A very common question when planning a trip to Disney World from the UK is what tickets to buy. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said it, but if you’re prepared to plan your holiday, even just roughly, to figure out how many days you plan to spend at each of the theme parks, you can save yourself some money.
In the USA, the tickets to Disney World are called ‘Magic Your Way’ and can be purchased ahead of time or at the gate, from 1 day tickets to 10 day tickets, with the ability to add a ‘Park hopper’ option (so you can visit multiple parks on 1 day) and a ‘Water Park Fun and More’ option (so you can also visit the water parks and DisneyQuest, plus other sites). If you look for information on tickets on the web, you will find a lot of information about these and especially whether it is ‘worth’ purchasing the hopper option. In the UK, Disney does not sell this style of ticket. If you wish to purchase these you’ll need to either wait and buy them at the parks, or purchase them from an independent ticket retailer.
The tickets that Disney offer to their UK visitors are much simpler, but also much more restrictive regarding numbers of days. You have two choices of ticket and each of these have two choices of time frame.
These are available for either 5 days or 7 days. They give you unlimited access to the 4 main Disney parks, including ‘hopping’ privileges. You also get 5 or 7 visits to the 2 Disney water parks, Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, DisneyQuest or Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course. You have 14 days to use, after the date of first use.
With the current exchange rate, at £220 for either the 5 or 7 day ticket for an adult in 2011, these are cheaper than both the 7 day or 5 day Magic Your Way ticket + hopper + water park fun and more, therefore are better value than purchasing the Magic Your Way ticket – assuming that you think you would use the hopper and water parks options. If you plan to visit only one park per day, or not use the water parks or other ‘extras’ then you can save some money by purchasing the US tickets instead. With the current exchange rate, a 5 day ticket with no extras or hopping works out at roughly £150, including tax, and a 7 day ticket at £176. That’s a significant saving if you wont actually use all the options that the UK ticket will give you.
Currently however (and actually pretty often for the past few years) Disney are doing a deal on their 14 day Ultimate ticket, and price matching it to the Premiums, so it makes these Premium tickets practically redundant.
These are available for 14 or 21 days. They give you unlimited access to the parks, and unlimited access to the 2 Disney water parks, Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, DisneyQuest or Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course over the 14 or 21 day period (which starts on the first day of use). Currently at £220 (around $355) for a 14 day ticket, they are excellent value for money – about the equivalent of a Magic Your Way 3 day + hopper + water parks ticket. The 21 day ticket is currently £259 (about $420) – roughly equivalent to a Magic Your Way 10 day + hopper + water parks ticket. Clearly, both of these are great deals.
But again, it is only good value if you will actually use sufficient days and the park hopping and the water parks. Without the water parks or hopping, a 10 day ticket is roughly £191 (including tax). If you need to save money, this can be a good way of doing so.
If you want to price up the different options, the Walt Disney World website will give you the latest prices. It is important that you do so as Disney do occasionally change the prices of the UK tickets, depending on promotions. In the UK, the price also depends on the year that you plan to use them (and you can’t use 2011 tickets in 2012, unless you’re there over the New Year and start them in 2011). In the US, ticket prices go up in the summer (and have just done so) but once purchased, there is no expiry date so no limit on when you can start to to use these – you can buy them now for use in three years time if you wish. I’ve also used the 2011 prices in my examples – but if you’re purchasing in the first half of the year, when the UK prices have risen, but the US prices haven’t yet, your savings in comparison will be less. You can access the pricing for the US Magic Your Way tickets on the official website too – just scroll to the bottom of the homepage, and under ‘Select an International Version’ pick ‘USA: English’. The site will look very similar, but when you navigate to the tickets section, it will provide the details for the Magic Your Way tickets. That also should work in reverse if you’re in the USA.
So which to buy?
Personally, we purchase the 14 day Ultimate Ticket for a few reasons. The most important being that we spend 14 days in Disney. We stay at a Disney hotel and even on the days we venture out of the World, we often will still visit a Disney park that evening for a meal or the fireworks etc. The second reason is that we stay on property and often take advantage of the free dining plan promotions – and to be eligible for this you also have to purchase your tickets at the same time, therefore having to buy the UK Disney options.
However, the majority of Brits won’t be quite as obsessed with Disney as us (even those with young children) and so will spend far less than 14 days in Disney. A day at each of the area’s theme parks plus days at water parks, plus a days shopping (well it would be rude not to take advantage of the exchange rate and cheaper clothes/electronics) means that your 14 days can be used up pretty quickly. I’d guess most people spend a day at each of the parks and then have 1 or 2 days to return to their favourites – so probably only up to 6 days in Disney parks. If it’s a first trip, I probably wouldn’t bother with park hopping and I’d do only 1 day at a Disney Water park. At $49+tax, a one day water park ticket is less than the water parks and more option, so I’d purchase this separately at the time. 6 days, no options + 1 day water park + tax works out at roughly £205 – still a reduction from the UK tickets. And that is considering the ‘official prices’ – some ticket sellers can offer reductions on these. The same of course will apply to Universal, Sea World etc – if you plan how many days you will actually spend at them, it can work out cheaper not to buy the popular and all encompassing 14-day FlexTicket. So I’ll say it again – plan your days – you lose some flexibility but you might end up saving yourself some money to spend in the “mall”!
BRiTMiCK is the principle contributor to britmick.co.uk – a website that provides planning information aimed at British visitors to Walt Disney World. You can follow her on Twitter @Britmickuk