Don’t overpay for your park tickets!
When it comes to buying tickets for Walt Disney World, I have good news and bad news. First some good news: there are a bunch of ways to save money on theme park tickets!
Now some bad news: tickets are likely going to be the single biggest expense of your trip. They are downright pricey at $335 for a 5-day adult ticket. And a little more bad news… the discounts you can get aren’t huge. But don’t worry, there is one more piece of good news. You will get incredible value from the money you spend on tickets to Walt Disney World, as there is real bang for your buck in the parks! In this post I’ll share seven different ways you can save on your tickets to the theme parks of Walt Disney World (WDW).
#1 Don’t Buy More Ticket Than You Need
First, here are some ticket basics. A base ticket to Walt Disney World is called a “Magic Your Way” ticket. It lets you enter one park (and one park only) each day for a particular number of days. From there, you can add on the “Park Hopper” option (which allows you to visit more than one park on a single day) and/or the “Water Park Fun & More” option (which gives you a number of visits to the Disney Water Parks, DisneyQuest, or the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.)
I almost always recommend sticking with the Magic Your Way base ticket as opposed to adding on any options. Here’s why: adding the Park Hopper option to any 4-day or more ticket costs $64 ($50 for a 2 or 3 day ticket), but adding an additional day to a 3-day or more ticket costs about $10. So if you want an extra half day visit to the Magic Kingdom, just add one more day to your ticket and go for part of your arrival or departure day. Your price difference will be $54 per ticket by doing this, which adds up to a savings of $216 for a family of four, and you will get just as much time in the parks.
Alternatively, adding the Water Parks Fun & More option will set you back $64. But a one-day ticket to the Water Parks is $53-$58 (depending on the season). So unless you plan to visit a Disney Water Park for multiple days, or want to check out both a Water Park and DisneyQuest, steer clear of this add-on as well.
So, for most visitors, the base Magic Your Way ticket offers the best value and plenty of options for visiting the theme parks on your own schedule. If you were planning a 5-night, 6-day trip to Disney World, I would recommend either a 5- or 6-day Magic Your Way ticket. Not because I think you should spend 6 full days in the theme parks (goodness no!), but because it offers you the chance to visit the parks at a more leisurely pace for half days instead of trying to go commando-style, park-hopping from dusk til dawn.
#2 Buy Discounted Tickets From a Trusted Ticket Broker
If I am not getting tickets as part of a Disney vacation package (such as a free dining package), then I always buy tickets through Undercover Tourist. Why? To save money, of course. 🙂
I suggest using Undercover Tourist because they are reputable and almost always offer the best ticket discounts around. I have bought tickets from one other broker in the past for a slightly lower price, but then had all kinds of problems with the email delivery of the voucher. You are better off sticking with a well-established business such as Undercover Tourist.
The prices on the Disney website for park tickets do not include tax. These prices can be misleading as the tax rate is a significant 6.5%. Prices on the Undercover Tourist site include taxes and shipping, so what you see is the total cost you’ll pay for your tickets.
If you are buying anything from a 3 day ticket to a 10 day ticket, you can save around $10 -$30 per ticket just by buying your tickets ahead of time through the Undercover Tourist website. Though this isn’t a huge savings, it can add up to over $100 for a family of four, and any little bit helps when it comes to park tickets.Order your tickets at least 3 weeks before your trip in case they take longer than usual to arrive in the mail. If you are only buying a 1 or 2 day ticket, buy them from Disney as they will be slightly cheaper.
Alternatively, if you are a AAA member, you might be able to get a discount on certain tickets. I called my local AAA office and they confirmed that they did have discounted Disney World tickets for sale. When I compared their prices with those of Undercover Tourist, the only ticket that significantly differed in price was a 3-day base ticket. AAA offered this ticket for $8.15 less than Undercover Tourist’s prices, so a savings of $32.60 for a family of four. If that is the ticket type you want or if you prefer to get your tickets through AAA, try giving your local office a call. I have read that not every local AAA office has these tickets available, though I can’t confirm that myself.
#3 Buy Tickets Before the Annual Price Increase
Did you know that Disney theme park tickets never expire? When you buy a ticket, you can hold onto it for years before you use it. Once you use it for the first time, you have 14 days to use up all of your “days”.
As you could probably guess, ticket prices rise reliably each year. In recent years, Disney hasn’t even waited a year before raising prices. If you know that you will be going to Disney, a money-saving tip is to buy tickets for an upcoming trip before ticket prices increase. Most people plan a trip to Disney well in advance. If you know you are taking a trip in November, yet ticket prices are going to rise in May, buy your tickets before the price increase to save anywhere from $4 to $20 per ticket. You can stay on top of when ticket prices rise by signing up for email alerts from Undercover Tourist here. Or just follow this blog and I will be sure to let you know when ticket prices are going to increase!
