Advice, Tips and Tricks for Walt Disney World Tickets and Passes

LAST UPDATE: 7/14/17

There are loads of different Walt Disney World tickets and passes, and it can be very confusing to figure out which ones to buy and how to get the best discounts and deals on them. This page can help.

In addition to Walt Disney World ticket discounts, there are lots of ways to maximize the use of your Disney World ticket. You can get a lot of extra value out of it if you know what you’re doing!

Read the sections below to get specific tips for each of the major Disney World tickets as well as Disney passes sold in advance, at the gate and at the Disney resort hotels.

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Other Walt Disney World Ticket Information Pages

Very Important Tip!

The first thing you should do when you buy physical Walt Disney World tickets is link them to your MyDisneyExperience account or make a photocopy or take a picture of the reverse side (the side with all the numbers). We tend to do both. Taking a picture with your phone is often the easiest way, but email the pictures to yourself or someone else in case the phone is lost or stolen with the tickets. If your tickets go missing and they’re linked to your MyDisneyExperience account, you can get a new ticket card or MagicBand at Guest Relations by giving them the email address or other info associated with your MyDisneyExperience account and showing them an ID. If you haven’t yet linked them, your only hope of getting them replaced is to have the coded information on the back. The seemingly random numbers, letters and dates you’ll see in a couple of locations on the backs of your tickets will help Disney replace them. Disney will almost always reissue tickets if you can provide that information, though it is not obligated to do so: the tickets state that “Disney is not responsible for misplaced, lost or stolen tickets.” Note that they will also void the serial numbers of the missing tickets which means they will come up in the computer system as “potentially stolen.” If you should ever get your tickets reissued and then later find the missing tickets, throw them away. If you leave them lying around and then inadvertently use them, you’ll have to spend some time explaining to Disney security how you came to have tickets that were reported missing.

If you buy your tickets at the gate, save the receipt, since that can also be used to look up lost tickets. A receipt from a non-Disney source, such as AAA or a ticket broker, won’t have any information that helps with replacing tickets, so it is especially important to take a picture or make a copy if you get your tickets that way.

Even a regular receipt from the Disney Store won’t have your ticket numbers on it, though reader Kathy R reports that her local Disney Store gave her a separate receipt with the pass numbers on it. We don’t know if all Disney Stores do this. If you don’t see a serial number on your receipt that matches the info on the back of your tickets, be sure to make a photocopy.

Another option is to scan the backs, then email the file to yourself. As long as you have a web-based email account, you can retrieve the file from anywhere.

5 seconds and a free photocopy saved us $200.00!

There is one bit of info on your site that is absolutely imperative that EVERY Disney World visitor MUST follow. Take 5 seconds and make a PHOTOCOPY of your tickets.

We purchased three – 4 day park hopper passes… I had the tickets photocopied. On the 2nd day we discovered we had lost one of our tickets. We did panic for a few minutes, until we remembered I photocopied the tickets….

When we got to the Magic Kingdom we handed them the photocopy of our tickets. The guest relations person … said had we not done this there would’ve been nothing they could’ve done for us other than sell us a new 4 day park hopper ticket. Instead, they reissued the ticket.

Rick J from Colorado Springs

Where NOT to Buy Disney World Tickets

There are lots of legitimate ways to get discounted Walt Disney World passes. Unfortunately, there are also many ways to get ripped off.

Never buy partially used passes.

For instance, perhaps someone says he bought a 7-day ticket and ended up using only 5 days of it, so he’s reselling the remaining 2 days. Sounds good, right? Wrong, and here’s why:

  1. There is absolutely no way to tell whether the pass actually has the number of days remaining that the seller claims, until you get to the gate and see if it works.
  2. Disney tickets are nontransferable. Each ticket can be used only by one person. Disney uses a biometric finger scan system at the gate that takes a partial fingerprint the first time the ticket is used, and records it on the ticket’s magnetic strip. If the scan doesn’t match, you can’t use the ticket.
  3. In Florida it is illegal to resell partly-used multi-day admission tickets: click here to read about the arrest of some people who were doing just that. Used ticket brokers are everywhere in the Orlando/Kissimmee area. They are generally fly-by-night operators with small storefronts or a desk in another business, such as a motel or restaurant. They mostly sell partially used passes. It’s likely that you’ll get to the gate and find out the passes are no good. Needless to say, Disney is not going to help you with this. It is a great way to ruin a vacation.

Websites that seem to be offering super low prices on Disney tickets are almost guaranteed to be scams.

There are legitimate, authorized Disney ticket brokers (such as Undercover Tourist) but they don’t have a lot of profit margin once they pay Disney. There is no way a ticket dealer can offer new, authentic Disney tickets at extremely low prices without losing money.

