Ten Years of Price Increases at Walt Disney World

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Walt Disney World

Tagged: , ,


Published on July 23, 2013 at 3:00 am with 42 Comments

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:


About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida. He is a founding member of MiceAge and has written numerous books about Disney parks (see http://bit.ly/kevinyee).

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  • 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.