Twenty-five years ago, buying tickets to Walt Disney World consisted of showing up at the gate and purchasing a ticket. It was simple, and it didn’t require much more effort than having money in the bank to afford them. Now, thanks to our new normal that includes living with COVID among us, buying tickets to visit Disney World is a little more complicated than the last time I did it in 1996.
2020 & the Dawn of the Park Reservation System
Prior to the March 12, 2020 closure of Walt Disney World, the park reservation system did not exist. Once the park reopened in July, it was necessary to implement new COVID-19 restrictions and procedures to ensure that park employees and visitors were able to safely enjoy the park. Part of the new normal included face protections (masks), social distancing rules in the ride queues as well as on the rides, and limits to the number of attendees in the parks. Now, for one to enter one of the four parks at Walt Disney World, both a park reservation and valid ticket (or pass) for the same park on the same date is required. And heads up, the limited availability of park reservations means that you should make your theme park reservations IMMEDIATELY after purchasing your admission tickets. Don’t push it into the “do it later” pile and end up without a park reservation.
Get comfortable with the idea of the park reservation system. Disney has announced the system will be in place until at least 2023!
Before you do anything, and especially before purchasing your tickets, check out the calendar of theme park availability to see if the days you wish to attend are available for a reservation.
Below is an example from the Disney site that shows the desired search result: green means all parks available.
You’ve got the green light for dates, and now you’ll need to get your tickets. You have many options when buying tickets. You can purchase direct from Disney, you can go through a travel agent, and there are a number of websites that sell tickets, too. Don’t forget your local banks, credit unions, shopping clubs, and possibly insurance companies. Check out their website or give a call to inquire if they sell tickets. Discount tickets are everywhere, but vet the sources before spending your money. You’ll really need to do your homework when researching ticket vendors. Read reviews of those services and sites. I did a lot of research and happily landed at Undercover Tourist.
The Undercover Tourist site is user friendly, and there is no delay between ordering tickets and receiving communication from them, whether it be receiving an emailed receipt or the confirmation of the purchase of your tickets. For example, I received an email with a receipt at 1:30 and had my ticket ID numbers emailed to me at 1:36. They do not charge any hidden fees, tax is included in the price, and your actual tickets are mailed to you with free shipping! You will receive an email with the actual ticket ID numbers that will allow you to immediately go into the Disney phone app and reserve your park preferences! I was seriously nervous about plopping down $1,500 for the tickets to an unknown source, but the online reviews were all extremely positive. They were also running a great promotion that discounted the purchase an additional $30.
The Undercover Tourist offers a refund policy. Per their site, “Your confidence in purchasing takes priority, which is why we offer a 90-day Return Policy and use common sense and fair practices when dealing with your cancellations & refunds. If you believe you are eligible for a refund, please contact us for further shipping instructions. Once tickets have been received and verified by Undercover Tourist, we will issue a refund back to the initial form of payment according to the terms below within 15 business days.”
Our plan was to visit Disney for four days, providing one day per park. Undercover Tourist featured a promotion for a 4-Day ticket with an extra day at a great rate, so we chose for that option, giving us five days at the park.
Note that this is a 5 day ticket! Tax is included and that is a nearly $100 savings (see below)! The online promotion made it an easy option to pick up an extra day!
When price comparing, check out the daily price of the ticket at the Disney site. The price will vary based upon time of year, day of week, and what ticket option you are selecting (park hopper, water park admissions, etc…). My party will consist of three adults, and we wanted four days in the park with the park hopper option without any water park visits. It works out that we are traveling when tickets appear to be less expensive, and that really helps the budget restrictions. The more days you add to your visit, the cheaper tickets are per day!
Let’s check out the Disney site. As you can see, tickets per day are $106, for a total of $527.39 per person before tax.
After tax, the total came to $1685.04. Also note, the tickets at Walt Disney World are not refundable. They do offer free shipping on your actual tickets mailed via USPS, or you can opt to receive the tickets via email and use that email when you reach the park.
4-Day Disney Theme Park Ticket with Park Hopper® Option – with Extra Day – ADULT $529.82 per person (and tax is included in that price), but after the $30 promo discount (and applying $10 of the discount to each ticket), that brought the tickets per person down to $519.82! Five days at $104 per day!
At the Disney site, the 5-Day Disney Theme Park Ticket with Park Hopper® Option -ADULT $527.39 per ticket (before tax) and after tax, $561.08 per person. Five days at $112.22 per day.
Undercover Tourist came out ahead for a total savings of $125.58 versus purchasing the tickets at Disney. I’m excited to have the option of an extra day, especially if we need extra time to fit in the rides we are really hoping to experience, like Rise of the Resistance.
Remember, your savings experience may vary. You may find a greater discount when you are combining on-site lodging with your admission tickets. Different coupons and promos may be offered at Undercover Tourist, too. For the purposes of my trip, and as a general guidance, I am encouraging everyone to evaluate the options that exist and scoop up the best deals that will help you create the memorable trip you desire.
Have a frugal ticket purchase tip? Let me know!
Disclaimer: I became an affiliate for Undercover Tourist after I used the service and wanted to share them as a resource.