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.
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.
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.
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