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The Relative Cost of a Disney World Park Ticket

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You’ve probably heard by now that Disney recently raised the price of one-day adult admission to the Magic Kingdom to a whopping $99. Add the tax and that puts the ticket price inarguably over the $100 mark. My first reaction to this, and likely yours as well, was, “OUCH! That’s a hefty chunk of change.” And yes, $100+ dollars is a significant sum, but I’m here to perhaps put this all in a bit of perspective.

Were villains at work on the price increase?
Were villains at work on the price increase?

When I was fresh out of college (back in the dark ages, aka 1987), I did a lot of mental calculation about whether various entertainment options made financial sense. The benchmark I used was the price of a movie ticket, which was at the time about $4.00. For $4.00 I could get two hours of entertainment. Thus, using my Movie Ticket Metric, I valued entertainment at $2.00 per hour. ($4.00 price divided by two hours.) Entertainment that cost less than $2.00 per hour was, to me at the time, a good value and usually a no-brainer purchase. Entertainment that cost more than $2.00 per hour merited serious thought and consideration before buying.

With this methodology, purchasing a book for $5.00 was a relative bargain, because I could get perhaps 10 hours of reading enjoyment from this, giving me an entertainment cost of $.50 per hour. (Forget for a moment that I could have borrowed the book for free from the library. Those were my English major book-hoarder days.)

Conversely, a ticket to a Genesis concert (I am sooo old) ran $18.00 for about a three hour show. This form of entertainment cost $6.00 per hour. Before buying the concert ticket, I’d have to think about whether it was worth three times my normal entertainment cost. Was it special? What else would I have to forgo? Will I remember the experience fondly? For how long?

So what does all this have to do with Disney ticket prices?

Well, the little voice in the back of my head still uses the Movie Ticket Metric to assess the relative value of entertainment. Prices have gone up. Here in my New York area hamlet, a trip to the movies now runs about $16.00, meaning that entertainment costs $8.00 per hour. So let’s use that to put Disney ticket prices in perspective.

We know that the one-day Magic Kingdom admission ticket costs $99 (really $105.43 with tax), which we’re going to call $100 to make the math easier. That means in order for the Disney ticket to beat the Movie Ticket Metric, the ticket would have to provide at least 12.5 hours of entertainment.

While I don’t always spend an entire day at the park, assuming the park operation hours are sufficient, it certainly is possible to go from 9:00am until 9:30pm and be busy and entertained at the Magic Kingdom for the “break even” 12.5 hours. In fact, there are hard-core fans who have done significantly more than this and completed 80+ attractions in 24 fun-filled hours in Magic Kingdom as part of an Ultimate Touring Plan challenge.

Even if you don’t go absolutely crazy staying in the park from sunup to sundown, it’s easy to see that Disney tickets are priced at least in the ballpark of other entertainment options, when looked at on a price per hour basis. For example, if you put in a reasonable 8 hours in the park, your entertainment cost is going to be about $12.50 per hour. This is just over 50% more than the Movie Ticket Metric, whereas the concert mentioned above was 300% more than the Metric.

And let’s compare the hourly Disney cost to other potential uses of your entertainment dollar:

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 11.34.28 AM

Sure, you can sit in your jammies in your living room and mainline back episodes of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix for pennies per hour, but event entertainment – memorable entertainment – is going to cost you much more than that. Broadway show tickets, professional sporting events, and name brand concerts of almost any sort will cost orders of magnitude more than the Movie Ticket Metric. Headliner entertainment out in the real world often commands an hourly rate of $50.00+ per hour. Even modest entertainment investments such a bleacher seats or a day at the museum are not far from the baseline Movie Ticket Metric mark.

Even more to think about

When calculating the real hourly cost of Disney admission, you’ll also have to consider that the $99 one-day Magic Kingdom admission is the pinnacle of pricing. You can use the Touring Plans Ticket Price Comparison Tool to shop for price breaks on park admission, which will decrease your hourly expense.

