Where to buy discount theme park tickets


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IMPORTANT: Please note that ticket pricing, shipping fees, and ticket policies may change at any time.

Also, please note that I have used Disney World tickets in the example I step through below. However, the same principles apply to all theme park tickets, including those for Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, etc.


Where can I buy discount tickets for Orlando’s theme parks?

Let’s attempt to answer the question, and give you some insight into your options, by using  this made-up scenario:

  • A total of 7 guests are traveling from St. Paul, Minnesota;
  • two of the guests are adults (between the ages of 18 and 54);
  • one guest is a senior (age 55 or older);
  • one guest is a minor (between the ages of 10 and 18);
  • two guests are children (between the ages 3 – 9);
  • one guest is an infant (ages 2 or younger).

These guests want to purchase their tickets online now for travel in September. They are AAA members. They will be staying off-site at a hotel, and want to start their vacation visiting Disney World for 5 days with the park hopper option.

I am going to look at four ticket outlets: direct from Disney, UndercoverTourist.com, DWTickets.com, and AAA. Let’s start with Disney.

For the purposes of theme park admission tickets, anyone over the age of 10 pays the same price–there is no discounts for minors or seniors. There is a discount for children under the age of 10. Finally, children 2 and younger are admitted free.

So, in our scenario, we will be purchasing 4 adult tickets and 2 child tickets.


Buying Disney World tickets direct from Disney

I put in our order and here’s the breakdown from tickets.disney.go.com (click the image to view it full-screen):

Disney ticket pricing on August 2, 2011.

Disney ticket pricing direct from Disney on August 2, 2011.

So, our tickets were $306.00 plus tax (or $325.89 including tax) for the adults, and $287.00 plus tax (or $305.66 including tax) for the kids. This gives us a grand total of $1914.88 including tax.

For Delivery, you can either have the tickets set up for Will Call for free, or have them shipped starting at $5.00 for U.S. Domestic.

ADVANTAGES: If you have any issues with your tickets while you are traveling, you can deal directly with Disney since you purchased your tickets from them.

Visit http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/ to learn more about buying your tickets direct from Disney.


Buying Disney World tickets from UndercoverTourist.com

Here’s what we got from UndercoverTourist.com (click the image to view it full-screen):

UndercoverTourist.com Disney ticket pricing on August 2, 2011.

UndercoverTourist.com Disney ticket pricing on August 2, 2011.

So our adult tickets are $310.95 including tax and the kids tickets are $290.95 including tax (UndercoverTourist.com does not give a per ticket breakdown without tax). This gives us a grand total of $1823.71 including tax.

That price is definitely lower than direct from Disney. Better yet, right now the 5-day Park Hopper includes a bonus day for free! This is great if you are around for six days, but not so great if you aren’t.

In addition, the price includes regular shipping, and your real tickets are shipped to you.

ADVANTAGES: Lower cost, free day, shipping included and you get your real tickets.

Visit http://www.undercovertourist.com to learn more.


Buying Disney World tickets from DWTickets.com

Here’s the breakdown from DWTickets.com:

DWTickets.com Disney ticket pricing for August 2, 2011.

DWTickets.com Disney ticket pricing for August 2, 2011.

We got the adult tickets for $299.84 plus tax, and the kids tickets for $281.64 plus tax. That gives us a grand total of $1877.21 including tax.

For delivery, tickets can be picked up locally in Orlando for free, or shipping starts at $8.95 for UPS Ground.

This price is still lower than Disney, but not as low as UndercoverTourist.com. However, DWTickets.com does have an additional advantage…

ADVANTAGES: Lower cost than direct from Disney, tickets can be picked up locally in Orlando without having to go to the parks (this would be very useful if you were purchasing tickets for multiple parks and attractions–you could pick them all up at once).

Visit http://www.dwtickets.com to learn more.


Buying Disney World tickets from AAA

Finally, here’s what we got from AAA:

AAA Disney tickets for August 2, 2011.

AAA Disney tickets for August 2, 2011.

That’s $287.00 plus tax for the adults and $299.99 plus tax for the kids (AAA does not give a per ticket price with tax). And our grand total is $1895.02 with tax.

Shipping is required using AAA, and the grand total price above includes Priority Mail.

So AAA is less than Disney, but more expensive than UndercoverTourist.com and DWTicket.com.

ADVANTAGES: While AAA may not have the least expensive prices, they are one of the country’s biggest travel agencies. So, if you also have questions about how to get to Orlando, and where to stay, they will be in a position to help.


Conclusion and final thoughts

Well, as you can see by the numbers, for this specific scenario UndercoverTourist.com has the best pricing. Keep in mind, however, that your tickets from UndercoverTourist do need to be shipped, so if you’re going to Disney today they may not be able to help.

But what may be more important to take away from this experiment is that all of the “discount” prices came back relatively close to one another. None of the outlets were able to offer us 20 or 30 percent off of our tickets. And the truth of the matter is just that: there is simply no legitimate way to purchase admission tickets for greatly reduced prices.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Why do I see all those big yellow ‘Buy Discount Tickets Here’ signs around Orlando and Kissimmee?” Well, there are two possibilities. Either those tickets are being sold as part of a timeshare tour package (read my thoughts about those: Is it worth it to agree to a timeshare tour in exchange for free tickets?), or they are not legitimate tickets.

In fact, besides going against park policies, it is actually illegal for anyone to purchase partially used theme park admission tickets and re-sell them to other guests. Period. To summarize this, take a look at this recent article posted on Sun-Sentinel.com:

KISSIMMEE — Osceola County deputy sheriffs arrested 10 vendors Thursday and Friday on charges of re-selling tickets to Orlando-area theme parks.

The Sheriff’s Office conducts several joint undercover operations each year with investigators from Walt Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios to stop vendors from selling cut-rate passes to tourists, records show.

Re-selling multi-day theme park passes has been illegal since 1988, when Disney asked Orlando-area legislators to make it a misdemeanor crime.

Ticket vendors along West U.S. Highway 192 in Osceola County openly advertise that they will buy unused portions of multi-day theme park passes from tourists heading home. Paying a few cents per dollar value on the passes, vendors then sell them at a profit to tourists willing to violate the law by buying the cut-rate tickets and try to fool theme parks’ fingerprint scanners.

View the full article on Sun-Sentinel.com

If you do end up purchasing these tickets, you will not be arrested, but you may very well be denied entry to the parks, and you certainly are not going to get your money back.


If all the prices are about the same, what should I do?

If all the pricing you are getting back from the various vendors are about the same, then I generally recommend buying your tickets directly from the source: Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, etc. All the major parks sell tickets online or over the phone. I recommend this because, should you have any issues with your tickets at the park or want to upgrade, you can deal directly with the park–since that is where you purchased your tickets from in the first place.


What about Florida resident discounts and other promotions?

The scenario above specifically dealt with a family traveling from outside of Florida. But if you live in Florida, then you should be aware that the parks usually have discounted tickets for you. Visit this post to learn about Universal Orlando’s Florida resident discount tickets. Policies are different from park to park in terms of who qualifies as a Florida resident, and also, these discounts are usually only available directly from the park. So you’ll need to contact them for more information.

Also be aware that the parks themselves often run promotions. For example, right now SeaWorld is running a promotion where adults pay kids prices for their admission tickets if they are purchased online in advance. They also have a discounted “after 3:00pm” ticket to enjoy SeaWorld Summer Nights. It is unlikely that you will find these same promotions at third-party vendors.

Bottom line, you are going to have to do some homework to find the very best price for your specific travel plans.

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