Walt Disney World ticket advice: Which ticket to buy?
Written by Robert NilesUpdate: An updated version of this article is available! Here is the new version: Which Walt Disney World ticket should I buy?.
Published: June 13, 2011 at 8:57 AM
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(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:
(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.
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