Comparing the Hourly Costs of Disney Experiences

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When the Very Merriest After Hours prices were released for 2021, there was a lot of collective eye-widening at the cost. The last time Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Christmas Party was held in 2019, tickets topped out at $139 for a 5-hour party (plus a potential for 3 hours in the park prior to the party kicking off). This year, the maximum cost is $249 for a 4-hour party instead. In two short years, we went from paying less than $28/hour for the party to $62.25/hour for the after hours event.

So that made us wonder, what are the hourly costs for other Disney experiences? And how do they compare with other real-world purchases? Are there tiers of experiences that have similar hourly costs? And where does the new Christmas After Hours event fall on the cost spectrum? With the help of intrepid researchers Julia Mascardo and Erin Foster, I came up with a list of Disney experiences and calculated a range of hourly costs for them – more about those calculations below. Then we put them into groups based on their averages and assigned each one a group based on the old A-E ticketing system. So what experiences ended up being E-tickets?

Explain the Math!

To come up with the hourly cost of different experiences, we just need two data points:

  1. Cost – this is easy for some items, but ends up being a range for others (like resort stays, party tickets, dining, etc)
  2. Duration – this one is even trickier. For example, I know the duration of an After Hours event. But what about a meal? Or a resort stay? How do I know how long you’re actually at the resort? Some assumptions had to be made. When I had to make really tricky assumptions, I’ll mention them in the results.

But beyond those two data points, we also have to make a lot of data standardization decisions. In general, I focused on adult prices. I also tried to capture just the price for one person. So the cost of a dining experience is just one meal, not a family’s set of meals. And the cost of a shared experience (like a resort room or a VIP tour) is divided by the number of participants. Some items are priced per person, but others are flat fees that then get “less expensive” with the more participants you have. Most of these nuances are captured by providing ranges in the hourly cost.

E-Ticket Experiences ($100+ per hour)

Cost per hour of E-Ticket experiences
  • The top two most expensive experiences per hour are both souvenirs from Batuu – building a lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop is approximately a 30-minute experience that costs $219.99, making it a whopping $440 per hour. (A word to the wise, if you build one of these monsters and fly it home, don’t battle your children with their $20 plastic lightsabers – your fancy one won’t win.) And making your own droid will set you back $99.99 and take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
  • A ride in the balloon lasts just 8 minutes, and costs $25

    Three E-Ticket entries are beauty experiences. Potentially the most expensive, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique has a variety of packages. The pricier packages there include some souvenirs (like dresses) to take home, so we’re seeing a trend for the most expensive experiences. The facials at the spa at Grand Floridian as well as Senses Spa on the Disney Cruise Line ships are also relatively expensive hourly. The facials at the Grand Floridian come out slightly higher in price because you can get a cocoa facial there, which is the priciest option per hour. But chocolate is totally worth it, right?!

  • A non-Disney experience that generally carries an E-Ticket price tag is sky diving. Several locations near Orlando offer tandem jumps for around $199 for a one-hour experience (including training and debriefing).
  • Also making the list are two forms of transportation – the Aerophile balloon in Disney Springs (which is a high hourly expense due to its short, 8-minute duration), and the Amphicar.
  • Rounding out the E-tickets are two potential tours – the Wanyama Safari at Animal Kingdom Lodge (which is definitely on my personal Disney bucket list), and a VIP tour.

D-Ticket Experiences ($70-$99 per hour)

Cost per hour of D-Ticket experiences
  • Many of the D-ticket experiences involve one of my favorite things … FOOD! The Magic Kingdom dessert party, Victoria & Albert’s (with wine pairing), Amorette’s Cake Decorating class, and Remy (on the Disney Cruise Line ships) all end up in the D-Ticket tier. Remy is an interesting case here – the cost is lower than what you would pay for an equivalent restaurant outside of a cruise because it is subsidized by your cruise cost.
  • Also available on the Disney Cruise Line ships is the Rainforest Room. According to reopening protocols, a pass for the Rainforest Room costs $174 and lasts for two hours. You can share this experience with a group of up to 10 people, but the cost is the same even with just 2 people, which would make it much more expensive.

    A visit to the Rainforest Room is a D-Ticket splurge on a cruise.
  • Our first ticketed entertainment also shows up in the D-Ticket tier, with the new Drawn to Life show by Cirque du Soleil in Disney Springs.
  • Horseback riding at Fort Wilderness also appears as a D-Ticket experience. It costs $55 for a 45-minute session.
  • Rounding out the D-Ticket tier is a stay at a Deluxe resort. The range of costs here is huge – there are a variety of rooms that have different prices throughout the year, with different numbers of people in the room for different numbers of hours. At the high end of the cost spectrum, you could pay out of pocket for a room at the Grand Floridian at New Years and only crash there to sleep for 8-ish hours. At the lower end, you could find a spot at Wilderness Lodge during value season and enjoy your whole day at the lodge with your family of four.

