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  • Disney Ticket Price Increase 2015Disney World crashed the $1,000 barrier. Not good.

    And often not seen in any positive sense.

    That figure was often used in headlines to describe admission price changes at Walt Disney World and its California sister property.

    One report said:

    “The ‘happiest place on Earth’ might be a little less happy these days as Disney World fans turn grumpy over a new round of price increases -- including the introduction of an annual pass that costs more than $1,000.”

    Said another:

    “The Internet is having a Donald Duck-like tantrum after hearing news that Disney’s popular theme park annual passes jumped by up to 35 percent, crossing the psychologically important $1,000-a-year-mark. ”
    Not good news.
    “This was the last straw for us,” exclaimed a long-time fan.

    “Sad day,” noted a commenter on the Theme Park Insider blog. “This price increase is just ridiculous and like others have commented, Disney World is truly pricing regular folks out.”

    One thousand dollars gets you multi-time entrance

    One blogger responding calmly to both single ticket and annual price said in a more positive tone:

    “It's called an annual pass. Go three or four times a YEAR and it pays for itself. FL residents get a great discount for them, too.”

    But another wrote:

    “I will never go again. Way too high and for a family of 4 that is $400 just to get inside. Never mind food, fast passes and the like. I will take the approx $800 (by now) and discover the USA!”

    Wrote another:

    “It stinks but I don't blame them for raising their ticket prices. It's not just about corporate greed, it's about the market and inflation. If people really thought it was too expensive, they'd stop going, but the parks are packed with people every single day.”

    As Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab put it: the added options were worthy of both a “yay” and a “boo.”

    She particularly objected to the raised prices of $20 for parking.

    She said it “may be one of the most galling retail feats in history: Disney World raised parking prices from $17 to $20.”

    Parking costs up, too

    She added:

    “This is, again, rooted in crowd control. A $20 parking tab on top of a $105 single-day ticket at the Magic Kingdom is hopefully insulting enough to discourage some people from coming, or at least make sure hotel guests take the bus and keep their cars off the roads.”

    The good news was also that all annual and seasonal passes now include parking.

    One of her mildest comments was that the new tiered price structure was totally confusing. It rivaled a college term paper, some complained.

    In honesty, there were probably more negatives than positives.

    But there’s often other ways of looking at it.

    That should include those $1,000 prices and maybe some other factors you might not have thought about.

    So let’s look at 16 or so different ways of seeing this.


    As for that $1,000 price, let’s compare it. It does involve multiple admission costs, after all. And one or a single ice cream sundae, believe it or not, can cost just that. It was cited in a news story a year or two ago at a New York City ice cream counter where the special sundae had a high cost because it was covered in 23-carat gold.

    Silly, maybe.

    But more reflective of your own everyday life: what does a typical Disney vacation really cost or how much do guests’ generally pay? One study found that for families that have $500…or half of that $1,000…they simply can’t afford even a single day. A shame perhaps, but that’s the way it is. Reality.

    The average family of four needs about $1,000 a day for any of Disney’s two theme parks, according to one study. 

    Let’s look at those negative reactions to higher prices in general.


    No one likes to pay more.

    But everything costs more.

    Blame inflation

    Prices have always gone up.

    Honestly, nothing new or startling here.

    Disney has rolled out admission increases on an annual basis for ages. You have to go all the way back to 1988 to find the last year that one-day tickets didn't move higher, according to Disney watchers. 

    Do you know what surge pricing is? There’s little question that is the ultimate goal of Disney.

    Disney is trying to thin crowds at the busiest times. Or at least it appears that way.

    The changes appear to discourage visits to the theme parks during the most convenient times when the weather is cooler, children are excused from school and the general public is enjoying holiday times such as Christmas.

    So you can still visit at Christmas or the school’s spring break, but it’s going to cost more than ever, and more than before. 

    What does this do to planning, which just about everyone recommends?

    The answer: a lot.

    The days of buying a single-day ticket and wandering through the gates are over, folks.

    Time to learn to make more detailed plans based largely on how often you want to visit, and when (if by chance you have not already done it).

    This depends in part whether you are a Florida resident, and whether you say “no sweat” to the heat of Central Florida summers.  

    But will the move really spread out the crowds, which just keep on coming?



    …but who really knows?

    This is all a good move for travel agents, whom many visitors will find even more useful than ever to sort through the often confusing array of ticket prices.

