Disney keeps hiking prices but the people keep coming, so don’t expect it to relent. This will be the biggest expense, so assess your needs before laying down plastic. All park tickets (excepting annual passes) are purchased by the day. You decide how many days you want to spend at the parks, and once you nail that down, you decide which extras you want to pay for. Both decisions are fraught with temptation and the risk of overspending. It’s possible Disney intentionally makes the process complicated so that customers spend more money than they have to.
Unless noted, the following prices do not include the 6% to 7.5% sales tax (Disney actually falls in two different counties). Call 407/824-4321 or visit www.disneyworld.com for the most up-to-the-minute pricing.
Note: All tickets include unlimited use of the WDW transportation system. Bear in mind that Disney considers children 10 and older to be adults for pricing purposes, and children younger than 3 aren't charged admission.
Paid Ticket + Park Reservation = Vacation
Tickets are priced by the day according to how busy the park is expected to be. Prices are not truly dynamic—they’re set on a calendar in advance each year—but the numbers are all over the map. Like on an airline, you add the options that you want.
FIRST, CREATE AN ACCOUNT.
At the top of disneyworld.disney.go.com, there’s a link for creating an account. This will be your main account from now on. You’ll even use it with the official Disney World app to get into the parks, board rides, and order food. Without this account, you’re sunk, so make sure you remember your login details.
Everyone in your party must set up a unique profile. Then you need to tell the system you’re all traveling together by linking everyone. Do that by going to your profile (click “My Disney Experience” at the upper right), choosing “My Family & Friends,” and clicking “Add a New Guest.”
NEXT, DECIDE HOW MANY DAYS YOU WANT.
THEN CHECK THE CALENDAR FOR AVAILABILITY.
Here’s where it gets hairy. You don’t just need a ticket. You also need a park reservation for a pre-arranged day to which you must assign that ticket for use.
The Disney World website posts a calendar of every day of the year, and before you buy your ticket, you must ensure there is park availability on all of the dates of your visit—otherwise you could waste money on a ticket that won’t work for all the parks when you’re in town. At disneyworld.disney.go.com/admission/tickets, click “View Calendar” under “Check Park Reservation Availability Before Purchasing.” There, you can check your proposed dates for open reservation slots.
Magic Kingdom reservations are first to sell out, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is next. Make sure that the parks you want to visit are available on the days you want to go. If they’re not, you can always check back—sometimes new allotments of spaces appear without warning. But there’s no guarantee of that, so you’re usually better off just picking available dates. You can often park-hop later in the day into a park that had no park passes left, but you can’t start your day in it. (Again, there’s no guarantee, because Disney created this system to control crowds.)
If your dates are free, then you can reserve rooms at a Disney resort hotel through your new account, and then go to the next step. (It’s not ideal to buy park tickets before you’ve made your Disney hotel reservation.) If you’re not planning on staying at a Disney hotel, you can proceed to the next step now.
FINALLY, BUY YOUR TICKETS AND LINK THEM.
Once you know your chosen parks are available on your vacation days, now you can purchase your actual tickets. Once you do, make sure that every person in your party sees the tickets showing up in his or her own profile. They may have to link them on their own, which they can do through Tickets & Passes on the app.
Once your tickets are purchased—and this is the most important part—you must link your just-purchased tickets to new Theme Park Reservations. Do not wait long for this step, because if you do, some parks could fill up while you dilly-dally.
At the upper right of the website (this part can’t be done on the app), click My Disney Experience and select the menu option for Disney Park Pass Reservation. Here, you can select everyone in your party (that you set up in Family & Friends at the start of all this) and proceed to connect the park passes you saw on the calendar to the tickets you just purchased.
If everything works, you should see your park reservations listed in the My Plans section of your My Disney Experience account, and your digital tickets should show up in the app.
Couldn’t be simpler, right? Right??
The Perils of Disney Packages
Over-purchasing is the biggest pitfall. If you call for reservations rather than making them on your own, agents will suggest adding perks. You’ll ask for tickets, and they’ll suggest you throw in some little perk. The instant you accept, your customer status changes. You’re now purchasing a “package,” and that will often force you to pay more than you would have a la carte. Always, always know what everything would cost separately before agreeing to a Disney-suggested package. If you must, hang up the phone and do some math before deciding to accept or reject the offer. Then call back for a new quote—prices can fluctuate each time you call. That’s the only way to ensure you’re not paying more.
Here’s a hidden loophole that works against you: Disney’s “length of stay” ticket packages will begin the moment you arrive on the property and end the day you leave. Think about that. If you’ve just flown from a distant place, you are unlikely to rush to Epcot on the same day. Likewise, on the day you’re due at the airport to fly home, you may not to be able to visit a theme park. Yet Disney will schedule your package that way. In effect, you will lose 2 days that you’ve paid for—at the start and at the finish of your vacation, when you’ll be resting or packing. That’s colder than Elsa’s heart.
How can you avoid this? You could 1) stay entirely at non-Disney hotels and just buy admission tickets. That’s because the rule only applies to Disney packages—if you simply buy 4 days’ worth of tickets, you don’t have to use them on consecutive days as long as they’re all used within your specified deadline (generally, the number of days you purchased plus 2 or 3 days). You could 2) stay at a Disney hotel for your ticket days and stay off-site for the others. Or you could 3) insist on making one reservation per phone call. Arrange your tickets plus their corresponding hotel nights for your Disney days. Hang up. Call back and arrange “room-only” nights for your last night and any days you’ll be leaving Disney during the day as “room only.” It’s vital that you do not link your two reservations in advance if you want the best price and the best cancellation policies, but you can link them after arrival. If you don’t plan on seeing anything but Disney, of course, then you won’t have to go through these lengths. But with so many wonders in Florida, many people aren’t satisfied by only visiting the Mouse.
Another tip: Disney’s reservationists are friendly, but they’re sales-driven, and they are trained to answer only the questions that you pose. If you’re not sure about the terms of what you’re about to purchase, corner them and ask. They won’t lie to you, but they will neglect to volunteer information. Grill them about deposit and cancellation policies—they get much stiffer if you’re on a package vs. buying a la carte. The best of Disney always goes to those willing to pay the most, but ask if there is a less expensive option. TheMouseForLess.com, MouseSavers.com, and the messages at DISBoards.com will let you know about current deals that Disney won’t.
OTHER TICKET DISCOUNTS AND DEALS
Official deals, when they exist, are listed at www.disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-offers and at www.mousesavers.com. Florida residents are offered entirely different discounts (www.disneyworld.disney.go.com/florida-residents) that come with blackout dates, as are AAA members (available through local AAA chapters). If you are active military, Disney wants you to go through your military base ticket office for the latest promotions. Attendees of conventions on Disney property may be offered cheaper tickets for afternoon or evening park entry, available through the convention organizers.
Beware anyone claiming they have discounts on a 1-day ticket, because Disney doesn’t allow that. A few businesses shave a few paltry bucks off multi-day tickets. Tickets are usually indelibly linked to individuals, so avoid anyone trying to sell you unused days on their multi-day tickets, and never buy tickets through eBay or any other marketplace. International visitors are eligible for tickets good for longer stays, but only if they are purchased from abroad. Really big fans carry a Chase Disney Rewards Visa credit card (www.chase.com/disney), which grants points to be redeemed on all things Disney, a few discounts, and a character meet-and-greet area for cardholders.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.