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Best Disney World Ticket Choice: After Hours or More Days?

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What if you went to Disney World and didn’t leave a day on your ticket to visit Magic Kingdom? What if you went to Magic Kingdom After Hours instead? Would you save money? Would you see more? Would it be a great use of your vacation dollars?

After Hours events are happening at three Disney World parks this year, and you could ask this question about all of them. Let’s take a look, including finding the dates where you could do two After Hours events on the same trip.

About Disney After Hours

Just in case someone emailed you this article and you’ve never even heard of Disney After Hours …

What is Disney After Hours?

Disney After Hours is a hard-ticket event at Disney World. Your regular ticket covers admission to one or more parks during regular hours. An After Hours ticket lets you enter the park a few hours before closing without using a day from your regular ticket. You’ll also be able to stay for several hours after the park officially closes and ride with shorter waits. There are snacks and sometimes there is event-specific entertainment, but the main draw that we’re looking at here is the shorter lines.

How much can you get done at Disney After Hours?

The number of tickets sold for Disney After Hours is limited. Our experience is that in the time after the park closes, it’s possible to do at least 3 major headliners per hour. These are rides that would normally have waits of an hour or more during peak times of the day.

The parks are typically open for at least 12 hours a day. Your After Hours ticket gives you park access for a total of about 6 hours; at least 3 hours of that time is after the park has closed to regular day guests. Except in the least crowded times of the year, we find that you can get as much or more done during an After Hours event as you can during a full day in the same park, if you are mostly focusing on rides.

What Should You Consider?

Before we get to talking about money, let’s touch on a few other things that might play into your After Hours decision.

When do you like to sleep?

Try this on for size: roll out of bed at 11 am, grab lunch, and relax at the pool all afternoon. Head out for an early dinner at some prime location, and then wander over to arrive at a park by 6:30. Ride until 1 am and then head back to your hotel to roll back into bed.

Disney's Polynesian Resort Lava Pool - Waterfall
Not heading to the parks until evening? The pool is calling …

Does this sound like a terrific vacation to you? Then After Hours might feel like a wonderful way to approach some of your park visits. But if you’re an early bird who has a hard time staying up past 11, or if you have kids, then your decision might already be over.

To be clear, if the late hours are a dealbreaker you could still decide to do an After Hours event and you may still have a great time. But unless you’re going to stay to the end and be peppy enough to enjoy what you’re doing, you probably won’t find it a good trade-off for visiting the park during the day instead.

Do you want to see the park in the daytime?

The vibe of the parks is different in the daytime. In August, you might feel like you prefer to never see the parks before the sun goes down and the temperature drops. But Disney After Hours are during the late winter and spring and the parks are usually very pleasant during the day.

The mood of the space, and the crowd, can be very different day to night.

On January 10, when After Hours events begin at Hollywood Studios, sunset is at about 5:45 pm. Civil twilight, when you can still relatively easily see without artificial lighting, ends at about 6:10 pm. You won’t see the parks in daylight at all on an After Hours ticket. By mid-April, sunset is at 7:50 pm and civil twilight ends just past 8:10 pm. So you’ll get an hour or so of daylight if you’re doing After Hours in the late spring, and even more than that as the year progresses.

How important is food in the parks?

Some of the park’s Quick Service restaurants and food carts will be open during After Hours, but many of the dining locations close once regular hours come to an end. All of these eateries should be open during the mix-in period before the park officially closes. But if grabbing snacks as you go is part of the draw of a day in the park, you’ll be losing a good chunk of that unless you’re happy to focus on the free popcorn and Mickey bars that come with the event.

How important is entertainment? Are you just there to ride?

Shows and many entertainment offerings don’t operate during After Hours. At the Magic Kingdom you’ll be getting the chance to see Disney Enchantment, but if you only go to After Hours you’re giving up the Festival of Fantasy Parade. Popular Meet & Greets are a go, and some After Hours events offer an opportunity to meet rare characters. But street entertainers and theatrical shows are usually done for the day, or you just won’t be able to get to many of them in the time you have during mix-in. Unless you’re that person who disses Animal Kingdom as a half-day park because all you can do there is a half-dozen rides, you’re probably going to feel the trade-off.

Maleficent will be asleep for the evening if you’re only in the Magic Kingdom for After Hours. (photo by Brandon Glover)

How long is your trip?

Park Hopping is often used to turn a 2-day trip into a 3-park visit, or cover all 4 parks in three days. Using an After Hours ticket to roll up your second park in a day can help you make your whole vacation shorter, or to still get everything done in one that can’t be made longer. If you use After Hours instead of Park Hopping for this purpose, you’re likely to get more hours in the parks just because it extends past regular closing time.

