I’ve been visiting Disney theme parks for most of my life. My first time was seeing Disneyland way back in 1978. I was a college student back then, visiting California with friends. Jeff beat me, visiting the newly-constructed Disney World resort in the mid-70’s with his family. They stayed at the new Contemporary Resort, taking the high-tech Monorail to the Magic Kingdom, which was all there was back then! But we didn’t REALLY start visiting the Disney World parks regularly until we moved to South Florida back in 1984. We’ve seen a lot of changes over the years!
<The first photo is of Jeff and baby Sean at Disney. The other shows him all grown up!>
The cost of admission has skyrocketed. When we first did Disney in the mid-80’s, a one-day ticket would set you back about $25. That equates to maybe $55-60 in today’s dollars. NOW that one day, one park ticket will set you back around $125! If you want to visit more than one park, figure $140 for a park-hopper pass! That doesn’t include parking which now runs $25 / day. Purchasing a multi-day pass brings the per-day cost down a bit, but the daily parking fees still eat you alive – which apply even if you stay at a Disney resort! The only way to avoid parking fees is to purchase an annual pass. But if you’re not a Florida resident, an annual pass is very pricey and not worth it unless you travel there a LOT!
No more “forever” tickets. When we bought our first tickets, Disney had a policy to honor those tickets forever. So we’d intentionally purchase multi-day passes, use only a day or two then, and save the other days for a future trip. We built up a stockpile of these unused tickets over time. A few years ago, we brought in one of the ancient paper tickets that had one unused day out of 4 (used days were manually stamped back then). We took it to guest services who cheerfully accepted it and handed me a new one-day park hopper pass. We brought in our leftover child multi-day passes another trip and not only were they honored, they upgraded them to adult passes for free with no questions asked. We finally used up the last of our stockpile only a year ago! NOW however, all tickets have an expiration date. No more stockpiling of forever tickets. Bummer.
There is SO much more to see and do! When we first started visiting Disney World, Epcot’s World Showcase wasn’t complete, and MGM Studios (as it was called when it opened) and Animal Kingdom didn’t even exist. The parks have continued to expand their size and offerings. Epcot offers a variety of special events that keep drawing you back in for more, especially during times that were traditionally “low” season. There are running race weekends and special holiday events. Disney’s combination of theme rides, shows, characters, and events engage you like no other place. And that is why ….
Disney is ALWAYS busy! There used to be peak seasons and low seasons. Now with a year-round schedule of “special” events and offerings, it seems there are peak seasons and slightly-less-than-peak seasons. Truly peak times mean unbearable crowds and parks that close to additional guests because they are at capacity. We simply won’t go then. But the parks always seem busy nowadays, even during the week and during seasons that traditionally had lower attendance. The most popular fast passes are always snapped up weeks in advance. Waits for even the most basic rides can be an hour or more by noon. We haven’t tried going in bad weather – maybe it is less busy then!
So what do we do to cope with the high prices and busy-ness?
- For us, purchasing annual passes made sense because the length of our stay and because we can get Florida resident rates. It also covers parking.
- For others, purchasing multi-day passes help to bring the cost down a bit. You can also check the Disney world page for discounts, which are offered sometimes. Just watch for ticket expiration dates.
- If we want to hit a particular ride, we try to get a fast pass. If unsuccessful, we go EARLY to the park, ready to go at rope drop, and head straight for the coveted ride. As long as it isn’t a “special magic hours” day that allows resort guests into that park early, we’ll get to the ride before the line can build.
- We dine strategically – we don’t just nosh on all of the snacks available in the parks. We will eat before we go, take water and snacks, and decide where we want to have a dining experience. Often we find better food and a lesser price at the resort hotel restaurants. The exception is the Epcot World Showcase which has a variety of good places to eat.
- We bring our patience. There will be lines – although Disney manages crowds better than anyone. Sometimes, you just have to wait in line for an hour or so to see or do what you want.
Disney knows what they are doing. Even after multiple visits over the last few months, it really doesn’t get old.
And that’s why we own Disney stock!