Scam sites may outright rip you off (charge you for tickets you never receive), or even worse, they may just be harvesting your personal information and credit card number so they can sell that information to criminals.

Some signs of a scam ticket site:

It is a very bad idea to buy Disney passes on eBay or Craigslist.

Unfortunately both of these online resources are extremely popular with con artists. Recently scammers have even taken to presenting fake “invoices” or “receipts” that seem to be from legitimate businesses that supposedly sold them the tickets. They always have some sad story about buying nonrefundable tickets, and now they can’t go, and they just want to get some of their money back. But the passes they sell you are partially or completely used up, or were never valid to begin with.

Tickets can look perfectly new and real, yet be worthless. For example, they may be selling real Disney ticket stock shoplifted from a Disney Store, but since the tickets were never paid for, they have not been validated and they have zero value.

There is no way to find out if the tickets you buy from a stranger (or even “a friend of a friend”) are any good in advance of your trip. You are very likely to arrive at the gate and find out you have invalid passes.

Websites that offer exceptionally low prices for Disney tickets may be promoting timeshares.

Look at the very bottom of the site — it probably says something like “This advertising material is being used for the purpose of soliciting sales of vacation ownership interests.” That means you would have to attend a timeshare presentation in order to get tickets at the advertised price.

Yes, many timeshare resorts will give you some sort of discount on Disney World passes — or maybe even a couple of free one-day passes — if you will sit through a hard-sell “90-minute presentation” (which usually takes 2 hours or more). Some people don’t mind spending part of their vacation doing this, but to us this is not worthwhile. We do not list any ticket discounts that involve timeshares.

Thank you to Ron L for suggesting this topic.

Deciding Which Tickets to Buy

We wish we could give you a quick and easy way to decide, but picking which tickets to purchase is complicated because every vacation is different.

It’s always wise to spend some time developing an itinerary BEFORE you buy your passes, because the right passes for you really depend on how you plan to spend your days. Some (actually, most) people will spend each day in only one theme park. Others like to “hop” between parks and water parks in one day. And so on…

It’s important to get out your calculator, take a look at the prices and figure out which tickets make sense for your situation.

A few hints:

Where to Get the Lowest Prices – In a Nutshell

The chart below lists the best place to buy the most popular tickets sold to the general public.

However, be sure to check all your options. You may be overlooking a special deal for which you qualify, such as Florida resident, military/civil service, Disney Vacation Club and corporate discounts, which are not included in this chart. There are also some special tickets for visitors from UK/Ireland that we don’t list on the chart.

Ticket Type Cheapest Sources
1-Day Magic Your Way Ticket at the gate – there are no discounts for the general public
2-Day Magic Your Way Ticket at the gate – there are no discounts for the general public
3-Day, 4-Day, 5-Day, 6-Day, 7-Day, 8-Day, 9-Day or 10-Day Magic Your Way Tickets Undercover Tourist, AAA (rarely)
Seasonal Pass, Platinum Pass, Platinum Plus Pass Auto Club South

1-Day, 2-Day and 3-Day Magic Your Way Tickets – Adding Value

If you’re not already familiar with Magic Your Way Tickets, click here to learn the basics.

1-Day to 4-Day tickets are the least economical option because Disney “front loads” the cost of its tickets: the first 4 days on the Base Ticket are by far the most expensive. After the first 4 days, the cost of adding extra days is much lower: $21.30 for days 5-7, and $10.65 to add each additional day up to 10.

So you get the most value out of a 4-day or longer ticket, but perhaps you want a shorter ticket for one reason or another. Maybe two or three days in a major theme park is all you can handle during one vacation, for example. Here are some ways to stretch the value of the shorter tickets.

You can add the Park Hopper option.

If you want to “hop” between parks on the same day, you can add the Park Hopper option to your Base Ticket. It is true that the Park Hopper option adds quite a bit to the cost (between $53.25 and $79.88, depending on the ticket). But if you use it for admission to two or more parks per day, it can be a decent value.

Ideally you’ll be adding the Park Hopper option to your ticket on a day when one of the parks you want to visit stays open late. That way you get more hours to use the full value of the ticket. Depending on the season, you may be able to enter one theme park as early as 8:00 am and stay until the closing of a different park as late as midnight.

It is possible to “hit the highlights” of all four parks in two days if you travel during a time when the parks are open extended hours, and if you have a ton of energy. This is definitely not optimal for a first-time visitor, but it can be done.

With the Park Hopper option, some people have managed to hit all 4 parks (though only a few attractions in each) in one day. However, it’s a terrible idea for a first-time visitor or for anyone without superhuman endurance.

