Everything Walt Disney World

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Category: Tickets (page 1 of 2)

Should I Get a Park Hopper?

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This is a question I get a lot: Should I get a parkhopper? After all, it adds an extra $70 per ticket to your family vacation. That can really add up.  Still, a hopper can add much needed flexibility to a trip that’s undoubtedly tightly scheduled already and make planning your trip a lot easier: No need to make sure your fastpasses and your dining are in the same park. It also extends your day. Spent the day in Animal Kingdom?  Feel free to hop over to the Magic Kingdom and close out the night.  Sometimes, that extra $70 gives you a lot of value, but if you don’t use it, it’s a huge waste. And I’ll be honest, I frequently hear from clients that they didn’t use it. It’s one of the reasons I don’t suggest adding it. So who should get a hopper? Here are some guidelines.

Don’t get a hopper if:

  • You’re traveling in a large, multi-generational group, particularly if your group has different physical abilities.  Hopping can be physically taxing, especially during summer.
  • You don’t like spending valuable park time going from one park to the other.
  • You’re on a tight budget–your money can be spend elsewhere.
  • You’re a first-timer.  First-timers have the luxury of everything being new. You won’t see everything you want to see on this first trip anyway. No need to rush from one park to the other.

Get a park hopper if:

  • You’re not a planner and you prefer to stick to a more flexible schedule.
  • You are having difficulty meshing your dining reservations with your fastpass+ reservations. This can be an issue if you book your vacation closer to travel or make changes to an existing reservation after your fastpass+ window opens.
  • You want as much time in the parks as possible.
  • You like to leave the park you’re in if it gets too crowded and go to a less busy park or one that handles crowds better (say, for example Epcot).  This is especially useful during busy holiday periods.
  • You’re staying at a resort within walking distance of the parks (Epcot or Magic Kingdom). This is more of a personal one, but I find it really difficult if I’m staying at the Contemporary Resort, for example, on a night when Magic Kingdom is open late and not being able to walk over and hang out, even if I’ve spent the entire day in another park.

Unless a client is sure that they want to hop, I usually recommend waiting until you get on property just to see how your trip is going. After all, every trip is different, and a visit you take with a couple of toddlers where you wouldn’t consider hopping, might be different with a couple of kids in grade school. So play it by ear.

Another option, and I like this one a lot,  is to add it for just some members of your party. For example, I just told a client to consider adding the hopper for just him and his wife. They have three small children who will likely be in bed early. One parent is going to have to stay with the kids. But why should the other parent not enjoy a little bit of grown up park time? And the beauty of that is they can switch off, so each one gets a little free time (and a chance to ride the Haunted Mansion without scaring toddlers!).  If you do this, just do it at the parks. You can’t upgrade one ticket at your resort without upgrading all of them due to the different way each computer system (park vs. resort) views your tickets.

What’s your take on park hopping? Is it a must do or do you just skip it? I’d love to hear in the comments.

 

How the Disney World Price Increase Affects You.

castle_dream_lights_cr

Now that Disney has raised their ticket prices, you may be wondering how those of you already holding tickets, whether separately or as part of a package,  are affected.  Here’s everything you need to know:

  • Tickets attached to a package CURRENTLY booked will not change EXCEPT if you add a discount later. This means that if you’re booked now and you get free dining in the fall, you will pay the new ticket prices.  Most people don’t even notice because they get such a great discount, but price increases can be as high as $25 per ticket. That’s an extra $100 for the average family.
  • Tickets purchased prior to the increase are equal to the new ticket price. In other words, if you bought a ticket for $320 one day and the next day the ticket price goes up to $350, your ticket is worth $350, the value of the day you use it. This is true even if you use it ten years from now.
  • Annual passes purchased prior to the increase and kept as vouchers will be assessed at the value when you activate the pass, not the lower rate.

Even after ticket prices go up, some wholesale sites (there are only a few that are authorized by Disney to sell tickets, so be careful) will continue to honor the old prices for a few days.

Buying an Annual Pass: Is It Right for You?

If you go to Disney World more than once a year, or if you go for very long trips, you might consider buying an annual pass (AP), however, while it may make perfect sense for frequent park guests to purchase an AP, the real problem is this: The cost.  An annual pass will set you back around $550.  It also requires you to predict your travel plans a full year in advance, so you won’t know what you’ll save, if anything, until the year is up. 

