You probably know quite a lot about Disney World tickets, but I promise you that if you read on, you’ll find out something new. While Disney World tickets are mostly straight-forward, they can occasionally resemble something akin to a Soviet-style bureaucracy, without the fun parades. Here’s all the basic and not so basic facts about those expensive little pieces of paper you’ll hold in your hand.
Plastic or Paper: That is the Question:
If you buy your tickets as part of a Disney resort package, your tickets will be attached to your Key to the World Card (KTTWC), a plastic card which also acts as your room key and holds your dining credits if you have the dining plan. If you lose them, they’re easy to replace. Just go to any resort’s concierge desk, Guest Services or any ticket booth.
If you bought your tickets from an outside vendor or if you purchased them separately from Disney, you’ll get paper tickets, but fear not: It’s actually Tyvek, the same stuff that builders use, and it’s virtually indesctructable.
Get Park Wise: If you bought tickets from an outside vendor but you’re staying at a Disney resort, you can ask your resort’s concierge to add them to your KTTWC. I’ve heard the occasional report of it working but have never been able to make it happen when I tried. It’s sort of the Holy Grail of Disney feats, right up there with getting a reservation at Le Cellier and scoring a walk-on at Toy Story Midway Mania.
What if I lose my ticket?
This one might come as a shock to Disneyland visitors, where replacing your ticket practically requires an act of Congress, but if you lose your Disney World ticket and you bought it directly from Disney, replacing your ticket is super easy. How it’s done, however, will depend on whether you’re a resort guest or a day guest. If you’re a resort guest, just show your identification at any resort concierge, ticket booth or Guest Services. If you’re an off-site guest, showing the credit card you bought it with will usually result in a replacement. You can also give the cast member the serial number. For safety’s sake, make sure you take a picture of your tickets with your phone or keep a copy of it.
If you bought your tickets from an outside vendor, it’s a little trickier. Most likely, you’ll need to contact that vendor directly for a replacement, depending on the type of vendor. Make sure you keep copies or photos of each ticket in your possession in case you lose them and before you buy, review the vendor’s ticket replacement policy. Losing a ticket from an outside vendor can result in hours or even days of frustration, so you’ll want to buy from someone who can replace it easily, even on the weekends.
The Magic Your Way Base Ticket: Your Ticket to Happiness, One Park at a Time:
Most of you probably know what a base ticket is, but for those who don’t, let’s review it. A base ticket is a one-day (or multi-day) park entry. Your ticket can be as short as one day or as long as ten, but you’ll only be allowed into one park per day. While this seems like a complete “newbie” question, I’m often asked if you have to use your ticket in a specific order. For example, if you buy a four-day base ticket, does this mean your have to visit all four parks over a period of four days? Not at all. You could go to the Magic Kingdom all four of those days, but you can’t decide to go to Epcot for dinner; you may only enter the Magic Kingdom that day.
The good news is that while you’re only allowed into one park per day, you can go in and out of that park as many times as you like. So feel free to come in for Extra Magic Hours and then go back to your resort during the hottest part of the day. You’re still welcome to come back later that night to enjoy the park.
Here’s one important thing about most Disney tickets: They expire fourteen days from the first day of use. A lot of guests think their tickets are tied to their resort stay, but you could check out of your resort after three days, head over to Universal (gasp!) for three more, and then come back and still enjoy the remaining days on your Disney park tickets. So if you’re staying in the Orlando area for an extended period of time but only staying on site for a few days, you can always return over those two weeks to enjoy the parks.
What’s a Hopper?
Simply put, a hopper is an option that allows you to go to as many parks per day as your feet can carry you. It’s a flat fee, whether you buy a two-day hopper or a ten-day hopper. At $60 per person, it’s a big expense, so if you’re on the fence, wait to add it until you know you need it for sure.
Get Park Wise: I’ve said it elsewhere and I’ll say it again: Don’t add this or any other ticket upgrade unless you’re positive you’ll use it. This is particularly true of the water parks and more option, which can be iffy during the “winter” months. You can always upgrade your tickets as long as you have one day remaining on them, so wait if you’re not sure. It takes about ten minutes to upgrade at a ticket book or your resort’s concierge desk.