    Expect to see more advertising from agents dealing with Disney not just for theme park tickets but across the board for cruises as well.

    Surge pricing models will continue to be unveiled. 

    You might view this in large part as Disney’s attempt to control overcrowding.

    Walt Disney Parks and Resorts have set attendance records in the last three fiscal years.

    In the latest quarter, records again. Disneyland has also been struggling with overcrowding. During a 24-hour party in May to launch the Anaheim park’s 60th anniversary celebration, the entrance gates were temporarily closed twice when the park reached capacity — an estimated 80,000 guests, according to insiders.

    The same thing happens occasionally during the Christmas holiday season.

    What would you do to control crowds?

    A spokesman said:

    “Typically on those days we would stop allowing guests in at some point midday … and then usually we would reopen to guests sometime in the early evening.”

    All of this also applies to Walt Disney World in Orlando, of course. 

    Still another way to view this:Disney’s parks have become a victim of their own success.

    It’s a classic win-win for Disney, says Per Sjofors, founder of Atenga, a consulting firm that specializes in pricing research.

    “Attendance keeps on growing, and the parks only have limited space,” he explains.

    Increases, he adds, are designed to leverage customers’ willingness to pay more while also controlling the number of guests at a theme park. 

    Competition is nipping at Disney heels.

    Specifically, Universal.

    The rival theme park has been growing faster than Disney since opening The Wizarding World of Harry Potter just a few summers ago. Expansions of Harry led to owner Comcast’s theme park revenues soaring nearly one third in a recent earnings report.

    Disney is reacting to more competitive parks 

    Back to surge pricing. Not evil or awful.

    There are plenty of other industries–such as restaurants, barbershops, and health clubs–that traditionally have benefitted from surge pricing.

    Surge pricing has typically been used in industries with perishable goods (e.g., hotel rooms), but it can be used any time when demand varies.

    Managers are often wary of raising prices during times of high demand because they fear a consumer backlash. It’s a fair concern, but it’s worth noting that consumers are becoming desensitized to surge pricing – high/low pricing is being used more often in more industries. If you have flown recently, you have seen it in the airline industry. 

    Surge pricing is also discounted pricing. Sometimes.

    It’s also called protecting the brand

    If well-known companies that are fiercely protective of their brands–such as Disney and Major League Baseball teams–are contemplating (and using) surge pricing, other companies are certainly going to follow the leader. Expect to see more of it. And of course, another way to view this strategy is instead of raising prices, you are offering discounts during low-demand periods. 

    In light of the competition, you might think Disney should not raise but cut prices.

    Wrong, say experts.

    The improving economy justifies price hikes. Most Disney guests still arrive by auto. And the sharp drop in gas prices alone is a good reason to raise prices. So do added attractions. 

    If you believe the Harvard Business Review, Disney’s move is a good one.

    Raising prices during popular times {such as Spring Break or Christmas) capitalizes on higher consumer valuations. Is this gouging?

    Some observers think so, and companies such as Uber have faced criticism for the practice. But if customers are willing to pay more in certain instances, this process makes sense.

    Guests: willing to pay more for less

    The Business Review’ argument is that a good strategy to stimulate more business is to offer lower admission on slower days. It’s a move that will probably encourage some guests who were previously reluctant to come at the higher prices. This will result in growth. Since theme parks are high fixed cost/low variable cost entities, revenue from discount-enticed new customers is virtually all profit…or free money. At least from Disney accountant standpoints. These newly activated “dormant customers” would also likely show up hungry and snap up food and souvenirs… more “free money.” An example of how this works is Randy’s Car Wash across the street from the Business Review. It offers a $5.99 wash special on Tuesdays. The result: demand is so strong on some Tuesdays that a police officer has to direct traffic. What you tell buyers or guests’ in Disney’s price hike: “Yes, customers or theme park guests…we’ve raised prices on popular days, but you now have the option to visit at a much lower price on certain days.”

    Options are prized

    Framing pricing options in this manner makes a price increase more palatable, proponents argue. This provides guests with options that empowers them, as the experts say, to make their own choices. 

    Harvard writers and others admit prices that push some out of the guest market do not match a Disney “magic” image. Nothing magic about it. But what it does eventually is reduce crowds. By doing that, the Disney magic is restored, in a sense, because crowds are fewer. And guests can enjoy the experience even more. Everyone has a better time.

    Hence: magic. 

