Planning your Walt Disney World Resort vacation can be stressful and expensive! Families easily get caught up in the countless tips and tricks to save money on food, resorts, and merchandise, often centering their vacation on complex strategies that ultimately save a few dollars. In the hectic search for where to get the most value for Disney Dining Plan snack credits or whether or not a resort souvenir cup is worth the price, families often overlook the easiest way to save hundreds on their trip to the happiest place on Earth – park tickets!
Simply booking early or doing a few minutes of homework on different park ticket options and discounts can save your family a fortune, allowing you to enjoy your vacation and splurge on that pair of Mickey ears. Assuming you’re a family of four on a 4-day trip, these 10 tips might relieve your initial sticker shock and keep hundreds of dollars in your pocket.
1. Buy park tickets BEFORE you get to the parks
This might come as a given to seasoned Disney veterans, but you’d be surprised by how many visitors still buy park tickets at the park kiosks. Disney adds a $21.30 surcharge to each 3-or-more-day park ticket purchase at the gate. (Why? Because they know you’re not leaving Walt Disney World once you get there.) Your family can save $85.20 right off the bat just by buying tickets online in advance.
$85.20 saved with this tip
2. Purchase park tickets from an authorized third-party wholesaler
While all we see is the Disney magic, Disney World is still a business at heart. Disney knows that most park goers will pay full price for park tickets and therefore rarely offers discounts to everyone on the Disney site. However, Disney World knows that there are plenty of price-sensitive visitors who won’t come without a discount. As a result, Disney contracts authorized, independent ticket wholesalers to sell official park tickets priced at a discounted rate.
Popular third-party wholesalers include Reserve Orlando, Official Ticket Center, Park Savers, Undercover Tourist, and Maple Leaf Tickets.
Suppose our family purchases a 4-day ticket package on April 6, 2019. On Disney’s official site, it would cost you $1,643.04:
However, simply buying through Reserve Orlando, for example, would cost you $1,445.66, a savings of almost $200.
$197.38 saved with this tip
3. If you’re U.S. Military or a Florida resident, use your special discount
U.S. Military and Florida residents can purchase park tickets with special discounts that in many cases save more money than third-party wholesaler tickets.
Florida residents get substantial discounts on 3- and 4-day park tickets. The most expensive 4-day, 1-park-per-day Florida resident ticket costs $276 per adult – about $185 less than non-Floridians would pay for the same ticket. Child tickets cost $266 for Floridians, $178 less than for the general public. That’s a savings of $726 for our family of four.
However, 1-park-per-day tickets for Florida residents cost the same as for the general public — so there’s no savings if you’re just visiting the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or the Animal Kingdom for the day.
Disney World often offers discounts annually to U.S. military personnel and veterans. For example, a standard 4-day ticket with Park Hopper Option costs $499.59, but this promotional discount offers the same package for $241 plus tax (see below).
Floridians save $726 with this tip. U.S. military personnel save $259.
4. Know exactly when you’re visiting Walt Disney World
Many families like to purchase tickets in advance, even if the exact dates for their next vacation aren’t known. This strategy is good for families who want to avoid future price jumps, pay off their credit card bill early, or, if you’re me, simply procrastinated in planning. However, it’s crucial that you choose exact dates when you purchase park tickets instead of doing what Disney suggests — buying the Flexible Dates optional add-on.
While this add-on is convenient and allows you to push off planning specific dates, it comes at a great cost. Since Disney prices the Flexible Dates option as if you’re visiting during the most expensive peak season, you’d save more money by just picking a random date and moving it later on.
The Flexible Dates add-on costs about $50 per person. For a family of four, a 4-day ticket starting on April 6, 2019 costs $1,643.04, but jumps up to $1,853.12 with Flexible Dates.
$210 saved with this tip
5. Set your ticket start date earlier than your arrival date
Say your family lands Wednesday night, April 10 and leaves Monday morning, April 15. You plan on hitting the parks every day from Thursday to Sunday. When you buy your park tickets, Disney asks for a start date so you put Thursday, April 11. Makes sense right? Not necessarily…
Disney asks for a start date because 4-day park tickets are valid for 7 days. In peak seasons especially, you can save money by setting your start date on a Monday or Tuesday compared to a Thursday or Friday. Your tickets will still be valid your whole stay, but will be cheaper just from a simple click.
Setting the start date on Thursday costs $422.89 per ticket ($1,765.72 total) while starting your ticket on Monday costs $401.28 per ticket ($1,673.70 total).
$92.02 saved with this tip
6. Consider the Park Hopper Plus Option instead of the Flexible Dates add-on if you’re already park hopping
The Park Hopper option allows you to visit multiple theme parks each day. The Park Hopper Plus option adds daily water park admission to the Park Hopper option.