One way to gauge what you’ll save by buying an AP is to estimate your savings based on AP discounts and benefits:

  • Free parking, which saves non-resort guests $14 a day.
  • Discounted tickets to Night of Joy, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on select nights.
  • 10% off lunch discounts at certain resort restaurants, such as The Wave and the Grand Floridian Café as well as most sit-down restaurants in Epcot’s World Showcase (excluding Le Cellier). Valid Monday thru Friday only.
  • 10 to 20% off lunch at most Downtown Disney sit-down restaurants.
  • Merchandise discounts in the parks and Downtown Disney between 10-15 %.
  • 15% off most tours, such as the Epcot Segway tour.
  • Up 30% off sports and recreation, including golf.
  • AP holders may buy a Tables in Wonderland card for an additional $75, allowing them to receive 20% off at participating restaurants.  You’ll need to spend around $350 in food and beverages to break even on the TIW card.
  • Invitations to passholder-only events and promotions. A few years ago, for example, passholders were invited to soft openings for Toy Story Midway Mania before the general public.

One thing that makes estimating the value of an AP difficult is the variability of the AP room discount. While AP discount room rates are fairly consistent and often cover more travel dates than general public discounts, they’re usually only slightly better than general public rates if they’re available at that time.  Further, they often don’t include standard rooms so you can sometimes pay more for your discounted AP room than you would with a general public discount. That’s fine if you want an upgraded room, but if you don’t care about getting one, it really doesn’t make sense to pay more.  Finally, AP rates tend to come out closer to travel than regular discounts, making it stressful not knowing what you’ll end up paying until close to your trip.
Conventional wisdom says you’ll break even on an Annual Pass if you’ll be in the parks for more than ten days in a given year, but I actually think you can spend fewer days and still benefit, depending on how you travel.  Say you take a six day trip to WDW and then, later in the year, you head back for a long weekend and need a three day pass. The cost of tickets for both of those trips combined would roughly equal the cost of the annual pass.  Further, if you always add the park hopper option, even with just two long weekend trips, you’d break even with an annual pass.  And that’s not adding in AP discounts, which you may or may not use. Even if you aren’t the type of person who goes to Disney World more than once a year, you can still benefit from buying AP. Many passholders schedule two trips, one when they activate their pass and one just before it expires. 

Buying an annual pass requires you to predict how you’ll vacation in the upcoming year. It can be a huge savings. It can also, as a couple of passholder friends of mine pointed out, “burn a hole in your pocket,” making you want to go to Disney World more than usual or perhaps even more than you should.  But if you do the “Disney math” and find that you’re going on at least two long weekend trips a year, an AP might be your ticket to saving a little bit of money.

Reader Question: How Early Can You Check In?

Bay Lake Tower. Photo copyright Disney.

George left this question in the comments on yesterday’s post.  Since it’s one I hear a lot, I thought I’d post the answer here:

So if we wanted to fly in at 10am on check-in day, would they give us our park tickets before our check-in time?

The answer is yes. Check-in is sort of an amorphous concept at Disney World.  While your room may not be ready until later that day (usually 3:30 is a good bet), you can check into your resort at any time that day.  The advantage is that you could arrive at the Orlando airport at 5:00 a.m. and get to your resort an hour later and you’ll still get your tickets and your meal credits as soon as you check in, regardless of whether or not your room is ready. This allows you to enjoy a full day in the parks long before you ever set foot in your room.

When you check in you’ll be given a folder with resort and park information (maps, park hours, etc.) and asked to choose how you want to be contacted once your room is ready, either by phone or text. Since the parks are often a bit loud, I usually ask for a text.  If you have luggage or other items you don’t wish to take to the parks, just take it to bell services and they’ll hold it for you. Then your ready to go!

Can You Get Your Park Tickets Before Your Free Dining Package Begins?

One question we’ve been asked a lot lately is whether or not you can get your Disney park tickets before your package begins. This usually comes up when a client books a free dining package (which requires you to purchase tickets) but has to be in Orlando before the promotion begins. What we do in these cases is book two different reservations, which is very simple and rarely even requires the guest to change rooms.