    Walt Disney World has its limiting factor, too: rides. You might be surprised to find which Disney Parks have the fewest actual rides. Epcot may be huge in acerage, but when a moderate sized crowd is dumped into the park, Epcot’s major rides are instantly swamped and overrun. Same with Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. When waits at long, guest enjoyment is diminished. It’s almost a mathematical formula.

    Added costs equals more rides. 

    From a purely business standpoint, Disney stock should rise as a rule with these higher prices. This is good news not only for stockholders but for guests. Credit CEO Robert Iger for this foresight, analysts say. He’s solidly behind multi-billion dollar new park investments. They have helped Disney shares to appreciate 207 percent in just a five-year period. The recently announced Star Wars addition should also have a positive impact on stock prices. Not to mention the feature film out later this year. 

    So while it might not always be obvious on the surface, higher prices are not just to benefit a park’s profitability, but can lead to an overall better experience for its guests.

    Or so the argument has it.

    If you still aren’t convinced by now, there’s always the other alternative:

    Staying home. ###


    Disney World prices are on the rise, again.

    You probably saw a few days ago when Disney World announced new prices. “Higher” was the word most often used.

    In Disney language, ala the happiest place on earth, it might have been known as “value enhancing.”

    And yet, making no apologies for higher prices, the move raises some timely questions:

    What is the value, cost-wise at least, of a trip to Disney World?

    Of course, the looming higher prices also raise another far more-reaching issue:

    Vintage Disney World TicketsCan Disney maintain the magic in the air?

    Will Magic go on?

    There’s little question Disney World is crowded these days.

    But if you think it’s bad in Orlando, consider California.

    Parts of the park there are closed. That’s to make room for Star Wars.

    “On Jan. 10, 2016, parts of the Rivers of America and the Disneyland Railroad train will suspend operations. Temporarily closing is Fantasmic, the Mark Twain Riverboat, the Sailing Ship Columbia cruise of Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island and Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes,” according to news reports.

    Big Thunder Ranch is closing permanently as of Jan. 10.

    The only consolation:

    Disneyland is holding a "Season of the Force" event starting Nov. 16 of this year to get fans excited for the upcoming new rides.

    Orlando is also impacted by new construction

    Especially with the multi-million dollar, guest-distracting renovations now underway?

    But even more of a down-to-earth issue:

    Will Disney World prices soon swing with the seasons?

    That possibility was raised in…where else…The Wall Street Journal.

    For the first time in 60 years, Disney is looking seriously at demand-based pricing at domestic parks, says the WS Journal.

    What that would mean:

    Disney World Tickets would cost less or provide added benefits during slower days. Or come with more restrictions on far busier days.

    Signs of coming seasonal pricing

    The signs indicating this as a strong possibility are everywhere.

    Visitors to almost any area of the Disney’s US parks in both Orlando and California see signs of construction.

    Some long-time visitors who used to avoid Saturdays, which are almost always jam-packed, now report also being reluctant to go on other weekend days. They are also crowded.

    Dumpsters and plywood facades for new offerings are so common that they can’t help but impress visitors.

    And not always favorably.

    Will Disney be able to keep drawing visitors as prices rise and inconveniences continue with new offerings?

    That’s an “increasing challenging” for Disney as crowds are attracted by new attractions, an improving economy and new coming attractions such as “Star Wars” and “Frozen.”

    No one is better at looking at the bottom line than the WS Journal.

    Crowded parks

    They note that parks in Orlando and California have posted record attendance for each of the past three years (and also the spring quarter that ended in June).

    “Gruelingly long lines and long lines, which Disney parks sometimes have to implement on the busiest days, lead to unhappy visitors,” the newspaper notes.

    The paper quotes Disney officials as looking at ways to spread out attendance over the year and “accommodate demand while not bursting at the seams.”

    That raises the prospect of seasonal pricing, says Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek.

    “If the company can instead keep Disneyland and Walt Disney World full and not mobbed for more of the year, that would likely benefit the bottom line,” the newspaper says.

    In this case, the bottom line as reported in the Journal, is that in the first three months of this year, Disney parks revenue increased 6 percent.

    That is $11.8 billion…a huge amount, even for the free-spending US Congress.

    Seasonal pricing is one solution

    The idea of seasonal pricing, of course, is nothing new in the hotel and airline industry.

    Disney itself has long had pricing tiers of annual passes that exclude admission on certain days.

