'Which Disney World ticket should I buy?': A guide to finding the best deals

November 7, 2007, 1:19 PM · Update: 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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Earlier this year, before I made my annual trip to Orlando, I bought a 10-day pass to Walt Disney World. The decision which pass to buy for a Disney World vacation can confuse and intimidate people, so I thought I'd walk you through how I decided to buy the pass I did. I hope this post might help you make the best decision on which Disney World pass is right for you.

A one-day ticket to a Walt Disney World theme park for an adult is pretty expensive -- $71. And Disney does not offer the 2-for-1 and cola can discounts frequently found at other theme parks. Nor can you find discounted Disney tickets through consolidators, AAA offices and other off-site sources the way you could in the past. But that does not mean discounts are not available. You just have to buy a lot of days at Disney World to get them. I recommend buying tickets directly from Disney's website. That way, you can get your tickets in advance, saving valuable time by avoiding ticket queues when you arrive at the park. Florida residents also can find ticket discounts available to them on Disney's site.

Disney World has branded its various ticket packages "Magic Your Way." You can buy a "base ticket" for one to 10 days, which gets you into any one of the four Disney World theme parks on each of those days. The ticket expires 14 days after its first use, and you cannot use the ticket to go to more than one park on any given day. Here are the base ticket prices:

Number of DaysBase Ticket PriceCost Per Day

Once you've bought your base ticket, you can add options, such as...

  • admission to Disney's water parks and Pleasure Island nightclubs,
  • the ability to "park hop" to multiple parks on any given day, and
  • the ability to keep unused days on the ticket alive indefinitely after the 14-day expiration.

    The "Park Hopper" option costs an additional $45 per ticket, no matter how many days you buy. And the "Water Park Fun and More" option costs a flat $50 a ticket, getting you unlimited admission to Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, DisneyQuest and the Pleasure Island nightclubs for 14 days after the ticket's first use.

    The "No Expiration" option is a bit more complicated, as the price for that varies, based on the number of days that you buy. And the no expiration option does not apply to the water parks, if you buy that option too. Your ability to use your Magic Your Way ticket to get into the water parks and Pleasure Island goes away after the first 14 days, no matter what.

    So let's get to the big question: what ticket should you buy?

    Let's look at the cost per day for these Disney World tickets. If you look carefully, you'll see that after four days, each extra day at the parks costs just a couple bucks. Basically, after four days, they start just giving the days away. So if you buy the 10-day pass, you are getting each day's admission for the ridiculously *low* price of $22.50. That's beyond Six Flags-level discounting.

    So... buy the 10-day ticket, right? Well, not if you don't have 10 days to spend at Disney theme parks in a two-week period. Remember that unused days will expire. And that if you buy days that you do not use, the price per day for the days that you did use just goes through the roof.

    Here are the prices for Disney World tickets with the no-expiration option:

    Number of DaysTicket priceCost per day

    So the best cost-per-day you can get with the no-expire option is $40.50. You can get a better cost-per-day if you buy at least seven days on the base ticket, and use them within two weeks of starting your visit. (The same is true if you add the park hopper option.)

    The water park fun and more option adds $50 to a ticket, regardless of the number of days you buy. But a one-day water park ticket sets you back just $39, so you unless you plan on spending more than one day at a water park on your trip (or spending a day at a water park and an evening in the Pleasure Island clubs, you are better off just buying those one-day tickets in addition to your Magic Your Way pass. If you are not into water parks, but like the PI clubs, you would need to spend at least three nights at PI to make the WPFM option worth buying, since the one-night club pass is just $22.

    For me, I visit a couple times a year, spending a day or two at WDW, hitting a just a few new or favorite attractions at a couple parks each day. I need the park hopper, and with such short visits, I am not going to be able to get any decent per-day price unless I buy the no-expire option. If I want to go to PI or a water park, I buy a one-day ticket for those.

    If it is your first time visiting Walt Disney World, and you don't know what you're getting into there, I recommend buying the four-day base ticket, without the park hopper and without the no-expiration option. Spend one day at each park, then either buy additional tickets for one of the Disney water parks of other area theme parks (Universal, SeaWorld) on the other days of your vacation. It's not the rock-bottom deal, but consider the extra per-day cost as your tuition in Disney vacation training. Find what you like, and if you decide that you want to return to Orlando, select a different package for your future visit.

    So let's wrap this up....

    Should I buy the park hopper option?

    Yes - If you are an experienced visitor who likes to hit just old favorites or newly built attractions, instead of "doing everything" in a park.

    No - If you are a first-timer or infrequent visitor who likes to spend the whole day at one park.

    Should I buy the no expire option?

    Yes - If you visit the Orlando area on a regular basis and tend to spend six or fewer days at Disney theme parks on each visit.

    No - If you are not absolutely certain that you will be back, or even if you are, you spend more than six days at Disney theme parks during a one-to-two-week visit.

    Should I buy the water parks and more option?

    Yes - If you will spend at least two days at water parks on your current visit (or at least three nights at Pleasure Island if you don't spend any time at the water parks).

    No - If you will spend, at most, a single day at a water park on your current visit.

    How many days should I buy?