Consider the value of entertainment beyond the rides.
Consider the value of entertainment beyond the rides.

Even more significantly, the daily (and thus hourly) rate for park admission drastically decreases as you buy more admission days. For example, a 10-day adult park admission costs approximately $354. Assume that you spend even six hours per day in the parks during those 10 days, then your hourly entertainment cost is about $5.90. If you bump up your park touring time to ten hours per day for those ten days, then you’re looking at just $3.54 per entertainment hour – significantly less than my current Movie Ticket Metric of $8.00 per hour.

If you’re in naysayer mode, you’re sure to point out that there are other costs associated with a Disney visit beyond ticket pricing. Of course this is true, but you have a fair amount of control over many of those factors – shop for a discount package, stay off site, bring your own food into the parks, or forgo souvenirs and you’re trimming expenses in a considerable way.

Also remember that you’ll have ancillary expenses associated with almost any other entertainment option as well. Maybe there are babysitter fees, or transportation and parking fees, or food costs. If you’re coming to New York to see Book of Mormon, your food and hotel costs will likely far exceed those you can expect to find at Disney World.

Should you factor in your memories in the value of your entertainment dollar?
Should you factor in your memories in the value of your entertainment dollar?

A further consideration is that while the entertainment harvest from your Netflix subscription (or even your movie ticket purchase) may quickly fade from memory, a day at a Disney park will likely stick with you for quite some time. If you factor your time spent reminiscing or remembering your vacation into your entertainment cost, then the hourly expense may plummet to nearly nothing. Recent studies have shown that purchasing experiences such as vacations are the closest thing we have to buying happiness. You may want to consider whether a contribution to your happiness is worth a few more dollars of entertainment expense.

On the other hand, I haven’t factored in the opportunity cost of Disney ticket expense versus other non-entertainment expenditures. Of course no theme park ticket purchase is prudent if it cuts into non-discretionary spending such as housing or food, or other less frivolous experiential expense such as education. Only you can make the determination about what’s right for your family.

I’m certainly not saying that a day at Disney World is cheap, but given the comparisons here, it doesn’t seem unreasonably expensive overall.

What are your thoughts on the topic? Have you ever considered something like the Movie Theater Metric when evaluating your entertainment expenses? Do you still consider a park ticket to be a good value? Let us know in the comments below.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

69 thoughts on “The Relative Cost of a Disney World Park Ticket

  • I usually go for at least a week (sometimes 10 days) and the per day cost varies from $50 to $35/day (a bit more if I add the water park option). I usually go in the off season seeing as I have no kids. On an average day I stay in the parks for at least 10 hours and get in at least a dozen attractions (not including lots of free entertainment throughout the parks). That works out to not only less then $5 per hour BUT also it works out to less then $4 per attraction. Far cheaper then what I would pay at the county fair to ride cheap dangerous vomit inducing rides run by questionable carneys. Additionally – I stay off site for usually less then $30 a night. I take free shuttles or the Orlando city bus ($2). And flights to Orlando are usually much cheaper then to other destinations. Disney actually winds up being a pretty economical trip for me all things considered.

  • U all realize the cast members overwhemingly are college program kids that are only this happy cause the reality of shit pay hasn’t worn off on them in the 3-4 months they are here? Disney has a master plan to bring young blood in and make u feel fabuloulous… You go home not realizing that the amount of people that work here FULL TIME ongoing are MISERABLE! And they only smile cause if they didn’t , the $10 per hour they make will be gone and they can’t pay their bills!?!? It’s not cause “us cast members” love to treat the morons like royalty! Disney sadly sets the unofficial standard for hourly pay in Florida which is why so any families in and outside of Disney have at least 2 jobs to make ends meet. So while u see “joe” making YOUR dreams come true, understand phone” prolly has a second job too to make his ends meet. Not too many smiles on joe’s end.

  • What I didn’t see in the calculations was a trip to one of our fabulous national parks. The relative cost of that would likely be less than the Netflix cost yet would create memories just like any of the theme parks. And the joy of being in the national Parks is that our government has set aside these places for our generations and future generations to enjoy. While I am not anti-themepark I feel that there is far much more value in taking yourself and your children to one of our national parks. All of the theme parks are manufactured fun. Our national parks have been in the same condition for thousands if not tens of thousands of years. There is so much to learn and so many jaw-dropping experiences that cannot remotely be replicated by any company including Disney. I would like to see more people focus on the things that really matter in life as opposed to the manufactured fun that people seem to be obsessed with. However if all of you focus on the national parks then I’m sure it wouldn’t take too long for them to be ruined from negligence. So maybe it is a blessing in disguise to have that balance in place. Just a thought!

  • To Brian: I did not mean for my comment to seem like an ad for Disney. I did not discuss the merits of the article due to it being well written and researched. I was just commenting on the 10 day non expiring pass and correcting the information. I am a concierges Cast Member and take pride in my work. I love helping our guests and I do everything I can to assist and love making magical moments. Yes I might have “drank the kolaid” but I always leave work knowing I’ve donemy best . I just wanted everyone to know what our procedure is for doing the non expiring option is. I know if I had to pay to go to disney I could never afford it. That is why I always do my best to go above and beyond for every guest I can. To make those memories to add the value to their stay. Whether it is your first time or 100th, the memories will last a lifetime. So I’m sorry for this sounding like another ad, but I truly believe in the magic that is disney.

    • Thank you David!!! You and your fellow cast members who continually go above and beyond to create magic for the guests is what keeps us coming back. It is the human element that makes the “Disney Difference.” I can’t even tell you how many times I have been amazed at the extra efforts a cast member has made to ensure our visit is special. Those magical moments DO add value and the memories WILL last a lifetime. So maybe you and I (and many others) are drinking the Kool-Aid, but I don’t care!

      And while our family does enjoy visiting national parks, historic sites, museums and cities, we also believe in the magic that is Disney — because something magical ALWAYS happens on a Disney vacation! THANK YOU for being a part of the magic!

      Where are you concierge? My children and I will be there in a couple of weeks and would love to stop by to express our appreciation in person!

  • You don’t have to pay to go into the Metropolitan Museum – it’s a ‘recommended’ price (something to do with their non-profit status I think). The signs are really unclear – the state is taking them to court because of that.

  • ok, point made, but it’s also about what you USED to get for less money. There was more entertainment, it was updated more frequently, and show was actually more important than the bottom $. It’s as much principle on the basis the company was founded as it is the per hour entertainment cost. By comparison, a Disney Cruise Line vacation at 200 dollars/night with entertainment 14hrs/day AND food included for a better product is a no-brainer. So…this article should really just be a huge plug for DCL

  • Posted a negative comment and it not posted some strange reason I think Disney runs this site

    • Maybe the site runners were just floored that after the polite and thought-out discussions that have occurred over the last few days were ignored with a blatant “this is too logical for me, the site must be a front for Disney” comment. I know I was floored when I saw your comment in my inbox

      • I agree, Gail. I’m starting to regret the statement I made about how intelligent, logical, and courteous everyone has been.

  • Family of 4:
    $400 then not $100
    $800 airline tickets (at a min)
    $500 for hotel
    $100 for meals inside the park per day
    $100 for a car rental

    Also most of the time is spend standing in line.

  • Let me guess your a cast member in management and I would bet you were coached and most likely paid to write this . It’s written to make it look like they are just breaking even when the parks are raking in the $$$$ !
    How much were you paid by the company to write this?!?!

    • Instead of launching ad hominem attacks, why don’t you address the merits of the article?

  • Looks good on paper, but get a family to go plus airfare, plus hotel, plus meals, its not fair to the working man who has to explain to his kids why they can’t go to Disney!!

