There was a time when I was a HUGE fan of Disney and be it the parks, the movies, the music, you name it, I was a walking, talking Disney encyclopedia. For years before Joe and I took the leap and moved to Central Florida, if friends, family or co-workers had a question about going to Walt Disney World (WDW), be it during which part of the year they should go, what they should do or where they should eat, they’d ask me. My people from up north still ask me those kinds of questions, just via Facebook private messages rather than in person, and although I’m not “in the know” as much as I used to be, I still help them out as much as I can.
With one-day, one-park ticket prices to the parks now varying from at least $110 to $169 per day (based on season, theme park and when you buy your tickets, because yes, Disney has now thrown those factors into the mix. Let’s just say I don’t recommend going to the Magic Kingdom on the weekend in the summer. Oh, and don’t even THINK about park hopping because that will cost you even more), the often-asked question of, “How can I get discounted tickets to WDW?” has now turned into a HUGE question. Unfortunately, the answer I give is not very encouraging – short of buying multi-day passes (the more days you buy, the better the discount is per day), there simply aren’t very many discounts and the available ones are not very substantial. Granted, 10% off a $150 ticket (I’m intentionally using a round number, just makes things easier) is $15 and for a family of 4, that’s potentially a $60 savings. Still, you’re also paying $540 for your family to go into a park for one day. It’s a costly proposition, but such is the case when you’re the vacation kingdom of the world and large masses of people have shown they’re willing to pay those kinds of prices.
As I said though, there are a few legitimate discounts out there. Some of those are seasonal or for people who work(ed) in specific jobs (i.e., teachers, military), some are only for Florida Residents or employees of certain companies (click here to see if your company is on the list) who do business with Disney, and some are for Annual Pass holders or Disney Vacation Club members. But there are discounts out there for people who don’t fit into those categories, as well. If you’re a member of AAA, you can check with your local chapter. Several websites list many of these opportunities, but MouseSavers.com has been my favorite for years and years, simply because they keep it so up-to-date and it’s all-encompassing. A friend also recommends UndercoverTourist.com (they will also sometimes give AMEX offers if you’re an AMEX cardholder). In fact, if you subscribe to MouseSavers’ monthly email, they’ll give you an exclusive link for an extra discount on Undercover Tourist…that’s synergy right there 😉 Don’t forget to check out Disney.com to compare prices! You can also buy gift cards at Target at a 5% discount, and use that…I don’t know the whole deal with that, but it’s easy enough to find out with a Google search.
Besides the potential viable discounts mentioned above, there are also several options that I would suggest you NOT attempt to use:
Tickets from timeshares
Some timeshares offer to give you theme park passes (or a discount on passes) in exchange for sitting through a timeshare spiel. Assuming you’re at WDW for vacation, I don’t know how relaxing or fun a 2-hour hard sell of a timeshare would be. Your Mileage May Vary, but just for general principles, I don’t recommend it.
Using someone else’s partially unused ticket
There was a time, years and years ago, when WDW tickets never expired, so if you bought a multi-day pass and didn’t use all the days, you could hold the pass and still use the unused days the next time you visited, be it months or years later (in 2004 the “no expiration date” became an option [for a price, of course] instead of being automatic. They removed the “passes that never expire” concept entirely sometime around 2013. All U.S.-based multi-day park tickets now expire 14 days after first use). Instead of holding their tickets for next time, some people thought it better to give away their partially-used passes, either to friends or family, or to sell them to “ticket brokers” who bought and sold such things. Unfortunately, it’s illegal to do that. Whether you get the pass from someone you know or from one of those ticket brokers, it’s simply not allowed, because Disney passes are non-transferrable once used. When they used paper tickets, there was usually a spot to sign your name for each day of entry and in later years, your passes have become biometrically linked to your fingerprint. Either way, if your signature or fingerprint doesn’t match up, there’s the potential you won’t be able to get into the park. Plus, of course, if you’re getting a ticket from a broker, there’s nothing that says the ticket is legitimate to begin with – counterfeits can look amazingly like the real thing (NOTE: this is less of an issue since Magic Bands have come into use, since your ticket information is 100% electronic and linked to your name/ID). Why take the chance?