The only issue is the tickets.  As you probably know, Disney park tickets are the most expensive on the front end because years ago, research showed that guests tended to visit the parks for three or four days, maximum. To get people to stay longer, tickets are priced progressively cheaper starting around day three; they take a nosedive from there, so that adding days after day four costs just a few dollars per day.  The problem for guests in the situation described above is that it’s cost prohibitive to buy two sets of tickets because you basically end up doubling your park admission costs, effectively cancelling out your free dining savings.

Guests have gotten around this problem by requesting their tickets early, up to three-days prior to checking in for their second reservation (your first reservation had to be at a Disney resort to do this).  Unfortunately, the official policy on this matter has changed and getting your tickets prior to check-in is no longer an option.  You may hear anecdotal stories on Disney message boards that it’s possible to do this, but I’m guessing this information isn’t current or is due to getting a very accommodating cast member. This issue came up a lot at Pixie since free dining came out in August. We initially received some conflicting information, but after several phone calls up the chain of command at Disney, it appears that this policy is set in stone:  No more getting your tickets early.

We hear about Disney bending the rules for guests all the time and you may be able to get around this policy once you check into your room under the first reservation.  Bottom line however, I don’t recommend basing your vacation on it, so have a backup plan for those days.  If you have any luck, please let me know.  I’m not sending my clients down armed with anything other than the official policy, but I’d love to hear how it’s working once you get to your resort.

Children Under Three are Free! Here are the rules!

Free stuff! Cause for celebration!

Here are the basic facts regarding children under three years of age in Disney parks and resorts:

  • Kids under three get into the parks for free. Documentation of your child’s age is not required however, cast members sometimes ask children their ages.  If your child turns 3 during the trip, he does not need a ticket as his age is based on the first day of vacation.
  • Kids under three eat free at buffets with paying adults. 
  • Under-threes are not required to be on the dining plan for your group.
  • The first child under the age of three does not count against the room occupancy requirement.  Additional children will count, however.  For example, value resorts sleep four.  A family of five may stay in a value if one of the children is under age three.  But, a family of six may not stay in one value room, even if two of their children are under three because one of those children will count with regard to the room occupancy limit.

Have a 3-year old who’s a big eater?  If you’re going during free dining, you might consider adding your not-quite-three-year old to the reservation as a paying guest. While you’ll pay for her park ticket, you won’t have to worry about having to buy her meals out of pocket.

Disney Ticket Prices Go Up June 12, Military Prices Out, and More.

Just a quick post to let everyone know that ticket prices for Disney parks will go up on Sunday, June 12.  Price increases are as low as 3.66 percent on a one-day base adult ticket to a whopping 13.8 percent increase for a ten-day base child’s ticket.  Easy WDW, who is clearly better at math than I am, has all the price increases here.  This announcement is a change from previous years, as ticket prices have historically gone up in August.  If you have a confirmed package reservation or a valid hold, your ticket prices will not change.

I’m also being told that 2012 package prices will come out soon, as early as Sunday or as late as July 1.  On a related note, military room rates under the Disney Armed Forces Salute, which was extended earlier this spring, came out yesterday for the rest of the year.  To qualify, you’ll need a valid retired or active military identification card. You may also take advantage of discounted tickets under this offer; you are not required to book a Disney room to purchase these tickets. Though this offer is good for most of 2012, resort room prices under the Armed Forces Salute are not out for 2012. I’ll update when they come out.

Finally, I’m still offering a free Disney gift card giveaway with each new vacation booked through the end of August; this offer is in addition to published discounts.  See this post for details.  Please email me at ChrisW@PixieVacations.com for more information.

Reader Email: Parkhopping by Adding More Days to Your Ticket.

New Epcot Turnstiles. Copyright Disney.

This question comes from Lyn, who asks:

I’ve heard you can add more days to your park ticket and essentially, park hop without adding the parkhopper option. Is this true?

Lyn:

Thanks for your question. Sorry, but the answer is no.  While technically it would be cheaper to add days to your ticket rather than the parkhopper option, Disney’s computer system will only allow one park admission per day per ticket unless you have the parkhopper added.

