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Disney World Park tickets are one of the biggest costs of your entire Disney vacation. Those suckers are NOT cheap. It is important to understand as much as you can about the Disney park ticket system and options in order to save as much money as you can.
The new Disney park ticket structure is a pretty dramatic change from the long standing ticket structure, and will likely take some time to get used to. This post will feature all the information you need to know to make the right decisions about park tickets for your family.
If you haven’t already, make sure you take a look at the guide to Park Pass reservations. They are now an essential part of any Disney trip and are linked to your park tickets (updated on 3/2/2021).
Table of Contents
Types of Disney World Park Tickets
First off, let’s take a look at the different types of Disney World park tickets you can choose from. Each of the options will give you slightly different options and price points. The categories of Disney park tickets are:
- Magic Your Way Ticket
- Park Hopper Ticket
- Annual Pass
What are Magic Your Way Tickets?
The standard, or base ticket, are also known as Magic Your Way tickets. The Magic Your Way tickets permit you to visit one park a day for each of your designated park days.
The park you choose for the day is determined by the Park Pass reservation you made for that day combined with entering the park. For example, when you tap your MagicBand or ticket to enter Magic Kingdom at 9:00a, the ticket is now locked into Magic Kingdom for the rest of the day.
You can come and go from Magic Kingdom as many times as you want for the duration of that day. However, you cannot visit another park that same day.
Magic Your Way tickets are the cheapest ticket option at Disney World.
What is a Disney Park Hopper Ticket?
The Disney Park Hopper ticket does exactly what it name implies. It allows you to “hop” from one park to another throughout the course of a single day.
For example, you decide to start your day at Magic Kingdom as discussed above. However, the crowds at Magic Kingdom are higher than you want, so you decide to hop over to Epcot for the afternoon. Then, everyone wants to ride Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Train, so the whole crew heads over to Hollywood Studios for the evening.
The biggest thing that comes with a Park Hopper ticket is flexibility. And like most things that improve flexibility and options, the Park Hopper ticket costs quite a bit more than the Magic Your Way base ticket.
Park Hoppers tickets were temporarily discontinued as the parks reopened following the closure. However, they returned as of January 1, 2021 with some amendments. At this time, park hopping is only permitted after 2pm. This time could possibly change at Disney’s will, so double check the time permitted during your trip.
Also, you DO NOT need a park pass reservation for the parks you hop to, only for the first part of the day. Read up on the new park hopping rules before your trip.
Disney Annual Pass
Disney’s Annual Pass is another ticket option for those who plan to go to Disney more than once a year, or possibly on one very long trip.
The Annual Pass allows you to enter the parks as many days out of the year as you want (some annual passes have blackout days). The Annual Pass also automatically gives you Park Hopper tickets, giving you the flexibility you want in an annual pass.
There are a few different types of annual pass which determines the price of the pass, but in general, all of the passes come with certain benefits. As a brief overview, here are some Disney Annual Pass benefits:
- 20% off Disney merchandise
- 10% off select Disney table service restaurants
- Free PhotoPass downloads ($169 savings)
- Free parking at Disney World parks
- Discounts on tours and events
- Resort room discounts – the highest discounts available aside from the military discount
Tip: Do the math. Sometimes it might be cheaper for one person in your party to get an Annual Pass. That one person will then qualify the family for the above discounts. All of the discounts MAY end up justifying the cost of the single Annual Pass.
As of right now (3/2/2021), Disney has not resumed sales of any annual passes, to the dismay of many Disney fans. Only annual pass renewals are permitted at this time.
Annual passes were completely discontinued at Disneyland in 2020, but there has been no official word on whether they will also be discontinued at Disney World.
How Much Do Disney World Park Tickets Cost?
And here we have it, the million dollar question that everyone needs the answer to. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. A lot of it depends on several factors that fall into place to create your final price.
Let’s take a look at some of the main factors that contribute to the final price of your Disney World park ticket. Throughout this post we will look at different examples of cost based on different factors. At the end we’ll put it all together and do some number crunching.
1. The Number of Park Days
Clearly, the more days you plan to spend in the Disney Parks, the more your overall ticket will cost. However, the more park days you need, the lower the cost of each individual day.
For example, let’s compare a 1 day park ticket to a 5 day park ticket. On a date I picked at random, a 1 day park ticket will cost $125 for that one day. For a trip starting that same day with a 5 day park ticket, the price per day drops down to $91 per day.
As you can see, your total cost of the 5 day park ticket will be $455, but the daily cost of that ticket is cheaper.
2. Time of Year of Your Disney Trip
Choosing the dates of a Disney trip always seems to come with stress and uncertainty. Aside from crowds, one of the biggest outcomes based on the dates you choose is the overall cost of your trip.
The cost of the largest expenses of your whole trip, resort and park tickets, will be determined by the dates you plan your trip. If you have the flexibility, choosing a cheaper time of year can save you quite a bit of money.
