How to Save Money on Disney World Tickets
My good friend from high school, Ashley, recently asked me how to save money on Disney World tickets. (It was great to hear from you Ashley!) The answer isn’t an easy one, as Disney really does not discount tickets at all. However, there are definitely ways to save money on park tickets.
Before we go anywhere, please be aware there are plenty of ticket scams out there. Again, Disney really does not discount tickets. If you see a discount that is too good to be true, let me tell you it definitely is. Never buy from eBay, Craigslist, OfferUp, or vendors on the street, because it’s hard to verify the tickets weren’t previously used. Some street vendors proclaim to sell you the unused portions of other people’s tickets; this is trouble. Not only do most tickets expire within 14 days of original use, but Disney also uses lots of ways to match people to their tickets, and does not authorize the transfer of ownership. Chances are good you’ll be stuck outside of the gates, and out a bunch of money.
You may find timeshare companies exchanging Disney tickets for attendance at one of their presentations. Personally, I stand by the motto that nothing is ever free. You will have to endure a complete hard sell of a timeshare, and repeatedly tell them no. I’m sure you’ll be on their mailing and call lists forever too. It’s not the way I want to start a vacation.
Moral of the story, only buy from authorized Disney World ticket sellers.
Do I need Park Hopper tickets?
One of the quickest ways I can think of reducing cost on Disney park tickets is to pass on the park-hopper option. At Disney World the parks are spread out rather significantly, and it will take time out of your day to get from one park to the other. For me, I will plan an entire day at each of the parks rather than hop from one to another. The Magic Kingdom and Epcot are jam packed with attractions to keep you busy for days. Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have fewer big draws, but are still a day-trip in themselves. If you’re concerned about not having enough attractions to keep you busy at Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, plan a nice sit-down meal inside the park, or have a quick swim at your hotel and return that evening. One thing to note, Animal Kingdom does have shorter hours for animal rest, however new nighttime shows are in the works, check park hours before you leave. If you’re looking for something to do after hours head over to Downtown Disney, or play a round of mini-golf at Winter Summerland or Fantasia Gardens.
Let’s looks at some ways to really save money on Disney World tickets.
AAA has discounts on tickets and hotel rooms. Check with your local office for current specials.
Disney not only offers discounts to Florida residents, but they can also be combined with AAA discounts. Florida residents should also check annual pass rates through AAA, the cost of the pass may be cheaper than getting a multi-day ticket.
Disney Vacation Club Members
DVC owners may also receive a small discount on tickets and annual passes. Login to your DVC account to see what may be available.
For trips longer than 10 days, or if you plan on visiting twice in the same calendar year, an annual pass could make sense. One of the best perks is the ability to park-hop for no additional cost. There are some extra discounts on dining, merchandise, and hotel stays during select times of the year.
Shades of Green, the military hotel on Disney property (another great way to save!) will sell discounted tickets with authorized military ID.
If visiting due to a convention, make a great vacation out of it! Check with your group or trade show, as discounted or half-day tickets may be available.
This rebate is a little tricky and will take a bit of effort and time. Ebates.com offers a rebate on multi-day Disney tickets purchased through Orbitz, and has been as high as 10.5%. Do check the current activity rebate percentage, as well as the current ticket rate with Orbitz to see if makes sense before purchasing.
For me, I look at any rebate as a bonus. Sometimes rebates don’t pan out as hoped, so be aware before purchasing.
- First, you’ll need to create an account with Ebates.com or login.
- Then search Orbitz on the search bar in Ebates.
- Under cash back terms (left column) check the rate on “activities”. The day I checked it was 3.75%. This is the actual rebate percentage you would potentially receive on your tickets.
- Click on Shop Now and you’ll be redirected to the Orbitz site.
- Click on Activities.
- Click on Disney World tickets, or search for Disney World.
- Enter the dates of your stay, and click “View Pricing”.
- Make the selection of tickets you’re looking for and check out.
- You’ll receive a printable voucher for tickets. You’ll need to exchange this for hard tickets at any ticket counter.
- It will take some time to receive the rebate, which would be payable from Ebates.com.
Discounted Gift Card Strategy
There are ways to purchase discounted Disney gift cards with a little bit of work. These gift cards can then be used to purchase tickets directly from Disney either online or at the gates. This may be the only way to receive a discount on one or two-day tickets, which are typically unavailable from other methods of discounting. Gift cards can also be used to pay down your balance at a Disney resort, although I have hesitations about doing so in large denominations. See more on this below.
