Disney Raising Prices Again, But You Can Save With These Tips

Happiness is getting a little dearer at Disney’s most popular U.S. theme park, with news that the base one-day ticket price has burst above $100 like fireworks over Cinderella Castle.

At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a one-day adult ticket jumped to $105, up from $99 on Sunday. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure went up $5, to $99. Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, Orlando’s Epcot and Animal Kingdom theme parks cost $97. Taxes are additional on all tickets.

And that’s just the entrance fee. After that, well, there’s the food, lodging, must-have souvenirs, miscellaneous stuff.

But you can offset the increase at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom without turning into Scrooge McDuck by following some simple money savings tips.

First, the tickets:

  • Multi-day discounts: If you’re in it for more than a day, you can take advantage of discounts that increase with duration. At Walt Disney World, a three-day adult ticket for one park per day is $275, or $91.67 a day, which is a savings of $13.33 a day, or nearly 13 percent. If you’ve got the time, a 10-day ticket for one park per day is $365, or $36.50 a day, which is $68.50 a day, or nearly two-thirds, off base price. Similar saving are available in California, with a five-day ticket for one park a day offered at $275, or $55 a day, more than 40 percent off the base price.
  • Annual pass: If you live close enough to go often, consider a “premium” annual pass ($779 in Florida; $779 in California) which includes multiple park visits — including water parks in Florida — in one day, free parking, and discounts on food and merchandise 365 days a year. An annual pass in Florida ($654) doesn’t include water park admissions; in California, a “deluxe” passport ($549) offers only 315 days of admissions and lesser discounts.

Outside ticket discounts are available, but most experts say you are likely to pay 90 to 95 percent of full price. In California, a CityPass ($334 adults, $291 children) includes a three-day Disney Park Hopper Ticket and one-day admissions to both Universal Studios Hollywood and SeaWorld San Diego. That saves you up to 30 percent off the combined admissions, if you were going to all three anyway.

Stay and play

Walt Disney World includes about 30 hotels and even campgrounds on its nearly 40-square-mile resort at Lake Buena Vista, 20 miles southwest of Orlando. They include “value,” “moderate,” and “deluxe” accommodations in a variety of prices, many discounted between now and June 15.

Still, other deals may be found in the 200 Orlando hotels and motels. In California, only three hotels are on the 510-acre resort. Outside the resort but nearby are 39 Disney-approved lodges and more than 100 other places to stay.

Although it can run $200 a night or more to stay in a resort hotel instead of off site, amenities often include parking (otherwise $17 a day), proximity to attractions, transportation around the resort, extended park hours and access to Disney characters.

For off-site lodging, consider shuttle service or walking distance to and from park gates, especially if you plan to return to your room during the day, and other promotions, such as gasoline refunds and off-season rates.

Eating away

Many visitors try to get around buying expensive food at Disney parks by packing in their own (not really allowed inside Disneyland Park, which offers a complimentary picnic area outside the main entrance) or by going to off-site restaurants or back to their hotel rooms to eat. Experienced visitors recommend going to grocery stores near the theme parks and buying food for savings of $10 to $20 a meal.

Also, you may want to pack items such as batteries, memory cards for cameras, Band Aids, sunscreen.

But don’t load yourself down so much you can’t enjoy the parks.

Money and mementos

My Frugal Adventures and others suggest purchasing Disney-related apparel and other paraphernalia on sale in advance from your local Disney Store, Walmart or other discount retailer. Besides saving on resort gift shop prices, you’ll be dressed for your occasion upon arrival. You’ll still likely buy souvenirs at the park, but maybe not as many if you hadn’t bought ahead.

Alternative destinations

Theme Park Insider recently pegged Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom as the world’s most popular theme park, with 18.6 million visitors a year; Disneyland saw 16.2 million visitors. And Disneyland is gearing up for its 60th birthday with special attractions beginning May 22.

Price hikes have come nearly annually at the Disney resorts since 2010. In Florida, prices in 2014 jumped just before spring break; in California, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend’s unofficial launch of summer.

Disney analysts continue to predict increasing attendance at the company’s theme parks, despite bursting through the $100 barrier.

Even so, it’s enough to make some adventure seekers look for new horizons. If you’re one of those, you might consider some of these possibilities:

  • Universal Orlando Resort has a one-day one-park ticket to Universal Studios Florida or Universal’s Islands of Adventure for $96. (There’s a Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction in each.) Universal Studios Hollywood is $92.
  • Legoland California, not including its Sea Life aquarium or water park, is $87; Legoland Florida is also $87 but is offering one-day discounts for $72.
  • Both Florida and California offer miles of free beaches along their coasts.

For more ideas about how to have a fantastic vacation without breaking the bank, check out this video:

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