  • I don’t have any comments on the article or Disney World’s prices. (I agree with everything above.) I just have to state that I think touringplans.com’s readers and commenters are some of the most intelligent and decent human beings on the internet. Everyone uses logic, common courtesy, and proper grammar for the most part.
    I actually enjoy reading all comment sections of the blogs almost as much as the articles themselves. A far cry from some other “news” websites.

    Thank you Erin, and everyone else!

  • I have to say, I disagree with your pricing chart. You picked expensive seats for something like a Yankee game, when someone on a budget would sit in the bleachers, thus increasing the value per hour. And while your argument for ticket prices has some weight, you fail to factor in the fact that people can go to movies, the theatre, sporting events, etc. in any state. Disney is in two. So, travel and accommodations have to be considered as well.

    Frankly, as someone who works in the travel industry and did 3 family trips that included Disney growing up, I don’t think it’s a good value. We went on a family vacation every year. I can’t imagine my parents skipping vacation for 2 or 3 years to pay for one vacation. I don’t think it’s feasible for an average middle-class family. And we definitely were not in the upper middle class when I was a kid. We would not have gone to Disney at those types of prices when I was a kid. And we drove to FL from New England! I couldn’t justify laying out over $1000 for park admission on top of hotel and airfare or driving costs.

    • Actually, she also put the worst Yankees game ticket price. I believe she made the chart using a nice variety of entertainment options.

      My parents did the same trip that you talked about and we never stayed on WDW property. My mom always found deals and did everything she could to get us there. She saved money everywhere they would let her – we maybe went to one sit down restaurant every trip. However, my best memories from childhood are at WDW… I think that’s worth the price of admission.

  • Erin, I use exactly the same metric!!! Your timing is great, too. We spent last weekend at the Philadelphia Flower Show and are planning on a trip to WDW for Flower and Garden Later this month. So I ran the numbers. We drove to Philadelphia and stayed two nights at the Marriott, but will fly to Florida, rent a car and stay at the Dolphin. Assuming 10 entertaining hours per day and all in for tickets/hotels/transportation/food, the fact that we have Annual Passes makes it work out like this: $34.13/entertainment hour for PHS and $14.76/entertainment hour for WDW. I figured it would be close, but WDW is a bargain!

    • OOPS! Make that $102.40 for PHS and $73.80 for WDW.

  • Wow I always thought the tickets were expensive and tried not to think about it!But looking at it in this perspective makes me feel that Disney is a great value! Even if you don’t spend 12 hours, say 8-10 it still is better value (IMO) than spending money for a concert or baseball or football game. Plus think of all the shows and entertainment in Disney you get in one day, plus who can put a price on family memories!

  • Great article, I never thought of costs in that way before. But how can you put a price on memories? People, like us, keep on coming back to Disney time and time again because of the great experience and the memories it creates.
    We live in the UK so it is expensive to travel to WDW, but I scrimp and save for our trips, because once we are there, I don’t want to say, we can’t do that because we don’t have enough money. Although the travelling cost is maybe higher from the UK than mainland USA, where we score I believe is in the ticket deals we are offered. My 14 day ultimate pass (which includes park hopper, water parks & more, disney quest, mini golf etc) cost me £224 each (adult) which is about $362. So per day thats $25, or based on an 8 hour park visit, $3.23 an hour – EXCELLENT value in my book. Sure we don’t go to the Disney parks every day of those 14 days, but we will for a least a couple of hours on most days.
    Unfortunately costs for most things rise every year, and you just have to prioritise. I still think a day visit to a Disney theme park is good value, even with a one day ticket – it costs a LOT more to visit a theme park in the UK, plus once inside, costs for souvenirs, meals, drinks etc are higher too!

  • The other thing to keep in mind is that every year the cost of everything goes up! It’s not like Disney is doing something unique. Car, trucks, groceries, movie tickets, gas, the cost of child care, crayons, etc…everything is getting more expensive. I think the expense of Disney is worth it. Other people might not think so.