Make the Most of Rewards Credit Cards
Some credit card companies give extra points for purchases made at grocery stores, pharmacies or office supply stores. If you have one of these cards consider purchasing Disney gift cards ahead of your vacation. You could also go one step further and watch for gift card promotions at these stores. Some promotions might include gas credits or bonus gift cards. Definitely be on the lookout during the Christmas season.
There are some strategies that could net you a small discount on Disney gift cards at Target. Target sells $50 Disney gift cards in most stores, and sometimes online.
Target Red Card- The Target Red Card offers 5% off purchases. Historically people have been able to apply this to Disney gift cards. However, it’s not foolproof, and your milage may vary.
Pharmacy Discount- Target has a loyalty program called Target Pharmacy Rewards. One benefit is that with every five eligible prescriptions filled you receive a 5% off coupon. Some people have reported being able to combine the pharmacy discount with the Target Red Card discount for Disney gift cards. But this isn’t exactly 10% off. It’s 5% off, and then 5% off the discounted total. So, $100 worth of gift cards would come out to $90.25.
Discounted Target Gift Cards- The idea is to purchase a discounted Target gift card and then use that to buy a Disney gift card. One great source for discounted gift cards is Cardpool.com. The day I checked the Cardpool discount was 5.6%. The percentage varies day-to-day.
Gift Card Woes
I do not recommend buying Disney gift cards in large denominations. There are a few reasons to be careful. First, gift cards get lost, stolen, or forgotten at home. You never know. Second, I like my cash liquid. Emergencies happen, and when they do, they’re usually expensive. Gift cards are non-refundable and that cash is tied up if you absolutely need it. Think about this, what would you do with thousands of dollars in gift cards if you had to cancel your vacation?
Always take a picture of the front and back of any gift card. This gives you at least a tiny bit of recourse in case something happens to it. Also, put redeemed gift cards in an envelope and store them until after your vacation.
Disney has a fantastic educational program called Youth Education Series (YES) where tickets may be purchased for a discount. The discount in 2015 is not as great as in years past, but it’s still a discount, and a class is included. These tickets are available to groups, but better yet, Disney has opened the program to individuals. It’s not without some major hoops. Let’s look at the individual program:
To save there are a few qualifiers:
1. You must have school-age children.
2. You must travel during the months of January, February, June, July, August, September and October and be available on select dates when the program is running.
3. You must be interested in at least a 3-Day ticket.
4. Your children must be interested in attending at least one class during the vacation. If your child is under the age of 14, a parent must attend as well. The classes may range from a few hours to a half-day and topics range from animal husbandry to real-life physics. Disney makes the classes fun, and many children report it as being a highlight of the trip. Attendance is mandatory, or you may be charged the difference in ticket costs.
Of course there are some extra rules and regulations:
Tickets cannot be purchased for more adults than children. The only exception is two adults for an only child. If Grandma is vacationing too, buy her ticket separately from the usual routes and bank the savings on the adult tickets that can be purchased under the YES program.
In the past, tickets have been held at guest relations, not theme park gates. Do be aware, and check current pickup locations. Pick up tickets a day ahead of time so there are no delays when arriving at your child’s class. Disney will ask what day your trip starts when you book the tickets. Make sure this is accurate as tickets will be available for pickup on that day.
Tickets are non-refundable after purchase. They are also non-upgradable, and cannot be included in other promotions such as free dining. Days cannot be added to these tickets either. Suggested is a room-only discount for accommodations, or renting DVC points for the biggest savings.
Some classes start before a park opens for the day. If you do not have a car, make sure transportation is running, or a taxi service will need to be utilized.
Disney Youth Groups also uses the YES program, as well as a variety of other educational opportunities. Disney provides ticket discounts to those organizing a trip for a group of young people, as the title would suggest. Think school outings, girl scouts, religious groups, music choirs, sports teams and so much more. By the way, sports competitions and showcases are held throughout the year at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. For groups, rules are not as strict as for the individual program. There are more options for students, and there may even be the opportunity for custom programs.
Homeschool Days – Disney Student Seminars
If you are a homeschool parent, definitely check out Homeschool Days, also known as Disney Student Seminars. This could be a wonderful time of year to bring your children, and receive a terrific discount. There are a few more classes and the opportunity to meet other kids who are studying at home. Homeschool Days occurs twice a year, typically in September and January.
Did I miss any discounts? Let me know in the comments!