Disneyland ticket advice: Which ticket or annual pass should you buy?
Published: June 13, 2011 at 12:10 PM
Buying tickets to the Disneyland Resort is much easier for out-of-town visitors than buying tickets to the Walt Disney World Resort. There is no "no expire" option at Disneyland, simplifying the math considerably. Also, park hopping is much easier at Disneyland than Walt Disney World. Disneyland and California Adventure stand a few yards away from each other, across an open pedestrian plaza. Adding park hopping to your ticket is much cheaper at Disneyland, too. While it costs an extra $45 on a one-day ticket, park hopping is just $15 extra on a two-day ticket, which is the minimum length I'd recommend for an out-of-town Disneyland visitors. Go ahead and get it. (Here's the list of Disneyland ticket prices.)
But what about locals, who make up the majority of visitors to the Disneyland Resort? The math gets a bit trickier for us. (I'm in Pasadena.) To determine which ticket is the best value for you, you need to think about how often you plan to visit the Disneyland Resort in a given year, and when.
For infrequent local visitors, your best value on a daily ticket is to wait for one of the seasonal tickets that the resort offers to Southern California residents. Right now, Disneyland is offering a three-day pass for $139 ($154 with park hopper). Disneyland also offers some variation on a "2fer" deal each winter and spring, after the New Year.
If you'd like to visit the Disneyland theme parks three times a year or more, though, it's time to think about an annual pass. The cheapest pass, the SoCal Select Pass, costs $199 (up from $189), so it pays for itself on the third day, assuming you didn't buy one of the seasonal discount passes. You also get in-park discounts on food (and sometimes on merchandise) with the pass. Unfortunately, the SoCal Select pass isn't valid on weekends, holidays and most of the summer (205 blockout days total), so it's really only a good option for people who visit the park on weekdays during the school year. (I call this the "homeschool annual pass.") You can find the calendar of blockout days by visiting disneyland.com/ap and clicking the "view calendar" links under "Compare Annual Passports," about halfway down the page on the right.
Just because an annual pass isn't valid on a specific day doesn't mean that you can't use it to get into the parks, though. Disney sells "blockout day" tickets to annual passholders for $59 a day. These park-hopper tickets will get you into the park on a day when your pass isn't valid.
The thing is, the price of a blockout day ticket can be applied toward upgrading your annual pass to the next level. For the SoCal Select and Southern California ($269 - 150 blockout days, up from $239) annual passes, you're better off upgrading a pass level if you visit the park on just two blockout days for your pass. You also can apply the cost of a daily or seasonal discount ticket toward buying an annual pass.
Also keep in mind that parking is not included in the SoCal Select, Southern California and Deluxe ($378 - 50 blockout days, up from $329) Disneyland annual passes, unless you pay an additional $99 for the parking upgrade. If you add parking to the Deluxe pass, you're up to $477 - which is just $22 less than getting the Premium pass ($499 - no blockout dates, up from $459). If you visit the park on just one blockout date for the Deluxe pass, you're better off upgrading to the Premium.
For the non-Premium passes, you'd need to visit the park seven times in one year for the $99 parking add-on to pay for itself, assuming Disneyland keeps the parking charge at $15 a day.
Aside: Keep in mind that if you are visiting the parks for less than three hours (or five hours if you eat at one of the Downtown Disney restaurants), you can park free in the Downtown Disney lot, though Disney officially doesn't want you parking there if you're going into the parks. (But it has no way of enforcing this.) Since the hourly charge for the Downtown Disney lot is $6, you beat the $15 daily parking fee in the park lots if you stay in the Downtown Disney lot for less than five hours a visit (seven hours with a restaurant or movie validation).
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Disneyland Resort theme park tickets, in the comments.