#4 Consider Special Event Tickets for Shorter Trips
One frustrating aspect of visiting the parks during a shorter trip is that 1-day and 2-day park tickets are so darn expensive per day. Prices don’t start to drop much below $100/day until you hit the 4-day and up mark. Obviously this is to encourage folks to make longer visits, but that’s just not possible for everyone. If you are planning a short trip anytime from September through December, you may want to consider buying a ticket for one of the special events held at the Magic Kingdom during those months.
On select evenings in September and October, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is held at the Magic Kingdom. It is a “hard-ticketed” event, which means you need a special ticket to enter the park – these tickets start at $72. Most main attractions are open, plus the party features parades, stage shows, character meet and greets, complimentary food and more. The official time for the party is from 7 p.m. to midnight, though many folks don’t know that you can actually enter the Magic Kingdom any time after 4 pm with your special event ticket.
So you can get a full eight hours in the magic Kingdom during the party (if you can hang until midnight) with much lower crowds than normal. Plus, with 1-day Magic Kingdom tickets now around $115 each, you’ll save over $40 per person by visiting during the party. That would save you $170 for a family of four which is pretty significant!
In November and December Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a similar hard-ticketed event, takes place in the Magic Kingdom. Tickets to this popular event start at $78. I plan on taking my daughter to one of these at some point when she is a bit older and we can make a short trip down during the fall or winter. These events are a great way to save on park admission if you are a frequent visitor, want to spend some time in the Magic Kingdom, and don’t want to cough up $115 for a 1-day pass.
#5 Take Your Kids Before They Turn Three
Our almost-three-year-old having the time of her life at Disney World
Being the world’s #1 family vacation destination, it is not surprising that Disney World caters to families with young children. While many entertainment venues start charging admission when kids turn two years old (some even start when they turn one!), you can take your little ones to the Disney theme parks for free up until their third birthday. Many families take advantage of this policy and plan a trip right before their child turns three!
We did this ourselves and it was one of our favorite trips. You don’t have to show any proof of age when taking the little ones into the parks as Disney operates on the honor system. So if you want to take your kiddo on his/her first trip to Disney World during the toddler or preschool years, I suggest doing so just prior to junior’s third birthday to save yourself a few hundred dollars.
#6 If You Qualify, Take Advantage of the Best Discounts
The best discounts that Disney offers on park tickets are for Florida residents and members of the Armed Forces. If you are a Florida resident, check out all of the discounts available here, which include discounted Magic Your Way base tickets through discounted annual passes.
If you are an active or retired member of our military, first of all, thank you for your service. Second, you can get a fantastic discount on Disney World park tickets for yourself, your family or friends. Until 12/19/2016, military members can get up to six 4-day Park Hopper tickets for only $208 each (regularly $393). You can read all of the details here. If you have a friend or family member who qualifies for the discount, let him/her know. They may be up for a trip and may be willing to get you some discounted tickets, too!
#7 Get a slight discount on Annual Passes (and other tickets)
If you are going to make more than two visits to Walt Disney World within a year’s time, then investing in a Annual Pass is the way to go. Prices of Annual Passes have skyrocketed in the past few years, passes now close to $800 each. However, if you are a Florida resident or Disney Vacation Club member, the price drops to around $580.
If you don’t qualify for either of those discounts but still want to save a little on the cost of an annual pass, here is a rogue trick for you. It involves upgrading a park ticket that you bought at a discount to an annual pass, thereby holding on to the discount you received on the ticket. You see, Disney has a policy called “price bridging”, which means that if you upgrade a ticket after you use it at least one time, you will pay the difference between the gate prices of the two tickets.
So if you buy a 3-day park hopper that is $27 off the gate price from Undercover Tourist, use it once to enter the park, then head to Guest Services and upgrade it to an annual pass, you will save $27 off the price of an annual pass. While that isn’t much (especially considering the cost of the pass), I’d rather put that money towards a nice dinner, wouldn’t you?
I have used this strategy in the past and it worked beautifully. Buy the ticket that is most discounted on Undercover Tourist, use it once, then upgrade to the ticket you really want, whether it be an annual pass or just adding extra days.
Well, I hope you found at least one trick that you can actually use to save money on park tickets to the most magical place on Earth! Any questions? Please leave a comment below!