Ed.: I am thrilled to welcome a very special guest today, Lisa Battista, author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. An expert in planning Disney vacations with little ones…and a budget…in mind, Lisa is here to offer some thoughts on saving money on tickets. Thanks so much Lisa for visiting!
Previously, my family’s Disney ticket strategy was to schedule at least two vacations a year using Annual Passes. Some years this meant a fall and spring trip while other years found us arriving 358 days after our previous vacation to complete our travel within one calendar year. Our really fortunate years combined both vacation scenarios. Throw in a long research weekend for Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney world with Preschoolers and my husband and I make good use of our annual passes.
Disney delivered a real zinger this month. Ticket prices were being raised again, which while unwelcome, wasn’t really unexpected. The real doozy for my family of four was that the child Annual Passes were going to be the same price as the adult Annual Passes. Including tax, an Annual Pass is now a whopping $611.31. Even the creative accounting my husband accuses me of using makes Annual Passes for the whole family a tough bill to justify.
Not one to be deterred, especially where Disney is concerned, I fired up my computer, opened a new spreadsheet and set out to find some workable options.
Phase 1 was to identify ways to save on Disney theme park tickets.
Y.E.S. The Individual Enrollment option for the Disney Youth Education Series (Y.E.S.) offers some real benefits for young Disney guests. The Y.E.S. programs turns the Disney theme parks into an interactive classroom by demonstrating how the principles of four different discipline areas are applied in real world attractions and shows. I can’t think of a better way to silence the “I’ll never use this in real life” protests. The good news doesn’t stop there. The ticket pricing for these programs is very favorable for families. Options range from 3-day to 7-day tickets, with the ability to add Park Hopper, and water park and DisneyQuest options. Ticket packages include one Y.E.S. program.
It would seem my quest for the perfect ticket option would end here but that’s not the case. There are drawbacks to this program for Annual Passholders and guests who take advantage of Disney package offers that include tickets. An adult must accompany children under the age of 13 on the Individual Enrollment Y.E.S. programs. A ticket the Y.E.S. program itself is not available; it is bundled into a discounted theme park ticket package. In other words, even if I’m an Annual Passholder, I must purchase a minimum 3-day Y.E.S. ticket package to accompany my son on the program.
Authorized Ticket Reseller. Perhaps the most well-known Authorized Seller of Disney Tickets is Undercover Tourist. The savings on these tickets is approximately 10% when compared to Disney tickets, though this percentage varies by type of ticket. When comparing prices, it is important to remember that the tax is included in the prices on the Undercover Tourist website whereas it is not on the Walt Disney World website.
AAA. AAA advertises a discount of up to 30% on attraction tickets. When I searched for Disney World tickets I did not see any discount whatsoever applied. I’m hoping that this changes from time to time and will keep checking back.
Work Affiliations. You may be eligible for discounted tickets if your company has a partnership with Disney in some way. My niece works for a company that sponsors some Disney attractions and has access to discounted tickets. It never hurts to ask.
Military / DoD Tickets. Discounted attraction tickets are available for military (active and retired) or DoD ID holders. These tickets are available at Shades of Green, the lovely Armed Forces Recreation Center (resort) across from the Polynesian Resort, or at a local MWR office. When I crunched the numbers, the cost of these tickets was less than I found elsewhere, including at Authorized Disney ticket resellers.
Annual Pass. Since my husband and I travel to Walt Disney World at least once a year without the kids, there’s no getting around the need for an Annual Pass. Fortunately, our Disney Vacation Club (DVC) membership entitles us to a $100 discount off every Annual Pass. Using my fuzzy Disney math, I’ll also count the $25 Annual Passholder discount that I receive on a Tables in Wonderland dining card as savings.
Phase 2 entailed applying reward programs to eke out a few more dollars in savings.
Reward Credit Card. I’ll be using my rewards credit card to get 1% back on tickets that I’m not purchasing directly from Disney (i.e., Undercover Tourist, AAA, Military tickets).It’s not much but it all adds up.
Target Red Card. Tickets I purchase directly from Disney (Annual Passes, Y.E.S. tickets) will be paid for using Disney Gift Cards purchased from Target. The Target Red Card gives shoppers 5% off Target purchases every day. As of this writing, the 5% off applied to Disney gift cards purchased at Target. Every $100 I spend on Disney tickets will only cost me $95. Thanks to Kelly from Disney Guru for sharing this tip!
After looking at the numbers every which way, I now have a plan for purchasing the next 18-months of Disney tickets for my family. My three pronged approach involves a combination of Y.E.S. tickets, Annual Passes, and Military / DoD tickets. Does my plan deliver extreme savings that would make me a candidate for Extreme Couponing? No. Our unique travel circumstances cap my savings at around 8% but it’s more than enough for a couple of character dining experiences or special event tickets for my family.
There’s no one magic formula for every family but with a little research and planning, it is possible to save on Disney theme park tickets.
Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.
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