You can add the Park Hopper Plus option.

The Park Hopper Plus option adds one visit to a water park (or you can choose from other options, most of which are less valuable) for each day of main theme park admission included on the ticket (with the exception of 1-day tickets, where it includes 2 visits). So for a 3-Day Ticket, it adds three water park visits. To do this upgrade, you first have to add Park Hopper.

The cost to add “Plus” to a Park Hopper ticket is a flat $15.98, for any length of ticket. To add Park Hopper Plus to a Base Ticket ranges from $69.23 to $95.85. Two adult peak-season water park admissions purchased separately would normally cost $132.06 with tax, so if you want to visit the water parks twice, it’s still a good deal to add Park Hopper Plus even if you don’t plan to do any park hopping.

Here’s the best part: the water park or other “visits” DO NOT have to be used on the same day as your main theme park admission! They are completely separate admissions and they are good for 14 days from the first use of your ticket. You can visit the theme parks and the water parks in any order.

In other words, you could buy a 3-Day Base Ticket, add the Park Hopper Plus (which gives you three visits to water parks) and use that ticket on up to six different days! For example, you could spend your first day at Epcot, second day at Typhoon Lagoon water park, third day do a round of golf at Oak Trail, fourth day at Magic Kingdom, fifth day at Animal Kingdom and sixth day at Blizzard Beach water park. That’s a good deal for $387.66 per adult, tax included — you’re spending a little over $60 a day. It also helps to break up your theme park days, which can be gruelling, with some more-relaxing water park days.

Park Hopper Plus Hints

The Park Hopper Plus option (formerly called “Water Park Fun & More”) gives you a certain number of “visits” to the water parks (as well as other options, most of which are less valuable). It can be added to any Magic Your Way ticket.

Park Hopper Plus “visits” DO NOT have to be used on the same day as your main theme park admissions! They are completely separate admissions and they are good for 14 days from the first use of your ticket (or forever, if you have an old No Expiration ticket). For example, you could buy a 7-Day Base Ticket, add the Park Hopper Plus option (which gives you 7 water park admissions), and use that ticket on up to 14 different days! You can visit the theme parks and the water parks in any order.

Tip: if you use a “visit” from your Park Hopper Plus add-on for the Oak Trail golf course, you must make a tee time reservation in advance. Ask the front desk of your Disney hotel for a free cab voucher to and from the course. The Park Hopper Plus covers your green fee and kids under 18 can borrow clubs for free. Adults will have to rent clubs if they don’t bring their own. Oak Trail is a walking course, but a pull cart can be rented for a small fee.

Expiration and Upgrade Policies For Magic Your Way Tickets

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Understanding Ticket Expiration

Current Walt Disney World tickets (called “Magic Your Way” tickets to distinguish them from earlier types of tickets) have two ways they can “expire,” which are subtly different.

Little-Known Tip for No-Expiration Childrens’ Tickets

A neat thing about leftover days on a child’s “no expiration” ticket (including old pre-2005 tickets, all of which didn’t expire): if the child has turned 10 since you bought the ticket, he or she will need an “adult” ticket to enter the theme parks. In these circumstances, the child’s ticket may be presented at any Guest Services location, in person only, to have it exchanged for the required “adult” ticket — at no additional charge! This only applies to partially used tickets that have not expired. Thanks to Lois H for the info.

Upgrading Tickets

You can apply the value of an unused Magic Your Way ticket (or one that’s partially used but not yet fully used up) toward the purchase of any higher-priced ticket or seasonal/annual pass (including renewals), subject to some restrictions. You can add days to a ticket, or add additional options (such as Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus), or both.

You should know going in that ticket upgrades are a complicated subject. We once asked six different Disney employees a seemingly simple question about how much credit toward an upgrade you would get from an older ticket, and got six subtly different answers. The tips below represent our best understanding based on many reader reports and our own experiences with ticket upgrades.

You may find that a cast member will insist that the information we give here is all wrong. Our advice is not to argue. You can ask nicely if there’s a supervisor there who can help you understand it better, and sometimes that will help. If not, you can either accept what they’re offering or politely decline to do the upgrade and take the ticket to another Guest Services location or ticket window, where you may get a better answer. Remember that being polite and friendly to the cast member raises the likelihood of getting a better outcome.

Keep in mind that sometimes cast members will do something special for a guest based on their assessment of whether it’s warranted. Just because you heard that someone else was able to get a particular deal or upgrade doesn’t always mean you can get the same deal or upgrade.

