Are Disney Parks Too Expensive? (If You Think They Are, Here Are Some Ways To Make Them Cheaper)

As someone who has been going to Walt Disney World (WDW) since 1979 and to Disneyland (DL) since the early 1990s I’ve seen a lot happen with the U.S. Disney parks. And, not surprisingly, there have certainly a lot of price changes along the way. But have they just gotten too expensive? Here’s how I see it…

NOTE: This post discusses the history of prices at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. If you’d like to skip directly to the post about “Ways to make your Disney vacation cheaper,” click here.

After years of tiered A-B-C-D-E tickets, DL and WDW moved to a “pay one price” model in the early 1980s.

WDW1D.jpg

In 1981, the brand new “1 Day Unlimited Passport,” which included 1 day of almost all the attractions at WDW’s Magic Kingdom was introduced. It cost $13.25 for adults. The U.S. average household income that year was roughly $19,000.

DLPass

In 1982, “Unlimited Use Passports,” which included 1 day of nearly all of the attractions at Disneyland, were introduced. The cost was $12 for adults. The U.S. average household income that year was roughly $20,000.

In 2019, both Disneyland and Walt Disney World have more than 1 park to choose from but they still have the option to buy a 1-day ticket to just 1 park. However, the cost of that ticket varies, depending on the season and which park you’re going to. As of this writing, the cost of a 1-day ticket to 1 park costs between roughly $116 and $169 at WDW and somewhere between $104 and $149 at Disneyland. The U.S. median household income in 2017 (the last year the Census has released) was about $60,000.

Castles

So since the early 1980s, the average U.S. household income has tripled (and consider how that average includes bajillionaires vs. people below the poverty line), but the cost to get into a Disney park has gone up about tenfold. Think about that for a second.

Now, I get it. The Disney parks of the early 1980s are nothing like the Disney parks of 20-teens and beyond. There are more parks at each Resort, more thing to do in those parks, bigger and better technology, etc. The cost of all those things has to come from somewhere.

Unfortunately, the rise in ticket prices is only one of the major cost increases over the years. I have the receipt in a box somewhere, but when my parents and I went to WDW in February 1979, we stayed at the Polynesian Resort Hotel with a pool view for $69 per night. That same room costs $646 today. Similar price increases have happened at Disneyland. Prices for food, beverage and souvenirs have gone up exponentially, as well – much more than the cost of living, and more than the cost of the same places and things outside of the Resorts (unless you’re talking about another resort, of course. Universal Resort Orlando is expensive too. But we’ll save that for another post).

So are they too expensive?

I think that’s really a Your Mileage May Vary situation and will vary from person to person. Deciding if something is “too expensive” is the same as asking for advice on what’s “the best” whatever, or thinking about what “your favorite” is. It’s subjective. It’s based on your specific circumstances, which, in this case, would include how much the price is to vacation at Disney vs. how much you want or are able to spend.

Business Insider posted an article entitled, “Disney World Is Getting So Expensive That It’s Pricing Out The Middle Class,” earlier this year. And I think that’s a very good point for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Over the years, Disney prices have risen higher than the raises or bonuses most of us have gotten (or not gotten), and there comes a point when the costs are higher than what some of us can afford. In response, some people may cut their vacations shorter than they used to be, others cut corners while they’re there, still others may not go as often, and there are some folks who just don’t go at all anymore.

Unfortunately, if you ask me, it doesn’t look like prices are going to get any better. Despite how much it costs to “do Disney,” people (granted, those who are still able to afford to go) continue to flock to the parks. So much so that overcrowding has become a real problem on both coasts. And what’s Disney’s response to this? They’ve raised prices even higher, so less people can afford them.

That’s not the way to make Disney more affordable. 🙁

Then again, that may be our goal as guests of the Disney parks, but it’s certainly not Disney’s goal. 😉

With all these price increases, there have to be some ways to cut costs, and make your Disney vacation cheaper, right? Of course there are! Click here for a bunch of suggestions of way to lower some of your costs.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

10 thoughts on “Are Disney Parks Too Expensive? (If You Think They Are, Here Are Some Ways To Make Them Cheaper)”

  1. Will be in Orlando next week for a conference & had planned to do Epcot, for the flower & garden show, on Sunday then saw the ticket price. If the aim of raising prices is to deter people, it worked-will not be going.

  2. Yep, very expensive. I think Walt Disney would be very disappointed with what happened to his empire. I read a lot of blogs of people paying for meals with characters, special tents to see fireworks, and lots of other added perks the average American cannot even consider paying for. Unless you are above middle class, you can’t really consider Disney attractions affordable. If we use the barometer that the parks are still full, no matter the price, we are missing the point – there are those who are left out from the equation and cannot participate. Have a set number of visitors, but also allow some visitors to get in at reduced prices, based on income. Sure – doesn’t play well with stock holders, but how much money does Disney need, anyways? Again, methinks Walt Disney would not be impressed…..

  3. I enjoy the fact that many families will spend more money to go to Disney World than it would cost to go to Europe with their families. It helps control tourist crowds at many sites that Disney has worked to recreate. So yes it’s way too expensive but it is what the market will bear. It’s not just WDW, Disney hotels, food, drinks, etc. It also carry’s over to Disney Cruise Lines which are much more expensive than other cruise lines. How do they get by with this? Service and quality. Nobody does as good of a job with service and quality as Disney does overall. I’ve been to most of the Disney parks in the world and have enjoyed them but they are too expensive in general.

      1. It’s only too expensive if people stop buying tickets, which hasn’t happened.

  4. Disney prices are pretty steep, no question. The thing is, Universal prices, particularly with the line jumper option, are even more expensive. I agree with Brandi that another park in the middle of the country would be great on many levels.

  5. Yes they are too expensive but people self included still will pay for them because in my case of childhood memories with my parents and in the future because the magic kingdom at least is a magical place for kids.The cost of admission goes up because prices in general,have gone up over the years (wages, gas, food cost, housing costs).

    And the parks are still extremely crowded to the point of ruining the experience. I think Disney needs to cut out the Florida resident discount passes. Disney is a special place and people don’t need to go multiple times a year to each park. The crowds are a turn off to people who would pay the higher non resident rate. In addition to getting rid of the Florida resident passes Disney could limit a person to one time a year. Once a person comes to Disney, after a two week window, don’t allow him or her to come back for a year. That limits the crowds.

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