In addition to the time of year, the overall daily price of your ticket is based on the cost of the ticket on the first park day that you decide upon. This creates some possibility of wiggle room in there to save some money.
3. Type of Park Ticket
The different categories of Disney park tickets impacts your overall bottom line. Think very carefully about the type of ticket your family needs. Clearly, this is an area of planning you can manipulate to bring the cost down as much as possible.
Magic Your Way Ticket VS. Park Hopper Ticket Cost
Let’s take a look at an example of the price difference, shall we? I’ve picked a date at random to compare the cost of a 1 day Magic Your Way Ticket to a 1 day Park Hopper Ticket
- Magic Your Way 1 Day Ticket: $117
- Park Hopper 1 Day Ticket: $177
You are looking at a $60 price difference between the two different types of tickets, for one park day, for one person. Now let’s look at a 5 day ticket comparison.
- Magic Your Way 5 Day Ticket: $442
- Park Hopper 5 Day Ticket: $522
Now we are up to an $80 difference. Multiply that by how many people are in your party, and you begin to see how the type of ticket has a huge impact on the bottom line.
How to Buy Disney World Tickets
Whether you plan to buy your Disney World park tickets through Disney our through Undercover Tourist, you need to know the following things:
- Type of Disney World park tickets you want
- Date of your first park day (NOT necessarily the date of resort check-in)
- How many park days you want
Once you have all of those answers you are ready to buy your park tickets!
Why is the Date of My First Park Day Important?
Check out the calendar below. You will notice how each of the days has a different cost associated with it. Your per day cost per ticket is based on the daily price indicated by the FIRST park day you have indicated.
You can see the daily prices for the entire month at a time (really the whole year). In this way, you can pick and choose the cheapest time to go.
The price highlighted above will set the ticket price for the whole trip at $99 per day. If you chose May 24 as the first day, your cost per day would be $106.
So you can play around with this calendar and figure out combinations of days that work to bring the cost down as much as possible.
If you are following my beginner’s guide to planning a Disney vacation, then this falls under step 1. If you have flexible dates for your trip, this is the time to find the dates that give you cheapest possible park tickets.
Ticket Expiration Window
Once upon a time, when your park ticket was activated, you had a 14 day window to use all the days on your ticket. Well, that’s gone now.
If you look at the calendar picture I used above, you can see where it indicates the very specific window you have to use all 5 park days. This window adjusts based on the number of park days of your ticket. If that window closes before you use all of your park days, they are no longer active.
This is going to be a major factor for people who are doing split trips with cruises wedged in the middle. Instead of being able to buy your 5 day park ticket and use 2 days before the cruise and 3 days after, you will be stuck having to buy a 2 day park ticket and a separate 3 day park ticket. Unfortunately, this will make the tickets more expensive overall.
The small print in this next picture helps to clarify some of the finer points of the tickets. You do not need to use all of your park days consecutively, they just need to be used within your allotted time frame.
Other Random Disney Park Ticket Facts
If you are unable to travel during the time frame you originally bought tickets for, you can still use them, you just need to visit guest services first and have them adjusted to the proper dates. This could result in you needing to pay the difference if it’s a more expensive time of the year.
However, it’s important to note that if you end up going at a cheaper time of year, you will not get any of your money back.
How to Get Discounted Disney Tickets
With Disney World park tickets costing so much money, most people look for ways to save even a little money on the tickets. There are some tried and true ways to cut down on the cost of Disney park tickets.
Disney Tickets from Undercover Tourist
One of my recommendations is to buy your discounted Disney park tickets through Undercover Tourist. I have personally used Undercover Tourist and have never had an issue with buying from them.
They are an authorized Disney discount ticket option, which is very important to note. Not all companies that peddle discounted Disney tickets can say the same.
So how does Undercover Tourist compare to buying park tickets direct from Disney? Using the same random date in our example above I went to Undercover Tourist to find out.
It is important to note that the prices for Magic Your Way and Park Hoppers I listed above are BEFORE taxes. The final price will be higher. Undercover Tourist automatically shows you the final price WITH taxes. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t look like much of a discount. Once you add taxes to Disney’s price, Undercover Tourist is definitely cheaper.
|Type of Park Ticket||Disney Direct Prices (before taxes)||Undercover Tourist Prices (before taxes)|
|5 Day Magic Your Way||$442||$414|
|5 Day Park Hopper||$522||$478|
Clearly, you can see that there is a pretty significant price different between buying your tickets directly from Disney or from Undercover Tourist. Again, multiply that difference by the number of people in your group, and the savings adds up.
What is essential to note is that Undercover Tourist provides you with park tickets you can immediately link to your My Disney Experience account. This is of utmost importance since you want to be able to book your Disney Park Pass right away.
Using Discounted Disney Gift Cards to Buy Tickets
You may be wondering, with that kind of savings why would anyone buy their tickets directly from Disney? Sometimes there are packages that require your tickets to be bundled in them to get the savings.
