A while back I wrote the first instalment in this series, Part 1: Orlando or Anaheim, where I shared some thoughts about why you might choose one over the other for a Disney trip. Now I’ll move on to the subject of park tickets. Your ticket to the magic doesn’t come cheap. Visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland is an expensive proposition so any methods you can use to cut the costs are worth examining.
Part 1 – Orlando or Anaheim?
Part 2 – Tickets
Part 3 – Accommodation
Part 4 – Flights
Part 5 – Food
Part 6 – Transportation
Part 7 – Extras
Before I get to the info about park tickets, I’ll mention that my own plan for Disney has changed a bit since the first post. There are a lot of new attractions under construction at Walt Disney World in Orlando ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2021. For now, my brother and I are likely going to choose Disneyland California for our 2020 trip but hopefully we’ll be able to visit the Orlando park as well after many of the new attractions are open.
Regarding Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, the second of the two rides has now opened in Orlando and is set to open soon in Anaheim. All reports give it rave reviews.
The Evolution of Walt Disney World Tickets
When I first visited Walt Disney World in Florida in the 80s there were only two parks – Magic Kingdom and Epcot – and the tickets were straightforward. Today it’s much different. Tickets now have expiry dates and prices vary by day of the year. There is also the question of whether you want “hoppers” or not, meaning you can go to more than one park in a day.
Because FastPass+ selections may be made online via the My Disney Experience app up to 30 days in advance (or 60 days for Disney Resort guests and Disney Springs hotel guests), you must have your tickets before your trip. Whether in plastic or electronic form, you need to link your tickets to your MDE account to get those important fast passes in place, especially for the really popular attractions.
As a result, it’s very difficult to make decisions on the fly as to how many days you’d like to spend at each park what rides are a must-do. You need to plan ahead. And when you’re spending this amount of cash it’s a good idea to try to maximize value as best you can.
For Disneyland, the decision-making is a bit less complicated with only two parks, Disneyland and California Adventure, located walking distance to each other.
Children Are Cheaper
If you’re a child in Disney terms (9 years old or younger) tickets will cost less. So if you have 9 year old quadruplets get your kids to Disney right now. The clock is ticking. Children under the age of 3 are free but taking a toddler to Disney might come at a higher cost mentally or emotionally. Maybe I’m wrong. There are always lots of very young human beings there having a good time, but also a few others having a not so good time and expressing themselves accordingly.
Avoid Park Hopping At Walt Disney World
There are 4 parks – Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. If you wish to visit more than one park in a single day it will cost an extra $60 – $80 per ticket. There is so much to see in each of the parks that you need to be certain you will want to visit more than one, lest that money be wasted. It takes time to move from one park to the other.
You could pay the extra charge to upgrade your tickets once there, however, if you have discount tickets they would be valued at the discounted rate so any difference between your ticket and the current price would be payable along with the up-charge for park hopping. In the past, they would “bridge” the value of the ticket to the gate price but I understand that is no longer the practice.
The calculation is a little different for Disneyland because it depends how long you want to spend visiting the 2 parks. If more than 2 days, I think the hopping feature is worth the extra cost ($55) due to the convenient access from one park to the other.
Aim For The Cheaper Days At Walt Disney World
Now that tickets are date-specific, if you can go during a cheaper time you’ll save quite a bit and possibly avoid larger crowds although that’s not really a sure thing anymore.
For example, 4-day base tickets (one park per day – no hopping) in USD, tax included:
January 21-24 – $429.99
April 4-7 – $521.68
Disneyland does not have variable date pricing for multi-day tickets. A 3-day hopper ticket is $355.
This might seem counterintuitive but spending more time at Disney might be to your advantage. This is because the average cost per day drops when you buy a ticket that’s valid for more than 4 days. The byproduct of this strategy is that you’ll likely have a more relaxed vacation as you won’t feel any pressure to fit as many attractions as possible into a shorter period of time. Theme parks can be tiring. You might also leave feeling like you “did” Disney and not have to return for a long time thus saving you future cash.
Disney occasionally releases Canadian resident discounts. You’ll need to have proper ID to prove your residency to use the tickets.
The current promotion is 20% off 4-day or longer tickets.
