Since Walt Disney World opened in October 1971, prices have increased almost annually with an inflation rate of 2,900% even though the average “real world” inflation rate in the same time is only 392%.
Now, Disney World Resort guests can choose to pay a premium for everything from parking to fireworks viewing. Currently, a one-day ticket to Magic Kingdom is well over $100 and regular parking is $20. Preferred parking and additional ticket options will cost you even more.
Costs in 1971 were must less, but they came at an inconvenience. Let’s take a look at what a Disney World vacation would cost in 1971.
When Disney World Resort opened, adult entry to Magic Kingdom was $3.50, which included transportation via monorail, steamboat, or bus, while Junior admission (ages 12-17) was $2.50 and Children (ages 3-11) were just $1. Children under two were free and remain so to this day. Each admission came with additional costs for each attraction within the park. There was no limit to how many tickets guests could purchase.
A tickets cost guests just $0.10 for any Main Street USA vehicles or Cinderella’s Golden Carousel.
For $0.50, guests could get a C ticket for Tomorrowland‘s Grand Prix Raceway, Fantasyland‘s Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Adventures, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Mad Tea Party, or Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes.
The more popular attractions cost more.
Just one year after Magic Kingdom opened, Hall of Presidents and Country Bear Jamboree were upgraded from D tickets to E tickets and Mickey Mouse Revue, Haunted Mansion, and Tropical Serenade, then renamed to Enchanted Tiki Birds and now known as Enchanted Tiki Room, were downgraded from E to D.
Guests could also pay extra to use recreational water craft, beaches and pools, resort recreation, Tri-Circle-D Ranch activities, and golf courses. Watercraft ranged in price from $1 per person for a ski or jet boat to $25 per hour for a ski boat with driver and instructor. You could swim for between $1 and $3, and bike or play tennis for between $1 per hour and $8 per hour respectively. Horseback riding cost about $5 per hour, and golf would have cost you about $20 if you needed a cart and bags and clubs. If you wanted to try your hand at archery, you could pay $0.50 for 20 arrows, $0.80 for 25 arrows, or $1 for 60 arrows. Guided tours were available for $6.50 for adults and $3.75 for juniors and children.
If you needed to house your pet while you were on vacation, Kal Kennel Club, a pet hotel on the side of Magic Kingdom, would happily take your pooch for $0.50 per day or $1 for an overnight. The cost included a free meal. This option was not available in Disneyland because it was assumed that guests were not staying for more than one day. Disney expected Disney World Resort guests to stay at least a couple days.
Speaking of lodging, if you were paying out of pocket for your room at either Disney’s Contemporary Resort Hotel or Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the only two hotels on property in 1971, you would pay between $28 and $44 per night.
All of these prices can add up pretty quickly, and families could easily spend over $100 if they rode many of the attractions and participated in the recreation activities. Many guests complained that they felt like they were being nickel and dimed, and who could blame them. Everything cost extra!
Moving to Packages
Disney realized that providing package deals could reduce this issue, so they created a few different packages. If you lived locally or were staying off property, you could buy a 7-ticket adventure book for $4.75 for adults, $4.25 for juniors, and $3.75 for children or an 11-ticket adventure book for $5.75, $5.25, or $4.75 respectively. Adventure Tickets enabled the holder to ride any attraction in Disney World. Of course, you would get the most value for your money if you rode only E ticket attractions.
If you wanted to stay at a Disney Resort Hotel, you could choose between the Family Fun Vacation or the Vacation Kingdom Package. The Family Fun Vacation included three days and two nights, 21 attractions tickets, and $18 worth of recreation coupons. This package was $61.50 for adults, $25 for juniors, and $23.50 for children. A Vacation Kingdom package was three nights and four days at a hotel, four days of unlimited transportation, four admissions to Magic Kingdom, 28 Adventure Tickets, and $30 worth of recreation coupons. This package was $90 for adults, and $36 and $35.50 for juniors and children and was actually quite a deal considering that purchasing these things individually would cost about $180 for adults.
These prices may seem expensive, and by comparison, they are. When a movie ticket cost $1.50, gas was $0.40 a gallon, and a stamp was just $0.08, a Disney vacation was expensive but not out of reach for most in the middle class.
Today, Disney World is much bigger with four theme parks, two water parks, over two dozen resorts, and countless activities. However, most of the activities and all of the transportation (including Magical Express from and to the airport) are included in the price.
Although a Disney vacation is much more expensive than it used to be, I would hate to pay out of pocket for everything. I’m glad that Disney created packages like Magic Your Way, free dining, and discounted rooms. These packages make a vacation seem much more affordable and make it easier for families to budget for their vacation.
Did you visit Disney World back when you needed tickets for each attraction?