Business and Finance

In 50 years, Walt Disney World went from $3.50 a ticket to a ‘luxury-priced destination’

When she was a school pupil within the Nineteen Seventies, Kristen Taylor had the chance to go to Walt Disney World

on many events.

Taylor attended Stetson University, about 60 miles away from the resort, which was then nonetheless in its infancy. Many of her classmates had been among the many Magic Kingdom’s first workers, so she was usually ready to rating discounted entry tickets or meals.

She coveted her “E” tickets, which allowed her to trip the park’s hottest points of interest, together with her favorites like Space Mountain. But typically, she’d go to the park and spend a lot of her day simply people-watching.

“I’d sit on Main Street U.S.A. in a little café and just hang out,” Taylor, who’s now 69, mentioned.

With the reductions she received from mates, Taylor recollects spending about $20 to $25 a day at Walt Disney World. In the intervening years, she has visited the self-proclaimed “Most Magical Place on Earth” on different events — with household at occasions, and for particular occasions along with her college students when she was a highschool instructor and debate coach.

Also see: How Walt Disney World is celebrating its 50th birthday: fireworks, kites and tentacle cocktails 

Still, she says if she had been a school pupil right now, she’s unsure she would have the posh of having fun with the occasional visits to the Magic Kingdom that she treasured years in the past.

“I wouldn’t be able to afford it,” Taylor mentioned. “Just getting over there and spending on gas would have been an issue for me. I would feel guilty about spending that much.”

On Friday, Walt Disney World celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. When the park opened in 1971, it was the embodiment of a dream that Walt Disney had envisioned however by no means received to see come to fruition — he died in 1966 shortly after his firm broke floor on the Central Florida resort.

‘It has now become a luxury-priced destination.’

— Jason Cochran, editor-in-chief of

Over the half-century that it’s been open the resort has grown significantly. When it first debuted, Walt Disney World featured only one theme park, the Magic Kingdom, and two accommodations, the Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts. Since then, the sprawling advanced has added three extra theme parks, two water parks, an outside buying advanced and nicely over a dozen accommodations and timeshares.

In that point, the price of a trip at Walt Disney World has elevated considerably — far outpacing the speed of inflation and doubtlessly placing it out of attain for a lot of Americans. Disney declined to touch upon the document.

“It has now become a luxury-priced destination,” mentioned Jason Cochran, editor-in-chief of “Now you could pay as much as $160 a day to get into a park, and inflation has not increased at that rate.”

Ticket costs have risen greater than 3,000% over Walt Disney World’s historical past

When the Magic Kingdom first greeted company in 1971, the price to enter the theme park was $3.50 for adults, and $1 for kids. In 2021 {dollars}, that might equate to roughly $24 and $6.75, adjusting for the speed of inflation.

The low price within the early days of Walt Disney World was no mistake. “They weren’t sure they were going to get people to travel to Florida at all, so general admission was quite low,” Cochran mentioned. And as with Disneyland in California, that $3.50 solely received a individual via the gates — from there, every part else price additional. Back then, guests had to buy books of tickets to get on the completely different points of interest, so guests had been possible paying nearer to $5.75 a individual in these early days.

“The original concept of Disneyland in California was that Walt Disney said he wanted everyone to be able to come in, no matter what income level you were at, and so everything was priced accordingly,” Cochran mentioned.

The particular person trip tickets had been categorized by letter, A via E, with the latter tickets being reserved for the preferred points of interest. “From personal experience, ‘A’ tickets were always left over at the end of the day — but you used all your ‘D’ tickets and ‘E’ tickets,” mentioned Don Munsil, proprietor of journey web site MouseSavers.

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Toward the tip of the Nineteen Seventies, Disney started experimenting with two-day “passports” that granted entry to the park on a number of days in addition to limitless rides. By 1982, Walt Disney World had phased out trip tickets in favor of the “passports.” The Nineteen Eighties additionally noticed the appearance of annual passes to the theme parks.

Today, one-day admission to the theme parks at Walt Disney World is way dearer than it was in 1971. Entry for a single day ranges from $109 to $159 for guests ages 10 and older; the price varies relying on the recognition of the park a individual needs to go to on a given date.

For a further price, guests can add on the “Park Hopper” function that permits them to enter a number of theme parks in in the future. The per-day price of tickets is cheaper for multi-day tickets.

The increased price right now is a reflection of provide and demand, Munsil mentioned.

“The country has gotten wealthier, and so the number of people who can afford a trip to Disney World and see it as something that they would like to do has gone up,” he mentioned. The problem then turns into that the parks have a fastened capability, he added. “The only way that Disney ultimately can limit access to it parks in the past was to increase costs.”

A dearer expertise previous the gates

People usually level to the price of theme-park tickets as proof of Disney-flation. But the prices of different points of a journey to Walt Disney World have risen simply as a lot as the price of entry.

The bills concerned with every part from a keep at one of many Disney-owned accommodations close to the parks to a bowl of pasta at a restaurant within the park has elevated in tandem with entry charges.

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“One day at Disney World — with a hotel and food and everything — costs either as much or more than 80% of American households spend on vacations in any given year,” mentioned Len Testa, president of journey web site Touring Plans, citing 2017 knowledge from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “It’s not something that most middle-class families can do every year without sacrificing something else.”

As Walt Disney World has expanded, the corporate has additionally strategized methods to get guests to half with extra of their cash.

‘One day at Disney World — with a hotel and food and everything — costs either as much or more than 80% of American households spend on vacations in any given year.’

— Len Testa, president of Touring Plans

Under the path of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, the resort went from being “a one-day vacation destination” to an expertise the place individuals would journey to Florida for a full week “and spend it all at Walt Disney World,” Testa mentioned. Indeed, for a lot of households a journey to Disney World is now a once-in-a-lifetime expertise, and they’ll spend a week or extra on the resort.

“Eisner realized that once you’ve got people on property you can charge more, because it’s difficult to leave,” Testa mentioned. “That’s when you start to see the price of things start to outpace inflation by a large multiple.”

Today, the mentality has shifted once more. Travel consultants argue that, within the face of shareholder stress, Disney has opted to monetize or take away many perks that when had been free, corresponding to shuttles from the airport to accommodations, parking on the resort for lodge company, and “FastPasses” that allowed company to skip the road at standard points of interest. Testa estimates that the elimination of the free airport shuttle alone will price households round $110 for transportation out and in of the Disney World advanced. “It’s an incremental $110 that wasn’t there before,” he mentioned.

The impression of COVID-19 on Disney’s pricing

Looking to the longer term, a query mark that is still is what the long-term impression of COVID-19 will probably be on the price of a Disney World trip.

Throughout its historical past, Walt Disney World has survived vital challenges that threatened the resort’s backside line, from the oil disaster within the Nineteen Seventies to the post-9/11 downturn in air journey. In many of those instances, the corporate launched new reductions or methods of saving cash to entice individuals to make the trek to Central Florida.

One instance is the free eating promotion, whereby company staying at a Walt Disney World lodge might get “free” meals via the Disney Dining Program. Depending on the bundle the visitor books, this might embody a sit-down meal, a counter-service meal and a number of snacks per day.

‘They keep the operational costs as low as possible at the same time they are making money hand over fist.’

— Jim Hill, a theme park historian and blogger

It stays to be seen whether or not Disney will introduce related promotions because it recovers from the pandemic slowdown. As of now, the main target has largely been on decreasing operational prices, journey consultants famous. For occasion, Disney launched a reservation system the place guests should reserve a day they’ll go to a theme park upfront, even when they’re an annual passholder. While initially introduced as a manner to handle crowds amid the well being disaster, Disney executives have prompt that the system will probably be maintained indefinitely.

“They know it’s a Tuesday in October, and that means 50,000 people are going to be at the Magic Kingdom, and that means you know how to properly staff the place,” mentioned Jim Hill, a theme park historian and blogger.

“They keep the operational costs as low as possible at the same time they are making money hand over fist,” Hill added.

How to get monetary savings on a Walt Disney World trip

Even although a journey could break the financial institution, households are nonetheless pouring into Walt Disney World on a day by day foundation. According to journey consultants, there are a variety of methods guests can get monetary savings on a journey like this in the event that they plan appropriately. Here are among the key methods to think about:

Don’t purchase tickets instantly from Disney: Numerous corporations are “authorized resellers” of tickets to Walt Disney World and so they can present a low cost. Typically to get the largest financial savings, you’ll want to buy multi-day tickets. “Shop around, make sure you’re getting a good deal and go with somebody reputable — I wouldn’t buy tickets on eBay and stuff like that,” Munsil mentioned.

Don’t keep at a Disney lodge: According to’s Cochran, not staying at a Disney-run lodge is “the biggest thing a family could do to save money.” Especially among the many top-tier accommodations at Disney World, a one-night keep can price upwards of $600 a night time for a room that’s comparable in high quality to a Marriott
Cochran mentioned.

By staying at a Disney-run lodge, you’re paying a premium to be shut to the motion, however a variety of “Good Neighbor” accommodations run by different corporations have opened lately on Disney property that price much less. Plus, staying “on-site” doesn’t include as many perks as of late. Orlando has the second-most lodge rooms on the earth after Las Vegas, so it’s comparatively straightforward to comparability store to discover a whole lot.

Pitch a tent: For households who need nothing however a actually Disney expertise, the most cost effective route to take is to keep on the campgrounds positioned at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. “People staying at the campground get basically the same perks as somebody staying at the Grand Floridian,” Munsil mentioned, referencing one of the crucial costly accommodations at Disney World. A campsite can price as little as $73 a night time, although you’ll be roughing it.

Bring your individual meals: Walt Disney World permits guests to pack a lunch — and dinner and snacks. Outside meals is permitted within the theme parks and water parks, although there are restrictions on the varieties of baggage a individual can use. What many individuals will do is go to a grocery retailer at the beginning of their journey — or get objects delivered — to top off on snacks that may offset their eating prices.

Use your time correctly: Time is cash — and that is likely to be more true at Walt Disney World than wherever else. Figuring out which points of interest are must-dos and when to go to the parks will be essential. According to Munsil, most guests have a tendency to arrive on the parks after 11 a.m., main to giant mid-day crowds. (*50*) he mentioned. Families could even discover it higher to arrive early, go away in the course of the day to loosen up or go to their lodge’s pool after which return within the night when the crowds (and warmth) have dissipated.

See additionally: Disney sets opening date for new Star Wars ‘hotel’ — here’s how much it will cost to experience ‘real’ light sabers and a cosmic supper club

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