Tickets are seen as the most vexing part of the Disney cost equation. The truth is that it’s pretty simple to figure out how to get the best ticket pricing as long as you understand the basic rules.
Assume that you’re planning to go for a week. Disney has figured out exactly how to extract the most money from you without making you feel the pain. So in typical “discount” fashion, the longer you stay, the less you pay per day. But everything is ala carte. They call it “Magic Your Way” (MYW). So, a 7-day “Base” MYW ticket for 2 adults and 2 kids under the age of 10 is going to be $1116 (Note: These prices were pulled in early 2013. Disney changes their prices at least 1x/year (typically either in the summer or in early winter). Immediately after prices change, the amounts will be similar, but usually go up 5%/year.). $41.14/day/adult and $38.57/day/kid. (If your children are <2, they get in free, so adjust these prices accordingly.) Changing the number of days +-1 isn’t going to help much. It’s algorithmic, so the only way to really affect pricing is to change by several days in either direction.
Remember, though, that it’s ala carte. The Base MYW ticket only allows each ticket holder entrance to ONE park per day (you can exit and enter that same park as many times as you wish). So if you wanted to do MK in the morning and Epcot at night, no can do with just a Base ticket. You need to add the “Park Hopper” option (MYWPH). This add-on increases the base cost by $8.14/day/person (it’s actually $57/person, regardless of the number of days on your ticket) for a grand total of $1344. Now, with MYWPH, you can move in and out of as many parks in a single day as you could possibly imagine. For adults, this is an absolute necessity. With children, you should give some consideration to NOT buying this add-on.
Additionally, if it’s going to be hot and humid (summer and even springtime), your kids might figure out that there are two water parks in addition to the theme parks: Typhoon Lagoon (TL) and Blizzard Beach (BB). The water parks are open in all but the coldest months of the year – and even then, sometimes year-round. Tickets for entrance into these parks is NOT included in the Base MYW price. You have to buy another add-on: Water Park Fun & More (WPF&M). This is ANOTHER $8.14/day/person ($57/person). Adding in both now nets you $1432.
Phew. And prior to March, 2015, we’re not done yet. It’s possible that one have more option associated with previously-purchased tickets: No Expiration (NE). Remember that I told you that the per-day base ticket price decreases with each additional day purchased? Well, you used to be able to buy up to a 10-day ticket, add in the NE option and then whatever you have left over can be used anytime from now until you die. The unused days truly never expire. This was of benefit for adults if they ever plan to return to Disney (since they increase ticket prices by about 5%/year, buying them in advance is actually a worthy investment). This was also of benefit for adults with kids if you plan to return BEFORE the kid ages out of the under-10 range.
[This is historic information for those of you with a few days left on a MYWPHNE ticket. If you don’t have one currently in your possession, you can’t buy them now. With one exception noted below.]
For a 7-day ticket, if you’d planned to use every day while you’re there, you didn’t need the NE option. It would only increase the cost of a now fully loaded ticket to: $2192 (+$27.14/day/person – the NE option is actually tied to the number of days you’re paying to exist “forever”). Totally not worth it. But, if you’d planned to return in the next few years, you could’ve gotten a 10-day ticket for $2652. Granted, this is basically $460 for “just” 3 extra days. It might not be worthwhile on its face, but consider, though, that a set of 3-day MYWPHNE tickets was $1412 by itself (without considering inflation or price increases).
But since you can no longer purchase the NE option, however, your tickets automatically expire 14 days after first use. So if you purchase a 10-day ticket, and use it for the first time, just to go eat at a Park on January 2nd, the ticket automatically expires on January 17th. So be careful about buying a large number of days if you don’t plan on using them all.
All in all, I typically suggest that families with kids only buy for the number of days you actually think you’ll be in the parks. You can ALWAYS add days to your ticket before you leave and only pay the incremental ticket cost. But if you have too many days on your ticket, you could end up spending money you didn’t intend to. Some families plan at least one day “off” where they’re going to wander the non-theme-park areas or do the pool instead… so if that’s your plan, don’t get a 7-day ticket. Additionally, don’t forget to NOT buy tickets for the parks if you don’t at least get 1/2 day in them on your travel days. It’s just not worth it and there are LOTS of things to do (such as swim, play mini golf, go to Disney Springs, etc) that don’t require a park ticket.
Now that you understand the rules, AllEars.net yet again comes to the rescue, having done ALL of the math to show you from a 1-day, 1-park base ticket all the way to a fully-loaded, 10-day, park hopping, WPF&M, No Expire ticket (and everything in between, including all of the Annual and Florida Pass rates, DVC rates – and heck, they even have a ticket partner for ticket discounts).
[A special note to our European visitors: Tickets purchased while you are currently IN Europe have some different flavors (via phone or internet). First, you have the ability to buy 14-day tickets. Disney knows you’re on holiday and might be here for awhile, they would like to keep you on property. Second, I’ve heard rumors that No Expire tickets are still available to our European brothers and sisters – again, a way to ensure that you’ll come back across the pond for another visit.]