There are some things you should just not buy from Craigslist. Bed mattresses (yuck). Used motorcycle helmets (they’re made to protect your head only one time. Once a helmet has been involved in an accident, the protectiveness is lost). Medical devices (would you really want to buy a CPAP machine or contact lenses from what is the electronic equivalent of some guy off the street?). And yep, theme park tickets. You don’t know if they’re counterfeit or if they have the number of days on them that they say until you’re at the parks, and it’s not as if you can get your money back if they’re not. Don’t take the chance.
Pretty much the same thoughts as Craigslist. Simply put, you just don’t know what you’re getting when buying from a stranger. eBay has buyer’s protection in there, but I don’t know how protected you’ll be if you’ve bought a counterfeit item or something that legally shouldn’t have been transferred from one person to another in the first place.
Asking your friend who lives in Florida & gets Florida Resident discount tickets
I wish that were an option. Here’s why it isn’t.
Asking your friends who work at WDW
This is a biggie, especially for people who live/work in Central Florida. Since Joe and I live in the greater Orlando area and know lots of people who work at WDW, and know lots of people who know other people who work at WDW, we see and hear about a lot of messages on Facebook that sound something like these:
My word of advice? Don’t be that person. Here’s why…
With rare exceptions, WDW Cast Members (CM) (Disneyspeak for “employees”) and their spouses/domestic partners get very, VERY few park passes they can just freely give out to friends. Granted, full time (FT) hourly CMs can usually get a small handful of people in, up to a certain amount of times per year, while working around blackout dates. FT salaried CMs can also get a small handful of people in at any time (again, with blackout dates). But for nearly all of those instances, if the guests are not the following:
- Sons and daughters (including step, adopted, foster or temporary custody)
- Parents and legal guardians
- Father-in-law and mother-in-law
- Brothers, sisters
- brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law
- Grandparents and grandchildren
- Aunts and uncles
- Nieces and nephews
- First cousins
Then the CM MUST accompany all Guests(s) throughout their ENTIRE visit in the park. And you may say to him/her, “Oh, you really don’t have to stay with us” but according to the rules, yes (s)he does. And since Disney is super stringent about their rules, and because everything is electronic, and because they have security guards (in uniform and plainclothes) and security cameras everywhere, and because you never know when Disney may decide this particular rule is suddenly even more important than usual, well, I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to ask a CM to take the chance and leave my party while I’m still in the park, especially when (s)he could be fired for doing so, would you? It also could be just me, but if the shoe was on the other foot, I also don’t know if I want to be the CM, especially one who may be subjected to mandatory overtime week in and week out, who spends a precious day off accompanying you on your family vacation or reunion, especially if you’re not that close of a friend.
Please don’t get me wrong – I know some CMs would be happy to help people out if they can, especially for extenuating circumstances, but perhaps even for mere acquaintances, if they have the tickets available and the date(s) isn’t/aren’t blacked out. But when I see people post on Facebook that they’re looking for anyone, even someone they don’t know very well, to help them get into the parks – and I know, I know, maybe they aren’t aware of all the factors of “getting people into the parks”; maybe they think all their CM friends and acquaintances can get unlimited people into the parks for free all the time – well, I just cringe. It’s just so brazen and I know from most CM friends of mine that it’s usually not appreciated – not as a general “putting it out there” on Facebook and DEFINITELY not as a personal request. So really, unless a specific friend or acquaintance has already told you in the past that (s)he is willing to help people out, just don’t ask.
Now, I know my list is nowhere near all-inclusive. So help a sister out – what parts did I leave out? Are there any particularly good discounts I missed? Places that people should avoid getting tickets? Details about CM passes that I don’t know? Let me know – every little bit of info will surely help someone along the way!
Thanks to Rae C., Nancy N. and Lindy H. for their assistance with this article!
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary