I moved to the East Coast (North Carolina) in 2002 and to Orlando in 2004. I was at WDW at least every couple of months starting in 2002, so I’ve been a local for a while. Recently, I came across an old AAA TourBook for Florida dated 2003. I’m thinking my mom brought this with her on one trip to meet us out there. And it’s a fascinating time capsule. Since it’s now 2013, why not look back at how things were ten years ago here in O-town?

A few things stick out pointedly right at the beginning. There are obviously some things missing in my 2003 guide book, such as Legoland Florida or Aquatica, for example. And there are some things in my little book that aren’t around anymore today, such as Splendid China ($27 – regret that I never saw this), Skull Kingdom ($12.50 – never saw this either), and Water Mania ($20 – this was pretty small).

But by and large, most everything is the same. Well, OK, not quite the same. One thing is different. The prices are pretty different. Ten years of inflation will drive up prices, even with the rather disruptive recession we saw in the middle of those years.

I thought it would be a lark to compare the prices between then and now. This will be representative rather than comprehensive. I’ll do this in chart form, including a column for “predicted” 2023 price based only on inflation (as calculated from the westegg inflation calculator). Other columns will show the rise in price as a percentage, and an extrapolation a further ten years in the future if the next ten years show the same percentage rise. All prices shown are before tax.

Item 2003 Price 2013 “Inflation Price” 2013 Actual Price Percentage change from 2003 2023 Extrapolated Price
WDW 1-day admission $50 $62 $95 (Magic Kingdom)$90 (Rest of WDW parks) 90% $180
WDW 5-day parkhopper $229 $284 $348 52% $528
Universal admission $50 $62 $92 84% $169
SeaWorld admission $50 $62 $92 84% $169
Discovery Cove admission $219 any day $272 $259-$399 18%-82% $306-$726
Wet & Wild admission $31 $38 $55 77% $97
Holy Land Experience $22 $27 $40 82% $73
Gatorland $18 $22 $22 22% $27
Ripley’s Odditorium $15 $19 $20 33% $27
Pirates Dinner Adventure $44 $55 $64 45% $93


The Disney section is full of stuff that isn’t there anymore… interesting.

It’s also worth a look at lodging. How did hotels hold up in the past ten years? Here we will list the price for a specific date this fall. I used October 8, a Tuesday. Once again, this is representative rather than comprehensive.

Item 2003 Price 2013 “Inflation Price” 2013 Actual Price Percentage change from 2003 2023 Extrapolated Price
All Star Music $77 $96 $124 61% $199
Coronado Springs $133 $166 $245 85% $453
Polynesian Resort $299 $371 $562 88% $1056
Hilton at Lake Buena Vista $99 $123 $129 31% $169
Portofino Bay (Uni) $259 $321 $309 19% $367

(by the way: the Polynesian is sold out at the rate listed here. The cheapest room you can book in mid-July for October is $749/night. And the “free dining” sure to come hasn’t been announced yet as of this writing).

I will rhapsodize less than usual, and simply let the data speak for itself. Instead, I encourage your comments. What patterns do you see in these two charts? Did anything surprise you (a few things surprised me)? Let me know what you think below!

Free Online Class: Fairy Tales

Some of you know that my “day job” is in Higher Education. Among the classes I teach is one on Fairy Tales, with focus on Disney, Grimms, and Perrault. This college class is now available to the general public, and it’s completely free! There’s not even a book to buy for the class!

The class is a massive open online course (MOOC) and is administered through canvas.net – it’s free to sign up and take the class! It’s a four-week course starting on August 5.


Here’s the schedule:

Week 1 – Cinderella
Week 2 – Snow White and Sleeping Beauty
Week 3 – Rapunzel and the Frog Princess
Week 4 – Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast

The class was built to expect about two hours of engagement/interaction (“work”) per week, so it’s not meant to overload the participants with chores and duties. In that sense, it’s less rigorous than my regular college classes. The class doesn’t have any required (synchronous) meetings; you do the work whenever you want within the week.

This course does not have a completion certificate – you’d be taking it just for the fun of it. There aren’t any papers or projects. While the class does offer quizzes and discussion boards, there isn’t really a rigorous process to “pass” the course since there isn’t a certificate offered anyway.

The class is, however, experimental in a different sense: it’s got game elements in it. We added badges and group competition, as well as Easter eggs, throughout the class. Each group is named after one of Walt’s seven dwarfs–it works a lot like the Harry Potter “house” competition, where individuals can earn badges for the whole group. This should be fun!


Please feel free to sign up and spread the word. I can’t wait to share with you what these fairy tales used to mean and how they’ve been changed for modern audiences!! Sign up here: https://www.canvas.net/courses/fairy-tales-origins-and-evolution-of-princess-stories#enroll_form 

More information and updates

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations:


  • Marko50

    I seem to recall you starting something like this on this very site! Or possibly it was a previous site that you were affiliated with. Whichever, you did, didn’t you? I mean, I’m not…er, fantasizing this, am I?

    Actually, it wasn’t a class but a series of articles that I remember…but a class did follow. An unfree one.

  • Tielo

    On 9-11 2001 the US was hit by a terrorist attack that derailed the nation in a huge way. People where scared to fly. Compared to years before WDW felt almost empty except for the DVC guests that kept coming. Disney was struggling and to add to the misery in 2007 the recession officially started although it was felt by many a year or two earlier. It halted the development of the next budget hotels Disney already started building. Why do I tell this? Because it’s what caused a shift in the demographic that visited the vacation kingdom.
    Years earlier the rich and wealthy of this earth didn’t want to be caught dead at a theme park. But when the lower class families couldn’t afford it anymore and the wannebe middleclass didn’t get more credit to drive themselves into unmeasurable debts, the more fortunate slowly made it’s way to Disney. Lured by extravagances like the Bibedi Bobbidi Boutique $189.95, reserved desert parties with premium views and the ridicules A Princess Dream Come True $336.95 (even for adults). The list goes on and on. That group of guests don’t care for a higher entrance price. They care about more luxury and although Disney was very conservative to spent money in the parks, the top hotels in WDW where extended and re purposed for the Disney timesharing scheme (Animal Kingdom Lodge, Contemporary and now the Grand Floridian).
    For anyone explaining the addition of rides justify the increase, that’s a lot of nonsense because the list of rides, shows, walk around characters and entertainment that left and never got replaced is bigger then the additions.

    • Correct. Disney offers far less for much more money these days.

      It’s sort of a disgusting level of greed to see prices rise by 90% at WDW in just 10 years, especially with all the non-magical cutbacks in that same time period.

      I’m sure the shareholders are thrilled.

    • Phillydawg

      It’s funny about how you say Disney spends conservatively. Still to date local 7 musicians performing in Disneyland average $150 a day for a 7 hour day. This pay rate goes back a couple of decades. Also only “full time” Disney musicians get their union health/welfare so basically only the “full time” Disneyland band members themselves get this. All other little groups that perform in the park if they’re not DB members doing extra work only perform a couple days a week in the park,etc.

  • Johnny

    Going back even further, to the “pre-Eisner” days of 1982 (with park hopping):

    1-Day Adult: $14 – Today $137 – Should be $34 – Increase of $103 – 400%
    4-Day Adult: $41 – Today $358 – Should be $99 – Increase of $259 – 362%

    • Johnny

      To be fair, you had to be staying on property to get those rates in 1982. Also, the 1-day pass was not considered a park hopper in 1982, so the actual increase is $61 or 280%. Not sure how taxes would affect the figures but It should be minimal.

  • mainstreetmagic

    I can’t say that I am surprised. I really haven’t been paying attention to prices (except this year when the press seemed to make a big deal about the cost of one day at a theme park.

    From my point of view, Disney has priced me out of going again. The fact that there really isn’t anything really new also adds to the fact that I am not in any hurry to go. And don’t even get me started on the price of food there! The last time I was there was 2007 (with my son and his family) and we stayed in one of the moderate resorts for a week. Yes, it took a bite in my wallet but we loved it.

    I am glad that you posted the 2003 costs as that was the year that my wife and I stayed on the Concierge level of the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a week. Now before you all start thinking that I had lots to spend, at the time Disney had a special going, 7 days at the parks (and also the rate for the room) for the price of 4. When I figured out the cost, it almost broke down to a 7 day stay at a moderate resort. This was a deal I could not refuse. It was wonderful, but the day I left I knew that I would never return to the AKL.

    So what is a fan to do? I’ve tried several times to get my entire family together at WDW, but none of my kids (now grown up with families of their own) can afford it. Will my grandchildren be able to afford it when they have families of their own?

    Sorry to vent, but there was a time when we used to visit WDW about once a year or so. Those days are behind us now. The Disney theme parks are just memories now and I sure am glad that I took lots of photos.

    • cindersgirl

      I’m with you. Disney priced me out of even desiring to go a long time ago. The last time I went to WDW was in 1996, when I was able to take an Imagineering class at the Disney Institute. For me, it was a once in a lifetime visit, and that’s how it will remain.

      Disneyland has also priced me out of the desire to come. I haven’t been there since 2005.

      Last week, while running errands, I overheard a man telling someone else they had just returned from Disneyland and was complaining about the high cost of going. They bit the bullet for the kids, but there are so many other people who just simply can’t afford it.

  • gboiler1

    You have to wonder where it will all stop, or slow down. I paid $187 for two tickets to a college football game this morning (incl fees, etc). Going to a concert with decent seats is going to be around $50 but over $100 if the act is a big name.
    Unfortunately theme parks follow suit. Will there be a delay on the $100/day price jump or will parks push through that “glass ceiling” without regard.
    Hopefully there will be cheaper options and discounts because as people have stated, who will be able to afford going? The rich only? or will people go into debt for vacations like they do with other things during as the spend now deal with it later mentality continues.
    We will head to Orlando for a 3 night stay this year because it’s all I can afford and that’s including “free” airfare due to points.
    Disney is on par with most everyone else in the entertainment industry. Sure wish there were other options other than not going at all.

    • Monorail Man

      Really agree with this. You can’t treat any entertainment option as being in a vacuum. Other entertainment costs have jumped as well. Depending on your location, a two hour movie can now cost like $18.00 – more for 3D or IMAX.

      Ski Lift tickets are a real indicator here in SoCal. An 8 hour ski lift ticket is $45, or only half the cost of a Disneyland ticket – for a single activity.

  • bayouguy

    Disney too big to fail? Hardly. In fact, Disney’s management team seems to have its parks heading in that direction, towards a train wreck ending. They will walk away from it and probably let Cedars or 6 Flags or Comcast pick up the pieces.
    A thing that surprised me is how other posters all had a differing explanation about how inflation could work in different sceanarios.

    • Phillydawg

      …or Obama’s government take it over. Wouldn’t THAT be a cause for Mr. Disney to spin in his grave eh? heh

  • StevenW

    Its hard to imagine the prices going up in the same trajectory. The prices hitting $528 for a 5 day parkhopper will be difficult for many to accept. This will depend on whether WDW makes the necessary additions to the parks. If they add Star Wars and Cars Land, they might get their price, but NOT if they don’t.

    • The prices will keep going up until attendance starts going down. And even then, they will address attendance issues with discounting and not lower admission prices. It’s all a game right now to see what the maximum guests are willing to pay (for everything – admission, hotel, food, merchandise, you name it).

      • rwsmith

        I was a once a year Disneylander from birth, in 1966 (in St. Joe’s across from Disney Studios), to when I got married and took my wife to Disneyland. I think we stopped going in 1999. I remember being in the Rocket Rods queue and seeing disrepair and seeing the park more rundown than I had remembered. I think we paid around $43 for the day then. In 2004 when our firstborn was 14 months old we returned and it was the beginning of a renaissance in quality and innovation. When we went back during the 50th Anniversary we were hooked. We had our two year old “excuse” for APs and didn’t look back. I think the passes have doubled in the 8 years since we’ve purchased our first pass, the largest percentage in the last year alone. In this economy I’m dumbfounded by the crowds, the spending and price increases. To use a phrase borrowed from Blu Ray sales pitches, I think Disney has “future proofed” their prices. Ticket prices are exorbitant, but we still pay them en masse. When the numbers decrease the increases will cease, if they decrease by enough there’s some wiggle room and there can be roll backs or free birthday tickets like in the past. But, this freight train shows no signs of slowing.

      • WesternMouse

        Many of us Americans are just sheep. There aren’t enough critical thinkers any more to evaluate prices. Folks feel like they work hard enough to have some Disney fun and end up paying whatever prices there are.

