Walt Disney World Resort: Worth $100?
When it was announced that simply getting into a theme park was now topping $100 for just one day, some guests began to wonder: do I now need an expensive calculator just to figure out what it will cost me?
You have to wonder:
Is it now that expensive?
Actually, that is not the case.
Not necessarily, anyway.
But with regular and constantly rising costs, the question comes up: what is the actual price you pay to visit Walt Disney World Resort?
And perhaps two even more important questions:
1. Is it worth it? And even more obvious:
2. How can I save some money?
What does it really cost for a trip here?
Park admission is only one element, of course, and not even the most expensive…unless you are a very exceptional visitor.
So the answer is…
Yes, not much of an answer, is it?
Let’s be more specific
But we’ll try here to answer most of your questions, including the value question, and how to save some money.
Not to put you off, but the admission price for one adult ticket now costing more than $100 is not only confusing. Misleading, as well.
And sometimes not even the right question.
The cost of visiting Orlando, whether or not you see Disney, is relative to many other considerations.
Those involve choices.
But also your budget, of course.
Take a meal here, for example.
You can pay ten times for a dinner at an expensive restaurant what you might pay getting a carry-out at McDonald’s (which by the way is getting a lot more expensive these days, particularly for entire families).
But a meal at say, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, might take you up to three hours in leisurely fashion.
It’s more than just a meal. It’s an event.
It’s not only great food but hours of active entertainment (at least if you count eating a leisurely meal as active entertainment).
Food can also be entertainment
Gobbling down a Big Mac, a large French Fries and a medium sized Cola-Cola might cost you less than $10, but the pleasure lasts only minutes.
And it’s far from the satisfaction and enjoyment you would get from a perfectly cooked steak (we assume here that all goes right) at Ruth’s. Yes, more expensive. But you know that.
And you are willing to pay the price because you ate there.
The point here is not to suggest you dine at either restaurant, but to look at price as only one factor in a variety of issues in figuring out much something costs.
So we come to to the cost question at Walt Disney World Resort.
The single-day day price for one adult is more than $100.
Which sounds like a lot.
It can be less, of course, with discounts, deals, passes for more than one day, etc.
That one-day price is about what it costs typically in many medium or large cities for a hotel room for one or maybe two people.
$100 is not a lot for a typical hotel night
Disney will tell you that your $100 is not very much at all when it comes to their cost, however.
Predictably, Disney spokesman Bryan Malenius said (quoted in the Orlando Sentinel):
“A ticket to our theme parks represents a great value, particularly when you look at the breadth and quality of attractions and entertainment we offer and the special moments guests experience with our cast.”
Not to be outdone, Universal when it also raised prices, said this through a public relations person Tom Schroder:
“We set our prices to reflect the value of the entertainment experience we offer.”
An issue in Disney’s Orlando park is that it is very different from Disneyland in California.
The California park is usually visited by residents living within driving distances.
Orlando park is bigger
Walt Disney World in Orlandoincludes 40 square miles containing four theme parks, two waterslide parks, and over two dozen company-owned hotels.
It’s a destination unto itself.
And still growing with plans for Star Wars, etc.
Trips can require planning similar to US Army invasions of foreign countries (much rarer, of course, compared to families coming to Orlando).
But as prices have risen, there have been no end of suggestions for money saving.
So many, in fact, that it has gotten confusing.
Obvious ways to save money are commonplace: stay three days instead of a week.
Get a cheaper hotel.
Stay with friends.
Saving money can mean starvation
Don’t eat (only kidding for this one).
No wonder there is so much speculation. It can cost as much to go to Walt Disney World Resort as it would to spend a week in Paris, France.
So no wonder visitors look for discounts.
The one-day price over $100 does sound like a lot.
But there’s an obvious way to reduce the single-day cost of admission. How?
Spend even more money overall by buying a multi-day ticket or a vacation package.
Then, there is the option of the various annual passes. The best one is the Premium Annual Pass.
That gets you into all theme parks but also water parks and others.
Of course, it’s obvious that this type of ticket is best for frequent visitors.
For transportation, air travelers here can save money by taking advantage of the many discount airline prices.
Another alternative and, for some reason, an often neglected one: don’t fly directly into Orlando.
There’s more than one airport to get you near here
Instead, take a more circuitous route through another city before finally changing planes for Orlando.
This often offers lower ticket prices.
Another option and one that for some reason is not often realized is to use an alternate Florida airport.
Instead of Orlando, travelers can go through the much smaller but far more user-friendly airport at Sanford, about 25 miles from Orlando.
Sanford does not have the huge variety of destinations served by Orlando, but some travelers prefer to drive to Sanford-served destinations to save money on airfare rates.
Still another option is the airport in Tampa, which requires a drive of about an hour and a half. But rates are sometimes less expensive.
Once in Orlando, most visitors rent a car.
