Figuring Out Disneyland Tickets

The Basics

Disneyland Tickets can be the most expensive part of any trip to the happiest place on earth! They only seem to increase in price and are not getting any cheaper. Before we delve deeper into the method to my madness, let’s break the basics. 

If you’ve never been to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, you need to know that there are actually two theme parks that make up the so-called resort. We have Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure Park. Disneyland Park (DL) is the original of the two and is the “classic” park you think of when you hear the work Disneyland. California Adventure (DCA), which opened in 2001, is the more “adult” friendly park of the two. 

You’ll get two completely different experiences between the two parks. Both parks are considered to be “full-day” parks. This means there is enough to do to keep you or your family occupied for the entire day. DCA (I’ll be using this abbreviation for California Adventure throughout the post) is family friendly, but with all the construction going on, it’s more suited to kids over the age of 5. Before I get into types of tickets, you should be aware that kids 0-2 are free, kids 3-9 are considered children and anyone over 10 requires an adult ticket. 

Ticket Types

There are two different types of tickets for general admission (I’m not getting into special event tickets today). We have 1 park per day tickets and hopper tickets. What’s the difference? 1 park per day tickets are cheaper and only offer admission to Disneyland Park OR to DCA. You have to pick and choose. Once your ticket is scanned and activated for the day you can only visit the theme park you originally entered.

A hopper ticket gives you more flexibility. If you have no idea what you would like to do, this is a good option for you. It’s more expensive, but you have the ability to enter both Disneyland Park (DL) and  DCA unlimited times on the same day. You can “hop” back and forth between the two.

These tickets are sold in increments of 1 day through 5 days. The 1 day tickets, however, are pried on a tiered system. Huh? This means if you are only going for one day, you need to know what day you are entering. 

As a side note, I’ll always recommend 1 park per day tickets for people who have never been to the Disneyland Resort. It’s overwhelming to be at Disneyland and you shouldn’t feel rushed. There is a lot to see and do; you will not be able to fit everything in. If you decide you’ve had enough of 1 park or have been here before and move at a faster pace, the hopper ticket may work better for you. You’ll read about upgrades in a few minutes. 

1 Day Ticket Tiers

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Image taken from the Disney Food Blog

1 Day tickets come in 3 different categories: value, regular and peak. Disney has decided that certain days of the week and times of the year will be less busy than others and the price of a 1 day ticket should reflect that. There are relatively few value days, but they tend to be midweek days in the winter months like January and February. Regular days tend to be everyday except weekends and holidays. Peak days tend to be all of summer and days you want to avoid. 

The official calendar is always subject to change. It can be viewed on the official Disneyland Resort website though here. If you are only going for 1 day, ensure you are positive on the type of ticket you will need if you intend to buy it in advance. There is no sympathy from Cast Members at the Main Entrance if you have the wrong ticket type for the wrong day. The exception is if you have purchased a more expensive ticket to enter than required (ie: using a regular 1 day ticket on a value day).

Multiple Day Tickets

Multiple day Disneyland tickets are probably the best value for you. The more days you go, the cheaper it gets. The key here is that the days for the tickets do not have to be used consecutively! If you are on vacation in Southern California for a week or two, you should know that once a ticket is activated by using it at DL or DCA, you still have 13 days to use any remaining days on multi-day tickets. Let’s say you want to add days onto your ticket, fantastic! Upgrades are available!

Upgrading a Ticket

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Image taken from Mouse Planet

Pretty much any Disneyland ticket can be upgraded. The exception is usually made on twilight tickets and convention tickets (these can only be purchased through an official Disneyland Resort hotel or through a special events package). There are two main types of upgrades: a 1 park per day ticket to a hopper ticket and 1-4 day tickets that want to have additional days added.

All ticket upgrades require that the theme park ticket you have purchased is active and still retains its value. In other words, if you have a 1 day ticket, it can only be upgraded on the day you are using it, not after (unless you upgrade it beforehand). All ticket upgrades will only cost you the difference in price between the two tickets. Let’s say a 1 day 1 park value ticket costs $97 and you want a 1 day 1 park hopper ticket that costs $150; you would only need to pay the $53 difference. 

Can you upgrade mutli-day tickets from a 1 park per day ticket to a hopper ticket for just 1 day? No (unless it’s the last day of use on the multi-day ticket).  There are no downgrade options available (except in very very rare circumstances). There are no refunds on tickets either.

If you want to upgrade your ticket, make sure it’s done by an official Disneyland Box Office at the theme park or at a Disneyland Resort Hotel front desk! Never let anyone else talk you into doing it for you. 

Upgrading to an Annual Pass

Did you have so much from in Southern California that you want to return in the next year? If yes, than an annual pass might be something for you to consider upgrading your ticket to. This is a good way to save money if you know you will be able to return to Disneyland in the next year AND will be coming on multiple days. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense.

Most Disneyland tickets that are active and still have usage left on them can have their value applied towards an annual pass. Be careful! If your ticket is expired or you decide a day too late about upgrading your ticket to an annual pass, you are out of luck. 

If you are a California resident, you have the ability to make monthly payments on your annual pass. This is something I did for many years. You will be asked to make a down payment on the pass and for the next 12 months will be billed for the remainder of the cost of the pass. Unfortunately this is unavailable for non-California residents. 

There are 4 types of annual passes: Southern California (only available to Southern California Residents), Deluxe, Signature and Signature Plus. You can find all the info for them here. Annual Pass specifics deserve their own post. 

The bottom line here is to ensure you check the blackout dates on the pass you are considering before you upgrade to it! If you visit on a blackout date, you need to buy a new full priced ticket for the day. 

Magic Morning on Multi-Day Tickets

Magic Morning and Extra Magic Hour are two separate perks available to you if you are staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel and/or have a multi-day ticket. If you are staying at the Paradise Pier Hotel, the Disneyland Hotel or the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, you get access to Extra Magic Hour. This allows you access to Disneyland Park or DCA an hour before park opening on select days. It is better than Magic Morning admission since it includes DCA on days Magic Morning is unavailable. 

If you are not staying on resort property and have a 3,4 or 5 day ticket (or Southern California City Pass) you get Magic Morning access! This is a perk that lets you get into Disneyland Park 1 hour before park opening on select days. In the past it has been Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Always check your calendar on the Disneyland website ahead of time though. 

Magic Morning also may come with any packaged deals. You will need to check with the vouchers in your package. Note that if you want the Magic Morning in the multi-day tickets included, you must purchase your tickets before you arrive at Disneyland!

Discounted Tickets

There isn’t much of a discount available on tickets  to anyone. Even as a former Cast Member when I needed to buy tickets for my family, we only received $5-10 dollars off the cost of a ticket. Only trust official ticket vendors when you make your purchase. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

The best places to buy tickets ahead of time at a slight discount are going to be AAA, Costco, your grocery store, through your employer, through a credit union or booked as a travel package with an agent. It never hurts to check with your work. You never now if a special promotion will be running. 

Military tickets are the best deal of all, but can only be bought on a military base or at an official Disneyland Box Office with valid military ID. The person with the military ID must be with the people using the military ticket when they enter the theme parks. 

Lost Tickets

This used to happen all the time! The best advise I can give you is to download the official  Disneyland App and link your tickets to it. Once your tickets are in the app, if you lose it, at least you have a mobile copy.

If you don’t want to do that, take a picture of the barcode of your ticket. This will save a lot of time and hassle when you need to get it reprinted. Lost tickets may be able to be reprinted at the official Disneyland Box Office…you may be asked to have all the tickets you bought with you. People may get mad, but this is because the Cast member will need to see the sequential numbers to find which ticket is missing.  

Don’t let your kids be responsible for their tickets! They get lost all the time and it’s like cash! It’s extremely frustrating for everyone involved to deal with the stress of the lost ticket.

Parting Words

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Image copyright of the LA Times

I’m sure there is a lot of things I may have missed or glossed over with tickets, but this post is meant to serve as a general bit of information in addition to what’s already out on the internet. Always consult the official source of info on the Disneyland Website FAQ page first. 

Don’t let the cost of the ticket ruin your trip. They are expensive, but it’s an experience. Disneyland is a privilege and not a right. More and more these days it’s crowded. Plan your trip with no expectations and you’ll have an amazing time no matter what. Feel free to ask any questions about tickets. I’m pretty knowledgeable as a former Cast Member and ticketing specialist. Until next time, happy travels!