        Having lived in Europe for the past 5 years, one thing I’ve noticed is that Europeans don’t need theme parks. They have a very rich cultural history of real sites to look at and all within a relatively small area. America is far different than Europe. Our history is still in its infancy and our country is so huge! We don’t have many great cultural sites to see. So our vacation options are more limited to cities, national parks, or theme parks. Looking at this debate from that point of view explains why Americans just line up to take whatever is dished out to us. We don’t have many other choices.

        I move back to the US next week. I definitely will be resisting the urge to throw away good money chasing Disney theme park dreams. It’s time to enjoy the magnificent great outdoors and appreciate the landscapes of our great nation!

  • Gregg Condon

    It’s not going to change until people start putting their $$ where their mouth is. I haven’t been to Disneyland since January, our passes expired in May and we have no intention of renewing them anytime soon … if ever.

    Complain all you want but until people stop spending the $$ this isn’t going to stop.

    All that said, Disney is free to charge whatever they want. Obviously the desire is still there since you are still spending the $$.

    We didn’t renew our passes, not because we can’t afford it but because our priorities have changed. I still think that WDW in particular is a very good bargain and there are other ways to get lower prices than what is shown in this article with package deals, etc. How many people REALLY go up to the ticket booths at WDW and buy a 1-day ticket or 1-day park hopper?

  • Big D

    As someone who works in the travel industry, I’ll submit my theory on why people keep going. Ever since the recession started, people seem to travel much closer to home now (and by home I mean the US). Since 2007, I sold exactly one African Safari, 0 trip to Russia, 0 trips to China, 1 trip to Japan, a handful of trips to Thailand, a handful of trips to Australia / New Zealand, and 2 or 3 trips to Israel. Absolutely every request I get now is either Hawaii, an Alaska cruise, western Canada, or Walt Disney World. Europe is as exotic as most people are willing to get. The same number of people are still traveling as before, but they’re traveling closer to home. So Walt Disney World has picked up a lot of new customers who no longer feel comfortable traveling that far from the US, and to them, the higher prices that WDW charges are still significantly lower then what they used to pay for a Yangtze River Cruise or white water rafting in New Zealand. The previous poster who talked about Disney appealing to a wealthier demographic is correct, although Disney has proven that they are not especially good at handling high-end clientele. There is a reason that Hilton decided to open a Waldorf=Astoria recently, and that Four Seasons (widely considered the best hotel chain in the world) is building their own hotel there as well. (Oddly enough, Disney Cruise Line does an outstanding job with high-end clientele, but of course they are run as a separate company and they don’t share tips with WDW on how to appeal to wealthy clients) Most of the travel industry has a tiered pricing system so that most people can experience a product to a point, but higher end clientele can have their own special area where they don’t have to deal with crowds (concierge levels in hotels are a great example, the elevator won’t go to the concierge floor unless you swipe your room key and it reads that you are a concierge level guest). Disney has this to an extent with their premium package that includes a lot of tours, as well as private parties after the parks close that are significantly less crowded (i.e. Halloween and Christmas) and I suspect that they’ll find a way to charge extra for more fastpass reservations specifically for this kind of clientele.

    So unfortunately I conclude that Disney will continue to raise their prices exponentially until they see a drop in attendance. I do think however that this applies more to WDW and less to Disneyland, so in the future you may see a 1-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom being significantly more then a 1-day ticket to Disneyland.

  • DisneySam

    O.K. So the point is is that theme parks have increased their pricing exponentially in the past 10 years despite the average rate of inflation. Does this really come as a shock to anyone? And how come Disney is getting the only negative feedback here, Universal and Sea World have raised their prices by nearly the same margins. I will also point out a flaw with regards to the hotel rate comparisons. Having worked for Disney making reservations I know that rates are always subject to change so it is difficult to make this a fair comparison. Even as of right now the rates for some Disney resorts are lower than the prices listed in the post for the same October date that was used. Everyone believes that Disney raises prices as a means to squeeze out every dollar of the consumer. Well the consumer still has a choice so don’t you think they have taken in to consideration what the market will bear? They can’t simply be trying to appeal to the 1% or 2%. That would be a poor business model. In addition, the costs of operating theme parks and hotels has gone up significantly. Disney deals with unionized labor which has certainly negotiated higher wages over the years for their members. Fact is there are still deals to be had at Disney (and elsewhere) and one can make it work to their benefit if they are still willing to go.