Using the dates I chose randomly above for Walt Disney World, in USD, tax included:
January 21-24 – $343.61
April 4-7 – $416.87
The Disneyland promo is 20% off 3-day or longer tickets:
3-Day Hopper Ticket: $284
Redeem Air Miles
Tickets to Walt Disney World and Disneyland are available on the “Events and Attractions” section of the Air Miles website. These can be a good use of your miles but there are a few things to consider.
First, not all types of tickets will be available for redemption. At the moment there are only 5 and 7-day base tickets for Walt Disney World with the Canadian discount. These are flexible date tickets and both child and adult tickets are available. I’m just including adult numbers in this blog post so check out the Air Miles website for more info. Disneyland tickets are limited to the 3 and 5 day hopper versions.
Walt Disney World
5-day ticket – 4725 miles
7-day ticket – 4850 miles
3-day ticket – 3600 miles
5-day ticket – 4100 miles
Whatever ticket you have, like I mentioned above, it’s possible to pay to upgrade it to add days or make them into hoppers etc. However, you will only get the value of your ticket at the time it was issued. In the past, if you used an old 3-day ticket in the park and decided to add a day at Guest Services, you’d only have to pay the difference between a current 3-day and 4-day ticket. You may get lucky now but expect to pay the difference between the original value of the ticket and the current version.
Another cautionary note involves the time it takes to receive the tickets from Air Miles. Here in rural NS, it can take several weeks. The tickets might even arrive after your trip is over. I know this from experience. (On the bright side, we now have two valuable 3-day non-expiring tickets sitting safely in the china cabinet waiting to provide some good times in the future.)
After the Canadian discount period ends for tickets purchased directly from Disney, Air Miles often has remaining inventory still available for redemption. Just be careful to note the expiry date of the ticket.
An Expedia.ca discount appeared a few months ago that was not intended to apply to theme park tickets, however the promo code did in fact work for Walt Disney World tickets. A more recent one did not. Sign-up for emails from Expedia.com and Expedia.ca to watch for deals.
If you have some TD Rewards you can redeem them for park tickets through the Expedia For TD portal.
A popular and reputable website for buying Disney tickets is Undercover Tourist. They offer discounts and their prices include taxes and free shipping. Also, as I understand, when Disney raises prices Undercover Tourist will typically have inventory they will continue to sell at the previous price until they run out.
If you are interested in an extended Walt Disney World vacation you might want to look into special 14 day tickets that are marketed to UK residents. There is apparently no prohibition on non-UK residents purchasing these but you will have to account for shipping cost if they send you hard tickets.
Sometimes Walt Disney World offers discounts on hotel & ticket packages that can be worth considering. Always compare costs between a package and an a la carte booking.
Disney Gift Cards
A popular method of saving for a Disney trip by folks on the Canadian forum of the Disboards is to buy Disney gift cards. You get the daily CAD-USD exchange rate when you use it but without an added foreign exchange fee. Apparently you may combine multiple cards onto one, up to $1000.
If you collect Air Miles in the cash category or PC Optimum points you can redeem them for groceries and then use the money saved to buy Disney gift cards. It’s especially nice at Sobeys if you can take advantage of a good multiplier bonus on your credit card like the Scotiabank Gold Amex or Amex Cobalt which offer 5x the points on grocery spending. I’ve seen Disney gift cards at both Sobeys and Superstore locally.
After Hours or Special Events
At Walt Disney World they have seasonal parties or after hours events where you can access the park after a certain time. There might be snacks and drinks included or other features that might make it worthwhile. My impression is that the value in these is not a lower price but the potential for the park to be less crowded and to experience the special offerings. If you’ve been to Disney a few times it might be a fun thing to do. I’ve never been to one so I can’t offer much insight. Definitely read some reviews of these events before deciding.
A Disney trip, especially to Walt Disney World in Orlando, is a pricey adventure. While in Orlando for a Universal trip recently, our airport driver said he believed Disney is becoming a luxury experience and not as accessible to the average person as it used to be. The cost of tickets is a big part of that. You can get in a vehicle and drive to Florida, book a room at a cheap motel, pack your lunch for the day…but you’ve still got to get through those front gates.
I suggest anyone pondering a Disney trip to carefully consider the total cost and spend some time working out ways to make it more affordable. And I implore you to do the necessary research to make it the most enjoyable trip possible. There are a huge number of Disney planning resources out there to help you figure it all out.