But when it comes down to it, a lot of people distrust buying their tickets from anyone other than Disney World. And there is nothing wrong with that, but you might as well try to save money on that too. You can do that by purchasing your park tickets directly from Disney and paying for them with discounted Disney gift cards.
Price Comparison Using Discounted Disney Gift Cards
Let’s take another look at our Disney World park ticket cost examples. Again, all of these prices are before taxes.
If you use minimum effort to buy discounted Disney gift cards, i.e. buying them from Target with your Target Red Card, you will save 5% on the cost of all of those gift cards.
Now, if you decide to employ some of the other strategies mentioned in the discounted Disney gift card post, you can expect to save 8-10%, or even more if you are really good at it.
The chart below compares buying from Disney direct, using discounted Disney gift cards with 5% savings, discounted gift cards with 10% savings, and Undercover Tourist. I really wanted to lay it all out there in black and white.
|Type of |
|Disney Direct||Disney Direct |
|Disney Direct |
|5 Day Magic Your Way||$442||$420||$397||$414|
|5 Day Park Hopper||$522||$495||$469||$478|
Clearly, if you are diligent in your quest for discounted Disney gift cards, you can save a lot of money. Even at 8% savings, you save more using discounted Disney gift cards versus Undercover Tourist.
What it really comes down to is deciding how much work you want to put towards getting those discounted Disney gift cards. And it is getting tougher and tougher to get the big discounts on Disney gift cards.
Other Disney World Ticket Discounts
There are of course more places to buy Disney park tickets than just straight from Disney or Undercover Tourist. There are other discount Disney ticket sellers out there. However, do your due diligence and make sure they are legitimate. Sometimes when something looks too good to be true there’s a reason for it.
But there are some other places to look into. Very often they are not as discounted as Undercover Tourist or using discounted Disney gift cards, with one very big exception.
AAA Disney Tickets
AAA does offer discounted Disney park tickets. If you are a AAA member it is definitely worth a look to see what the price is. Disney does not post this information, you have to check with your own local AAA to find the discount information.
Typically the AAA Disney tickets are not cheaper than the options discussed above.
Disney Military Ticket Prices
The single best Disney park ticket price is through the Disney World Armed Forces Salute tickets. If you are in fact eligible for this discount, you just saved yourself a ton of money.
For 2021, the Disney military ticket discount is as follows:
- 4 Day Park Hopper Pass $296 plus tax
- 5 Day Park Hopper Pass $315 plus tax
That is one deeeeeep discount on Disney World park tickets! The 2021 Military Salute tickets are valid for travel from through December 17, 2021.
In addition to a ticket discount, military personnel and their families also qualify for very significant resort discounts and a discount on the Memory Maker ($98).
Disney military tickets need to be purchased directly from your military base. They can be linked to My Disney Experience right away so you can book your FastPasses.
However, once you arrive at Disney World, you have to activate the tickets at Guest Services or the Ticket and Transportation Center. You are required to show your military ID to verify that you are eligible for that discount. The active military personnel (or spouse) has to be present to activate the tickets.
Tickets at Work
Tickets at Work, or any other similar workplace discount ticket access hub will likely offer discounted Disney park tickets as well. My family has access to Tickets at Work and I always look there to check the price when I’m looking for tickets.
So far, Tickets at Work has not come close to the price offered by Undercover Tourist.
How to Get the Cheapest Possible Disney World Park Tickets
We are about to enter the concept of “in a perfect world”. What if the stars aligned and you were able to do everything you could to get the cheapest possible Disney park tickets? How much would those cost? From everything we’ve talked about so far, we know the following:
- Pick the cheapest possible time of year
- Pick the cheapest start day for your tickets to be activated
- Skip the Park Hopper and go for the Magic Your Way ticket
- Work hard to get 8-10% off with discounted Disney gift cards
Disney used to have a handy link that showed you which months have the cheapest prices of the year. They took that away, unfortunately. I don’t know if it still holds up, but at the time, the cheapest Disney ticket prices were in August, September, January, and February, so start there in your research for the cheapest time to go.
Final Thoughts on Disney World Park Tickets
Having a good understanding of your Disney World park ticket options is important. This knowledge will help you make the right decision for your family in terms of need and budget.
I highly recommend that you take a good hard look at how you want to be able to use your park tickets. If you don’t absolutely NEED to park hop, then get the Magic Your Way ticket. In the event that you only have 3 days to fit four parks, then clearly you will need the Park Hopper ticket.
Just make sure you have your tickets purchased and linked to My Disney Experience and book your Disney Park Pass as soon as you can.
Sharing is caring, my friends!
Do you prefer to buy your tickets from Disney or through a discounted ticket seller? Are you willing to put forth the effort to pay for your tickets with discounted Disney gift cards? Let me know your thoughts below, and don’t forget to like The Disney Journey on Facebook to stay up to date with new posts.