This is my third installment of my Daring to Disney series, chronicling my planning of my first Disney trip as an adult. To see how I booked flights, car, hotel, and dining, click! In today’s post I’ll discuss saving money on Disney tickets.
After grabbing all my dining reservations at 180 days, the next step in my plan to conquer Disney was getting tickets. Now I don’t actually need to buy tickets 160 days before, but, you know, I’m crazy. Here’s how I ended up saving money on Disney tickets and why I didn’t think it was really worth it in the end.
Ticket Options: To Park Hopper or not to Park Hopper?
The first thing I needed to decide was what kind of tickets to buy. Basically, after you buy a four day ticket, each subsequent day on top of that is $10, so the number of days I was buying was pretty straightforward. I decided to buy two 7 day tickets for Jess and myself and two 6 day tickets for my parents. We’re planning a day at Sea World, but I figure the 7 day ticket for Jess and me might be able to get us a date night. A $20 risk I’m happy to make. I don’t need to buy tickets for my kids because M is turning three a few weeks after we go and H is tiny.
As I mentioned when talking about dining reservations, I was considering whether to get the park hopper option for our tickets. That would give us the flexibility to visit a second park in the afternoon post nap and/or go to Epcot for dinners. The park hopper option was about $64/ticket, around $10/day average. Ultimately I decided against getting the park hopper for now for two reasons. First, I’m realizing that I’m overestimating the stamina of a two year old – I’m basically projecting a 34 year olds’ stamina potential onto my daughter. Heck, I’m likely overestimating my stamina as well. Secondly, if I change my mind, I can always add the park hopper option on at a ticket kiosk once we’re there, so I have that insurance.
Apparently, according to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2015 (which my mother in law graciously got for us from the library!), you can still pay for a “no expiration” option on your tickets if you buy them at the World. Though the guide itself is even unsure. Regardless, I decided it wasn’t worth it – I’d likely physically lose my tickets plus Disney has priced things so you’re only hedging against future price increases.
Looking for the Cheapest Price
Disney is a bit like Apple – you can get little to no discount off the sticker price most times (unless you are buying secondhand but I didn’t really want to deal with that). Still, I was looking to save whatever I could.
The very first thing I did, naturally, was plug in my preferences at the Walt Disney World website to see what showed up. Searching for the tickets I was looking for resulted in an overall price of $1405.82.
Next, I went to touringplans.com and used their handy ticket calculator. Think of it as the Kayak of Disney World tickets. There they list a few options and conveniently calculate how much you save off of the Disney price. The best rate I found was the Undercover Tourist rate coupled with signing up for the free Mousesavers newsletter (which I recommend anyway). This would have saved me about $50 off of the Disney price (total, not per person).
A note on tickets sold by authorized dealers such as Undercover Tourist. You might be tempted to think they don’t convey the same benefits as tickets you get from Disney World, but that’s not the case. The only real difference as far as I can tell is that you need to link the tickets you buy from retailers to your account while tickets you buy from Disney are linked automatically.
The only thing you should be concerned about is if a retailer asks you specifically what dates you will be using the tickets for. If you buy from these kinds of places, make sure your dates are set in stone and you won’t deviate, otherwise you might find your tickets expire before you think they might (normal tickets expire 14 days from first use). You can read all about that in the Unofficial Guide if you’d like.
Ultimately, I decided not to buy from Undercover Tourist because I planned on…
Utilizing my 5% Target Redcard Discount
July was a good month for me. Stop and Shop was offering 2X gas points on Visa gift cards so I used that to save some money on gas and top off my Target Redcard. As you probably know, the Redcard offers 5% off of any Target purchases. This includes Disney gift cards! So I crunched the numbers – if I bought from Undercover Tourist, the cost of our tickets would be $1358. If I bought tickets from Disney proper using Disney gift cards purchased at Target with my Redcard the cost would be $1335.82, a savings of $22.18.
So I decided to buy 28 $50 Disney gift cards. 28! Of course, it’s not that simple. You can’t use more than two gift cards to buy Disney tickets online – which would seem to render 28 gift cards useless. You can use them to buy at the park but that’s a major pain.
There is a workaround. I signed up for a Disney Vacation account. These accounts are designed to help families save money for Disney – you can direct deposit to them, set up monthly payments, etc. You’re supposed to make a goal for yourself and theoretically when you hit that goal you can plan your trip. Everything is self directed so it’s not like you’re locked into anything.
The great thing is you can add Disney gift cards to your account. So I loaded all 28 cards into my account – $1400 total. You can then use your account number to pay for your park tickets. I used the $1400 plus an extra $5.82 that I put on my credit card. Money saved!
That last statement is a little bit tongue in cheek, in the end, I didn’t think it was worth stocking up on all those gift cards to save twenty bucks. Typing in all the gift card numbers was mind numbing – next time I’ll probably just go with Undercover Tourist. But if you want to make every dollar count, that’s how you can do it!
There aren’t a ton of ways to save money on Disney tickets, but you can shave off a few dollars here and there. Using my Target Redcard, Disney gift cards, and a Disney Vacation account, I managed to save some money. In the end, I probably would have done it differently. In terms of tickets, I think the most important thing is to decide what kind of tickets you want – that’s the most complicated part! But I think you can “add on” when you get to Disney if you like, so in my mind booking less is more, at least at the beginning.
Other Posts in this Series