Disney parks on both coasts unveiled price hikes over the weekend, increasing daily admission for peak days up to $135 at Disneyland and $129 at Florida’s Magic Kingdom. Prices for annual passes, meanwhile, got bumped up a staggering amount.
But sticker shock doesn’t have to derail your Disney vacation, because the increases are nothing a little ticket-pricing expertise can’t solve.
There’s a way to handle the mouse’s price increases and even save money on your next Disney vacation by knowing how to outsmart it. With that in mind, these are the best times to visit Walt Disney World in 2018, when to avoid Disneyland, and why visiting when your kids are out of school might actually be the most cost-effective option.
When to visit Disneyland Resort
The cheapest time to visit Disneyland is late Spring, specifically on Mondays through Thursdays from mid-April to late May. One-day tickets will be at their lowest — $97 for adult, $91 for child — and it’s likely the last “value”-priced time until late August. (Disneyland has only posted calendars through June.)
If you’re planning a summer vacation, wait until at least June 25th to visit. Weekday 1-day tickets throughout June are all “regular”-priced ($117 adult, $110 child), but Disney California Adventure’s Pixar Pier, which brings with it a reimagined Incredibles-themed roller coaster — one of the park’s signature rides — won’t open until the second-to-last weekend of the month.
When to avoid Disneyland Resort
Skip out on Disneyland trips during February and March, and if at all possible, wait until April. Spring Break crowds will have ceased by then, much of the walled construction that has overtaken Disneyland Park will be gone and you’re guaranteed nighttime entertainment beyond Fantasmic. (Believe it or not, there are no fireworks shows until March 15th!) When Pixar Fest begins April 13th, it’ll bring with it a state-of-the-art fireworks show and newly enhanced versions of Paint The Night and Pixar Play Parade that will maximize the worth of your 1-day admission.
When to Visit Walt Disney World Resort
Summer. Yes, it’s sticky-hot and all kids are out of school, but Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival has become so popular that it’s now cheaper to buy 1-day tickets to the Florida parks throughout most of June, July and August than during weekends in May. The same goes for multi-day tickets. Since the opening date for Toy Story Land at Disney Hollywood Studio has not yet been announced, erring more towards the middle of the summer all but guarantees your family will experience the new Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster and Alien Swirling Saucers firsthand.
When to Avoid Walt Disney World Resort
Thankfully, there’s no specific time to explicitly avoid Walt Disney World. Guests who want to experience the food, drink, decor and entertainment that comes with Epcot’s Flower & Garden festivities won’t mind splurging up to $20 more for it on the weekend; those who don’t will experience more passive crowds once it ends. Attendance will stay steady across the four parks, but with Toy Story Land serving as Walt Disney World’s big opening this summer, anytime is a good time.
Tips on How to Save at Disney Parks
Avoid 1-day tickets if at all possible.
Walt Disney World and Disneyland’s tiered ticket pricing — which determines each calendar date as a value, regular or peak day — applies exclusively to single day tickets. Multi-day tickets, which start at just two days, are not affected by that timetable. Simply put: if you’re irked by paying a premium to visit on holidays or weekends, visiting for longer goes down more smoothly.
Know your local promotions.
California residents should pause on obtaining a pricier annual pass and instead utilize the two- or three-day SoCal Resident ticket offer, which prices 1-park admission for adults and children as low as $66 per day, nearly $30 less than standard multi-day tickets. Since SoCal Resident tickets are valid through May 24th and only have a two-week blackout period (March 23rd through April 8th), they’ll be valid during many high-priced admission days — which now top out at $135 — and can be split for use throughout Disney California Adventure Food & Wine festival and Pixar Fest’s debut. In Florida, residents can obtain a Discover Disney three- or four-day tickets, which price 1-park admission as low as $45 per day for adults or children.
Skip on park-hopper tickets.
The convenience of traveling between multiple Disney parks on the same day can maximize your family vacation, but may not be worth it on shorter trips. If you’re only going to spend two days at Walt Disney World, you’ll struggle to see it all anyway, and committing to two parks you want to experience in-depth can save up to $65.
California visitors will absolutely want to check out both Disneyland Resort theme parks, but cramming both into a peak day ($185 adult, $177 child) is $20 to $25 less than spending one full day in each park ($210 adult, $198 child). Another reason to rethink 1-day park hopper tickets? Peak days mean busy crowds, and seeing every attraction across two parks will be harrowing. Split it up for peace of mind, and you’re likely to enjoy your visit more, too.
Only buy MaxPass if you’re visiting for the day.
Sure, Disneyland’s in-app FastPass booking system is wildly convenient, but with higher gate tickets, it’s just not worth it — unless you’re a single day guest. With 1-day 1-park tickets to the Anaheim parks topping out at $135, you’ll be more inclined to get more “bang” for your buck, and the $10 upsell will absolutely save you time.
If you’ll be at Disneyland Resort for three or four days, you can afford to be more leisurely and walk to the FastPass kiosks yourself, avoiding an extra $30 or $40 surcharge per person.
Go with an annual passholder.
Say hello to the new kind of friend with benefits. Since higher-tier Disneyland and Walt Disney World annual passes offer free parking, discounts on food and merchandise and complimentary PhotoPass, you’ll save extra money you didn’t even account for simply by having the right pal in tow, making those ticket price increases less significant.