Cinderella Castle

A Disney World vacation can be expensive. Depending on which of the more than two dozen Disney resort hotels and ticket options you choose, a Disney World vacation could be in the same range as an international trip.

That seems pretty shocking when you think that, back when Disney World opened, it cost just $3.50 to get into the park. Even though you had to pay extra for the attractions, it was only another ten cents for less popular attractions and 90 cents for more popular, “E-ticket” attractions. When Disney switched to an all-inclusive ticket, the cost was only $15. That same price today would be just $39.

Now, tickets are six to eight times that cost- around three times the rate of inflation.

So why are Disney World tickets so expensive? Is there any possibility of relief coming in the future? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

1 – Because they can!

Disney raises prices at least annually, and even still they’ve reported massive profit margins in recent years. This is thanks, in part, to their increase in per capita spending and attendance. In other words, people are not spending less or canceling their plans because of the increased costs.

Disney's ticket prices are expensive and still going up.
Disney’s ticket prices are expensive and still going up.

Why would Disney stop raising prices if they’re still enjoying record attendance and spending?

2 – Because they’re the best.

Disney has long been the leader, and they’re regularly recognized for their excellence. They are not perfect, but they do have best-in-class customer service, cleanliness, and attractions.

They’ve also added more parks since the all-inclusive pricing model was introduced, and all four theme parks have expanded immensely in the last decade.

Disney also refuses to be outdone – especially by their long-time rival, Universal Studios.  While Universal is also investing heavily in its parks, Disney has shown that they will will not rest, will spend lots of money on their parks, and will come out on top.

3 – Because they switched to dynamic pricing.

For many years, Disney has used seasonal pricing. This meant that certain times of the year cost more than others. For example, summer tickets were the most expensive because kids were out of school, and guests were willing to pay a premium to visit during this convenient time. Slower times of the year were less expensive because Disney wanted to encourage people to visit during these less convenient times.

Disney recently switched to dynamic pricing, which technically means that every day could be a different price. While this doesn’t usually happen in practice, guests have noticed a difference in weekday and weekend pricing as well as higher prices on holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Presidents Day mostly because schools are typically closed on these days.

You’ll also find the least expensive tickets when purchased well in advance of your planned visit. The same ticket could cost more when you purchase it a month before you visit than it would if you purchase it for six months or more in advance. This helps Disney to measure and manage future crowd levels.

4 – Because the upsells are selling.

Disney is not having a problem getting guests to spend more on magical upsells.
Disney is not having a problem getting guests to spend more on magical upsells.

As I mentioned above, Disney is raising their prices, but they’re not noticing a decrease in visitors. To add to that, they’re introducing upsell options like more expensive tours, VIP experiences, dessert parties, exclusive access before or after regular park hours, and more. These “upsells” use the “pay more, get more” approach allowing whose with more money to shell it out and enjoy activities that are not offered for free to the general public.

5 – Because they want you to stay longer.

One day tickets are the most expensive option in Disney World. The longer you stay, the less you’ll pay per day. Disney wants to keep you on property (as opposed to going off property to the competition like Universal Studios or Sea World), so they make it more affordable to do so. They know that you’re going to spend money, so the longer you’re in their parks and hotels, the more they’re getting – and also, the less their competitors are getting!

Tickets are still going up.

Disney isn’t slowing down on their price increases. This is mostly because they’re opening new lands that are going to have a huge draw. Once open, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will, undoubtedly, draw the crowds in droves. Magic Kingdom recently expanded Fantasyland, Disney’s Animal Kingdom added Pandora: The World of Avatar, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is next. Once that expansion is completed Epcot is due for a makeover.

As long as parks are changing, fans are coming to check things out, and they’re spending more money to do it!

Are you surprised Disney World hasn’t raised prices in February yet?