    I would not advise buying fewer than four days on a Walt Disney World ticket, due to the high cost per day. If you aren't a frequent Orlando visitor and have just two or three days to spend at the local parks, you will get better value for your money visiting Universal Orlando ($86 for two days) or SeaWorld ($54 for two days, buy online one week in advance) during that time instead. Try a Disney park on a one-day ticket, or set aside at least four days to visit Walt Disney World.

    If you will be spending at least seven days at Disney World on your next trip, buy a ticket without the no-expire option for the number of days you'll spend at the parks during your trip. Otherwise, if you plan to return to Disney at some point in the future, try to buy the 10-day ticket with the no-expire option, to lock in the lowest possible price and guard against future price increases.

    Hope this helps. TPI veterans, please feel welcome to add your thoughts in the comments.

    Replies (15)

    November 7, 2007 at 2:42 PM · I think this was very well done. I think your advice for experienced Visitors is definitely accurate. I was there two weeks ago with a one day hopper and visited all 4 parks and didn't feel like I missed anything. Got to Epcot gates at 9 am and came back to my car at 11 PM. It was a great day but wouldn't recommend doing it with kids or if you haven't been to the parks at least 2 times prior.

    I think this year with my tax return I am going to buy a 10 day no-expire ticket. It's not like I won't use them, and it will be one less ticket to budget for when my wife an I go on vacation.

    November 7, 2007 at 4:56 PM · I have to say... having that 10-day ticket in my wallet feels pretty good. A little reminder that 'hey, I could go to Disney World right now!'

    (Okay, I'd need a plane ticket and a couple days off work, too. But the feeling's nice until that reality intrudes.)

    November 7, 2007 at 7:24 PM · I would not sell the Park Hopper that short! Yeah, if you are going to spend a day at only one Park, then yes, but you never know if you decide to go and see one of the fireworks show at night. Also, if going to AK, chances are you are not eating dinner there. You can go to EPCOT or go to MK for extra hours. I would consider Park hopping if you are doing the magic hours or want to go to another park at night (especially in regards to AK)
    November 7, 2007 at 7:52 PM · Nicely done Robert. Very informative.
    November 7, 2007 at 10:33 PM · June 2006 was our first (and only so far) trip to Disney World. We were there for 11 days including arrival day and departure day. We stayed at one of the value resorts and got the 10 day park hopper ticket. I tell you, if we ever go back, I would do it the same way. What I liked about it is that we didn't feel rushed at all. We never set alarms to get up in the morning, when we got too hot or couldn't take the humidity, we just went back to our room and hit the park up later, especially with the extra magic evening hours on those nights. Being able to visit multiple parks on the same day was HUGE for us so I definitely recommend getting the park hopper option.
    November 8, 2007 at 8:49 AM · Great write-up Robert. the only thing I would add would be that if you live in Florida and make a trip to Disney and plan on going more than 3 times and want to park hop, get the Florida Seasonal Pass (that is of course, unless you are going in the summer which would be HIGHLY unadvisable). The Florida Seasonal Pass is only $230 which is cheaper than the 4+ day options with the park hopper. Then you have the option to come more often later the year.
    November 8, 2007 at 3:14 PM · Our family went two days after Christmas with a one-day park hopper and we went to all 4 parks in one day as well. It was actually an accident, but at least we can brag about riding all the new rides in one day.
    November 8, 2007 at 4:06 PM · Great article Robert. I agree with everything you said! :)
    November 8, 2007 at 6:18 PM · Great article. What are your feelings about the meal plan?
    November 8, 2007 at 8:21 PM · If there is a chance that you will again return to WDW for a comparable stay within the year, you may want to look into the annual pass. We go a few times a year for at least 7 days at each visit. I found that if we even go twice, we save money and it's worth the difference.
    November 8, 2007 at 9:50 PM · Hey, I have to save some math analysis for future blog posts! ;-) I'll get to the meal plans and annual passes soon. We've got a *lot* to talk about during the slow season....
    November 9, 2007 at 8:44 AM · Very informative, great article. We go often enough that an annual pass is great. We also have the parking option on the pass which means we don't have to pay the $11.00 to park our car each time we go.
    November 9, 2007 at 12:15 PM · I agree with Mitchel I live in Pennsylvania, but I always buy season passes to any of the Florida parks. The reason for this is, I always plan my vacations for a two year period. I go the first year in July or August. The next year, I go in June, that way, I spread out the expense over two years not one. Also, I don't have to rush through a park I can go for 6 to 8 hours, and then leave to go do something else Plus you get all the perks like Mitchel mentioned, free parking, discounts and other goodies. I usually go for 10 days to 2 weeks each year. The only drawback, is you must go for 2 years to make it worthwhile. That's no problem for me, since I'm now taking my grandson down, which is the fourth generation I've taken to Florida since 1978.
    November 9, 2007 at 4:53 PM · The article was very written and takes a lot of the confusion out of buying Disney tickets. I'm pretty fortunate that I'm a Florida resident and there are discounts for us through AAA. While my daughter and I are Seasonal Passholders, my husband isn't and I just purchased a one day pass for him through AAA. With taxes, the total was around $68.00. When the passes expire, I won't renew, (time to take a break from Disney) but we've certainly gotten our money's worth from them.
    November 12, 2007 at 10:57 AM · We may take a break from Disney as well. We try to alterante between Busch/SeaWorld, Universal, and Disney. Although, I've been pretty dissappointed with universal the last annual pass time. Universal just doesn't give a flip about it's AP holders - but that's for another blog.

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