I’ve heard rumors that people have done this too, but those stories appear to be unfounded.  This is one of those hard and fast rules that Disney does not let slide.

Thanks for your question and I hope this helps.

Buying a Parkhopper.

There are two main types of Disney World park tickets:  A Magic Your Way base ticket which allows you to visit one park per day (you may come and go to that one park as many times as you like that day) and a parkhopper, which allows you to visit as many Disney Parks as you like per day for however many days you have on your ticket, without limitation.  The advantage of the parkhopper is that you can park hop to avoid crowds, visit a different park later at night for dinner or to see a nighttime show, or just leave when you want to try something different.  It also allows you more flexibility in your trip planning.

The only downside, of course, is the price:  At a flat fee of $58 (as of 2012) per person per ticket (whether it’s a one or ten-day ticket), the cost can really add up.  For a family of four, you could have dinner in a signature restuarant or take everyone to one of the nighttime parties like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.  Or you could just save the money.  Despite the cost, it can be daunting to plan a trip with no hopping, making the decision to purchase a hopper one of the more difficult ones people make when it comes to planning  their trip.

Here’s my advice:  Don’t buy a parkhopper before you travel unless you’re absolutely positive you’ll use it.

Why?  Because you can always add it later if you find you need it. I love the convenience and I always add the hopper, but it’s a very personal thing based on how you tour the parks and frankly, that can change from trip to trip.  Some groups, particularly those with very young children or older folks, may find that parkhopping is impractical.  On the other hand, a young couple visiting for a short weekend may want to see as much of the parks as possible; they’ll definitely want the option. 

Ultimately, if a client tells me they’re on the fence about the hopper, I tell them to wait, and this is what I would tell anyone.  Wait until you’ve toured the parks a day or two. At that point, if you find that you’d like to park hop, simply add it to your ticket.  You can add hoppers at your resort’s concierge desk or at the parks at any time during the 14-day period your ticket is good.  It takes only a few minutes.

And if you don’t need it, that $54 you saved can buy a lot of Dole Whips and Mickey head attenna toppers!

Reader Email: Upgrading a free ticket.

This question comes from Kathy, who writes:

Can I use a free ticket that I got from Disney to pay for my annual pass?

Thanks

Kathy, thank you for your question. I’ve seen this question a lot lately, possibly due to the recent “Kids Free” promotion where children ages 3 – 9 where given free park admission with their resort stay.  For most of these tickets, whether they are part of this or some other Disney promotion (such as press events) you can’t upgrade to an annual pass because it’s considered a gift.  This is a departure from promotions such as the Give-a-Day/Get-a-Disney Day promotion where you could take that ticket and use the value of it towards a multi-day park admission or even an annual pass. 

Make sure you read the fine print on any special event ticket.  Here are a few scenarios you may encounter:

  • If you buy discounted park tickets through  Disney when you register to run a Disney half-marathon (such as the Princess 1/2 or the Wine and Dine 1/2), those tickets will have an end date on them, usually around 90-days after the event.  You can’t upgrade those tickets and you, or someone else, will need to use that ticket before it expires.
  • Press event tickets usually expire that day.  Essentially, the ticket is “swiped” before you even use it, so if you have an annual pass, the ticket is essentially worthless to you.
  • Tickets under the “Kids Free” promotion are good indefinitely, so if your children have annual passes, you can just save them until you need them. As noted above however, their value can’t be applied to an annual  pass renewal.  Those tickets also don’t have to be used by your children; you can give them away.  They are good indefinitely.
  • Make sure you don’t accidentally “swipe” tickets that you can use later.  For example, with the “Kids Free” promotion, you can have those tickets taken off your room keys so that one of your children doesn’t accidentally use it for park admission. Make note of the serial numbers and put it in a safe place until you need it. 
  • Guests sailing out of  New York City on the new 8-day Bahamas cruise will be able to take a day trip to Disney World when the ship docks in Port Canaveral. They’ll be given a free ticket that is good only for that day; no upgrading or applying to your annual pass. So far, I haven’t heard if there will be any sort of accommodations made for AP holders who’ve already paid for park admission.

Please send your questions to ChrisW@pixievacations.com.  I’ll answer them by email or on the site. Thanks!

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