Disney on a Shoestring: Are Special Events and Packages Worth the Money?

Lisa Fritscher November 1, 2014 No Comments

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Mickey's Party

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is well-known for its parade.

Walt Disney World offers a seemingly endless array of separately priced special events and packages, from Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party to the Feel the Force package during Star Wars Weekends. Events are held after-hours, while packages offer preferential treatment during regular park hours. If you are on a limited budget, you might wonder whether it is worthwhile to direct some of your funds toward these options.

Special Events
Most Walt Disney World special events are included with park admission, from the spring Flower and Garden Festival through the holiday Candlelight Processional, both at Epcot. However, some events are known as hard ticket events, which means that you must buy a special ticket to attend. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are wildly popular annual hard ticket events. A Villains Party is being tested this year as a hard ticket at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and other hard ticket events have been available at various times.

These events are advertised as featuring holiday-themed parades, stage shows and fireworks displays that are not shown to the general public. While this is basically true for the Halloween party, keep in mind that you can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from numerous locations around Walt Disney World. There is nothing stopping you from finding out the schedule and watching the special fireworks from a publicly accessible location.

For Christmas, the parade and stage shows move to daytime performance schedules as soon as the Christmas parties are over for the year (typically a few days before Christmas) and run through New Year’s. If you are willing to battle the crowds during Christmas week, you can see the same entertainment during the day without paying for a party ticket.

In general, Dad and I no longer find the hard ticket events to be worth the money. At one time, the Christmas party included numerous extras such as a free family photograph and some shows we enjoyed that are no longer offered. As the inclusions gradually decreased and the prices increased, we reached the point that the hard ticket events no longer made sense for us. Clearly others disagree, as the hard tickets frequently sell out.

Packages

Feel the Force

The Feel the Force package provides premium viewing for the Star Wars Weekends celebrity motorcade.

Packages provide a premium experience, such as reserved viewing locations for parades or fireworks and often some food and/or alcohol. For example, the Star Wars Weekends Feel the Force package includes VIP viewing for both the parade and the fireworks, as well as soft drinks and snacks during the parade and a dessert buffet during the fireworks. For 2014, the price was $54 per adult and $32 per child aged 3 to 9. Similar packages are offered with different focuses throughout the year at all four Walt Disney World theme parks, allowing you to sign up for the package that best suits your family’s interests.

Dad and I have never chosen to participate in a package, but we are not opposed to the idea. We simply find that we are usually too busy with all of the activities that are included with the regular price of admission! If you are doing Disney on a shoestring, rest assured that buying a package is entirely unnecessary to having a good time. We always find good places to watch the shows, parades and fireworks, and probably could not actually consume $54 worth of dessert per person.

Backstage Tours

Epcot

Backstage tours take you behind the scenes at your favorite Walt Disney World theme parks.

As the name suggests, backstage tours allow you to go behind the scenes of many of your favorite Walt Disney World attractions. Dad and I have participated in backstage tours, and would happily do so again. These tours are guided by experts who share a seemingly endless amount of trivia and fun facts, as well as providing a perspective that most guests never get to see.

These tours run the gamut from the one-hour, $20 (as of 2014) Behind the Seeds tour at the Land pavilion through the all-day Backstage Magic tour (nearly $245 as of 2014). If your kids are young, note that some tours have minimum age requirements, which vary by tour from 8 to 16. Depending on the tour, kids under age 16 or 18 might need to be accompanied by an adult. Check the specifics, including any discounts for which you might qualify, before booking a tour.

While the backstage tours are a lot of fun for Disney aficionados, I do not recommend them for first- or second-time visitors. There is so much to take in that you are likely to be overwhelmed as a new guest. If you are traveling on a shoestring, no matter how many times you have visited, the tours are definitely not necessary for a good time. In all the years we have been annual passholders, Dad and I have only done a couple of tours. Think of them as a fun way to spend a little disposable cash rather than something that could make or break your vacation.

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Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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