Because that’s a lot of things to do, Disney extends the life of each Park Hopper Plus ticket by one day, giving you extra time to use the features. If you need an extra day and you’re already going to park hop, adding the Park Hopper Plus option is cheaper than buying the Flexible Dates option.
For instance, if you plan to visit 4 parks over 8 days and your 1 park-per-day tickets expire after 7 days you may feel tempted to just add on Flexible Dates to keep the ticket valid throughout your vacation. However, this option will cost the family $43-$280, depending on when they visit, as opposed to Park Hopper Plus Option, which will cost about $108 per ticket throughout the year.
Up to $172 saved with this tip
7. Add extra theme park days instead of the Flexible Dates option
Say your family is planning to visit Florida on April 6, 2019 for 12 days, with plans to visit Disney World for six of those days, with days for a cruise, visiting the beach, or other attractions in between. Base 6-day park tickets are only valid for 9 days, so it sounds reasonable enough to add on Flexible Dates, giving you 14 days of validity at a cost of $505.88. But that’s not the cheapest option.
It sounds crazy, but you can save money by buying an 8-day base ticket for your six days in Walt Disney World. These 8-day tickets cost $491.30, and you get 12 days of validity and two additional park days than originally planned. You don’t have to use the extra days, of course — they’re just cheaper than the Flexible Dates option in this case.
$58.32 saved with this tip (with two extra park days!)
8. Buy a separate water park ticket instead of a Park Hopper Plus Option if you only go to one water park
If your vacation includes one visit to a Disney water park (Disney’s Blizzard Beach or Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon) and you’re not already buying the Park Hopper option, it’s cheaper to buy your family’s 1-day water park tickets separately instead of using the Park Hopper Plus Option, which is valid for admission to either water park on any day during your trip.
While the PHP Option makes sense if you already plan on park hopping, it isn’t worth the price if you just want to hit your favorite water park on a separate day. For instance, if your 4-day vacation starts April 6, 2019, the Park Hopper Plus Option costs $124 each day per ticket, $494.09 total. For a 4-person, 4-day vacation this PHP Option raises the price from $1,643.04 to $2,069.04.
Instead of paying this huge premium, you could pay $242.82 for your family’s 1-day water park tickets without blockout dates or $264.14 during blockout dates. Disney World’s water park blockout dates run from May 25 – August 25, 2019.
$161.86 to $183.18 saved with this tip
9. Visit a water park your first or last day
If you end up using the above tip and purchase 1-day water park tickets separately, try to plan your Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon visit for the first or last day of your vacation, especially if it’s during a peak time.
Go to the water park on your first day if your Disney World trip lands at the tail-end of a busy period because then you can set your start date later, which will save about $3 per ticket. In the case of ticket validity, every day you wait to start your tickets saves money.
The same tip works in reverse: go to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon on the last day if your vacation lands at the beginning of a peak season. Doing this ensures that your ticket validity ends sooner and also saves about $3. It will be minimal savings, but money is money and it certainly adds up when you’re at Disney World!
Approximately $12 saved with this tip
10. Consider buying an Annual Pass
Even if your family only plans on visiting Disney World twice in a year, an annual pass adds great value in many cases. Benefits include free parking, exclusive food and merchandise discounts, free Memory Maker (unlimited digital downloads of PhotoPass photos and videos), and substantial hotel discounts. While resort discounts for Annual Passholders are typically offered in value or off seasons, they’re not unheard of in peak times and usually hit 25-30% off.
Say you go on Summer 2019 and Spring 2020 vacations and stay in Pop Century both times. A standard room in late August 2019 will cost around $170/night, totaling $680 for a 4-night vacation. In March and April 2020, a standard room will cost around $197/night, totaling $788 for a 4-night stay. Just for the resorts over the two trips you would pay $1,468.
However, both of these periods would likely offer Annual Pass holder discounts. Assuming you received a 25% discount, the standard rate for value resorts, your new resort total is $952.80.
A Disney Platinum Pass (annual pass) for 2 adults and 2 kids is currently selling for $3,808.44, but it covers unlimited access to the four theme parks and many other perks like a 20% discount on select dining and merchandise, free standard theme park parking ($25/day), and free Memory Maker ($169) and other perks that add to the Disney experience.
$515.20 on hotels saved with this tip
Overall, there are many quick and easy ways to save hundreds on your Walt Disney World Resort vacation before you even go. By using certain booking strategies and weighing different discounts, your family can save a fortune on Disney World tickets and free up some of your budget for when you’re in the parks. Use any combination of these tips to get your family off to the right start for a magical vacation.
Our free Disney World Ticket Calculator knows how to find the best Walt Disney World ticket discounts for your trip. Answer a few simple questions and the Ticket Calculator will display the least expensive combination of tickets to buy, including tax and shipping.