Disneyland or Disney World? Welcome back to our four part series, where we will continue to debate this very question. In case you missed it, in part one we took a look at some of the key differences between Disneyland and Disney World in the areas of size and scope, atmosphere, and weather. In part two, let’s continue our side-by-side comparison of Disneyland and Disney World by discussing the topics of crowds, pricing, and accommodations.
The Disneyland Resort crowds are greatly affected by the number of local tourists that visit the Parks every day of the year. Disneyland Resort offers a variety of annual pass options that many local residents choose to purchase. Weekends and nice weather days will always see a jump in attendance throughout the year as annual pass holders take advantage how easy it is to just drop by the resort. Fridays and Mondays are also more crowded than the rest of the weekdays as locals extend their weekends. Another factor that impacts the Disneyland Resort crowds is the number of people visiting the area for conventions. The Anaheim Convention Center is the largest facility on the west coast and hosts thousands of visitors each year. Although the attendees are usually occupied for several hours a day with business, these travelers often take this opportunity to bring their families with them to enjoy the Disneyland Resort while they work. Not to mention, the crowds are also greater when the Disneyland Resort is offering one of their special events such as Halloween Time or Happy Lunar New Year.
Unlike the Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World is visited most frequently by out-of-town guests. Because of this, nice weather and weekends don’t have quite the same impact on Disney World crowd levels as they do on Disneyland. Walt Disney World crowds are most impacted by the school calendar. Whenever kids are out of school, expect the parks to be more crowded. This is experienced the most during traditional school breaks like spring (generally March or April), summer (June through August) and winter (week before Christmas until Monday after New Year’s Day). However, you will often see larger crowds develop during other holidays as well such Martin Luther King Junior’s Day, President’s Day and Columbus Day as families try to make the most of the long weekends. Similar to Disneyland, Disney World crowds grow during special events like the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and Star Wars Weekends.
During my visits to the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, I have experienced a variety of crowd levels. The benefits of visiting during the slower seasons at either resort are of course lower wait times for attractions, more dining availability and less expensive hotel rates. However, there are benefits to traveling during the peak times also. You’ll experience the perks of longer park hours, extra seasonal entertainment and less attraction refurbishments if you are willing to brave the crowds. Both destinations handle the crowds fairly well, and with some careful planning like using a touring plan and checking the crowd calendars, they can be maneuvered without too many issues.
For most people cost is an important consideration when deciding on where to take a family vacation. When looking at the price differences between Disneyland and Disney World, you will find that the cost of dining and souvenirs are quite comparable. Where the destinations vary the most is in areas of travel, admission tickets, and hotel accommodations.
Generally, it will be less expensive to travel to whichever resort is nearest to you. However, with Disneyland’s close proximity to the Los Angeles airport, you may find airfare into that city to be less expensive than a flight into Orlando even if you are geographically closer to Florida. When airlines have fare sales, you will often find great deals into Los Angeles from all over the country, but deals into Orlando are sometimes hard to come by.
When comparing ticket prices, you will find that Disney World admissions are slightly more expensive. For example, a five day adult ticket to Disneyland is $266. If you choose to add on the park hopper option, it will cost you an additional $39 bringing your ticket to a total of $305. For the same five day adult ticket to Disney World, you would pay $304 plus an extra $60 for the park hopper add-on making your total cost $364. I cannot imagine visiting Disneyland without a park hopper. With the two theme parks only a five minute walk from one another, we often “hop” multiple times per day. However, in Disney World with the theme parks so spread out and Fastpass+ only allowing you to book three reservations in one park per day initially, the need for and advantages of park hopper are not as strong in Disney World. When you compare a five day ticket with park hopper in Disneyland for $305 with a five day ticket without park hopper in Disney World for $304, the difference in cost in negligible. (Ticket price examples exclude tax and are subject to change.)
Another thing to consider when pricing your park admission is the size of the parks. Five days at Disneyland means two full days at each park plus another day in the park of your choice. Five days at Walt Disney World is one day at each theme park plus another day to play with to repeat your favorite park.
Finally in the topic of pricing, the cost of lodging varies greatly from Disneyland to Disney World. If we compare apples-to-apples and look strictly at onsite hotels, it will always be more expensive to stay at Disneyland compared to an equal amount of nights at Disney World. Disneyland does not have any onsite value properties, compared to Disney World that has several. When you look at two similar four-star Disney hotels, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland costs $2012 for five nights in June 2015 versus $1103 for a five night stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort in Disney World for the same June 2015 time frame. However, if you are willing to stay off property in Disneyland at one of the adjacent hotels, you can find accommodations for prices equivalent to those found in Disney World.
Because of its smaller size, the Disneyland Resort only has three on-site hotels. All three of the Disney owned and operated properties are clean, nicely themed and well maintained. Disneyland also has partnerships with 39 other quality properties in the area that they give the honor of being considered a “Good Neighbor Hotel.” These hotels run the spectrum from no-frills economy types all the way up to luxurious superior resorts.
Due to its vast size, Walt Disney World has more than 25 on-site hotels as well as a cabin and campground resort owned and operated by Disney. These resorts range in level from value, moderate, deluxe to deluxe villa. As the levels go up so do the room sizes, hotel amenities and prices. From value resorts to deluxe villas, each one is charming and appealing in its own way. There are eleven other independently operated hotels (the non-Disney Swan and Dolphin, Shades of Green, and the Downtown Disney resorts) located on Walt Disney World property as well. These resorts span from budget to top-of-the-line.
When comparing the hotels at Disneyland and Disney World, you obviously have a lot more of a selection in Disney World. From the heavily themed family-friend value resorts like Art of Animation to the sophisticated and elegant deluxe resorts such as Disney’s Contemporary Resort, there is a hotel to fit everyone’s taste and budget. In Disneyland, onsite choices are slim, but if you have the funds, Disney’s Grand Californian is a spectacular resort with its exquisite details, fabulous views, and private entrance directly into Disney California Adventure; it is truly one-of-a-kind.
That’s it for part two – see ya real soon for part three!
Looking for a more in-depth comparison of Disneyland and Disney World? Please check out my new book “A Tale of Two Resorts: Comparing Disneyland and Walt Disney World” by clicking here for more information or to read an excerpt.