We totally get it — Disney world is WAY expensive no matter how you shake it, so it’s hard to try and justify shelling out your hard-earned cash for something ELSE on top of the oodles of money you’re already spending. But, at least one of these options MAY make sense for you…and we’re going to take you through a few potential options that could make your trip that much more magical.
Let’s check out some of the more intriguing upgrades we think are worth the money for those seeking the ultimate Disney experience.
For the Riders
Do you often disembark from your favorite Disney ride and lament that you can’t immediately get right back on and ride it again and again? Then Disney’s After Hours might be right up your alley. On select nights at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, you can purchase this separate ticket event and have the park practically all…to…yourself.
Too good to be true? Well, you gotta pay a pretty penny if you want this privilege. It’s steep at $125 plus tax per person when purchased in advance or $129 plus tax when bought at the gate (note that purchasing in advance, and purchasing as an Annual Passholder can provide a small discount), but the advantages can easily outweigh the cost.
Wait times are drastically reduced for many crazy popular attractions like Flight of Passage at Pandora: The World of Avatar or Seven Dwarves Mine Train in Magic Kingdom. You can ride a TON of rides in a fraction of the time it would take during regular park hours. Imagine riding most of the rides in Magic Kingdom in just a couple of hours…versus days. We have your attention now, don’t we? Plus, you get unlimited select bottled drinks, ice cream, and popcorn for FREE with admission. We don’t know about you, but we can knock back more than a few unlimited Mickey Premium Bars if given the opportunity!
So if you’ve always dreamed of shoveling your face full of free snacks while whipping around on Big Thunder Mountain ten times in a row, then this may be right up your alley. Sure, it costs more than a full day park ticket, but when you consider the dramatically lighter crowds, getting out of the insane central florida midday heat, the ability to ride SO MUCH in such a short time, and the free food, it can seem much more appealing.
This is a great option for anyone who wants to tackle all the rides in the parks but just doesn’t want the hassle of the crowds or waiting in line. If you’re still hung up on the cost, remember you can likely shave a day off your park tickets and purchase an After Hours instead. Riding more rides in way less time is super appealing!
Interested in learning more? Be sure to check out our DFB Video to see our thoughts on Disney After Hours Events!
For the Savvy Spenders
If you’re all about saving as many pennies as you can at Disney World, consider purchasing an Annual Pass. Now I know that sounds counterintuitive, but hear us out. Even if you only plan to visit once in a year, it may still save you a fair chunk of change in the discounts and perks that come with it! Plus, only one person in your party needs a pass for everyone to take advantage of the perks!
AP perks are actually quite staggering! They often include huge discounts on rooms at select Disney resorts, discounts at select table-service restaurants, free parking, discounts on merchandise in the parks and online, discounted special event pricing, and free PhotoPass downloads.
Passholders also get access to exclusive Annual Passholder merch and treats, seasonal freebies (everyone loves free swag!), and other occasional promotions such as the Bring-a-Friend offer that allows you to purchase a 1-Day Park Hopper ticket for just $89, plus tax.
The Disney Platinum Pass will set you back a cool $1,119 plus tax (due to recent price increases). Florida residents can get their Platinum Pass for $899 plus tax. BUT — and especially if you’re traveling with a large enough group — all those savings (especially those hotel discounts) can add up fast and easily cover the cost of one pass and then some in no time.
There’s also the tried and true passholder trick of booking your yearly visits so that you can fit two years into one Annual Pass. For example, if you usually go to Disney World in February, see if you can book just one week earlier the second year so that you can still take advantage of your Annual Pass discounts and not have to purchase tickets for that second vacation.
You’ll have to do the math to decide if purchasing an Annual Pass will be to your advantage. In our experience, the discounts outweigh the initial cost and it pays for itself in no time. But if you don’t plan to spend a ton in the gift shops, you’re staying offsite, or not dining your way around Disney World, it may not be the best fit for your group. You need to weigh the pros and cons for how you plan to travel.
And also note that once you have an Annual Pass burning a hole in your pocket…it can be difficult not to book just one more trip… .
For the Athletes
Available in 5K, 10K, Half-Marathon and Marathon lengths, there’s never been a more magical way to get in your steps.
Diehard runDisney fans love decking themselves in Disney-inspired running outfits for the races. It can make for great people-watching, even as a spectator! The race courses go right through the parks with tons of characters stationed as you go that you can stop to meet. That’s pretty solid motivation to get running!
There are even after-hours post-race parties for participants and exclusive runDisney merchandise available for purchase. With costs ranging from around $80 for most 5Ks to around $600 dollars for the largest, multiple race challenge, these are definitely pay-to-play options; but there’s usually something for everyone’s budget (and ability!). Check out our guide to participating in a runDisney event below!
Race participants can often receive discounts around Disney World on food and merch when they show their race bib or medal! Imagine strutting around Disney Springs, medal on your neck, getting freebies and discounts for all that hard exercising you did!
And this year, Disney has created a few limited edition MagicBands exclusive to runDisney participants as well. Disney releases limited bands from time to time, but these are uber-rare — the lavender princess marathon band is limited to just 1,000! Complete a race and you could show off one of these beauties on YOUR arm!
