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April 12, 2010

Catering to Your Audience Part 2: Tickets

Second of a multipart series comparing and contrasting Walt Disney World and Disneyland. If you missed it, the first part on hotels can be found here.

Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland sell tickets to enter the theme parks. Although the tickets use similar terms, the meanings and costs associated with these terms can be different. A one day, one park ticket at Disneyland is $72, while a similar ticket at Walt Disney World is $79. Each offers a similar amount of entertainment; a day at Disneyland and a day at the Magic Kingdom are fairly comparable. For someone just stopping by, buying a one day ticket at either resort is about equal (but cost inefficient).

Going down the line for multi-day tickets, a base ticket at Walt Disney World and a Park Hopper at Disneyland are still comparable in price. At 6 days, a Park Hopper at Disneyland costs $254 and a base ticket at Disney World costs $231. While comparable in price, I find it somewhat strange that Disneyland's ticket is higher than Disney World's. There is much more to experience at Disney World than Disneyland when you stay for six days. Also, all Disneyland multi-day tickets are Park Hoppers; at Disney World it costs $52 to add the Park Hopper option. However, Disneyland only has two theme parks, while Walt Disney World has four.

Tickets at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World expire 14 days after first use. At Walt Disney World a No Expiration option can be added to the ticket for $104. Disneyland does not offer this option, probably because the park caters to the local crowd and the option could be used as a pseudo-Annual Pass for locals who only want to come a few times a year. The No Expiration option at Disneyland would also get around the Annual Pass blackout dates (more on this in a moment).

Walt Disney World also offers a "Water Park Fun and More" option which provides a number of visits to Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, DisneyQuest, ESPN Wide World of Sports or the Oak Trail golf course. It costs $52 to add Water Park Fun and More, and the number of visits added to the tickets depends on the number of days. Disneyland, however, has no such option because the resort has no water parks or other attractions.

For tourists visiting Southern California, an option exists to visit Disneyland and other Southern California attractions at a discount. This ticket is called the Southern California CityPass and includes a three-day Park Hopper for Disneyland plus single day tickets to the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Wild Animal Park, Sea World San Diego and Universal Studios Hollywood. My wife and I purchased this ticket when we visited Disneyland and it was perfect for a week of touring Southern California. Currently the Southern California CityPass costs $269 but the value of the tickets included is $379. At $110 discount from gate prices, this ticket package is a great way to visit multiple Southern California destinations.

Because Disney World is an international tourist destination, no similar ticket package exists that includes Walt Disney World. The intent at Disney World is to have you stay on-site, visit only Disney parks, eat at Disney restaurants and spend all your vacation money at Walt Disney World.

Catering to the local crowd, Disneyland offers four Annual Passport options for its parks. These passports range from $169 to $439. The two cheapest Annual Passports are only available to Southern California residents. All except the highest-priced Premium Annual Passport include blackout dates that disallow passholders from coming to the parks on peak dates. From cheapest to most expensive, an Annual Passport can get you into the Disneyland parks for 170, 215, 315 or 365 days. The various Annual Passports come with certain privileges; for example, only the Premium Annual Passport includes parking for the year.

Walt Disney World only offers full year Annual Passes to everyone. The standard Annual Pass ($489) allows the passholder into all four Walt Disney World theme parks every day of the year as well as Park Hopping privileges. A Premium Annual Pass ($619) adds admission to the water parks and DisneyQuest. Parking is included with both Annual Passes, and Florida residents and Disney Vacation Club members receive a discount for these passes. However, Florida residents also have the option to purchase passes with blackout dates as well as an Epcot After 4 Pass. The Epcot After 4 pass is just that; the passholder can visit Epcot any day of the year after 4pm. Disney is hoping to get a lot of World Showcase dinner purchases out of these passholders. Parking is not included with either of the seasonal passes nor the Epcot After 4 Pass.

The circumstances surrounding Walt Disney World and Disneyland again influence each resort's ticket policies. Walt Disney World takes advantage of its size to try to monopolize the visitor's vacation dollars while Disneyland works with the tourism community around it. Disneyland also focuses more on the local visitor than Walt Disney World, but the Florida resort also offers a number of Annual Pass options to Florida residents. In part 3 I will tackle the various dining options for both resorts.

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