Guidance on Theme Park Tickets

Regarding theme park tickets:  The first bit of wisdom is:  Don’t overdo it.  UNDERBUY & UPGRADE if desired.  Not only are the theme parks expensive, but they are sensory overload.  The theme parks are exhausting.  It is common to see kids crying, wanting to go home and parents frustrated because they’ve already bought expensive tickets that will expire if they aren’t used.  Everyone ends up exhausted and memories are less than pleasant.  The greatest wisdom is this:  always leave Orlando wanting more.


A good rule of thumb is to buy tickets for no more than half the days you are in Orlando.  For example:  a seven day visit should be a three day park hopper.  If you find yourself wanting more, most passes can be upgraded from a three-day park hopper to a five-day park hopper anytime before the last day of your ticket by only paying the difference.  The reverse is NOT true, if you are exhausted and don’t use them,  they do not buy tickets back from you .


Our recommended every-other day routine looks like this:  for your theme park days, show up before the parks open up (when both temperature and crowds are down).  Early afternoon, as the temperatures & crowds peak, come home for a good lunch & a nap for everyone, young & old.  Late afternoon, return to the parks rested ready to hit it again just as crowds are starting to thin and temperatures are starting to wane.  Stay out till the final show and the park closes, enjoying the parks nighttime transformation.  The next day, sleep in.  Plan a day of rest, by the pool, perhaps some mini-golf, enjoy a little free Disney, with an early bedtime preparing for the next day at the parks.  It takes a great deal of discipline to leave that parks mid-day when you are not the least bit tired, but if you do, you avoid the hottest, most crowded periods of the parks and save your strength for the long evening to come.


The reason we recommend no more than every other day is because there are so many things to do in Orlando other than the theme parks.  These alternative are either free or much less expensive than the theme parks and do not require a full day to enjoy.  Rather than having to burn expensive tickets when everyone is exhausted and really doesn’t want do another day at the parks UNDERBUY & UPGRADE. 


Discount Tickets - Deep discounts for Disney tickets do not exist unless you want to attend a 'short 90 minute timeshare presentation' (which are never really short nor 90 minutes) or want to take a chance at buying the unused portion of resold tickets (questionable legality).  If you want large discounts, shop the Universal parks for deals like ‘seven days for the price of two’.  When shopping Disney, no matter where you shop, the most you will get off their prices is a few dollars off their ticket prices.  That being said, you can buy multiple day tickets that reduce the daily cost of the parks, but those same tickets, purchased anywhere, will vary in price by only a few dollars.


The best consistent price for this few dollars off is AAA.  If shopping on-line, we recommend a website called www.ticketmania.com or just buying passes at Disney guest services to make upgrading easier should you decide to do so. 


Disney tickets have hundreds of variations:


Number of days:  This refers to the number of days spent in any of the 4 'major theme parks':  Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios.  You can buy 1 to 10 days of 'major park' entries with the cost of each addition day reducing the per-day price.


Park Hopper:  This refers to the ability to move from major park to a different major park on the same day and not have it count as using multiple days off your pass.  For example, you start bright & early at the Animal Kingdom (which typically opens early), go home for lunch, visit the Magic Kingdom to see a specific event, and then end up in EPCOT for the fireworks at 9 PM.  With a park hopper pass, this only took one 'major park' day off your pass, whereas it would take three 'major park entries' off a non-park-hopper pass.  This works well if you want to visit a park, but doubt that you could spend the whole day there.  The fee to make your multi-day pass a 'Park-Hopper' pass is a flat rate, no matter how many days the pass is valid.  FYI, re-entry to the same park on a the same given day does NOT require a park-hopper pass.


Water Park Fun & More:  Disney has a series of 'minor parks' that include the water parks of Blizzard Beach & Typhoon Lagoon, DisneyQuest (a 4-story 'theme park in a box'), Pleasure Island (dance clubs & comedy shows), and Wide World of Sports (sporting events).  If you buy a 1, 2, or 3 day pass, you can pay a flat rate and get 3 'minor-park' entries.  If you buy a 4 or 5 day pass, you can pay the same flat rate & get 4 'minor park' entries.  If you buy a 6 day pass, you can pay the same additional flat rate fee and get 5 'minor park' entries.  If you buy a 7, 8, 9, or 10 day pass and pay the same additional flat rate fee, you get 6 'minor park' entries.


No Expiration Option:  For yet another additional fee, you can make your multi-day pas so it never expires.  If you don't use all your days, you can use the same pass when you visit Orlando next year or 10 years from now.  The fee for making your multiple-day pass a non-expiring pass increases with the number of days on your pass.



The best way:  which we know few will follow, is to have a long term approach.  If your kids are young, we actually recommend that you buy a 10 day passes with ‘park hopper’, ‘fun visit’ and the ‘no expiration’ options.  It is the most expensive pass, but it gives you 10 days at the main parks and 10 days at the minor parks or 20 full days at Disney that never expire.  This is not only the lowest per day cost, but it exempts you from future price increases and can easily become four or five weeks of Disney over the course of a lifetime (childhood), especially when you consider the other non-Disney alternatives like Universal.  It also reduces the stress because it still allows you to be a little conservative on your usage rather than having to ‘use it or lose it’.  This is the best all-around deal even though it means more cash out-of-pocket for the first trip.

The Realistic Way:  Knowing that very few people will actually take our advice invest ‘the Best way’, the next best thing to do is plan on the number of days you think you want to do Disney and reduce it by 2 days.  For a 7-day visit, we recommend the 3 day park-hopper (so you can visit all 4 parks).  Many try to add the 'Water Park Fun & More' option, but we recommend just relaxing in your own pool or the resort pool.  The Water Park Fun & More option makes a total of 6 days that will expire so beware of burn-out, especially if you are thinking about visiting Universal Studios (2 parks), Sea World (3 parks), the beach or Kennedy Space Center.


I will admit that most people do NOT take our advice (so we don't feel bad), because they are convinced that they can do it successfully in a different way.  We are usually redeemed as our guests depart:  almost everyone leaves telling us that they wish they had followed our advice because they bit off more than they could chew, but there are worse things in life.


Either way, I'm sure you will have a great time!