But if you are staying near the theme parks, or the Walt Disney World Resort, you can save money by using bus or monorail provided mass transportation (this also cuts down on parking costs).
Transportation can be a savings
If you want to leave the car at home, you can rely on the buses of the free Disney Transportation System (DTS), and if you’re staying at a Disney-run hotel, the resort’s Magical Express coaches will shuttle you to and from Orlando International Airport for free.
By now, if you are reading this, you might wonder how else can you save money?
Disney has their own share of deals, though they usually don’t include huge discounts.
Don’t expect to charm telephone operators, either, to get a better deal. They don’t share any secrets.
But there are “Disney Magic” packages.
In general, they reward those who stay longer.
In fact, the longer the stay, the more the average price or price per day goes down.
Disney’s own remedy for saving money
Disney itself has some self-serving suggestions.
For example, their offerings include 6-night, 7-day vacation packages, with tickets valid at all 4 theme parks, for as little as $81 per person, per day for a family of 4 at select Disney’s All-Star Resorts.
To get the deal, you have to buy the total package. Price for it all: $2,241.
Or you can select a “6-night, 7-day vacation packages, with tickets valid at all 4 theme parks and the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan, for as little as $111 per person, per day for a family of 4 at select Disney’s All-Star Resorts.”
That’s a total price of $3,093.
Perhaps that fits your needs, and it’s all you need to know.
So book it now
You can skip the rest of this…unless you want still more options.
You don’t have to simply buy what Disney or others suggest is the best way to visit, in terms of price and convenience.
You can obviously design your own individually tailored packages.
Getting back to the local newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel, they reported a story of four families who found ways to save money.
“Saving money in a world designed to make you spend it can seem like a fantasy in its own right. But these tips are a solid start to turning a Disney rite of passage into a positive family memory,” the story reported.
Three families who traveled to the Walt Disney World Resort in November tracked their spending. And shared their thoughts.
Families find savings
The families were fairly typical. Some had children. Some were couples. Some were frequent visitors. Others were first timers
Their own accommodations ranged from the budget All-Star Music Resort to the top-of-the-line luxury hotels.
Larger families might want to note here:
The least expensive Disney rooms have a four-person limit, so families of five or more must pay double to rent two.
But a few miles away, the whole family can have the run of one of hundreds of dedicated vacation homes complete with pools, grills, and big-screen TVs. Three-bedroom rentals cost as little as $165 a night through companies such as All-Star Vacation Homes and IPG Florida Vacation Homes.
The disadvantage is that you won’t actually be on Disney property.
And another note on hotels for singles, couples or groups of any size:
Disney hotels are often two or three times more expensive than comparable hotels located just outside Disney’s property line. Off-property residences also cost you more in transportation time, but some believe they are worth the added cost.
Up to you.
Changing visitor attitudes
The families came at a time right after prices went over $100 a day.
Joe DeFazio, a travel agent quoted in the story, said that the rising prices have not slowed interest in the park but have led to some changes.
“I think what you’re seeing is people evaluating where they may stay or how they may approach their vacation a little differently,” he told the newspaper. “It may be moving from a moderate to a value [hotel], that type of thing; 10 days to seven days.”
The month of November, when the families visited, is usually among the less expensive times. Prices do increase during Thanksgiving, however.
One element all the families shared might be of interest and help to your own plans.
They visited during a time when they could get the Disney Dining Plan for free.
The deal is usually offered during slower months. The fall is among them.
Saving money on meals
It erases hundreds of dollars or potentially more than $1,000 from a trip’s cost. Quick-service or regular dining plans, each providing two meals, a snack and a refillable mug, cost $42 or $60 per day for adults, $16 or $19 for children.
Because of that option, all the families saved money over what they normally would have budgeted for meals.
One family also reported saving $90 for a week’s worth of food by not dining out always but buying meals for their hotel room from a local delivery service called Garden Grocer.
At least one of the families shifted their vacation time to quality for the dinner deal.
That is a positive suggestion for others looking to save money: be flexible about when you visit to not only take advantage of seasonal deals but also for other reasons such as during times when prices at other area attractions are normal and not jacked up during popular holiday or other times.
Saving on souvenirs
The families kept their souvenir spending to a minimum. In one case, just a $15 stuffed animal.
Another lesson in money saving: optional purchases of Mickey Mouse watches and other items at the theme parks are almost invariably far more expensive than getting them from private vendors outside the park.
This is something you may not want to copy but one family also saved money by skipping other extras such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Highly popular, but far from inexpensive.
How inexpensive a trip was it for the families?
One group reported their total cost at $5,200 or $1,300 per person for a weeklong trip.
One other tip not found in the family article:
some Disney attractions are free…but we suggest you find them yourself. After all, if word gets around to make them very popular, park officials might decide it is time to make visitors start paying for them. ###