Walt Disney World ticket advice: Which ticket to buy?
An updated version of this article is available! Here is the new version: Which Walt Disney World ticket should I buy?
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As Theme Park Insider readers reported on the Discussion Board over the weekend, Disney has raised its theme park prices. You're looking at a $3 increase on a one-day, one-park ticket at Walt Disney World (from $82 to $85) and a $4 increase on the same at Disneyland (from $76 to $80). Prices increase across the board from there.
(Ah, theme parks. The only thing that costs less in Southern California than Orlando.)
Disney says that its guest surveys show that visitors continue to see a Disney vacation as a good value. And at this point, I don't think that a modest increase in ticket prices is going to keep anyone from making a trip - though it might prompt a few more people to look for discounts. (Check out our ticket advice page for links to major parks' current ticket deals.)
But I did run the new numbers to see what advice I could offer on which tickets to buy, given your situation.
Here's the per-day cost of the various Walt Disney World Resort theme park admission tickets:
|Days||1 park per day||w/ Park Hopper||w/ No Expire||w/ Hopper and No Expire|
(Here's the link to the complete price list.)
Disney offers the "park hopper" option, allowing you to visit multiple theme parks on one admission day, for a flat $55 on any ticket you buy. So if you buy a one-day ticket, that inflates your cost from $85 to a staggering $140. But if you buy a 10-day ticket, adding the park hopper option adds just $5.50 a day to your ticket.
Adding the park hopper to a one-, two- or three-day ticket inflates the per-day cost of that ticket above the basic one-day, one-park rate. So if you're looking for the best possible deal on tickets, I'd suggest not adding the park hopper option unless you're staying at least five days at the Walt Disney World Resort. Most first-time visitors will opt for a four-day ticket, spending one day at each park. You don't need the park hopper option for that. Getting the most of a park hopper requires some "insider" knowledge of transportation between parks, as well as how crowded each park is at different times of day and days of the week, too. So it's not the best option for rookies. (Hang out around here and you'll pick up some of that knowledge, though!)
It's tempting to look at those low per-day prices on extended stay tickets and to think about buying the full 10 days, then saving your unused days for a future trip. But remember that your days will expire 14 days after you use the first day on the ticket, unless you pay extra for the "no expire" option.
Take a look at that column, and you see how you give back much of the savings on extended tickets with the no expire option. It makes no sense at all to add no expire to two- or three-day tickets, as it would be cheaper to just buy a one-day ticket for each day of your stay.
If you are thinking about the no-expire option, first think about the average number of days you visit Disney theme parks during your trips to Orlando. If you spend four days or fewer at Disney each time, then go ahead and buy the full 10-day ticket with no expire option. That will bring your per-day cost down to $51.60, as opposed to the $60.75 you'd spend per day on a four-day trip without the no-expire option. (You get a better price on park hoppers with no expire on trips of five days or fewer.) To me, it makes absolutely no sense to buy less than 10 days if you are adding the no-expire option. If you're tying up your money like that, you might as well get the lowest possible per-day rate on your tickets.
I wouldn't recommend buying long Disney World tickets simply as an inflation hedge. There are better places to save your money for that. But if you can get a significant per-day savings with a no expire ticket, go ahead.
Later today, I'll post my analysis of Disneyland ticket prices and advice on what to buy when you're visiting Southern California.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Walt Disney World tickets, in the comments.
More: Why Disney World's pricing structure ensures it will remain Orlando's theme park leader
I always suggest to people that are going and considering buying the park hopper to take the money for it, but don't purchase it till they need it. Many times I have seen friends get it, then never use it. This can save some big bucks if you don't use it, and adding it on can be done at anytime while the tickets are valid.
Great advice, Robert. I was looking at booking a trip just last week and didn't finalize it. Although checking now - either they already were factoring higher prices in the vacation planning tool - or they've yet to update that as the price is exactly the same as last Wednesday. So if you're on the fence - book now!
I read some comments on the Disney Blog concerning this, and most of them were negative. Logically, I wonder how people expect theme parks to not increase ticket sales, when everything else has increased in price. Theme parks are a business and what do businesses want? To make a profit. Why people get so defensive about this, I will never know. My advice to people who moan and groan over increases is this...don't buy a ticket. You don't have to. It isn't a necessity.
Nice point, Todd, though I would also point out that most people on a Dining Plan are visiting longer than four days, too.
I always suggest the Park Hopper. You never know if you're at Animal Kingdom (who has earlier closing hours) and finish up with hours left and want to spend a few more hours at a different park. Or to eat dinner at a country in Epcot.
A nice well written article Roberto..
I bought a 10 day no expiration with the water park fun and more option from a third party vendor when I heard prices were going up. IMHO it is a great savings as we usually spend about 5 days in the park so we will get two trips out of it (probably over an 15-18 month span so APs won't do) and we now have 10 waterpark($49 /day) or disney quest($43 /day) visits that never expire. The break even on the extra $55 for the WFM add on is just over 1 visit...Of course you need to be careful not to lose the tix. But the savings can be significant.
So is it just me, or did their annual price increase come earlier this year? Isn't it usually in August? Will this be the new ticket increase time or did Disney need some fast cash and decided to rope the summer crowd into this increase early?
We always take park hopper, and on our trip in May, we made copious use of it. Some days, we visited three parks in one day: one park in the morning, water park in the afternoon when it got too hot, and a third park at night. Another time, we switched to the Magic Kingdom after a day at EPCOT, to catch the Electrical Parade at 9. By keeping an eye on the Times Guide, you can switch to whichever park has the event that you want to experience.
My next WDW trip, I will be purchasing the Gold Pass, in order to use it on return to the West Coast at the Disneyland Resort.
wait so if you get the no expire one, it'll never expire ever? you can use it anytime?
I think the parkhopper thing is a waste for the most part unless you just have to have it. All the parks have so much in them that running from park to park just is a waste of time to me. Unless you only like Disney for a select few rides that happen to spread out over several parks I don't see the point.... I want to enjoy the day and not run myself ragged trying to go to Animal Kingdom for one ride, and then Epcot for another.
Also Robert, when checking out prices before I noticed that the Water Parks seemed like a rip off if you used your Magic Your Way passes..... the single day water park pass is way less than a day at a regular park and then if your doing Magic Your Way passes for the all the parks I think there is an additional charge for waterparks (that is different from the park hopper charge). So unless you are staying a really really long time you'd probably be using a day of your pass that is worth more than the pass to the water park would be.....
we have the 10day hopper passes which we got as a wedding gift in 2010. we had to cancel our honeymoon trip then but we are going back in 2012 :) i will try to upgrade them to the no expire so i can save days for future visits
Congrats, Robert -- just heard you quoted by a Bloomberg reporter on how the WDW price increases won't discourage attendance.
Personally, I think the prices are way too high for a family. It made me think carefully on what I exactly want to get out of my vacation. Maybe I don't want to do only Disney in my 7 day trip. How about 2 days at Disney and 2 days at Universal, with one half day at the Space Center? I will reserve an extra day to visit a water park. You see, I can spend nearly the full price for a 2 day Disney pass and save money in the long run for my entire vacation.
Following Larry's comment, I've been telling reporters that I don't think Disney's ticket price increase will affect its attendance.
Seeing these prices make me wonder if anyone has ever paid full price for a one day ticket. Do those guests exist?
"Seeing these prices make me wonder if anyone has ever paid full price for a one day ticket. Do those guests exist?"
One-day one-park? Does anyone actually even buy those?
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