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I am a well-documented Disney Nut, but I also acknowledge that the pricing in Orlando and Anaheim can limit the magic. I wish we could go to Disney World for a long weekend, but at over $100/day for less than four days, I just can’t do it. And last year we went to Disneyland in California, where five-day Park Hopper tickets cost just over $395/person. And with price increases averaging 7% for 2019 and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opening this summer, we can expect ticket costs to continue to rise faster than you can say Millennium Falcon.
There Is Another Way
This year I found price relief in an unexpected place: Paris. Earlier this year, my daughter and I returned from a four-day trip to Disneyland Paris, and we will do another four-day trip in July. The cost for park tickets? Less than $300/person -- for both trips.
I had a similar experience three years ago in Japan, where we did two days at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea for around $100/person. Later that summer, we discovered that Hong Kong Disneyland was even cheaper than that.
I'm not going to tell you that it would be cheaper to fly overseas to visit a Disney park (although in some cases, especially with miles, it might be). What I do recommend is that you take a good look at incorporating a Disney visit into an existing trip to either Europe or Asia. You might get your Mickey fix on the cheap.
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On the surface, Disneyland Paris ticket prices might not look like much of a bargain, with one-day peak pricing at $105 for adults and $97 for kids 3–11. However, once you dig into the details, you can find some real steals.
For one, Disneyland Paris non-peak "Mini" prices are available on many weeks from Monday–Thursday. (The calendar is currently available until early 2020.) Mini tickets are a much more affordable $68 daily for adults and $62 for kids. Even most weekends price out at a "Magic" rate of $82 per day. Both of those prices are better than multi-ticket prices as long as you are staying in one park. That said, I do advise park hopping if you are planning a day at Walt Disney Studios as I'm not sure you could spend an entire day there.
An even better deal are the annual passes. For as low as 179 euros ($202) you can enjoy the "Discovery" pass, which gets you 150 days/year at both parks. The lowest-level pass does exclude most weekends and most of April, July and August, so it's definitely not for every visitor.
The second-level "Magic Flex" pass would work for most summertime tourists as it only blacks out three days each month between April and September. At 259 euros ($293), you'd save by your third Magic Flex-level day.
We went with the third-level "Magic Plus" pass at 299 euros ($338), which gives you 350 days a year (basically only blacking out major holiday weeks), along with access to the same Extra Magic Hour given to hotel guests. That alone has value to us as we aren't limited to staying at the more expensive Disneyland Paris hotels to get this important benefit. We also get 10 percent off at shops, which we combined with sale season for some super-cheap souvenirs. Since I anticipate eight Disneyland Paris days in 2019, this pass will cost us less than $43/day.
The 449 euros ($508) "Infinity" pass that allows 365-day entry, among other perks, is really only for the die-hard fans who likely are at least relatively local to the area. However, it is worth noting that the pass is half the price of a Disney World annual pass.
There is a bit of a process to getting Disneyland Paris annual passes. If you have plenty of time, you can order them online to be sent to your home. If you do, you'll be able to use any level of pass, starting your first day at the parks. If you buy on-site, the Discovery pass has a two-day waiting period before you can use it. Once you purchase your passes (either online or on-site) you have to take your voucher to the "Passport office" to get your picture taken. On a busy Saturday, this took us about 45 minutes, but during the week, I expect it would be faster.
Additionally, unlike with the US Disney parks, you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for Disneyland Paris and many of the other international parks in the Ultimate Rewards travel site, though it may or may not be a good deal depending on your dates and what you need included.
Tokyo Disney Resort
Tokyo Disney Resort, like Paris Disneyland, has two theme parks. For that reason, I would recommend a visit of at least two days, probably three, as DisneySea is one-of-a-kind in the Disney-verse. That said, even one-day tickets cost less in Japan than in the USA: 7,400 yen ($66) for adults down to 4,800 yen ($43) for kids. Of note if you have a three-year-old, is that those kiddos get into Disney for free in Tokyo, while 3 year olds have to purchase child tickets in the US. (There are also evening-only discount tickets available.)
Two-day tickets are a better deal: 13,200 yen ($118) down to 8,600 yen ($77) for kids. Tickets can be bought for up to four days, which run 22,400 yen ($200) down to 14,400 yen ($129). Tokyo Disney Resort annual passes are not a good value for nonresidents as they cost almost as much as a US annual passes.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland, like Tokyo Disney Resort, still has standard pricing that doesn't vary according to day or season. Tickets also have the benefit of giving a huge discount for a second day. One-day tickets are HK$619/HK$458 ($78/$58), while two-day tickets are only HK$799/HK$589 HK ($101/$75).
Even better, there's a promotion until June 30, where two-day tickets are only HK$699/HK$515 ($89/$66). If you only need a Magic Kingdom-type park, that's about as cheap as a short visit will get -- unless you're a senior. People over 65 get in to Hong Kong Disneyland for a jaw-dropping HK$100 ($13).
Annual Passes at Hong Kong Disneyland start at HK$1,238/HK$880 ($158/$112) and so they start to make sense for visits of three or more days. The base-level passes are good for 220 days a year, including most weekdays.
The newest Disney park has a tiered pricing structure with weekday tickets going for 399RMB/299RMB for kids and 65+ ($59/$45) and weekend and summer holiday tickets going for 575RMB/431RMB ($84/$64). There are also peak holiday tickets for 665RMB ($99) available, mostly for Lunar New Year. However, you could not pay me to visit Shanghai Disneyland during Lunar New Year. Two-day tickets get approximately a 10% discount.
The annual passes for Shanghai Disneyland don't make sense for most tourists as the cheapest weekday option is 1,599RMB ($238). That means you would have to spend at least four weekdays to break even. Since Shanghai Disneyland is just one park, I don't see that appealing to many people. But if you have more than one trip planned, you should definitely look into the annual pass options.
A Note About Kids Being Kids
You might save a good deal of money if your kids are between 10 and 12 years of age, depending on the park. Kids are "kids" until the day before their 12th birthdays in both Paris and Hong Kong, which is a huge improvement from US Disney's age limit of 9. Tokyo considers kids "kids" until age 11 as well, but it also adds a second category: Junior. These children, ages 12–17, also get a slightly discounted price from adult tickets.
Shanghai does things differently: It prices tickets according to height, not age. Any kid under a meter tall is free and any kid under 1.4 meters qualifies for kids' pricing. This could work to your benefit or detriment, depending on your kid.
A trip to Europe or Asia might not immediately make you think of a Disney park visit. However, ticket savings and even affordable annual passes may mean you might want to take a second look. Disney magic is Disney magic -- no matter what country it calls home, and if you can save money by tacking a little Disney onto an international trip rather than adding a whole other trip to Orlando or California, then perhaps everyone wins!
To continue your international Disney planning:
- 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
- Review of Toy Story Hotel at Shanghai Disneyland
- Look Inside Shanghai Disneyland
- 9 Things to Know as a First Time Disneyland Paris Visitor
- Disneyland Paris Hosting First Official Pride Event
- Disneyland Paris Getting Immersive Marvel Hotel
- Review of Disney Cruise Line