    Writes the Journal:

    “Given the way demand-based pricing works in other industries, it isn’t difficult to foresee a time when visiting one of Disney’s parks on a major holiday would cost substantially more than the current $105 maximum price for a single-day adult tickets in Orlando and $99 in Anaheim. Visiting on a weekday in the winter, by contrast, could come at a significant discount.”

    What benefits might Disney offer in return for higher prices?

    Visiting more and different parks on the same day is one option.

    Lower prices at less busy times, by contrast, might be limited to certain times and only one park.

    Higher prices

    What Disney World will ultimately do with ticket prices is still pending, but in the meantime, this week the attraction revamped annual and seasonal pass system.

    In case you have not seen it, major changes include higher prices.

    Disney adds, however, that there are new benefits.

    The cost of parking also went up, from $17 to $20.

    The new system "has been designed to offer a wider variety of options and entitlements to best fit the needs of our Passholders," Disney said in an email.

    If you already know this…you might want to skip the next few paragraphs of mind-numbing numbers…but here they are. For the record:

    Among the major changes: Prices have increased.

    Disney points out passes also include new benefits.

    Numbers, numbers, and more numbers

    Also, Disney now sells two passes with blackout dates, with the pricier one allowing people to visit more days.

    The $329 seasonal pass is now gone.

    Instead there are gold and silver passes.

    The silver pass, for Florida residents only, costs $389. It has blackout dates during summer, Christmastime and spring break.

    The gold pass costs $549. It allows summertime visits but has blackout dates during Christmas and spring break. The pass, allowing visits about 335 days of the year, is for Florida residents and Disney Vacation Club members only.

    Unlike the previous seasonal passes, the gold and silver passes include free parking.

    The gold one includes PhotoPass downloads.

    The Epcot After 4 and Weekday Select passes -- for Florida residents only -- also now offer free parking.

    The most expensive "platinum plus" pass costs $729 for Florida residents.

    Its cost is $829 for out-of-state tourists.

    What is a PhotoPass worth?

    It provides admission to four Walt Disney World theme parks, two water parks, Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course, and ESPN Wide World of Sports.

    It also includes unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads and special offers for stays at Disney hotels.

    Previously the highest-level pass had cost $649 for Florida residents.

    The regular annual pass, called a Disney Platinum Pass, now costs $649 for Florida residents and $749 for out-of-state tourists. It now includes Disney Photo Pass downloads.

    Previously, an annual pass had cost $529 for Florida residents.

    Perhaps you are one of the few who have annual passes to both parks.

    That premiere pass has risen 30 percent in recent years.

    It is now at $1,439 compared to the previous $1,099.

    Disney says that current passes remain valid through their expiration dates.

    We’re not the WS Journal, but let’s take a look at financial matters. And value here, too.

    Are Disney prices fair?

    Are they more than fair: Are they a bargain?

    Let’s take a couple of minor points first.

    That Photo Pass has been priced in the past at $169.95 and even $99.95 but recent offers are for $69.95 if bought two weeks before your vacation. Not bad.


    Having photos is almost a universal desire.

    There’s no question that Disney’s PhotoPass people are everywhere. They’re in front of castles, the giant golf balls, anywhere near main attractions. You can even find them at resort hotels.

    This is definitely a fun option.

    That’s the case because the site encourages guests to add and edit their photos. You can add borders, character autographs, special event logos and more to any photos with elements that can be added to CDs.

    Fun graphics can be added automatically.

    Your photos of yourself or wife or friend can be seen holding Tinker Bell in the palm of your hand. Or a simple Mickey balloon.

    Choices are endless.

    If you consider that a small photo packages at a single dining location can cost, say $35, or even a single photo at $15 and up…this is a bargain.

    Taking your own photos

    If you are something of an accomplished photographer, you can take your own photos. There’s still a cost.

    But the bottom line here is that the cost of this perk, relative to overall prices for Disney, is a drop in the photographer’s bucket.

    The $20 for parking is also not a major expense.

    Parking at the covered lot at the Orlando International Airport is $17 a day, or $15 at the much smaller Orlando Sanford International Airport (offering far fewer flights). So that is not out of line.

    Let’s say for argument sake you are looking at $100 per adult ticket.

    Of course, most of us don’t go alone. And that is just the admission price.

    $100 buys what?

    Just what does $100 buy in lieu of a one-day admission to a theme park?

    The average spent on souvenirs: $52.

    Let’s just take that figure of roughly $100, and say you buy nothing.

    You brought your own food (yes, highly unlikely, but for simplicity, let’s use it as an example).


