Walt Disney World

I would strongly suggest you buy your theme park tickets before you go on your holiday. And while I’m specifically discussing Walt Disney World here, that advice holds true for any other Orlando theme parks you’ll be visiting. There are significant discounts available for when you buy in advance and for multiple days and parks.

Buy before you fly

If you buy before you go on holiday, you’ll be eligible for the tickets Disney offer exclusively to UK guests – they’re aimed at our traditional length of holidays – i.e. 5, 14 and 21 days – there’s no 14 day option once you’re there so if you’re planning on going every day (which you may well do, especially if you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel – even if its just to eat at a park restaurant) you end up splitting it into two much more expensive tickets.

In addition, if you buy direct from Disney and are staying in a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, your tickets are added to your room key – your “Key to the World”. so this credit card type key becomes your room key, charge card and park tickets – I love it – it’s literally all you need to take out with you (well sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, plasters etc. too but you get my drift – it saves on a bulky wallet!)

Here are your options:

You have maximum flexibility with the Ultimate options – with unlimited access to all the parks. However, if you know you’ll only be visiting the parks for a lesser amount of days, then the Premium options may work well for you (only worth while when they are not the same price) . It may seem restrictive, but if you have a rough plan of where you want to spend each day of your trip, it will really help you figure out exactly how many park tickets you need and hopefully save you a little cash.

The tickets have to be used for the first time by 31st December of the year they were bought, i.e. if you buy the 2011 tickets, you have to start to use them in 2011. For the Premium tickets, you can also purchase a ‘no expiration’ option, by taking it to the ticket desk once you’re at the park. This means if you don’t use all your days and options this time, you can use them on your next trip.

How to buy?

Your tour operator will usually sell you these directly – although check the prices as there’s no point paying extra as you can buy them direct. You can also buy them in the Disney store, or at Walt Disney World online. You can buy these directly from the official Walt Disney World site, allowing you to buy them directly. You can also purchase your entire holiday this way, should you wish to, and ticket options will be offered as part of that process.

Buying at the parks

If you decide to buy tickets when you get there, you’ll be buying on the Magic Your Way system, which is Disney’s American offering. You can buy these at the gates and pay for a basic one-day ticket ($82 + tax), upgrading to multiple days (up to 10) if you wish. The more days you buy, the cheaper it gets per day – a 7 day ticket is only $15 less than a 10 day one (total $262 for 10 days – $278 including tax). This basic ticket will only allow you to get into one park per day (and you can’t use multiple days to visit two parks). You can only buy up to a maximum of 10 days worth of tickets and these have to be used within 14 days of when you first enter a park.

You can then purchase a ‘park hopper’ option ($54+tax – flat rate no matter how many days you’re buying)) which allows you to visit any of the 4 main parks, each day. On top of that, you also have the ‘water park fun and more’ option ($54+tax flat rate), which gives you unlimited admission to the two water parks, DisneyQuest (essentially a massive arcade), ESPN’s Wide World of Sports and Disney’s Oak Trail golf course. If you’re only planning to visit a water park once, you can chose not to buy this option, but instead to purchase a 1 day ticket to a water park – it works out slightly cheaper ($46+tax).

Of course it depends on exchange rates, but the price of a 14 day Ultimate ticket would get you (roughly) a 10 day gate pass, with park hopper and water parks and more. So you’re better off with the UK Ultimate pass – it gets you extra for the same price – even if you don’t expect to use them, you might as well have them just in case. And because the per day prices decrease as you add more days, you’re actually only paying $30 more for a 10 day ticket than you would be for a a 4 day ticket. So far an extra £20ish per ticket, you could be getting an extra 6 days with the gate ticket, but an extra 10 days with the UK one.

Value wise, the 14 day Ultimate UK ticket is definitely better value and gives you the maximum amount of flexibility, but only if you’re going to use it. If you’re on an extremely tight budget you could save money:

  • ($54 – roughly £35) by removing the water park fun and more option. However, I would definitely recommend this, especially if you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel for the duration. The two Disney water parks are great and much more child friendly than the other water parks around Orlando – plus its hot – you’ll want to cool off! They’re also a great way to relax after a few busy days at the theme parks.
  • (again $54 – roughly £35) removing the park hopping option. If you’re only there for 4 or so days this might be fine – you’ll do a park a day. Any longer than this and you’ll almost definitely want to be able to move around different parks, whether its to see a specific evening show or fireworks, or to go to a specific restaurant, e.g. a signature or character meal. I would never personally remove this option – we’ve visited all 4 parks on one day before – but it definitely suits some people to stay put! And you can re-enter the same park without a park hopper, if you choose to leave.
  • Calculate exactly how many days you’d be visiting Walt Disney World – and if its less than around 8 days then you could save yourself a few extra pennies buying at the gate. Please be certain though – on our first trip we expected to spend 7 days at Walt Disney World – the rest spent shopping and at other Orlando theme parks. In fact we spent 11 days there. And these days, thanks to the dining, its rare if we don’t visit at least one Walt Disney World theme park on all 14 days.