Think You Can Still Afford Disney?

I came across my ticket book the first time we took our oldest daughter to The Magic Kingdom in Orlando in 1976. The cost for a one day adult entry with 10 attractions was $7.00. For a 12 attraction entry the cost was $8.25. This was up from $4.40 for a seven attraction price when the park opened in 1971.

tn_76-12rideADaopWell, things have definitely changed at Mickey’s place. Disney has raised the gate price to the Magic Kingdom 41 times since the park opened, including nearly doubling it in the past decade. This year the price for a one day adult admission to the “happiest place on earth,” will set you back 105.00 plus tax. That’s the first time a one day admission to the park has exceeded $100.00.

But Disney has no plans to stop there. They are considering a three-tiered park admission plan.  Their highest plan would allow you entry into the park at any time, while the other two price points would place restrictions on those days and times. This is just another way for Disney to increase their price to the $125.00 range and make you feel good about the flexibility you currently have without having to pay for it.

Like most big theme parks, Disney is slowly forcing out a large segment of the population and catering more to those who can afford the ticket prices. While they still have “value” properties, they are beginning to move toward a different demographic. They recently opened bungalows at Seven Seas Lagoon with a rate of $2,100 per night. The Polynesian Village just reopened this year with stilted Bora Bora type bungalows that can cost up to $3,400.00 per night. How do you think Walt would feel about those prices?

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Memory Books for $200.00, Steak dinners for $115.00, $53.00 per plate dessert parties,  and $195.00 makeovers for little girls are among other high-priced add-ons which are all part of the new Disney.

Disney has exploded into a $184 billion dollar monster with theme park and resort profits doubling over the last five years to $2.6 billion dollars.  Their Disney park admissions revenue alone has grown about ten percent each year for the past decade to more than $5 billions dollars in 2014. Disney’s main theme park hosted a record 19 million visitors last year. Investors have smiles that you can see even when the sun goes down at night.

What does all this mean for you? Well, according to data from the Visit Orlando tourism center, Orlando tourists average household income peaked at about $93, 000 last year which is $20,000 higher than the average U.S. household wage. So it appears that whatever middle class still exists may eventually have to get their Disney fix somewhere else.

It’s not hard to see what’s happening here. From a business perspective Disney is doing what every good business does; take advantage of demand. Since part of that demand comes from a higher end visitor, Disney is only too happy to accommodate. Since they view themselves as a premium brand, why not begin to charge premium prices? The facade of value pricing and accommodations will always be there but as long as people continue to pay the price of admission, Disney will do what any smart business model does.

Will all this stop people from coming? Probably not. While it might eventually price out a segment of the population, the ripple down effect won’t hurt the bottom line and might help thin the crowds a bit which would alleviate the long lines that currently exist.

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In 1976, an individual could spend a day at Magic Kingdom for less than it would cost to fill up their car with gas. We’re not even in that ballpark today.
While I still enjoy going to Magic Kingdom and will continue to visit, the amount of commercialism and desire to get deeper into your pockets at every turn makes the magic a little less bright for me. But that’s just the way it is today.

Things have definitely changed along Main Street.

27 thoughts on “Think You Can Still Afford Disney?

  1. A.PROMPTreply

    We took our son to Disney back in 2011 and spent $5,000.00 before we ever got out the door and on the plane. My mother remarked then (we were Disney regulars back in the day having my grandparents in Florida) how much things had changed. To be fair, we never stayed onsite when we were young. Now, it’s a whole different experience with 4 parks and all the onsite lodging, etc. But I suspect you’re right…people already save for a year or more to afford a trip…..perhaps someday they’ll begin to offer Disney financial packages at banks….more likely, Disney will begin to offer its own financing!

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    1. George Post author

      You know, you’re so on the money with that thought of available financing. Though I imagine they would sell the paper because they wouldn’t want to get into the bill collection business when things go bad. That wouldn’t fit their image..:)

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    1. George Post author

      I think we’re getting to that point, which is sad. I’ve always enjoyed going there with children but even found different ways to have fun with just the two of us. I don’t like to think that they will ultimately price some people out of the park, especially children.

