Walt Disney World is more like a collection of destinations than a single destination. A big part of planning your trip to "the World" is deciding which of those sub-destinations you will be visiting and purchasing ticket media appropriate to your touring plan. Fortunately, the Disney World "Magic Your Way" ticketing scheme (which replaced the old "Visit Our Way" scheme in 2005) is pretty straight forward, as we will demonstrate over the course of several dozen information-crammed Web pages (summarized here).
For incredible simplicity, the Magic Your Way ticket can customized for use for anything at Walt Disney World. When you purchase your ticket, you will be asked how many days you want it to be good for. This can be as few as one or as many as ten days (but not more than ten -- Disney doesn't want you to wear out your welcome). To this "base ticket" you may elect to add any of a number of options:
Park entry: Without this option, your ticket is pretty much just a piece of paper you spent a hunk of money on for no good reason.
Park hopping: Allows you to move between parks on a given day, or to exit and re-enter a park on the same day. Without this option, every time you enter a park it counts as another "day," even if it's on the same day, but for varioius arcane reasons you can't visit a second park on the same day and count it as a separate day.
Water Park Fun: Allows entrance to all water parks (not including resort pools, no matter how much they look like water parks). You get three admissions with a one-, two-, or three-day ticket, four admissions with a four-, five-, or six-day ticket, five admissions with the six-day ticket, six admissions with a seven- or eight-day ticket, back down to five admissions for a nine-day ticket, and just one admission for a ten-day ticket, because with all those admissions you'll probably be too busy at the parks to do anything else. Without this option, you can still visit water parks, you just can't have any fun.
& More: Only available if you already have a Water Park Fun option, this adds access to Pleasure Island, Disney's Wide World of Sports, DisneyQuest, Downtown Disney, and Disney Marketplace. The number of admissions to these venues you use is subtracted from the admissions you got for your Water Park Fun option. During busy times of year, separate admission is required for each shop in Downtown Disney.
No Expiration: The ticket never expires, ever, even if you have already used it. If you want to keep your used ticket as a souvenir, you must purchase the No Expiration option.
Transportation: Allows use of the Disney transportation system (busses, ferries, monorails, trains, Autopia).
Parking: Allows use of parking (but not premium parking) anywhere on Disney World property (but not at hotels) if you brought a car (so long as it's clean).
Lodging: Allows entrance to any of the Disney Resort hotels (but not use of pools except at your "home" hotel -- those attempting "pool hopping" will be ejected, shunned, taunted on discussion boards, and/or slapped with a wet towel).
Dining: Dining options are complex and contentious. We will deal with them separately, at a later time, on another page, with an asbestos suit on.
The cost of a base ticket is a function of the number of days of your stay, where you live, and your age (age 10 and above is considered an adult; children in-utero are free). Each option selected adds to the cost of the base ticket, and the cost of the option is based on your length of stay, age, and what other options you have selected, with possible adjustments for current specials and promotions. You may want to consult an accountant or just sign over your bank account.
Unless you purchase the No Expiration option for your ticket, it will expire 14 days after it is first exposed to light. We suggest that you examine your tickets in a darkroom after purchase to confirm that they are correct, and then keep them in an opaque envelope until your vacation.
It is also possible to purchase an annual pass for the theme parks, water parks, or all of Walt Disney World, but the options, conditions, and price variations are so copious that there isn't enough room on the Internet to hold them, so we're not even going to try.