    • Right, but if WDW prices had gone up at the same rate as everything else, the tickets would be something more like $50.90 per day now.

      • Then I still contend: Don’t go anymore.
        It is a theme park. Not a grocery store or gas station selling something that people need.
        If they charge $500 per day, people will still go who can afford it.
        We can kick and scream all we want, but it’s a private company. They can do whatever they want (within the law 🙂 ), charge whatever they want, and build whatever they want.
        They have investors and stockholders who want to be sure the company earns money.
        At the risk of exposing the fact that Santa Clause isn’t real to some people here, Disney’s #1 purpose on this earth is to make money, not to make dreams come true.. that comes in the #2 slot probably. And I am okay with that (As a business owner myself)
        That said, I’ll still go often. If I have to go every 3 years instead of every 2 years, so be it.

      • Hmm. I don’t think I disagree with you. I’m just saying it’s not something I could ever defend as a bargain. I doubt there is a danger of Disney not making money, which is lovely because it’s truly my happiest place on earth and I want to keep going. I’m saying I’m willing to get gouged, but I also recognize it for what it is.

      • I agree with the principal behind your statement. Indeed, the Walt Disney company is a for-profit enterprise; they aren’t a charity and they shouldn’t be shamed for making a profit. The price they set is based on the standard principal of opportunity cost vs. opportunity benefit. There exists some line in the sand – an equilibrium – in which profits will be maximized. Disney will keep raising the price until they feel that they’ve hit the equilibrium in which the next price hike will start to have a negative impact on profit… the goal of their executive management team is to come as close to that “line in the sand” as they can without crossing it.

        With that said, there is an opportunity cost associated with negative PR. It’s much harder to quantify on paper, and it doesn’t materialize very succinctly on a balance sheet. Disney is going through this now as their unionized workers are fighting for higher wages. From the standpoint of a balance sheet, there is absolutely zero incentive for Disney to pay their employees a higher wage. They aren’t required to by law, and they definitely don’t appear to have a problem attracting talent at the already meager wages that they are paying many cast members. But, there is a Public Relations cost that they need to factor in. IF Disney acquiesces and raises their minimum wage, it certainly won’t be to positively affect the balance sheet (unless the workers went on strike) – I think it will be to avoid negative PR, or to create positive PR.

        I think the same principle can be applied to the prices they are charging. They have yet to cross the dreaded $100 per day price point, and I don’t think they will do so for the forseeable future. I think they realize that the opportunity benefit that they would gain from the nominal price increase would be outweighed by the opportunity cost that would come in the form of negative PR.

        This is just my two cents, for what it’s worth.

      • Well said, Steven – but I think you will be surprised by how soon Disney crosses “the dreaded $100 per day price point”. I expect it will be within the next twelve months, when they execute their annual price hike.

  • I’m a little surprised that most people are on the same page on this one. I love WDW, have been every year for the last several years, and have no intention of changing that. However, it’s interesting to me that in this economy few others seem to see this as price gouging. (Where I live, movie tickets are closer to $8, btw, and I think that’s true for a lot of places). WDW ticket prices have increased way, way beyond the rate of inflation throughout the years. Hey, it’s capitalism, and I’m going to keep encouraging the gouging by paying the prices, but I won’t defend WDW for doing it.

    • But, it’s a theme park. It isn’t a grocery store or a gas station. No one will die by NOT going to WDW.
      I liken it to The Beatles in their later years.
      They realized people will buy their albums NO MATTER WHAT. SO, they stopped touring, and gave us albums like Magical Mystery Tour.
      odd odd odd music… that people still ate up.

    • Leslie, there’s a difference between raising prices on a luxury item in the face of normal increased demand and price-gouging, which is a predatory response to a disaster by raising prices on necessities. There are state laws, including in Florida, against price-gouging. What Disney is doing by raising prices is responding to the market for their product.

      I’m someone who never went to WDW as a kid. Why? My parents could rarely afford to take us on vacation, and when they did, it was someplace less expensive than Disney.

