees up a world of opportunities during your vacation and creates an unrestricted park touring experience. Personally, this plays into our dining process more that anything. We love eating at Epcot and Magic Kingdom (especially during Flower and Garden Festival) so we start our day early at one park then head to a second park for a meal or a few attractions. The combinations are endless. If you’re new to Walt Disney World, trust me on this one, it’s worth the extra money, especially during longer stays for a majority of guests.
Beware of Fraudulent Disney World Ticket Scams!
This is a key point when buying anything regarding Walt Disney World tickets. Disney parks ticket scams are everywhere! Everyone is trying to make a buck off of the internet now a days and theme park guests are taking a hit from it in a big way. Every year, some type of big scam gets shut down for selling fake Disney tickets to unknowing guests. My greatest recommendations out of this entire article are to never buy a ticket from anyone that does not proudly place the Authorized Disney Ticket Seller Badge on their site or within their retail location, never buy a Disney ticket off of eBay or Craig’s list, and avoid any deal that seems too good to be true (because it is). If you arrive at the gates of the park and your ticket does not work and Disney finds out that it is a fake, they honestly will not care if you knowingly bought a fake ticket or not.
Stay Longer to Decrease Daily Disney Ticket Costs
Disney created a plan years ago that rewarded guests who stayed longer with variably decreasing daily ticket costs for longer stay lengths. Many believe it was a ploy to keep guests from venturing beyond the “Disney bubble” to other parks in the area, and honestly it has truly worked in their favor.
A one day ticket to Walt Disney World seems increasingly expensive at first glance. However, after you reach a 3+ day ticket, the daily costs start to decline as a result of a longer stay. As a result, the cost of an extra day moving from a 9 day ticket to a 10 day ticket is a tiny (in the grand scheme of things) $10. Of course, while you are talking $540 vs. $550 at that point, which is a large sum of money overall, I’d gladly pay $10 for even a few extra hours in a park. The additional day costs aren’t always that cheap but it is always the case for a 7+ plus day park ticket.
Long story short, if you want to plan a vacation, consider what it will cost you by comparison to head to Universal or Seaworld (or even Discovery Cove – As much as we loved that experience!) before you miss out on an additional day at Walt Disney World for much less money spent.
Consider the Cancellation Policy When Buying WDW Tickets
As mentioned above, this is the one key factor to consider when buying any tickets. Tickets bought in a package, booked through Disney or an authorized travel agency, are granted the same cancellation policy as the package itself. By contrast, and likely the most influential point in this article, tickets purchased as stand alone tickets cannot be refunded. Even if you purchase those tickets through Disney, they will not be refunded.
Final Thoughts on Disney Theme Park Tickets
Hopefully this comparison of a vast variety of options and the realities of buying tickets at a discounted price has given you a better understanding of what all is available. One big factor to consider here in our parting thoughts for the day, is to buy your tickets as soon as you possibly can (with the exception of an Annual Pass. Wait and upgrade a ticket to one of those to avoid wasting days of the pass.). It doesn’t matter if you buy the tickets in a package or as a stand alone buying option from any source, buy early in order to lock in your best and most budget friendly price. Disney has been known to increase ticket prices once a year, and if you wait too late you will have to pay the extra costs. Some years it changes very little, but it has increased every year for as long as I can remember. The key to buying early is that if you already have your tickets bought, you will be grandfathered into the new rate structure without having to pay any more, no matter when your vacation falls in the calendar year. If you’re considering a water park day, be sure to look into the price of a stand alone water park day ticket price in addition to the Park Hopper Plus option. Depending on your length of stay, purchasing a water park ticket separately, if you know you will spend the entire day at the water park (which you likely will, they’re amazing), can be the cheaper option. Water park tickets cost less that park tickets, so avoid paying for the park portion of the ticket if it is going to cost you more. If you’re staying 5+ days, as we recommend above, it likely will not save you any money. If that’s the case, simply purchase the add on option and use the extra time in the parks to head to another park after the water park closes to view a nighttime spectacular or catch a few extra attractions before the day comes to a close.
There are a ton of variables in the ticket buying process, but choosing the correct options can vastly change the overall costs of your vacation. It may not be the most convenient option (unless booking through a Travel Agent which can compare them for you) but it is usually most cost effective to weigh the multitude of ticket buying scenarios. Every guest is different and expects a unique experience all of their own when touring Walt Disney World. I can’t tell you what’s best for your family, but hopefully this gets you in the right direction or gives you something to consider before your next trip! Thanks for reading, and have a great rest of the day! Enjoy this article? Be sure to join the Guide4WDW community!
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A few short years ago, I was sitting in a college apartment trying to figure out what was "next" and came up with this idea to share my accumulated knowledge of the Disney Parks and Resorts with others. The end goal was to help others make the most of their Disney experience and it's been quite the journey!