    • Phillydawg

      I think that as Disney goes and “gets away with it”….so do other parks/companies. I have to give kudos to Knott’s tho. They seem to have a better handle on pricing and cater more to the locals.

  • holierthanthoutx

    Ah yes, everyone is going to complain about how greedy Disney is for simply following the principles of supply and demand.

    Would you people rather have the parks packed to capacity 365 days a year because it only costs $20 to get in? Would you rather never be able to get a room at a resort because every room is books two years in advance due to their super-cheap prices?

    This is not “disgusting” greed. It’s free-market capitalism. Does attendance drop off each year when the prices increase? No. Are the resorts sitting empty? No. Are Universal and Sea World hurting to the point they their new marketing strategy is to be cheaper than the other parks in the area? No.

    Disney is a premium brand. Disney theme parks are not “cheap.” Disney resorts are not for everyone. Disney’s target guest is a family with a large disposable income. Families who have to scrape together every penny just to afford theme park admission are not who Disney wants to attract, because they don’t spend the extra money on meals, souvenirs and resorts.

    But, according to the people whining about the greediness, they’d apparently rather see Disney be cheap. Because Disney would certainly continue to build new attractions and refurbish areas like Downtown Disney if they didn’t have any profit margin.

    Disney is a for-profit business, not a charity. Disney is not suffering a lack of attendance. Disney is not marketing to the same audience as the Taco Bell $0.99 menu. What’s so hard to understand about that?

    • I’d say that you are the exact sort of person that Disney wants coming to their parks. Someone who doesn’t know or care about cutbacks and is willing to pay any price for diminished magic. The only problem is that they will soon run out of people like you when the comparisons to the value at Universal becomes clearer after the opening of the Wizarding World expansion, new value hotel, endless slate of new E-Tickets they have planned to open . . .

      On the other hand, Disney is spending 3 billion on wrist bands and more cruise ship-like planning opportunities. How can that possibly fail?! Right?!

    • WDWorldly

      Hardly at risk of not having any profit margin. And we all know that with Disney, high profit margins gained from their latest wallet-draining initiatives don’t always translate to new attractions and refurbishments. They’re coasting on a familiarity and emotional connection people have with the Disney brand; how much longer they’ll continue to benefit from that as they raise prices while skimping on improvements is yet to be seen.

    • danielz6

      Nobody here has a problem paying premium prices for premium attractions. We are contending that the quality of experience in Disney world has diminished significantly while prices have risen significantly. So they are charging increasingly premium prices for a less than premium experience. Enchanted tales with belle, Goofys barnstormer, Maelstrom, A b mode expedition Everest, Outdated studio theme park, Dino land USA, to name a few? Are these premium experiences? Most fans will agree not hardly and that’s what upsets us because Disney always had such a high standard of quality and show in the past.
      Consider Tokyo Disney Sea, which easily is the better than any of Disney worlds non magic kingdom Parks, yet the cost of admission is nearly 30$ cheaper! But as its been said prices will continue rising as long as people keep coming. Dusty is right, universal is a God send to us theme park fans because without them Disney would have no incentive or competition to keep being the industry standard. I look forward to universal beating one of Disney worlds Parks attendance. This will force Disney world to finally act.

      • WesternMouse

        Regarding your statement about Uni–you are spot on. The fact that Comcast is spending so much on the parks is why I’m willing to pay more to go to Uni while blowing off Disney (anywhere in the world) forever. I believe in rewarding companies who are working to earn my business by patronizing them. While Uni’s prices and increases are comparable to Disney’s, Uni is actually investing in the park while Disney is taking shortcuts and working on analytics to suck money out of my wallet.

        The clientele that is patronizing Disney’s sorry business practices is exactly the group of people I don’t want to be around on my vacation. Please, sheep, please, keep going to Disney. That means you’re not where I will be on my vacation. Suckers.

