Tickets are expensive; there is really no way around it. You can find current pricing here. The general pricing pattern is that the price per day drops dramatically for every additional day you go; there is an additional flat rate fee to make your ticket a Park Hopper Ticket.
Theme Park Ticket – a Ticket allows you to enter 1 park for 1 day; you choose how many days you want to visit a park (within a specified time window), and if you would like to upgrade to a Park Hopper Ticket.
Park Hopper Ticket (upgrade feature) – allows you to go back and forth between both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure freely.
Kids Discounts – Children under the age of 3 are free. There is a slightly discount for children between the ages of 3-10 years.
Single Day Tickets – I recently helped a friend do some planning for a single day trip to Disneyland. At first blush I didn’t know what to recommend about getting a Park Hopper Ticket; I was very torn. As we talked through their plan and I did more research I did into what specifically was going to be available at the parks that day. I strongly came down on the side of a single park ticket, (not the Park Hopper Ticket). To add the Park Hopper Ticket would have increased the price dramatically, and would not have allowed them to see more attractions; just different things. There is too much to do to see both parks in a day, with a single park ticket you are allowed to really get a full experience in that park. – For a Single Day Ticket, I would highly recommend getting a single park ticket and forgoing the Park Hopper Ticket.
Multi Day Tickets – As you can see on Disney’s pricing the more days you go the cheaper the price per day is. You really can have a full Disneyland experience in two days, especially if you are traveling without kids. 3-day tickets or maybe 4-day tickets is a wonderful amount of time to have when traveling with kids. It really takes the pressure off and makes everything a bit more relaxed. The reason I suggest a longer timeline when traveling with kids is because there are so many more attractions you’ll be interested in as a group with adults and children to please. I also recommend paying the upcharge for a Park Hopper Ticket if you are going for more than one day. The parks are co-located and do not require passing through security to go from one park to the other; making traveling back and forth very convenient. I highly recommend a minimum 2-day ticket for adults and 3-days for kids; and upgrading to the Park Hopper Ticket.
Special Offers – If you are eligible for special offers of any kind I highly recommend looking into it. It will most likely be your best deal. Be sure to read all the fine print though; look at eligibility requirements, block out dates, number you can purchase, and more details. Below are a few I’m familiar with; this is not intended to be a comprehensive list.
Locals Discount – Occasionally Disneyland will offer discounts to people who live in the Southern California area. They will specify the zip codes you are required to live in and you should contact them about what will qualify as proof of residency.
AAA – I have never used AAA to buy tickets for Disneyland, but I have for Disney World. At the time the offer included tickets at the Disney World face value price but included free parking in a preferred area. If you have a AAA membership I would look into any offers they might have.
Military – For the past several years Disney has been offer discounted tickets to both Disneyland and Disney World. It is a wonderful offer to be able to take advantage of. You can find some basic information on it here from Disney, but you should contact your ITT office for full details and to purchase tickets.
Disneyland – Of course you can purchase tickets directly through Disneyland. If you are not eligible to purchase through an organization you have a strong knowledge of, (like the ones listed above), I would recommend purchasing them directly though Disneyland. I would avoid any private brokers or deals that are too go to be true. It’s too much money to be spending and risk.
When to Purchase – I would recommend purchasing before you go. You are able to purchase tickets at the park in person. I personally feel more comfortable arriving with a ticket already in hand; one less thing you have to worry about. It’s also one less line you have to wait in. When purchased online you will have to print out a piece of paper which you can then bring directly to the entrance gate where they will take your picture and give you a ticket.