Dwindling cash reserves, huge corporate acquisitions to pay off, crazy costs to lift the Disney+ streaming service off the ground, boardroom battles . . . the Walt Disney Company sure is dealing with a lot of financial woes right now.
It's a good thing Disney has vacationers to milk for cash!
Open your wallets, travelers, because that's where Disney will make the magic it needs to save the castle.
Disney Parks raised prices on a long list of basics at its U.S. resorts on Wednesday. At their worst, the ticket price hikes constitute a rise of 8.9%, more than double the current inflation rate of 3.67%.
Now, on many days, if you want to visit a single theme park at Disneyland, you'll be paying a starting rate of $194 for adults (which means anyone over the age of 9), up from $179. Add on parking (now $35), and you're paying $229 for a single day at Disney. Kids aged 3 to 9 only save $10 on that ticket. For the right to visit a second Disney theme park on the same day, everyone pays another $65.
That's right: It can now cost $294 for one person to enjoy the parks of Disneyland Resort for a single day, and that's before food, souvenirs, and access to the Genie+ attraction reservation system (at least $30 per person).
Not even a decade ago, Frommer's was alarmed that Disney had pushed entry prices to $99 a day. Now, not even the Blue Fairy could make that real again.
Here are some of the things Disney hiked prices for:
• Disneyland Resort: Tickets for all pricing tiers except 1, the lowest, went up $5–$15 (adults) and $4–$14 (children). The top base price used to be $179, but it's now $194.
• Disneyland Resort: Theme park parking went up $5 across the board, including for hotel guests. Standard parking is now $35 a day per vehicle.
• Disneyland Resort: The Genie+ attractions reservation system went up $5 for advance bookings, to $30 per person. Same-day prices are dynamic and can be more than that.
• Disneyland Resort: Park Hopper privileges, which let guests visit both theme parks on a single day, rose $5 to $15 for multiday tickets.
• Walt Disney World: Standard parking went from $25 a day to $30. Preferred parking also rose by $5.
• Walt Disney World: Tour prices also rose. Behind the Seeds, at EPCOT's The Land pavilion, went from $35 to $45, and other tour prices also increased.
• Walt Disney World: Memory Maker photo packages rose from $169 to $185 for advance purchase and $199 to $210 on the day.
• Walt Disney World: Even the beloved Dole Whip dessert was not left unscathed, rising from $4.99 to $5.49 for a single serving. Snacks across the board rose 30¢ to 50¢. Churros are now $6.79 and the famous turkey leg zoomed up by a dollar from $12.49 to $13.49.
• Of less importance to vacationers, prices for annual passes at both resorts were also pushed up by as much as $150. Disneyland's least restrictive Magic Key annual pass is now $1,649—not that it's selling any right now. Things are so busy at the California parks that sales of new annual passes have been frozen. (The monthly subscription fee for Disney+ is also going up for the second time in less than a year, from $8 in October 2022 to $14 as of October 12, 2023.)
What do park guests get for these price increases? Not much that's new, except for the unpleasant surprises that come with finding out everything in restaurants and on shelves costs more, too.
There isn't a single confirmed new major ride or land coming at any of Disney's American theme parks, only refurbishments and revisions, and given Disney's molasses-slow track record with construction, that means guests are unlikely to see the opening of any important new developments inside the Disney parks before 2027 or 2028 at the soonest. Disney's theme park cash is simply being sent mostly to other parts of the company.
Disney also has a dismal record of promoting projects that never happen. When the company recently made a big deal of announcing an intention to sink $60 billion into expansions at the parks, many fans said they'd heard similar claims before. In Orlando, the front half of EPCOT has been an unsightly and inconvenient construction crater for more than 5 years, but Disney wound up canceling most of the projects it had demolished things to make room for.
The lowest price you can possibly pay for a one-park Disneyland ticket is $104. But of course you'll probably add parking ($35) and Genie+ ($30) to that. And if you want to be able to cross to the other Disneyland park, add $65. So the real lowest cost of a non-restricted Disneyland Resort ticket is now $235, before food and souvenirs.
Probably because Disney made such a big promotional deal about that ticket bracket, which is only available on lower-traffic days such as weekdays, that category remains intact, perhaps for publicity purposes. A few weeks ago, Disneyland also seeded media coverage by announcing a short-term, severely limited temporary deal that will allow children to obtain $50 tickets (with a full-price ticket purchase; normally $98) on some low-traffic days from January to March 2024.
It is perhaps telling that prices for standard tickets to Walt Disney World were not increased. The Florida resort has been contending with a drop in attendance that does not seem to be affecting the California parks. (Disney does not release attendance figures.) In Orlando, the company placed the burden of higher ticket prices only on reliable Disney fans who want annual passes.
The fact is that Americans keep paying more and more to go to Disney despite declining quality and maintenance, growing frustration with customer service, and the need for many visitors go into debt to pay for the trip.
As long as crowds keep coming and the rest of the Walt Disney Company remains strapped for funds, the bleeding of vacationers will continue.