Can't Afford Theme Park Prices? Tough | Disney World

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    Can’t Afford Theme Park Prices? Tough

    Let’s face a not-very-encouraging truth here: If you can barely afford to pay the admission price to get into a theme park, they don’t want you, anyway.

    Ditto or similar situation: if you have major issues with being able to afford just to get past the turnstiles, they also don’t want you.

    The reason is that more money is made from your renting a hotel room and buying food, drinks, etc.

    Believe it or not

    No, we are not financial analysts. And we don’t know all the details or specific financial cash flow, etc., of the theme park business.

    But we do know some general principles.

    And that involves theme park admission prices.

    They are not exactly what some stores call “loss leaders”…super low prices to get your attention so you buy an item or two while other costs are much higher…but sort of like that.

    This brings us to rising admission prices at theme parks.

    Universal announced a few days ago that a one-day pass will now cost $105, up from $102. A two-week park-to-park pass sells for $155, an $8 increase from the previous ticket price. 

    That is only $3 or $8 more per ticket.

    “Walt Disney World and Universal often raise their ticket prices around the same time so eyes will be on its moused-eared neighbor to see what move will come next,” reported the Associated Press.

    The admission price issue will continue, of course.

    The idea is that anyone visiting during Christmas week or peak periods around the upcoming Spring Break and summer will be paying more.

    Does anyone like to hear this kind of news?

    No, not really.

    But we do accept it all.

    Reluctantly. Grudgingly.

    With many complaints.

    Only $3

    But when you think of it, $3 multiplied by, say, 1,000 people is only $3,000.

    It would cost you more to get into an Orlando hotel’s presidential suites for just one night. If you could afford it.

    One of the unmentioned goals of higher prices is to keep some people out of there.

    These rising numbers are not like random lottery numbers.

    They have been “crunched,” as the financial people say.

    Analyzed. Carefully thought out.

    They are designed to encourage those who can pay.

    Keep in mind that those who can pay the admission price can also rent the higher paying hotel rooms like the Grand Floridian.

    Yes, there are less expensive value resorts at Disney and elsewhere.

    But by all accounts, these are normally full. No real challenge there to make money.

    Disney and others want you…in expensive rooms

    So it’s something like the airline business, where the very expensive first class tickets make up profits for all those cheap flight specials.

    At the same time, people today are spending more money. The economy is improving.

    Continues to improve.

    But if you are typical, like us, you say:

    How dare they keep raising their prices?

    Both Disney and Universal are above the $100 mark for a single ticket. Or another way to look at it:

    $100 for a single day of entertainment.

    Of course, you and many others like yourself probably don’t just buy single-day tickets.


    One-day tickets not a good investment

    There are other options.

    And there are also other ways of looking at these rising prices.

    We don’t mean to be a sort of an apologist for higher prices at theme parks, but these moves also come at a time when parks are reporting record-breaking revenues.

    The parks have their reasons, as we already know.

    "We set our prices to reflect the value of the experience we provide our guests," Universal said officially.

    "And we provide the greatest value where our guests tell us it matters most – with our popular multi-day tickets and vacation packages.  Guests who use multi-day tickets or packages can save as much as $40 off our single day ticket price."

    You might also accept one Disney pr person who points out that a ticket buys you 16 hours of entertainment.

    That’s right: 16 hours.

    Sleep tight after this visit

    That only leaves you eight hours if you go to sleep right away…but so what?

    There’s also the issue of just how much it costs to operate a theme park. And keep you happy and content as well.

    Perhaps you have not thought about that.

    But our pr person is on the right track…believe it or not.

    Again why?

    Because there are various ways of looking at these higher prices.

    There’s what you can really get or buy for $100 (or one Benjamin Franklin, whose face is on the bill).

    Did you know, for example, you can buy a donut for $100?

    And there’s inflation.

    Did you know or do you know…just how far your dollar…or how little your Benjamin buys these days?

    And those theme park costs…Yes, they have a reason and it’s mainly not just to make money but to keep you the visitors happy, too.

    Much of all this depends on your own attitude.

    And how you see spending $100 (which is only admission, of course, and does not include the many other expenses in theme park visits).

    But let’s take a closer look at some boring numbers.

    Such as how much it costs to visit a theme park.

    Here are 14 ways (14 because 13 is bad luck) ways of looking at $100.

    No. 1: Let’s start with the real cost of theme parks, which varies a lot.

    Real costs of theme parks

    First, what does it cost to visit a theme park?

    The answers are varied.

    We’ve seen all kinds of figures.

    Most of what you can find out about typical costs to visit an Orlando theme park is usually accompanied by another word:


    Or how to do a theme park with a tight budget.

    So that’s a subject for another time.

    So all the advice we will offer now is that there are no secrets.

    Well, OK.

    Here are three common sense areas to save money.

    First, buy as much as you need for your vacation before you even get to the park. It will almost certainly be cheaper.

    Secondly, be conservative in your buying of souvenirs. They are costly at the parks.

    Thirdly, arrive early. Stay late. This is costing you a lot of money. So make the most of your time (but really, 16 hours is a bit long for almost anyone).

    How much does it actually cost for a family to vacation at the “Happiest Place on Earth”?

    Estimates can range from only $300 a day, very conservative, to $2,000 a day. And even more, of course.

    So let’s leave this with our best estimate for most people:

    Anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per person, even if that person is pretty young (though we will not count bottle-drinking infants).

    No. 2: Let’s look at what it would cost to build a new park.

    Jurassic Park.

    That would be a great park

    Put it in some place like Costa Rica (there are islands there without people).

    Costa Rican real estate websites estimate the value of two islands with a total land size of 66 square miles would set you back about $10 Billion. That is a B for Billion, not an M for million.