      Disney will always be out of the price range of some families. That’s life in America. Disney has a duty to its shareholders to price its product competitively in the marketplace. The author makes the (IMHO pursuasive) case that it is doing so, even after the price increase.

      • Hey Brian. I didn’t mean gouging as a legal term. (I’m a lawyer, so I should have known better. :)) Let me just stop arguing at this point since the majority here has clearly spoken and say that I ADORE Erin Foster and everything she writes, even if I don’t always agree with her. Oh, and long live Touring Plans!

      • From 1 lawyer to another: isn’t it great to have a place like Disney where we can set all that aside for a few days and be kids again? Cheers!

  • We must also remember that very few individuals are purchasing the one-day tickets to the parks. Large groups can take advantage of bulk ticket purchasing, available at a lower rate. Locals can now purchase annual passes with a monthly payment plan, lowering the immediate cost to the price of a single day and paying the balance throughout the rest of the year.

    While I understand that not every family can afford a two-week vacation every year, there are plenty of great amusement parks all over the United States and you can have plenty of fun at them while saving up for a long trip to Disney. I’ve been to 20 of them, just along the Eastern seaboard.

    Cast members are taught in training that the average family saves up for 7 years for a vacation to Walt Disney World, and that’s why so many cast members go out of their way to make magic happen each day they go into work. Take your time, save up, and go when you’re confident that you can swing it financially. The magic will be there waiting for you.

  • If you are waiting in lines and feeling crowded, then you are failing the basic premise of Touring Plans. I went to Disney World in early December, I got to experience the beauty of Christmas but not the crowds.I refuse to wait in a line longer than 15 minutes EVER.

    If someone wants to wait in an hour and half line for Toy Story Mania,then feel Disney costs too much it is their own poor planning. I want to maximize my time in the parks, but still have time for those lovely quite moments.

    My best day for attractions was at Hollywood Studios, I had a 11+ experiences in half a day. (Half my family flew out, my mom discovered she had lost her credit card, so we spent some time at TTC retrieving it. We did make it back for some night time activities.)

    Between opening and 12:15, my family rode:
    Toy Story Mania (twice)
    Pirate Walk through thing (not worth it)
    Backlot Tour (Participated)
    Hollywood Tower of Terror
    Rock N Roller Coaster
    Great Movie Ride
    Beauty and Beast Live on Stage
    Star Tours (nephew picked as the spy)
    Got Daisy and Donalds autograph
    Photograph at icon

  • I always compared the cost of a WDW vacation to a week at the Jersey Shore. I know for my family of 5 (now 6 with my daughter’s boyfriend), to get a comfortable accommodation at the shore is going to run me no less than $2,000 a week. I haven’t even added the price of rides on the boardwalk, beach tag fees, food, etc. I’ll always think WDW is a better value than a lot of other entertainment options, and I’m so glad to see I’m right!

  • Great article, Erin. I like your per-hour analysis. Here in Colorado a day of skiing is easily $100 not including equipment. Golf at the less expensive courses runs $45 – $70 for four hours. When I think about the Broadway-caliber shows that are included in my price of Disney, plus the (usually) excellent customer service, it is still worth every penny.

  • A well written article indeed- however,, I would approach the mathematics. a bit differently. This article assumes that the entire amount of time spent at the park counts as entertainment. I would submit that time spent waiting I queues should not be factored in. I would be curious to know what the median queue time average is factored against time actually spent on the attraction itself. But, let’s assume that the average guest spends 25% of the time on an actual attraction, and 75% either waiting in a queue, or in transit to a park or attraction. The hourly cost quickly spirals into “concert level” cost. I’m curious as to what others think about this as well.

    • I actually thought about that part of the equation when writing the post, and may actually write another post from just that perspective. I generally agree with your point, but perhaps not to the same degree.