    • HauntedPirate

      Marketing to the well-heeled guest is fine and dandy, but it’s not how Disney got to the point they did with their theme parks at their peak (roughly the late 90’s, IMHO, they’ve done little plussing to any of the parks since then with the noted exception of E:E). I thought that vising WDW was supposed to be for the family – *any* family, not just those with deep pockets and healthy bank accounts. Even Disney’s “affordable family vacation” isn’t really all that affordable, considering it will run a family of four in excess of $2000, easily, for a 5 or 6-day stay, and that excludes buying any of their cheap crap merchandise. There’s a helluva lot more potential guests in the “middle class” than in the top 5-10%. But unfortunately, you’re right – Disney cares solely about the bottom line, and Disney sees more profit potential in that top 5-10%. I’m a supporter of capitalism thru and thru, but Disney is sadly cutting off its nose to spite its face. They are a rare example of a company that cannot just focus on the bottom line simply because of the nature of the company and how it came to be where it is today. Disney is, or at least was at one time, a creative company, and in order to keep the money train a-rollin’, they need to sacrifice a few dollars today so that they can continue to make money down the road.

      Ultimately, the exorbitant prices Disney thinks they can charge is going to drain the wallets of those well-to-do guests that you think will just keep coming back for more, kind of like Kevin Bacon in ‘Animal House’ – “Thank you, sir, may I have another!!” The constant price increases without providing a few new, or at least fresh, attractions and rides is going to dry up that market in a hurry, particularly when Universal is investing a lot of money in their parks and is offering up a whole host of new D- and E-ticket-level rides and attractions. In essence, they are out-Disney’ing Disney. And what is Disney doing to counter? Pretending there isn’t a “theme park battle”, for starters. But then they decided to spend $2-3 billion on: A massive data-gathering program which, as a bonus, also eviscerates the existing FP system; A meet-and-greet; An overpriced restaurant; Two D-ticket (at best) attractions. Yeah, that’s going to draw people in by the millions (*rolls eyes*). Eventually, that higher-end market of guests that you think Disney wants to cater to almost-exclusively are going to start voting with their wallets and visiting other places and theme parks. That will leave quite a large hole in the demand for their current lineup of over-priced and by-and-large 20+-year-old attractions and rides. What then?

  • azza29

    Ticket price increases may have surpassed inflation, but compared to other entertainment activities WDW still represents good value. Concert tickets, for example, are routinely $120 or so these days. An NFL game will run at least $100 for seats with a decent view of the game.

    If I want to pay $60 to get into a theme park, my options are predominantly going to be the Six Flags/Cedar Fair coaster parks – not that they’re bad but they don’t offer anywhere near a Disney-level experience.

    The other consideration is that for most international guests park tickets are the cheapest part of their trip. Once you factor in flights, accommodation and food, it doesn’t matter whether a 3-day parkhopper is $350 or $550 because it’s a once-off expense that just gets lumped into the holiday budget.

  • Phillydawg

    WEll….there is “Disney’s” inflation and the general one in the country. Unfortunately the fomer is usually way higher than the latter. Some have suggested maybe the reason for this is to keep overcrowding at Disneyland to a minimum. I think that plus this is what the unions will do to a business. As their pay rates and pensions go up, the cost of getting into Disney will follow suit. Then there is the new development which we’re all for,etc. Back in 1978 when I worked for Airport Service in their ticket booth under the Disneyland Hotel monorail station, I would’ve never fathomed that it’d cost over $100 just to GET IN Disneyland. This is amazingly crazy. Soon….only the rich and famous will be able to enjoy the parks, and here I am a dyed in the wool capitalist saying this, heh.

  • rodc

    Two things: first, a significant percentage of the boomer crowd (i.e.-the ones with money to spend) goes to WDW to be with their kids/grandkids. Rides are far less important than socializing with the family. Estimates are that a family on an annual visit to one of the time-share properties for a week spends only three days at the Disney parks (including the water parks), one day at a non-Disney park, and the remaining three days at their hotel, sitting by the pool. This is the reason that a four day ticket is only $17 more than a three day ticket, compared to a difference of $78 going from two days to three. Unfortunately, new rides won’t change this equation – kids simply get board with any place after a few days. The only way to increase revenue from this group (a large percentage of the visitors these days) is to increase prices.

    Second, WDW still has many unique experiences, a huge plus for the free-spending crowd. Epcot simply has no theme-park peer anywhere else in the US for the “walking around” crowd, of which there are many (including myself). Like to see large animals roaming around outside your hotel window? Only the Animal Kingdom lodge has those. Unique transport to the parks? Stay in the Contemporary, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian. And so on. Universal may have some better rides, and even a better themed “land”, but WDW still wins on overall environment. While Tokyo DisneySea is clearly the best themed Theme Park in the world, the much less impressive (but more “Disneyfied”) Tokyo Disneyland next door still gets 2.2 million more visitors per year.

