Disney World Tips: Minimizing Parking, Shuttle, Entry And Other Fees

Disney World is known as the "happiest place on Earth," here are tips for keeping costs down and smiles up.

Parking at any of the four main Walt Disney World theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, MGM, or Animal Kingdom) costs $8.00 per day. This fee covers parking for the day at any of the parks, so you can move your car from one park to another if you wish. Be sure to keep your parking receipt when moving your car as you will have to show it at the next park's tollbooth to be able to enter for free.

If you are staying at any of the hotels on Disney property, parking at the resort is free and you will be given a parking pass for free parking at the theme parks. Note that, although the Swan and Dolphin hotels are technically on Disney property and do provide free parking at the parks, they are not owned by Disney. Therefore, instead of a parking pass for your car dashboard, you will have to show your room key to the parking lot attendant instead.

If you are staying at any of the hotels on Disney property (including the Swan and Dolphin), you have another, even more convenient option - free shuttles! Shuttles to all four of the theme parks, the water parks, and Downtown Disney/Pleasure Island leave from outside your hotel approximately every twenty minutes.

If you are a frequent Walt Disney World guest and purchase an Annual Pass ticket you are entitled to free parking at the theme parks. Parking at any of the water parks as well as Downtown Disney/Pleasure Island is free to all. If you plan on visiting any of the Boardwalk restaurants or entertainment venues, self-parking is free while valet parking is $6.00 (plus tip).

Getting Deals on Park Entry Tickets

WDW offers a variety of tickets for a variety of travelers: Premium Annual Passes, Annual Passes, Park Hopper Plus, Park Hopper, and single days, single park tickets. To decide which type of pass to buy, think about how you will spend your time in Orlando: will you go to a park every single day? Will you want to visit more than one park in a single day? How many days will you want to spend on Disney property? Will you want to go to the water parks or Pleasure Island? The answers to these questions will determine the type of ticket you should buy. Visit the Walt Disney World website for the most up-to-date prices and ticket information.

At any of the four major parks, single day/single park tickets for adults costs just under $60; for children ages 3-9, tickets cost just under $50. There are no discounts for senior citizens, students, or the disabled. That's the bad news. The good news is that, depending on your length of stay and group affiliations, it may be possible to get a break on paying that full price.

Planning ahead helps. If you buy your park tickets in advance from Disney, they offer a discount. You can purchase advance tickets online at the Disney site, by calling 407-W-Disney, or at Disney Stores (outside of Florida only).

Third-party ticket brokers also offer discount park tickets if purchased in advance. Ticket brokers buy their passes in bulk from Disney and then pass on the savings to you. In many cases ticket brokers offer better advance ticket prices than Disney. You can find a discount ticket broker online by contacting the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

If you are an AAA or CAA member, ticket discounts are available for Park Hopper tickets. Park Hopper tickets are sold in "number of day" packages (for example, 4-day and 5-day tickets) and allow you to visit more than one park in a day (hence the "hopper"). The discounts usually amount to around 3% or less and are only available if you purchase the tickets at an official AAA office in advance of your trip.

If you are an active member of the US military, discounts are available. Military identification is required to get the discount and the discount is good for all members of your family.

If you are a Hilton Honors or Marriott Rewards member, you can purchase park tickets using your points. Check with your hotel program to find out more information.

When buying tickets keep in mind that unused days on most passes almost never expire. So if you purchase a 6-day pass and only go to the park on 4 days, you can use your ticket for the remaining two days the next time you visit the parks.

Anyway you look at it, a Walt Disney World vacation could never be considered inexpensive -- but it's the price you pay for visiting the happiest place on Earth!

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