What about the “no-expiration” option?
Say you’re going to Disney World for a short trip, maybe two or three days in the park. Because Disney park tickets are more expensive on the front end, you know that you can buy a 3-day ticket for $242 but a 10-day ticket will cost $318. Of course, these tickets are only good 14-days from the first day of use, so if you’re coming back again in eighteen months, it hardly behooves you to buy a 10-day ticket. Unless, of course, you add the non-expiration option.
Adding the non-expiration option to a ticket means it’s good forever–you could use it in ten years from now and it would still be valid, and given how much ticket prices go up every year, you’d be saving a lot over the price at that time. But, adding the option is expensive, around $275 for the 10-day ticket. And think about this: Less than half of all these tickets are ever used again. So if you’re going to purchase this option, make sure you’ll use it. Personally, I don’t recommend it.
Disney tickets are like money in the bank:
Okay, so maybe that’s an overstatement, but here’s the thing: If you don’t use them, Disney tickets never expire. So say you’re traveling to Disney World in 2014. You could buy your tickets at 2012 prices and they’d be worth whatever the value is the day you enter the park in 2014. We’ve seen increases on some Disney World tickets as high as 15%, so this is a nice savings if you’re sure you won’t 1) Decide to go to Europe instead and/or 2) Lose them. Obviously, if you’re putting these on a credit card the whole point is moot, so only do this if you have the cash laying around.
Get Park Wise: Ticket prices go up in early summer, usually with a two or three day notice. If you’re traveling later that year and you don’t have a Disney package already (in other words, you won’t be adding the dining plan), think about buying your tickets prior to this yearly price increase.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: Where can I find the cheapest tickets?
There are legitimate discount ticket brokers out there, but make sure that they’re authorized by Disney. You won’t save a lot, maybe $5 to $15 per ticket (with AAA being on the lower end), but if you have a large family that adds up . Buying these tickets automatically cuts you out of the dining plan since it requires you to buy tickets directly from Disney as part of your package, so make sure you won’t be using the plan.
Just off Disney property, you’ll notice “discount” brokers offering to buy used tickets and sell them. It’s sounds obvious, but perhaps it bears repeating: Avoid these sellers. The scam works like this. They buy used tickets from guests with a few days left on the tickets and then sell them to you for a bargain. You go to the parks and, presumably, use them to get into the park. The trick is that Disney World, unlike Disneyland, uses a finger scan system that’s associated with your ticket. The technology doesn’t keep your fingerprints on file–that would be impossible to do accurately– but it keeps certain points of identification on file attached to that card and gives them the option to deny you entry. So maybe some days, people get in. Many times it will depend on the cast member. But they also run a very high risk of not getting in at all. And when you try to complain? Well these sellers are certainly not going to issue you a refund. Local law enforcement authorities repeatedly bust these guys for breaking the law, but they continually crop up over and over again.
Military personnel, YES program attendees, and individuals who run certain half-marathons may also purchase tickets at reduced prices, not only for themselves but for those traveling with them. Make sure you check out all the rules specific to your program prior to leaving on vacation.
Get Park Wise: If you’re thinking about buying from a discount broker, wait until Disney announces discounts for your travel dates. You don’t want to be shut out of free dining because you already purchased tickets. Just give yourself enough time to ensure that your tickets will arrive by regular mail. No need to cut into your savings my paying for priority shipping.
Okay, you want to save some money? Here’s a weird quirk for you:
One thing Disney is really good at is finding out ways that guests save money on the sly and putting a stop to it. You can’t really blame the iron fist of The Mouse for this: It’s a business, after all. There’s one little trick that remains, however. Say you bought a ticket from a discounted broker and you want to take that ticket and upgrade it to an annual pass. Make sure you pass your ticket through the turnstiles first, otherwise the “value” of that ticket is what you paid the broker. But pass it through the turnstiles just once, and it automatically changes to that day’s value. Then just take your ticket and upgrade it. You’ll save $25 or so this way. Again, it’s not a ton, but every bit helps, especially when you’re shelling out hundreds of dollars for an annual pass.
What about you? Have you found any interesting ways to save on tickets? I’d love to hear them.