Upgrade Policies

Calculating Upgrade Cost

Using Pre-2005 “Park Hopper” Passes

Before 2005, the standard tickets for Walt Disney World were called “Park Hopper” and “Park Hopper PLUS.” Those were replaced by the new Magic Your Way tickets on January 2, 2005. However, Pre-2005 Park Hopper and Park Hopper PLUS tickets that have already been purchased will be honored.

Many people aren’t aware of some important facts about the pre-2005 Walt Disney World Park Hopper and Park Hopper PLUS passes:

  1. Unused days and “plus” options on the old Park Hopper and Park Hopper PLUS passes never expire, except for a few very rare types, which will have an expiration date printed on them. So don’t waste them! Even though you may have paid much less per day for your admission, Disney will honor the remaining days without any upcharge. If the magnetic stripe on your old ticket is ruined (or it’s so old it doesn’t have a magnetic stripe), Disney will reissue the ticket on new ticket stock, with the same number of days and PLUS options that were remaining on the old ticket.
  2. The “plus” options on a Park Hopper PLUS pass do not have to be used on days when you go to the theme parks. That means you can use a 5-Day Park Hopper PLUS (which gives you five days of theme park admission and two “plus” options good at the water parks) on a total of 7 days if you wish! The theme park days and “plus” admissions don’t have to be consecutive and they don’t have to be used in any particular order. For instance, you could spend 2 days in the theme parks, take two days off, visit the water parks on 2 other days and then use the final 2 theme park days.
  3. Even if one of the current theme parks did not exist when the Park Hopper ticket was sold, it will be honored for all four of the main theme parks now. However, the PLUS options on old Park Hopper PLUS tickets have not been upgraded to include all of the same admissions included in the present-day Magic Your Way ticket with Park Hopper Plus add-on. The PLUS options are good only at the water parks, Wide World of Sports and Oak Trail golf course. (Oak Trail is Disney’s substitution for Pleasure Island admission, which was included in PLUS but no longer exists.)

Park Hopper tickets purchased prior to 1/2/05 cannot be upgraded or converted to Magic Your Way tickets. All you can do is use up the remaining days on them.

Are Annual Passes For You?

For some people an Annual Pass is the most economical choice. Generally speaking, if you will be going into the Walt Disney World theme parks for at least 12 days on one trip or 9 days in two or more trips more than 14 days apart, an Annual Pass is well worth considering.

An Annual Pass is good for 366 days. If you buy one on April 8, 2016, it will be valid through April 8, 2017! (Yes, you get an extra day, except in Leap Years.) So if you take an annual vacation to Walt Disney World, just make it a little earlier the second year, and you can use the previous year’s pass. For instance, if you bought and activated your pass on April 8 and vacationed April 8-14 this year, come back next year from April 2-8 and your passes will still be valid. Bingo – “free” admission on your second vacation!

Even for somewhat shorter stays, consider the substantial benefits that are often available to Annual Passholders: hotel discounts, discounts on entertainment, free parking and the opportunity to buy a Tables in Wonderland card that saves 20% on most of Disney’s full-service restaurants. You may find it’s worthwhile to purchase an Annual Pass for at least one person in your party, just for those benefits.

Click here to learn more about buying Disney World Annual Passes.

Working Around Annual Pass Blockout Dates

Some of the Annual Passes available to Florida residents and DVC members have blockout dates when they can’t be used. If you want to buy one of those annual passes, but your next visit is going to be during one of the blockout periods, you can buy a regular ticket, use it for the dates you can’t use the annual pass, and then upgrade the ticket to an annual pass on the last day (after using the ticket to enter the park, just in case). Be sure to read our tips about upgrading tickets before starting this process.

Premier Passport

If you plan to visit Walt Disney World and Disneyland in the same year, it may be worth considering the Premier Passport, which is good for one year of unlimited admission at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It offers the same privileges and discounts as a Signature Plus Passport at Disneyland and a Platinum Plus Pass at Walt Disney World.

While it’s very expensive at $1,485.77 (including tax), in certain cases the Premier Passport is a great deal. It’s a better deal than buying separate tickets if you would otherwise buy one of these combinations within a one-year period:

In both of the examples above, it’s cheaper to buy the Premier Passport, plus it includes water parks at Walt Disney World and gives you better discounts and no blockout dates at Disneyland.

One minor downside to the Premier Passport is that it must be purchased in person, unlike the other Annual Passes that can be purchased over the phone or online. If you plan to keep it continuously, you either need to live near Disneyland or Walt Disney World or plan a trip every year within 40 days before it expires to do a renewal. On the other hand, since there’s no discount for renewal, you can just let it expire, and buy a new one when you need it.

There are no additional discounts, including renewal discounts, on the Premier Passport.