If the thought of waking up early to work out on your vacation isn’t your idea of fun, we have tons of other less-active options for a great upgrade. But if the bragging rights of having finished a long run THROUGH the Disney parks gets your pulse rising, a runDisney race may be right up your alley!
For the Food Fans
If fine dining is more what gets your heart racing, an exclusive Disney dining experience sounds more like your style — and there’s a lot to choose from!
Disney World has a lot of options when it comes to dessert parties — at least one in each park! Parties typically include a wide array of dessert options as well as savory bites, a selection of beverages (sometimes alcohol), and reserved viewing of a nighttime spectacular.
Imagine while the rest of the crowds are elbow to elbow waiting to watch the nighttime show, you could be lounging in style with some tasty snacks and a drink in your hand. There’s often plenty of room to spread out at these events, so you’ll be guaranteed one of the best seats in the house!
One of our favorites is the Frozen Ever After Dessert Party in Epcot. Not only do you get all the sweet treats and prime views of the fireworks, but you also get a guaranteed ride on Frozen Ever After WITHOUT a crazy long wait! Frozen Ever After is a top tier Fastpass at Epcot along with Test Track and Soarin’, so since you get a ride on Frozen with your admission to the party, that frees up that ever valuable Fastpass for one of those two popular attractions, instead!
There are even specialty dessert parties you can purchase tickets for at many hard-ticketed events, like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. In these cases, the snacks are often heavily themed to match the event or differently plated versions of event-exclusive treats. This can be a great way to take in your fill of event themed eats without spending precious time (and MONEY!) racing around the parks trying to find all the themed snacks for yourself.
Most of Disney’s Dessert parties cost around $70-84 for adults and $40-50 for children, depending on which you choose. Check out our video below for help choosing which one is right for you!
Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table
The super $$$$ chef’s table at Grand Floridian’s Victoria & Albert’s is another ultra-swanky option. Only one party of guests are seated at this distinguished table each night and can only accommodate up to 8 guests at a time.
This is a looooooooong experience — usually three hours or more — and will for sure take up your whole evening. But it really CAN be a worthwhile splurge for certain folks. Personally, we loved the chance to chat with the very excited sous chefs in the kitchen. Working here is basically their dream come true, and to hear them talking about their experiences and sharing the work they’re doing was a blast — and really not something you can experience anywhere else in Disney World.
For those who are food aficionados, the dishes here are seriously prime. So, while many Disney visitors would prefer to put this kind of money into an extra day at the park or maybe an After Hours event, some of us prize these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to learn more about life in a high-end kitchen.
The Prix Fixe dinner is $250.00 per guest or $355-$400 per guest if you choose those bonus wine pairings, gratuity and tax not included.
Keep in mind, Victoria and Albert’s is one of the only dining spots in Disney World with an age limit — you have to be at least 10 to dine here. So if you have kiddos with you and don’t want to rustle up a sitter so you can chow down, this might be a pass for you. But if you’ve got some time to kill, possibly a special occasion to celebrate, and have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket then pack some swanky clothes and enjoy being treated like royalty for a few hours.
For the Adventure-Seekers
Maybe you need a break from the Disney-ness of it all for a while. How about satisfying your inner explorer with an excursion full of up-close interactions with animals and nature? The Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom is a 3-hour privately guided tour of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve.
Not only will you receive a special vest and headset as you check-in (sorry — not for keeps), but you’ll also be shuttled around in a private safari vehicle and be granted exclusive access to cast member-only areas, walking paths, and rope bridges not open to the general public.
But how close to the animals will you really be? So close that you’ll be strapped in for your safety! In the end, your bravery will be rewarded with an offering of gourmet African-inspired eats, free PhotoPass downloads to show off your endeavors, and a souvenir water canteen.
The Wild Africa Trek price ranges from $189.00 – 249.00 plus tax per person. This is a ton of money, BUT it’s actually not that bad when compared to other wildlife encounters offered at the park. Plus, you can feel good knowing a portion of your admission goes to charity!
If animals or nature are your thing, this can be a great chance to really spend some time up close and personal, away from the hustle of the parks. This is perfect for that animal lover in your group, and an opportunity they will likely never forget. If climbing around in the heat for a few hours isn’t your jam, maybe sleeping in with the A.C. cranked in your room is more your speed. No judgment here!
Disney has so many upgrade options for a variety of interests at a range of price-points that there’s bound to be at least one great fit for your group. But be sure to crunch those numbers to decide if the benefits are a good fit for you and worth your money.
Do you have a ton of people in your group? Are you celebrating a special occasion? Do you want an exclusive, private experience away from the crowds? Can you make an adjustment here or there to your plans so a splurge on an upgrade doesn’t feel like such a deep cut?
While most are fairly pricey, their value can easily exceed the cost for many families looking to make unique memories. But a Disney trip is a wallet minefield, so proceed with caution.
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Have you tried an “Enchanting Extra” that didn’t make our list? Tell us about your experience and why you think it was a good value!