For Wade Packard and his family, 2019 won’t include any visits to Disneyland
That’s a major change for Packard, his wife and 10-year-old son. The Packards, who reside in Burbank, Calif., had purchased annual passes for seven years. But when the time came to renew their passes last year, they chose not to because it had become too expensive.
In prior years, Disney had offered incentives to renew their passes, including discounted rates and extra months of membership. But that well ran dry in 2018. As Packard, 47, put it, Disneyland is pricing out middle-class families.
“Every year we had grappled with whether or not we would renew because the passes were getting exponentially more expensive, and each year we decided that it was worth it to hang on one more year,” he said. “But when Disney declared that our business was no longer valued, we decided it was time to end it.”
Around when the Packards first bought their annual passes in 2011, an annual pass to Disneyland ranged anywhere from $459 for the top-tier pass to $184 for the discounted pass available to Southern California residents. Today, Disneyland annual passes cost between $799 and $1,399.
Disney fans will have more hard choices to make this year. Earlier this month, Disney announced that it was raising prices for Disneyland tickets and annual passes ahead of the opening of a new section of Disneyland based on the “Star Wars” film franchise. Single-day tickets, which are priced based on demand, now start at $104 per ticket for the least busy times of the year. The prices for annual passes increased by as much as 23% from a year ago.
“We continue to provide our guests with a variety of ticket offerings to meet their needs, while helping us to spread visitation, better manage demand and deliver a great experience,” Liz Jaeger, Disneyland Resort spokeswoman, said in an email.
Given the price hike, Packard said a visit this year is even more unlikely. “We’ll continue to stay out of the Disneyland passholder game and find other family activities,” he said.
But for many families, a trip to Disneyland remains a rite of passage — albeit an increasingly expensive one. Nevertheless, there are many ways to save on Disneyland theme-park tickets.
Here are some tips on how to avoid making a visit to the “Happiest Place on Earth” into the saddest day for your bank account.
If you live in Southern California or Canada, look for special discounts
When it comes to Disneyland, it pays to live in Southern California. “The best ticket discounts are those available to Southern California residents,” said Don Munsil, president of travel website MouseSavers.com.
Through May 20, Southern California residents can get a three-day ticket for the price of a one-park-per-day $179 per adult, which represents roughly a 40% discount. The tickets are good through May 23, though there are black-out dates (April 14 through April 22) when the tickets can’t be used.
SoCal residents can also purchase a discounted three-day ticket with the Park Hopper feature, which allows the ticket holder to visit both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure in the same day, for $234.
But Californians aren’t the only ones who get special discounts for Disneyland tickets. Occasionally, there are special discounted tickets for Canadian, Australian and New Zealand residents, Munsil said.
Currently, Disney is running a special for Canadians: A three-day ticket for $207.50, a four-day ticket for $229.50 and a five-day ticket for $239.75. This promotion runs until April 11, and the tickets can be used until May 23.
Currently, Disney also is advertising another limited-time ticket offer for purchases made through May 18 for three-, four- and five-day tickets, starting at $47.80 per day per ticket for the five-day ticket package. Like the other deals from Disney, blackout dates for April 14 through April 22 are in effect.
If your father served in the U.S. Army, you could be in luck
Disney also has big discounts for active or retired members of the U.S. military. These tickets are available to active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service, and the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In 2019, active and retired U.S. military personnel can get three-day tickets for $178 or four-day tickets for $198. The tickets, which can be purchased until Dec. 18, can be used from Jan. 1 through April 13 and from April 23 through Dec. 21. The tickets can be bought at participating U.S. military sales outlets by the service members or their spouses with valid military ID. Family and friends of the service members can also use the tickets.
No more than six military promotional tickets can be purchased and activated by any eligible service member or spouse, and the tickets must be used by the service member and/or spouse themselves.
Buy from a Disney-authorized ticket reseller
Many websites are so-called Disney-authorized ticket resellers — companies that purchase bulk quantities of tickets from Disney at wholesale prices and then sell them to the public. Some also offer competitive deals on full vacation packages, including theme-park tickets and hotel reservations.
Get Away Today and ARES Travel are recommended by travel experts. For instance, ARES currently has a five-day Park Hopper ticket for $264, $131 less than if purchased directly from Disney. And Get Away Today has discounts on combination passes that include tickets for both Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood
Word of warning: Not all Disney-authorized resellers deliver their tickets in the same way. Some vendors, Munsil said, are connected with Disney’s ticketing system and will provide their customers with “straight to the gate” tickets.
But others deliver customers a voucher that they then must exchange for an actual ticket at the ticket booths located at the entrances of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The voucher-exchange process can represent an unnecessary hassle.
“It depends on the lines at the booth, but on a crowded day it could be a half-hour of waiting to get your tickets,” Munsil said.
Resellers won’t have deals on one-day tickets.
Visit a local grocery store in California in a pinch
Need last-minute tickets and not finding good deals online? Visit a grocery store in California. At times, stores like Costco
Safeway and Vons will have Disneyland ticket packages on sale for competitive prices.
However, out-of-state travelers may want to find out before they arrive if there are such deals on offer. “It’s really not worth your limited vacation time for what’s potentially a wild good chase,” said Tom Bricker, owner of DisneyTouristBlog.com. “I’d say the chance of finding these deals is less than 50/50.”
Whatever you do, don’t buy your ticket on eBay
“Don’t buy tickets from eBay
Craigslist, or other places that aren’t legitimate ticket sellers,” said Len Testa, president of travel website TouringPlans.com and author of “The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland.”
The same goes for the random person hawking tickets while standing near Disneyland’s entrance. There’s one simple reason for this: It could be a scam. “You don’t know what you’re buying, and there’s no real way to tell what you’re getting until you arrive at Disneyland,” Testa said.
It’s not uncommon for people to attempt to sell multi-day tickets that have only been partially used for a discount. However, Disneyland now takes photos of guests so a theme-park ticket can’t be used by multiple people. You won’t know for sure if the tickets have already been used until you show up at the gate.
Wait to buy your tickets for the new ‘Star Wars’ attraction
Once the “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” Disneyland attraction has opened in June, travelers should reconsider the value of a pilgrimage to the theme park. While being among the first to experience the new “Star Wars” attractions may have a certain cultural cache, it will come with some headaches.
Munsil estimated that Disneyland will reach capacity every day by 11 a.m. on weekends (and potentially even on weekdays) for the first year after the “Star Wars” attractions open to the public. “It may take more than 5 days to see everything, because the crowds will be epic.”
So if you’re not willing to deal with bigger than usual crowds, hold off on that Disneyland vacation until 2020.