      You’re right if you compare WDW to things like movies or certainly Netflix where, if you plans things right, there’s no filler in the time portion of the equation. However, people forget that there is waiting inherent in other forms of entertainment/vacationing as well. For example, if you’re on a ski trip, you’ll be doing lots of waiting for chair lifts. If you’re at a baseball game, the “time out” time is not part of the entertainment. And on the flip side, there is much at WDW that’s entertaining in the queues and on the walks between attractions, not just in the attractions themselves. (For example, the new Dumbo queue turns the wait time into entertainment time for little kids.) I agree that time in the park is not 100% entertainment, but I’d put it closer to 50/50 rather than 25/75.

      As for a previous poster who mentioned that when you see a Bway show, you don’t have crowding, I would disagree with that in the strongest of terms. I see 15-20 Bway shows a year and ALWAYS feel like I’m about to be crushed walking through Times Square. (This does not always happen at WDW.) And most of the time the seats are so small I have my neighbor’s elbow in my lap.

      There are certainly many ways to look at the issue. Your perspective on the price of the park ticket will vary considerably based on your personal value system.

    • The Disney experience is far more than just the amount of time you spend sitting on a ride. Its seeing the castle, smelling the smells, hearing the music, the late night EMH run from thunder mountain to space mountain. Those are the things that the kids (and adults) remember. I would say, for my family, pretty much from the moment we wake up in the morning until we lay our tired heads down on one of Mickey’s rented pillows we are being entertained.
      I would even go so far as to say the trip to and from Orlando could be considered entertainment. My kids only fly once every couple of years so the airport and flight are all pretty neat to them.
      If you are only concerned about ride time you should hit your local county fair or maybe a six flags.

    • Steven, you bring up a very good point- one that Disney has been actively working to address in the last few years. They’ve been adding entertainment to the queue areas in rides, making them less of a chore to wait in. In Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, for example, they’ve built a huge indoor playground for kids to run around in while waiting in the stand-by line for Dumbo’s Flying Elephants. An interactive play area has been added to the queue for Winnie-the-Pooh, in addition to the “hunny walls” (which have been adjusted to make them easier to see the hidden pictures.

      Additionally, they’re having more characters available for meeting, and have added in-park scavenger hunts, like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom or Treasures of the Seven Seas- so even if you’re travelling between attractions, you can still have some level of entertainment.

      With these enhancements, and the implementation of the new FastPass+ system (which I have found is lowering wait times through all the parks), I think the next time you visit, you’ll find that more of your time is being spent on entertainment, and vastly less on waiting.

    • Thanks for the cogent responses from everyone. We are frequent visitors to WDW (one or two trips per year, plus I go solo when I’m in Orlando for work, a few times a year). We are a family of six now, so it’s getting expensive :).

      Indeed, the queuing can be considered as part of the entertainment – to a point. Interactive queues are interesting for about 10 minutes, so I should factor that in as well; and, hanging out at the park, taking in the sights, etc… does have a value add that is probably more intrinsic than anything else – and thank goodness for “Lines”!

      As for Fastpass+ – I can honestly say that we’re not big fans of it, especially when we’re staying off-site. I would give Fastpass+ up any day of the week for the legacy system. Fastpass+ does seem to reward those who are not “early risers” – it takes much of the necessity out of being there for rope-drop. We prefer to enter right at rope-drop, and start loading up on Fastpasses. In the past, we were easily able to hit Toy Story Mania two or three times per day, plus R&RC two or three times, plus ToT two or three times, with several Fastpasses for each. With FP+, our ability to load up on Fastpasses is greatly diminished. Granted, we are probably an exception to the rule – and I realize that the system will probably help far more families than it will hinder; it’s just unfortunate that it will hinder us.

      With all that said, we still love WDW – there is no other experience like it on the planet.