    Now that does cover any other cost such as the billions on research to build Audio Animatronicanimals. Feed them, of course (What? We don’t know). And other expenses.

    Total estimated cost: $23 billion (and we don’t have to repeat the B instead of the M)

    No. 3: How much does Disney spend on its present parks in a typical year?

    According to public records, the Disney Parks branch of the Walt Disney Company spends $11.7 billion a year on operating costs.

    No. 4: So how much does it cost to Visit Disney around the World?

    Not a bad deal if you can afford to get there and stay there.

    One comparison finds that the UK version is about $90 (translated to pounds).

    Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Resort even less (at least for admission): $69.55 or $52.25 in US dollars, one-day tickets, according to a recent check.

    Disney used to cost $1

    No. 4: What you might not have known about Disneyland and the value of a dollar. It was one of the first amusement parks ever to even charge an entry fee.

    No, not in Orlando but in California, of course.

    Previously, as history students know or can find out, most amusement parks had no single main entrance.

    Tickets for each individual ride had to be purchased.

    Disneyland changed all that: one entrance with admission gates blocking it. 

    So the price for a day when it opened: $1.00 or a ticket booklet with eight rides for $2.25 or with inflation: $29.

    Additional tickets: 10 to 35 cents (the equivalent of $1-$3 dollars today). Well before newer tickets so no repeated rides aboard the Jungle Cruise unless you pay what is now $3 for them.

    It only took three years for the price to be raised to $1.25 or $3.35 for the booklet. Which would be $38 today.

    That was the first rise (long before Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, of course).

    But new attractions in 1958 sweetened the price with the Disneyland Railroad and the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough.

    Now we come to 1982 (closer to the time of the Orlando park opening) when the price went to $15 a day.

    No more ticket booklet system. One price pays all.

    With inflation, the actual cost of the park was similar to when it opened 23 years earlier (but of course, there were complaints even then).

    No. 5: And Walt Disney World in Orlando?

    The admission price was $3.50 when it opened in 1971 and $9.50 in 1982.

    No. 6: What you can do with $100?

    Buy several five-pound bags of Gummy Bears.

    A Marshmellow bazooka.

    About a dozen or so “Slinkies.”

    Oops. You’re not interested

    These are more inclined to be favorites of the younger set.

    The very younger ones, we mean, who don’t know the value of a dollar.

    No. 7: What can adults do with $100?

    Adults can buy several Cuban cigars these days (now legal) for just one Franklin (though these are admittedly the cheaper ones).

    This is true only under certain travel conditions and besides, it’s not healthy to smoke anyway. So skip this buy (though if you have to do it, you can’t go wrong with Montecristo No. 2’s or Cohibas, any size).

    For all ages: $100 will also buy you 100 McDonald’s ice cream sundaes. Or 100 small fries.

    No. 8: What else could you do with $100?

    Real Simple Magazine asked its readers and their answers were often practical, but not much fun, either…

    ---Buy five $20 gift cards from favorite stores and keep them around for bad days when you need an uplift.

    ---Take dads advice: “Save a third, spend a third and give a third away.”

    ---Spend it on food, wine and a good CD or movie.

    ---Put it towards airfare to visit a best friend not seen since third grade 20 years ago.

    ---Pay the dues to become a member of a local art museum.

    ---Clothes don’t last long but books do. So buy some books.

    ---I would use it to go horseback riding. I love horses.

    ---I would take a class on economics to learn how to handle my money.

    ---Golf lessons. Fun but a chance to spend time with friends.

    ---Start a blog about theme parks (ooops, competition here, so let’s cut this short).
    No. 9: You can buy a used car for $100. Really?

    Or at least that includes some Internet claims.

    “Sound cars, good for many thousands of miles of cheap transportation, are readily available, and bought every day, everywhere—for less than $100,” says one site.

    Disney magic not part of the deal

    The claim is that these are not a cross between a leprechaun and a will-of-the-wisp (whatever that is) and you don’t have to believe in fairy tales or Disney magic go find such cars.

    It’s important to have the correct attitude when buying these cars, the site adds.

    But perhaps that attitude includes being sure the price includes an auto engine that runs.

    No. 10: Still more on that $100.

    Invest in the stock market. Not a big sum, sure, but you do have to start somewhere.

    And here’s another number to shock you:

    If you had invested $100 in Coca-Cola back when it first went public in 1908, it would be worth an astonishing amount today.

    Believe it or not: $24.5 million.

    No. 11. Invest your Ben Franklin in something he would not recommend: Gambling.

    During a powerball jackpot that reached $1.5 billion, one site said the odds of you winning with a $100 ticket investment was 1 in 292,201,338.

    Enough said.

    No. 12: $100 is associated with a lot of failures.

    Movie theater company Regal Entertainment a while back sold a special $100 ticket for a James Bond movie. You could see it as often as you wanted.

    The ticket was personalized with your name on it.

    Regal marketing people said if successful, the ticket would be continued.

    No word on similar new offers.

    Olive Garden also introduced a “never ending pasta pass.”

    For $100, 1,000 lucky fans got unlimited pasta and Cola-Cola at their local store for a more than a month.

    No word on re-runs of that, either.

    No. 13 and more: Remember that $100 donut?

    It was real. Offered by a Brooklyn restaurant.

    Made with 24 caret gold.

    It started tongue-in-cheek:

    “We started making them because we love champagne and we love donuts,” a spokesman said.

    Sales took off

    Even cheaper if you buy them by the dozen.

    But another temporary fad like hula hoops.

    No. 14: Remember that when you think of $100 tickets at Universal and Disney.

    In the meantime, Orlando’s third major attraction, SeaWorld says it has no plan to keep up with ticket increases at Disney or Universal.

    Count on it.

    For today, at least. ###