    And speaking of Splendid China, an interesting side trip in the Orlando area is a drive out to the old Splendid China site on Formosa Gardens Road off the 192 near the Animal Kingdom (see it in Google Maps here: http://bit.ly/11ecmGm) Most of the miniature buildings have been moved to a theme park back in China, but it still is interesting to see (through the gates) a piece of history, and a piece of land that is still owned by the Chinese Government.

  • clj7181

    The amount above inflation that all the theme parks have increased admission and gotten away with is crazy – but can you really blame them – they are a business.

    In 2003 – attendance was 37.7M for Disney and 12.8M for Universal (All parks in Florida).
    They each charged $50/day back then.

    In 2012 – attendance was 48.5M (28.6% Increase) for Disney and 14.2M (11% Increase) for Universal with each charging about $87 (176% increase) taking into account a mid-year price increase (At the end of 2012 Disney was $89 and Universal was $88).

    So in 2012 Disney is making 224% more revenue from tickets and Universal is making 195% much revenue from tickets based on single day tickets (I know – not everyone gets a single day ticket, but hoppers, multi-day passes, annual passes and everything has increased by a similar %)

    If you keep raising prices and attendance keeps rising each year – why lower it or stop increasing prices? It is a case of supply and demand and the cost curve – in this case there is a finite supply – your parks have a capacity level that once reached you cannot add more people unless you expand and there are also only 365.25 days per year. If you keep increasing prices, and the demand does not drop but instead increases, why would you logically lower prices or stop increasing prices?

    This price raising will stop once they hit a level where demand start to drop and they don’t see a return from a price increase. Until then – it will continue.

    • Jabroniville

      Yeah, so long as the attendance increases, they can keep raising prices bit-by-bit and rake in money hand-over-fist. Now, if attendance was DROPPING and they were in a crisis, then they’d have a problem, because they’d be pricing themselves out of the game at the same time as the game was shrinking. A lot of “nerd” hobbies I enjoy (Warhammer miniature games, etc.) are actively trying that, and failing badly.

  • JAG107

    The title of this story reminds me of the song played during the Disneyland Tencennial special. “Ten years of fantasy, ten years of fun. Ten years of price increases and the gouging’s just begun!”

  • TweedlDum9

    We are also forgetting to account for something Kevin FREQUENTLY mentions, and it’s specifically different at WDW than DLR: how many people are ACTUALLY buying that 1-day, 1-Park ticket?

    Why has no one in this thread theorized that the 1-day 1-Park ticket has probably risen more (90%) than the 5-day Hopper (52%) specifically BECAUSE they want you to stay longer? They make a big deal of that “savings” every time you price a ticket package, and that’s what Kevin always cites — “Wow, honey, we can add another day for just $__!”

    In any case, it has always blown me away that WDW parks cost more than DLR — bigger is NOT always better — but the business models are SO different in terms of the percentage of single-day Guests. WDW is designed for people to stay more than a single day, so I think we should be looking at the 5-day ticket increases more closely than the 1-day tickets. That doesn’t excuse the entire 52% increase, but it’s certainly more palatable than the 90% 1-day increase, and the 5-day tickets are what I assume more people are buying for their vacations.

    • Gregg Condon

      Exactly. The issue with this article is that it doesn’t touch on the different dynamics between the parks on opposite coasts.
      Disneyland is a locals park that get’s some tourists. Plain and simple. Which is why they have to continually build new things in order to keep their audience. Same reason why the rest of the parks in the Southern California Market have to do the same. They are ALL local parks. The amount of AP’s and the fact that Sunday’s have been the busiest day of the week for at least a decade now (due to blackout days) prove that point.
      WDW is a tourist destination that get’s some locals. You have the hardcore group that will go to WDW a few times a year but they aren’t the norm. You have a less hardcore group that will go to WDW once a year but they aren’t the norm either. The norm for most people is probably in the once ever 5-6 year range and those people aren’t going for one day. This is also the reason WDW can get away with only adding something every few years.