Money, Money, Money

In 2024, a 1-day base ticket to the park of your choice is about the same price as an After Hours ticket for that same park. Yes, you read that right. All prices below and elsewhere in this article are without tax:

  • The average 1-day Magic Kingdom ticket is $170; After Hours tickets for Magic Kingdom range mostly from $165-175.
  • The average 1-day Hollywood Studios ticket is $165; After Hours tickets for Hollywood Studios are mostly $175 although there are some cheaper tickets towards the late summer.
  • The average 1-day EPCOT ticket is $159; After Hours tickets for EPCOT are $149-$159

The very cheapest tickets of the year are sold in August and September, so even though averages are used for the 1-day prices, that’s about what you should expect to pay. And if you are going to an After Hours event during those ticket-price lows, you’ll find that the After Hours price has similarly dipped. If you were only going to buy a 1-day base ticket anyway, then your decision about whether to do a day ticket or After Hours boils down to which one you think you’ll enjoy more.

Your visit to the park on a regular day ticket will include access to a lot more food and entertainment. It will also include longer lines, and if you want to avoid them then you’ll need to put a bit more work into strategy. Or a bit more money, into Genie+. Or both.

5-minute waits at Jungle Cruise won’t be easy to come by during a daytime visit

Your After Hours ticket will, as previously discussed, probably come with some trade-offs as far as food and entertainment go. But for the attractions that are running, you’ll get to walk around the park and ride at will. Multiple times in a row, with very low effort, if you desire. If past events are anything to go by, lines will be minimal.

Multi-Day Tickets

If you were planning to buy a multi-day ticket, you’ll actually be paying more to trade away a day’s worth of ticket and do After Hours instead. How much? From 2-4 days, you’ll be paying less for the extra day on your park ticket. But not so much less that it’s crazy to think about comparing them, especially if you can get a Disney Vacation Club discount on your After Hours ticket.

  • The average cost to go from a 1-day ticket (any park) to a 2-day ticket is $144
  • The average cost of a 3rd park day is $143
  • The average cost of a 4th park day is $124

Beyond that, the cost begins to drop quite sharply and it’s clear that the extra park days are much, much cheaper than the After Hours ticket. For more details, see Every Regular Disney World Ticket Price in 2024. Of course, beyond that you’ve got enough regular admission days that you’re probably doing After Hours in addition to a regular day visit and not instead of one.

Two After Hours In One Trip

Are you all about the rides? Did that thing I said above about rolling out of bed in the late morning perk up your ears? Here are all the dates where you could do two After Hours events within a single 5-day stretch. Who needs Early Entry anyway? Live up the nightlife, get your Dole Whip fix at the Poly, and After Hours your vacation away.

There is even one lone stretch of five days (bolded below) where you can do all three After Hours events. You should still make some time for Animal Kingdom, since it’s my personal favorite park, but you’ll be happy to know that it’s the cheapest of all the 1-day tickets. The cost of a 1-day Animal Kingdom ticket plus all three After Hours over these dates is $668, compared to about $600 for a regular 4-day ticket.

  1. Hollywood Studios 1/10 | Magic Kingdom 1/11
  2. Hollywood Studios 1/10 | Magic Kingdom 1/15
  3. Magic Kingdom 1/22 | Hollywood Studios 1/24
  4. Magic Kingdom 2/1 | EPCOT 2/2
  5. EPCOT 2/2 | Magic Kingdom 2/5
  6. Magic Kingdom 2/5 | EPCOT 2/8
  7. EPCOT 2/8 | Magic Kingdom 2/12
  8. Magic Kingdom 2/12 | EPCOT 2/15
  9. Hollywood Studios 2/26 | Magic Kingdom 2/29
  10. Magic Kingdom 3/4 | EPCOT 3/7
  11. Hollywood Studios 3/13 | Magic Kingdom 3/18
  12. Magic Kingdom 3/18 | Hollywood Studios 3/20
  13. Hollywood Studios 3/27 | EPCOT 3/28
  14. Hollywood Studios 4/3 | EPCOT 4/4 | Magic Kingdom 4/8
  15. Magic Kingdom 4/8 | Hollywood Studios 4/10
  16. Magic Kingdom 4/22 | EPCOT 4/25
  17. EPCOT 4/25 | Magic Kingdom 4/29
  18. EPCOT 5/9 | Magic Kingdom 5/13
  19. Hollywood Studios 5/22 | EPCOT 5/23
  20. Hollywood Studios 5/29 | EPCOT 5/30
  21. Hollywood Studios 6/12 | Magic Kingdom 6/13
  22. Hollywood Studios 6/19 | EPCOT 6/20
  23. Hollywood Studios 6/26 | Magic Kingdom 6/27
  24. Hollywood Studios 7/17 | EPCOT 7/18

The Upshot

There are trade-offs to be made, but from a monetary perspective using After Hours to attack a park instead of a regular day’s admission can be comparable in cost. If you’ve got a shorter vacation, or you simply prefer the ease of short lines without having to strategize for them, this option might be for you. Of course, if your vacation is long enough and time and money allow, you don’t have to choose. You can visit the park in the daytime and take advantage of After Hours too.

Would you consider giving up a daytime visit to a park to do After Hours instead? If you’ve done this, how did it work out? Let us know in the comments!

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Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer has a background in math and biology, so she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

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