Walt Disney World Ticket Basics & Discounts

One of your largest purchases for your Walt Disney World trip will be the theme park admission tickets. Valid admission is required for each day you wish to enter one of the Walt Disney World theme parks or water parks. There are a variety of ticket types, sellers, and discounts. We'll break them all down one by one:

Walt Disney World Date-Based Tickets are Here

In a major shakeup, Walt Disney World has once again changed how tickets are issued by dropping a bombshell new setup that fluctuates all ticket prices based on when you visit. If you thought the last iteration of buying WDW tickets was confusing, you may feel like you're back in school with this. It is true that this system is more complicated than the previous setup that reserved tiered pricing for single day tickets only, but don't overthink it. It boils down to 4 steps:

  1. What kind of ticket do you want
  2. How many days do you wish to spend in the parks
  3. When do you want to go
  4. Will you be able to visit within the default allotted validity period
  5. Are Park Passes available

Step 1: What kind of Walt Disney World ticket should you get?

There are 3 kinds of tickets: 1 park per day, Park Hopper, and Park Hopper Plus. For people visiting a single day, you'll probably want to stick with a single park in a day, as a single day Park Hopper is very pricey. I've written a separate article on wether or not it's worth it for a Park Hopper. Up until a few years ago you could add on the water park option to any ticket. Now, it may only be added to Park Hopper tickets, thus the name Park Hopper Plus. This upgrade gives you a certain amount of credits that can be used to enter the water parks, play mini golf and select golf courses, or visit the ESPN Wide World of Sports (why you'd want to is beyond me). Remember that Florida is not always pool weather, so check the average temperatures for when you're traveling. The Park Hopper Plus is best for when you know you'll want to visit a water park or have a long enough trip and want to do things outside the parks.

Step 2: How many days do you wish to spend in the parks?

This is going to wildly vary on your budget, what your family wishes to do, and how much time you have. You can find my quick thoughts on how many days you should spend in each here. The rule of thumb is that while the total price gets more expensive as you add on days, the price per day goes down. Keep in mind you'll need to pay for food and hotel these days, but hey, Disney ain't gonna get cheaper in the future.

Step 3: When is the cheapest time to go to Walt Disney World?

Similar to the previous single day tiered setup, you will pay based off how busy Disney thinks it will be. For example: going in late January will prove to be much cheaper than Christmas week. Disney will show you, if there are any, cheaper times for the ticket length you've selected. Browsing through the past crowd calendar will give you an idea of which times are busier than others. Each day on the calendar will show a price. For single day tickets, this is the price you'll pay (before taxes). For multi day tickets, this is the average price per day. As per the example above: a 4 day ticket that includes Thanksgiving will be more expensive than a 4 day ticket after Thanksgiving. For the most part, it should be very marginal increases mainly based off how many weekend days will occur during the validity period. Big jumps will happen around major holidays when there are more people traveling. If you're looking for flexibility, Disney will allow you to upgrade your ticket to be used anytime before a certain date, similar to the old setup. This upgrade includes another feature, which we'll get to next:

Step 4: Check your ticket's validity period

A single day ticket will, obviously, only work on the single date you've selected. Multi day tickets will be valid for a specific range, but the days do not have to be used consecutively.

Number of Days Validity Period
2 Any 2 days within 4 days beginning on the start date
3 Any 3 days within 5 days beginning on the start date
4 Any 4 days within 7 days beginning on the start date
5 Any 5 days within 8 days beginning on the start date
6 Any 6 days within 9 days beginning on the start date
7 Any 7 days within 10 days beginning on the start date
8 Any 8 days within 12 days beginning on the start date
9 Any 9 days within 13 days beginning on the start date
10 Any 10 days within 14 days beginning on the start date

If you are taking a more broad Central Florida vacation (as in visiting Universal, SeaWorld, etc) it may be difficult to fit them in the middle of your Disney days. If this might be a problem for you, Disney offers a 14 day expiration upgrade similar to what all multi day tickets received. This will be priced differently based on how many days and your ticket type. Another benefit of this upgrade is that it lets the ticket be used any date before a certain expiration date. All of that work deciding the cheapest time to go out the window.

Step 5: Understanding the Park Pass System

After COVID-19 hit, Disney developed a new reservation system on top of tickets called Park Pass to handle the limited capacity. Now that we've watched the capacity limits come and go, Park Passes have stuck around. Disney has cemented its stance on Park Passes, as they feel there's a significant operations advantage to knowing the exact number of guests visiting each park each day. Of course for us, it's a huge annoyance.

You must have a Park Pass for the park you plan to visit each day, or if you're hopping, the first park you plan to visit. No exceptions. Important note for hopping: you must visit the park you reserve first before hopping to any other park.

Before you purchase your tickets, make sure to check availability here. Park Passes are split amongst three different groups:

  • Theme Park Tickets: ticket holders not staying at a "Select Resort Hotel"
  • Select Resort Hotels: All Disney resorts and select third-party hotels
  • Annual Passes

Park Pass availability will fill up the closer you get to your dates, and may fill up well in advance if you're traveling during a busy time. As soon as you've nailed down dates and purchased your tickets, you should make your Park Pass reservations immediately.

Getting the best Walt Disney World ticket deal

There are many selling discount Disney tickets. The majority are not authorized and you run the risk of losing your money. Never, ever buy tickets from sites like Craigslist, eBay or Facebook. Disney links tickets to fingers, names, and/or photos, thus making it impossible to share them.

My personal recommendation

I have found Undercover Tourist to offer the best prices and service of all online sellers. They are an authorized Disney ticket seller and have been selling tickets online for more than a decade and a half. The price you see is the price you pay. There are no extra fees or taxes added when checking out. After you purchase and receive your tickets via email, you may link them to your My Disney Experience account. If you aren't staying with Disney or are opting out of using MagicBands, you can pick up physical ticket cards at any ticket booth once you've arrived. You just your email confirmation and ID. They also offer a wide range of tickets for other Orlando-area attractions and even offer more discounts if you bundle them.

Additional retailers

The following are also authorized and respected ticket sellers:

  • Kissimmee Guest Services
  • Maple Leaf Tickets
  • Orlando Fun Tickets

Other discounts

There are other discounts, primarily for Florida residents and US military members. You'll need valid proof for either of these discounts, so don't try to game the system. AAA does offer discount tickets, but they're honestly not a very good deal anymore. You're likely to save more with other websites.

When in doubt, just stick with the mouse

If all this is too overwhelming, you may just want to stick with ordering your tickets with Disney themselves. Disney has now started to offer deals on tickets if you purchase a package. While not as good as others, a deal is a deal.