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    1. George Post author

      Thanks Frank. My wife and I went a few years ago for the first time without kids and had a great time. It’s a vey different trip and there are things to do beyond the rides like food festivals at Epcot in the fall. But there are always kids. No way around that deal.

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    1. George Post author

      No you won’t..:) I worked with a guy once whose kids wanted to go and every time they asked he told them it was closed. Eventually they got older figured it out and became drug addicts, which I attribute to the lies he told them about Disney.:)

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  2. vanbytheriver

    There was a comedian on SNL who did “Deep Thoughts”. He was on his way to Disneyland with his young children and passed a burned down barn. Told them it was Disneyland and turned around and went home. It was funny, but not to those kids, no doubt. I bet Walt is rolling over in his grave…I doubt this exclusivity is what he had in mind.

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  3. joylovestravel

    Makes for very interesting reading George! We visited Disney last October and were shocked at the cost for three of us for flexible passes for the 2 weeks we spent in Florida, especially compared to the Universal Studios tickets that we had for the same amount of time the previous year. The Disney offering was more than double the price. We had a great time but still….

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    1. George Post author

      It’s getting out of hand. A one day pass for Universal is now over 100.00 for an adult and if you want Harry Potter included I think it’s 147.00. Including tax it’s almost 500.00 for one day. At some point you’d think the bubble has to burst.

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  4. Flop til you drop "FTYD"

    We began boycotting Disney years ago. Seriously, we took our kids maybe twice when they were still in strollers- and it’s only because we had friends that still worked there and they got us in on their family pass? My kids are now 9 and 11 and Disney told their employees they can only use the family pass for immediate family only. What a bunch of crap! So we haven’t been since… it would cost us about $500.00 just to get in the park (after entrance fees, and parking) for a family of 4. And then, the outrageous fees inside for a park that is over-crowded that they need to control better, as there is definitely a fire hazard, etc. if someone yelled bomb, there would be a stamped and people would get hurt. They need security only allowing so much entrance at one time to Frontier Land or ensure there is more ways to enter/exit than just 2 areas. AND, after all that… too many people, to wait in such long lines only allowing you to get on 4 rides if you’re lucky. $600 dollars or so for that?

    I always tell everyone, I boycott Disney and I think Walt would roll over in his grave if he knew what has become of his dream. His dream was so that children (families) of all economic background could dream too – why do you think it used to be free entrance and you only purchased tickets to the rides you wanted?

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  5. Jay

    I was 30 before I ever made my way into the park, and am very glad I did. It’s expensive, but it’s actually probably on the lower end of our typical vacations. I can spend a great deal more on a cruise ship or a Paris shopping spree than I can at Disney World!

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    1. George Post author

      I appreciate your comment but I think that’s the main point here. There are many, like you, who can afford a variety of trips including the costs of theses tickets. There are others, however, where the cost of these tickets are or will be prohibitive for much of the middle class. Based on what I’ve read, that was not the vision that Walt Disney had when he created this park. I love going to Disney, and have for years. It’s sad that in years to come, so many won’t have that same opportunity.

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  6. Dale

    The first time I went was with my boyfriend back in ’82. I can’t remember the prices because I think he paid for it!
    We went in 2009 with our pop-up camper (on-site camping was a “mere” $84/night) and bought a package deal with meals, snacks and access. The only bonus was that it was my biggest kid’s (my husband) birthday so we were given 6 use any time fast passes on his birthday.
    Would I go back? Nah…

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    1. George Post author

      I still love going, I just won’t go in the summer any more and prefer off season(if there is one) when the crowds are smaller. But we do different things without kids now and we see things we didn’t have a chance to before. Disney certainly isn’t for everyone. My brother’s kids were not big fans. Not sure why but some people don’t like the crowds and there’s plenty of that.

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