      If the current expansions at Universal Orlando aren’t going to topple attendance at WDW then nothing is. And since their attendance has only taken a mild hit they aren’t going to be bothered by it. My guess is that people aren’t shortening their WDW vacations to go to Universal, they are extending their vacations and visiting Universal in addition to their normal WDW vacation.

      As for noticing every little thing, we’ve been to WDW 3 times. Those 3 times were actually in a year of each other. We didn’t notice any of these things that locals notice. Heck, we didn’t really notice all of the “issues” with Disneyland when we would go twice a month.

      We just like to go to have a good time.

    • rwsmith

      WDW and DLR are alike as chalk and cheese. I’m 44 mile from DLR and come at least once per month. We are DVC members and spend about 8 nights per year on property. For us DLR actually IS a “stay-cation”. WDW is in the hinterland and not in the middle of urban sprawl. There’s nearly every ecosystem and activity within driving distance to Disneyland. I think it’s even MORE incentivized to lure us sheeple into multi-day deals because even if we stay on property at DLR it’s a short drive to nearly ANYTHING.

      • WesternMouse

        Winner winner chicken dinner!!

        You got it! It’s called competition.

  • TweedlDum9

    And thanks for posting this, Kevin! It’s quite timely for me — I’m also a former DLR CM and was just looking at rates online last week to see if a trip would be in my near future… WOW this stuff sure is expensive when you don’t get into the Parks free anymore!

  • HauntedPirate

    One observation that may skew things on the park tickets – Park tickets in 2003 were still good forever (without having to pay an arm and a leg for the “privilege”). And soon the no-expiration option will be gone forever on MYW tickets.

    It’s a good thing Disney got rid of that option, though, because I’m sure those dozens of people who were stocking up and buying multiple 10-day, non-expiring Park Hoppers to use for the next ## years are deeply cutting into the Theme Parks profit margin. (/end sarcasm)

  • MikeBlakesley

    I don’t have time to read all the comments but I find it funny that people are complaining so much about the price increases but at the same time griping that there are not enough new attractions. Hmm, I think Disney just spent about a billion dollars on New Fantasyland. They just did major makeover on Test Track. They have added new hotels to help meet the demand. Things like fuel, Obamacare, insurance, union wages, etc. are always going up. They just spent a billion dollars on NextGen which will help guests manage their visits more efficiently (theoretically, at least). Taxes are higher than ever. Plus there is the always high cost of maintenance on those attractions, not to mention the miles of roads, hundreds of buildings that need to be kept painted and maintained, the list goes on and on.

    Costs for them are higher than ever, the same as they are for everybody else in the world. Therefore they HAVE to raise their prices to meet their costs. Disney is no different from your friendly corner grocery store in this regard.

    A lot of people in this country think “profit” is a dirty word. They don’t think a business should make a profit. I don’t understand this attitude but I see it every day (I own a retail business). What those people DON’T get is that without profit, there wouldn’t BE a Disney World or any other business, for that matter.

    • rwsmith

      It’s just that Disney has built such a better “mouse trap” that they can charge a premium plus. But it’s a fine line between maximized profits and gouging. Hopefully they don’t start letting things slip like DLR did in the 90s for profits sake. Nothing will deter an annual visit as much as a less than “magic” visit. Been there.

      • MikeBlakesley

        I guess they have to balance expensive things that really show, like a big new attraction, with expensive things that the average day guest might not see or take advantage of like NextGen or a fancy new resort. I do sympathize with them — it’s gotta be the most difficult guessing game in the world, trying to predict years in advance what people are going to want to see and do with their money.

    • WesternMouse

      I couldn’t care less that Disney overspent $1B on fantasyland. I, ME, THE PARENT, is the person spending the money to go to the parks. Disney is more focused on my kid to get them to come back for generations rather than keeping me interested by building bigger and better attractions. I don’t care about one thing Disney has built since the new tomorrowland in 94. They took that area and nuked it off the map when they gutted Alien Encounter and Timekeeper in favor of Pixarland.

      Profit is why businesses operate. Disney’s arrogance is evident in there extravagant spending on technology and kiddie rides and an environment that has low maintenance costs. They can do whatever they want and so can I. WDW is a distant memory for me and my family and we don’t miss a thing. The world is big. Travel to real castles and learn real history. It’s far more enjoyable than anything Disney can pump out these days.