A family vacation to Walt Disney World can be very costly, one of the most significant expenses being park tickets. That may lead some visitors to wait to buy their park tickets until they arrive at Walt Disney World.
Yes, you can buy Disney World tickets at the gate. However, you probably should not do so, and we strongly recommend against it.
Here is a look at why.
- Why You Should Buy Disney World Tickets Ahead of Your Visit
- Is There a Price Difference Between Buying Tickets Ahead of Time or at the Gate?
- How To Buy Tickets to Walt Disney World Online
- Tips for Buying Tickets at the Gate
Why You Should Buy Disney World Tickets Ahead of Your Visit
The main reason to purchase tickets for your Walt Disney World vacation ahead of time is so that you can make park reservations.
Park reservations are required for admission to all of the four theme parks. To enter a theme park, everyone in your family must have a valid ticket and a reservation. You must also have your tickets to make a reservation.
The risk of not buying tickets ahead of time is that there may be very few if any reservations remaining for that day when you arrive at the gate. If that happens, you and your family cannot enter the park and will have to make other plans for the day. That would be a massive disappointment for most families. Luckily, it is easily avoidable.
Is There a Price Difference Between Buying Tickets Ahead of Time or at the Gate?
Sometimes, yes, there are price differences. However, it is almost always in your favor to buy the tickets ahead of time. Upon purchasing your park tickets, you must select a date for your first visit. This determines the price of your ticket.
Disney changes the price of admission depending on demand. If they anticipate that certain days will be busier than others, they will raise admission prices. Similarly, prices are usually higher on the weekends than during the week, and holidays sometimes have the highest admission prices of all.
Disney sometimes waits until they are sure about the demand to raise prices. That means that if you buy your tickets far enough in advance and make park reservations, you could save money.
Ticket prices on the day of your visit will probably be the highest. That is another disadvantage to waiting until the day of your visit to buy tickets.
How To Buy Tickets to Walt Disney World Online
Tickets to Walt Disney World are expensive, and what’s more, they can be a bit complicated.
To learn more, why not take a look at our guide to Disney World ticket prices?
Step One: Decide How Many Days to Visit
The first thing you need to do is determine how many days you want to visit. If you’ve got this far in your vacation planning, you may already know that. If you don’t, you might want to go back to the drawing board and decide on that. You can add days after purchase, but you can’t get a refund or reduce the number of days on your tickets.
Step Two: Decide Which Type of Ticket You Need
Once you know how many days you’ll be visiting, you must decide what type of ticket you want. There are four options, and they get more expensive as you go down this list.
- One park per day: you can visit only one park per day, but you can go to different parks each day.
- Park Hopper Option: this type of ticket allows you to visit an additional park after you leave the park, for which you have a reservation for the entire day.
- Water Park and Sports Option: this ticket allows you to visit one park per day, including a water park or sports complex, including ESPN Wide World of Sports or one of the miniature golf courses.
- Park Hopper Plus Option: This type of ticket combines the above two privileges. You can visit more than one park each day and visit water parks and sports complexes a limited number of times.
If you’re unsure of what you want, you can start with the one park per day base option and upgrade later. Remember, you just can’t downgrade your ticket.
Step Three: Select the Date of Your First Visit
After selecting the type of ticket you want, you’ll see that the next window takes you to a calendar. Each day on the calendar has a dollar amount in it, and that’s the average price you’ll pay for your ticket.
It might be tempting to scroll through the calendar and find a less expensive date to select, but Disney is way ahead of you. Remember, you need a park reservation to enter any theme park. If you make a reservation for a date different from the first day on your ticket, you’ll have to pay the difference in price if there is one.
The price on the first day of your visit determines the cost of your tickets. It’s usually best to visit during the week. If your vacation plans are flexible, that could save close to $100.
Disney recommends checking park availability before buying tickets. If you have already booked flights or a hotel, you may not have a choice when you visit. Definitely check park availability to make sure the theme parks you plan to visit are available on the days you want.
Step Four: Select the Number of Tickets You Need
The size of your family will determine this. One word of caution: we recommend against trying to pass children off as younger than they are, particularly three-year-olds.
Children under three do not pay for admission, and Disney charges slightly less money for children nine and under. However, Disney maintains the right to question guests about the ages of their children and even ask to see a birth certificate.
If you try to pass your child off as younger than they are, you might get away with it, but if not, there might be consequences. In the least, Disney will charge you the difference, but at the most, Disney has the right to void the tickets of your entire party and deny entry to the parks. That would be a pretty big downer on your family vacation.
Step Five: Choose Your Extras
Next, decide whether you want to add Memory Maker or Genie+. You can always add them later if you have trouble making a decision.
Step Six: Buy Your Tickets and Make Park Reservations
Now you can proceed to checkout and buy your tickets. If you have an account set up, your tickets should link automatically, but only if you are signed in when you buy them. If not, you will need to connect them manually. You will also need to create profiles for everyone in your family.
Buying your tickets is not the same as making a park reservation, and your tickets do not guarantee park admission. You still need to make park reservations for everyone in your family.
Finally, it is time to make park reservations on the reservation website. Your visit will be here before you know it!
Tips for Buying Tickets at the Gate
If you end up buying your tickets at the gate, follow these tips:
- Check park availability on the website before you go. You can check availability the night before without having tickets.
- Arrive at the park early, ideally, before the park opens. This enhances your chances of getting any remaining reservations.
- Be flexible: even if the website shows availability at the park, be prepared to get turned away and go to another park. If you remain optimistic, your family will as well!
- The Magic Kingdom is usually the most popular park. EPCOT tends to have open availability longer than the other parks.
Regardless of which park you end up visiting and when or how you buy your tickets, the important thing is to enjoy your Disney day with your family!
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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