    Buys a very cheap I-phone or even a camera. A good pair of cheap designer jeans or a good sweater.

    Or a steak dinner for two (probably without wine) at a nice and somewhat elegant restaurant (though far from the most expensive one in the area). A really fine bottle of wine.

    None of these last two, food or wine, lasts very long.

    But that same $100 gets you at least entrance into the park, with access to all the rides you want.

    At the same time, your park admission is always getting more expensive but also more expansive.

    In other words, there may be more crowds but there are also more attractions.

    More to see

    Disney Springs (replacing Downtown Disney) officially opened, to cite one recent example.

    Many new restaurants. More entertainment options.

    You may not be a foodie, but recent openings included Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs. This added the much-noted Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and his “authentic” Asian food.

    No foodie, perhaps?

    The restaurant will also offer a quick service menu.

    Other smaller openings go on constantly.

    Hopefully to continue Disney’s ambition of pleasing all…or almost all…tastes.

    Major new openings for the future you already know about include Star Wars…at last.

    And Avatar. And Frozen.

    As for the new pricing options…look for more changes.

    Rumors are regular ticket prices will go up again in November.

    And the seasonal price possibility?

    Disney is surveying park-goers right now to gauge their reaction.

    No timetable is set.

    If the past is any indication, seasonal may be coming.

    Disney has been offering tired pricing at Disneyland Paris since last year.

    Prices there range from $64 for an adult ticket good only in low season to $94 for one that is year-round.

    One thing you can count no matter what: prices will go up.

    At the same time, more additions and announcements will also be common.

    Will they compensate and/or offset the added costs?



    But it’s up to you. ###


    Did you know you can transfer your reservation to us and let us plan your vacation? We are Disney fans and the service is free to to you!
    call (888) WDW - CHEAP

    Disney World Checklist 
    (supplement to our planning and packing guide)

    and also don't forget the 
    Saving money for your Disney Vacation guide

    Items (check each off when you leave for your vacation 
    and when you leave for the parks!)
    For the parks For 
    the Vacation
    Personalized Family Shirts
    Sunglasses, Eyeglasses, Contacts, Solutions, and general eye care
    Printable fun and games from Disney including calendars, greeting cards, play sets, coloring pages and school fun. Great stuff for a pre-Disney vacation!
    Change of clothes for the kids (you want them to have fun in the fountains and water features and not walk around in wet shorts all day right?)
    Change of socks (why, click here!)
    Moleskin (helps cushion the areas where blisters or hot-spots are forming on your feet)
    Hats (for sun protection)
    Medications, Aspirin, Tylenol, Tums and Pepto (first aid)
    Medical Cards
    Chewing Gum (you can't buy it on property)
    ID's, Drivers License proof of insurance
    Camera, Cables, Batteries, Film, Storage Media and Bag
    Flash memory For Digital Cameras
    Cell Phones, chargers, cables, ear buds, bluetooth
    Two Way Radios
    Address book, PDA, Organizer
    Baby / Diaper wipes (for many reason other than baby bottoms!)
    Baby supplies (you know what you need)
    Ziploc bags (big and small)
    Toys, small games something portable for the kids to use while waiting in lines
    Hand Sanitizer
    Ear plugs for anyone with sensitive ears
    Rain gear
    Pocket binoculars
    Soft sided cooler
    Snacks, crackers, non melting candy
    Frozen water bottles, use wide mouth for putting in ice cubes, (click here for a great way to save on water!) Reminder, freeze bottoms side ways so the opening is not frozen closed.
    Kool Aid, Tea, or filters for water bottles for those that dislike FLA water.
    Refillable mugs (resorts an water parks free refill mugs)
    Spay Bottle for misting
    Autograph book (or whatevere you are having signed)
    Lanyard and trading pins
    PhotoPass card(s) / Magic Bands (purchase Memory Maker in advance to save).
    A tote back for all this stuff


    The following are items only needed for the vacation (not for the parks)
    Hotel / Home disinfecting bomb
    Dish Soap (wash those nasty hotel glasses)
    Hotel Info (phone, address etc)
    Rental Car Info
    Tickets! (make copies, or take a picture of each with your camera phone)
    Comfortable shoes (break them before leaving)
    Laundry soap
    Hygiene products
    Portable Games
    Season appropriate clothing
    Bathing suits, beach towels
    Souvenirs (cheaper to buy them before you get in the praks!)
    Flashlight with batteries for maps etc...