C-Ticket Experiences ($50-$69 per hour)

Cost per hour of C-Ticket experiences
  • In the C-Ticket tier, we see a wide variety of experiences. The first two are pretty specialized tours or lessons – you can learn how to surf at Typhoon Lagoon for $199 for a 3-hour session. Or you can go behind the scenes (and above the crocodiles) on the Wild Africa Trek – one of my personal favorites – for 3 hours, for a cost ranging from $139 to $249 depending on the time of day and year.
  • This happy haircut customer? Totally worth whatever I had to pay.

    The next two C-Ticket experiences are relatively inexpensive, but they’re also short in duration, which means their hourly cost jumps up a bit. Games in Dinoland cost anywhere between $3 and $5 (depending on how many you purchase at once) and only last about 4 minutes. If you try to fill up an hour with that activity, your wallet will not thank you. A haircut at Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street in Magic Kingdom is on the top of my list of suggestions for first-time visitors with kids. My oldest had her first haircut there at 18 months old. And thanks to the ongoing closure of the shop, my youngest is almost 3 and has hair that is way too long for her own good because we’re anxiously waiting to repeat the experience. An adult haircut will set you back $19, but the professionals working there are quick at their work, so it will only last about 15-30 minutes.

  • Next on our list come the two holiday parties, which actually end up being almost the exact same cost per hour because After Hours Boo Bash only lasts 3 hours and the Very Merriest After Hours lasts 4. You can decrease your hourly cost by arriving up to 2.5 hours earlier than when the party starts – definitely take advantage of that option.
  • Rounding out our C-Tickets is a Character Lunch or Dinner. You’ll pay a premium for the honor of dining with some of your favorite characters, and the hourly cost will depend on where you eat and how long you stay. But you can bank on it being somewhere around $50/hour for an adult.

B-Ticket Experiences ($25-$49 per hour)

Cost per hour of B-Ticket experiences
  • You’re seeing that right, I’m labelling exclusive experiences like a 2-night stay at the Starcruiser as a B-Ticket experience. It looks (and is) expensive, but the hourly cost there is less than the hourly cost of one of the ticketed parties. Of course, some of those hours you will just be sleeping. Or maybe you’ll make the most of your night by pulling two all-nighters. Actually, yes, please do that and tell me how it went.
  • Three different meal options show up in the B-Ticket tier. Character breakfasts tend to be slightly more affordable than lunches or dinners, so they drop down a tier. Price and duration of table and counter service meals can vary wildly. But generally table service costs more than counter service, and also takes longer. So those almost even out when measured hourly.
  • Archery and Fishing are two more activities offered at Fort Wilderness. An archery session costs $45 for a 75 minute session, and you can rent a fishing rod for 30 minutes for $13.
  • For my Lego-loving family, this B-Ticket experience was 100% worth the splurge.

    You heard it here first, Adventures by Disney are a B-Ticket experience. This result surprised me, but you have to keep in mind how I pulled the data. Adventures by Disney are generally lengthy, multi-day vacation packages. And the cost doesn’t include airfare to/from the vacation or excluded meals or souvenirs (or, or, or …). You’re also paying the same hourly rate to sleep. Or to ride on a bus from place to place. At the expensive end, you can pay $12,199 per adult for an 11-day trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos islands. But you could also opt for a much cheaper (but still pricey) Disneyland weekend “escape”.

  • Moderate resort stays end up in the B-Ticket tier. Just like deluxe stays, your hourly cost for your resort room is highly dependent on when you visit, how much you are at your resort, and how many people are sharing your room.
  • Also in the B-Ticket tier is another fun “real-world” experience. You can have your very own LEGO Cinderella Castle for just $349.99. My husband and I worked together to build ours, and ended up spending just over 6 hours on it (over the course of several evenings after the meddling kids were asleep). Your mileage may vary on this one depending on your LEGO-building-speed. The good news is that if you’re a LEGO newbie, it’ll take you even longer to build, and therefore decrease your hourly cost. Bonus!

A-Ticket Experiences (< $25 per hour)

Cost per hour of A-Ticket experiences
  • While a meal at Remy was up in the D-Ticket tier, its smaller sibling Palo falls all of the way to the A-Ticket price. Even with semi-recent price hikes up to $40 per meal, Palo is still a steal. You’re paying less than you would in the real world because you’re already paying for the cruise, but if you ask me it’s absolutely still worth it.
  • Speaking of cruises, a Disney Cruise is an A-Ticket experience! Or it can be. We didn’t pull concierge-class prices here. You can still drop a pretty penny on a cruise even without splurging for concierge. A couple of adults would pay $12,350 EACH for the privilege of staying in a verandah room for a 12-night Mediterranean cruise. Ouch. That works out to $44.70 each hour of your time on the boat (and in port). On the other hand, a family of four that were willing to stay in an inside stateroom on a 13-day transatlantic cruise would only be paying $1,650 each for their trip. That works out to $5.45 per person per hour.
  • Mickey is pointing to the sky as if to say “Play quick! Or your $14 will only buy you soaked clothes.”

    A bevy of additional activities throughout the WDW bubble also appear in the A-Ticket tier, like mini golf ($14 for a round), a kayak rental ($13 per hour), 18 holes of “regular” golf at one of the courses onsite (price varies by tee time and time of year), or taking in a movie at the AMC in Disney Springs.

  • A stay at a Value resort is the only WDW accommodation that drops into the A-Ticket tier. This varies widely based on number of occupants in your room, the time of year you visit, and how much time you spend at your resort.
  • 1-Day Theme Park and Water Park tickets both show up in the A-Tier. If you take full advantage of theme park hours, you’re spending between $9 and $16 per hour to tour in Walt Disney World (depending on the day you visit).
  • Right at the bottom of the list are two more real-world experiences for comparison. If you purchase premier access to Black Widow on Disney+, you (and whoever you invite over) can fill 2.25 hours for just $29.99. And if you are just really desperate for some roller coasters, a ticket to a Six Flags near you will only set you back about $4 per hour if you survive the whole day.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. There are many, many experiences to choose from both inside and outside of the parks, all at different costs. Park tickets, although expensive, end up being one of the cheaper options for how to fill your days if you fully utilize park hours.
  2. The most expensive hourly experiences involve creating (very fancy) souvenirs to bring home with you, or beauty treatments and/or makeovers of some kind.
  3. Other inexpensive activities to fill up your time include watching a movie in Disney Springs, playing a round of mini golf or renting a kayak.

Did any of the activities surprise you by ending up in an unexpected tier? Do you have a favorite Disney activity that isn’t on the list? What’s your biggest Disney splurge? Let us know in the comments!

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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

8 thoughts on “Comparing the Hourly Costs of Disney Experiences

  • August 25, 2021 at 12:09 pm
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    Such an interesting analysis, thanks!

    Reply
  • August 25, 2021 at 12:55 pm
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    What a fun exercise! Question: should the price of a physical souvenir be subtracted from the experience? For example, Savi’s IS crazy expensive, but if you subtract the cost of the Lightsaber (130-ish for a Legacy Lightsaber) and a blade ($40-ish) as a “purchase” instead of an “experience”, the cost of Savi’s is down to around fifty bucks. Same with Bibbidi or Droid Depot. With the balloon ride or amphicar, in contrast, the takeaway is just the experience (and any photos you may snap).

    Is this me trying to justify the cost of my Savi’s experience? Oh, yeah, totally. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • August 25, 2021 at 3:24 pm
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      That’s a very valid approach, Doug. I considered it, but then was worried about going down the rabbit hole of “would I pay Disney prices for these same souvenirs, or would I buy them elsewhere, likely for less money?” etc., etc. So I decided to just leave it like it was.

      And no need to justify the cost to me – my husband is the proud owner of a Savi’s saber. He chose a red blade … should I be worried?

      Reply
  • August 25, 2021 at 3:40 pm
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    We too have a kid with much too long hair awaiting the return of the Barbershop!

    Reply
    • August 25, 2021 at 9:03 pm
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      Oh, Mike! I now feel so validated … I’m not the only crazy parent πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • August 25, 2021 at 7:04 pm
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    Always enjoy your work, Becky! Your research is fun and interesting πŸ™‚

    Reply
  • August 26, 2021 at 1:44 pm
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    If you do a rev2 of this, you could add a private fireworks cruise ($399 for up to 10 people) and the about-to-return fireworks dessert party ($99 per adult).

    Reply
    • August 26, 2021 at 1:55 pm
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      Thanks for the ideas! This one will definitely be fun to revisit and refresh occasionally to see how things have changed, so I will add those in on the next version.

      Reply

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