When it comes to visiting any Disney resort location, the most important item to purchase is the Park Tickets.
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When it comes to tickets, there are many options to choose from and the hardest part is identifying which are right for you.
The first option is Annual Passes. If you’re a first time visitor, these are probably not what you’re looking for, at least not right away.
At Disney World, there are 4 annual pass tiers, though only one option for out of state guests. The Disney Incredipass, available to all guests, starts at $1299 per person. A photopass and water park option can be added for $99 each. The Disney Sorcerer pass is available for Florida residents and DVC members and starts at $899. The Disney Pirate pass starting at $699 and Disney Pixie Dust pass starting at $399 are available for Florida residents only.
NOTE: At this time, only the Pixie Dust pass is available for purchase.
At Disneyland, there are also 4 annual pass tiers. The first one is the Dream Key pass starting at $1399. The Believe Key pass starts at $949. The Enchant Key pass starts at $649. And the Imagine Key pass, only available to SoCal residents, starts at $399.
NOTE: At this time, only the Enchant Key pass is available for purchase.
Each level of Annual Passes comes with certain discounts and park reservation availability.
The second ticket option is single park per day tickets. This option is available whether you want to spend 1 day in the parks or 10 days in various parks. Your only limitation is that once you enter a park, you cannot go to another one that same day. At Disneyland, tickets start at $104/day and Disney World is $109/day. The more days you add to your visit, the more you can save.
The third option is park hopper tickets. These tickets allow you to hop between parks after entering your reserved park. Since reopening from the pandemic shutdown, Disneyland has limited park hopping to after 1pm and Disney World to after 2pm. There is a caveat that parks could close to park hopping, but so far, this has only happened once on Disney Worlds 50th anniversary, so not typically a concern.
The fifth option is park hopper plus, which is park hopper plus adding water parks, ESPN wide world of sports and more. For each park day you buy, you get an equal number of plus tickets. Click HERE for more information. This option is only available at Walt Disney World.
The sixth, seventh and eighth options are options 3, 4, and 5, plus adding Genie+ to the length of your stay. Each of these ticket types can be purchased as part of a room and ticket vacation package or as stand alone tickets.
Finally, there are also Special Event tickets. These are tickets for after hours parties and things like that. Your day ticket does not grant you access to the paid after hours parties, you’ll need a separate ticket for the event.
So which ticket option is right for me? That really depends. Time, money, other vacation spots will all factor into your decision on which tickets to purchase. As I mentioned, you probably won’t want to spend a large amount for annual passes as a first time guest, plus only limited options are available for each location anyway.
Looking at regular park tickets, it’s important to know Disneyland has 2 unique parks while Walt Disney World has 4 unique parks. You can see a lot in 1 day per park, but 2 days in your park on your first trip really gives you an opportunity to slow down and take it all in. At Walt Disney World, they really front load the cost of tickets to the first 4 days, so each day beyond that is a rather low cost difference for one person.
As far as extras, I don’t typically recommend park hopping to first time visitors. I’ve gone 3 times and still haven’t gotten them. They’re an upcharge that I’m just not interested in as there’s lots to see and do in most parks and if we’re done in the park, it’s a good time to hit the hotel pool. And since I don’t typically recommend park hopping, I would definitely not know as much about park hopping plus. If you are buying 4 park days and have 4 additional days you want to explore different places at Disney World, it might be a fun option. But if you just wanted a single trip to a water park, they offer single day tickets for that as well at a reasonable rate.
The Genie+ add on is something that’s a little more tricky. I did find it beneficial the one time we used it. It allows you to save time in a few lines or secure a spot to a show, which is great. But as a first timer, you may or may not want the hassle of securing the Lightning Lane passes throughout the day. I will say that getting to skip the line on a few top attractions definitely makes it worth it.
So do kids get a discount? Yes, children under 3 get in free and can go on all rides they’re eligible for, based on height. Kids 3-10 have a slightly discounted rate. When you’re buying tickets, you’ll have the ability to say how many adults and how many kids and get the correct ticket prices from that information.
So are there other places to buy tickets at a discount? There are some authorized ticket resellers, such as Undercover Tourist, see links at the end of the article, that do offer tickets and sometimes are discounted. There are also people trying to sell unused portions of a ticket, for example, they bought 6 days but only used 3. Do not buy these tickets! Disney keeps track of who uses a ticket and if it shows someone else used it, they’ll make you buy a new ticket if you want in.
So is there a need to see each park? Yes and no. Each park is completely different from the other parks at the resort. Disneyland and Disney Worlds Magic Kingdom have several similar rides, but they’re different resorts. If you chose 2 park days on your first visit to Disney World, you wouldn’t know you were missing anything because you’re seeing so much in the parks you visit. Our first visit was 2 days and we definitely felt a bit overwhelmed with all of the excitement.
So how soon should I buy my tickets? The most important thing is to check the availability calendar for approximately the time you want to go. It doesn’t hurt to buy tickets right away to add your park reservations before they fill up, but typically you can wait until a month or two out before you must purchase. If you’re going during a school break, you’ll want to buy two months out so you don’t get locked out.
So how do I get my tickets? Your tickets will be issued electronically in most cases. If buying directly from Disney, they’ll be available in your Disney app. If buying from a third party, follow their directions to add your tickets to the Disney app. At Disneyland, you can use your phone to scan the ticket barcode. They give you a paper ticket you can scan later, but it’s typically easier to continue scanning the phone. At Disney World, they have a few options. Scan the phone, scan a key card available if staying at a Disney hotel, or use a MagicBand, basically an electronic bracelet that stores ticket info, Genie+ info and other data to make it easier for you to get around Disney World.
If you’re ready to start exploring a Walt Disney World or Disneyland family vacation, I recommend checking out Undercover Tourist for your ticket options. I’ve already used them twice, once at Disneyland and once at Disney World and will plan to continue comparing their prices with other sites, however I usually come back to UT because they have the best deals and their instructions make it easy to add your tickets to the Disney apps.