      • Totally agree with the FP+ assessment. My issue isn’t with the relatively small price increase it’s the decrease in value that is starting to happen. Fastpass being dumbed down and limited, parades being canceled with no plans to replace them (Pixar in HS), small characters disappearing (Push, Ziti Sisters, Bamboo), reduced extra magic hours (from 3 to 2), big increases in dining plan pricing, among many other small things that make a Disney trip special. It seems that the Disney plan is to make things more special for 1st timers who don’t know any better, but the families that have been before are losing a little more pixie dust every trip.

  • I really appreciate your chart, kind of gives me some info to tell people when they ask about the cost of our trip.
    Also, I bought 2 Billy Joel at MSG tickets for my daughter’s birthday/grad present. Looks like it’s a little more expensive per hour 🙂

  • Great article and tips from the people that left comments! I wish everyone would see the cost on entertainment this way!

  • What I like to do is “invest” in Disney tickets. I buy a 7 or 10 day no expiration park hopper and use it over the course of 2-4 trips (depending on how long we are going). This way, even though we are only in the parks 3 or 4 days per trip I don’t have to pay the premium per day costs for a 3 or 4 day ticket. Obviously it is a hefty investment up front- but much more easily justified at $30-50 a day!

      • You can still get the no expiration option, you just have to call or buy online and then add the option while in WDW. If you buy from another site (like undercovertourist.com), the option is still available.

      • I always buy when I get to WDW so that would explain why I had no idea that option was limited to on property. Last time I bought tickets on property was Spring 2013.

      • Any concierges at a Disney resort, guest relations and vacation planning can sell the non expiring tickets as well. Just so you know…If you buy a 5 day park hopper and only use 4 days, we are required to sell the non expiring option for all 5 days, not just for the one day that is left to use. Also,you can uupgrade your tickets within 14 days of first use. This is big for the guests that come from the northern part of the US. Example…This past winter guests were “stuck” at Disney due to weather. If they had a 4 day ticket, they could upgrade to a 5 day ticket for only $10+tax. Just make sure to make the most of your time. Search the Web for tips an tricks. My biggest tip, learn how to use “My Disney Experience”. You can book FastPass+ 69 days in advance and dinning 180 days in advance. I’m not a planner by any means, I like to wing it. But this helps manage time better when the parks are full. Just some ideas. Have a magical day!

    • That’s what we did. 10 day park hopper no expiration(also added in the 10 days of water parks). It was close to $750 last year(we consider it $50/day park, $25/day water park).

      Added benefit was I was able to use one of my days at Disneyland when I had 5 hours before my plane home on a business trip in Anaheim. A rope drop w/ 22 attractions and exploring both parks in 4 hours was bliss,shopping was an added bonus.

  • Erin…I fully agree with you and actually JUST used this way of thinking a few days ago to explain to someone my thoughts on the ticket increase (like minded people, we are.) I used the play as my method of entry though. I too mentioned how Book of Mormon was playing here in Atlanta, and it was I think $149 for the cheapest tickets. That’s for two and a half hours of entertainment. I then mentioned that with Disney, you have the opportunity to get at least 8 hours of entertainment, for less money than the play…therefore, I get more bang for my buck. Does it seem like a lot when you initially hear the cost, of course it does.

    My theory is, if you don’t feel bad about spending the money afterwards, it was worth it. However, if you second guess yourself and wonder why on earth you spent that kind of money on whatever you’re purchasing (clothes, movies, a meal, etc) then it most certainly wasn’t worth what you spent. I have never second guessed a day at Disney. To me, it’s been worth the money. (I’ve second guessed a few meals at Disney…but never the Disney experience overall.)

    Of course, I hate seeing the prices go up, just like everyone else. It doesn’t make me happy to part with more of my money…it never makes me happy to part with more of my money…but I still feel like I’m receiving value out of my trips. The minute I don’t anymore, that’s when I will have to examine things a little closer.

  • I just found some old tickets from our 2003 trip. The kids (3-9) had 4 day park hoppers and the price on the back of the card says it was only $152.00. A far cry from today’s price of $274.00.

    • I found a 4 day pass from 1985 recently, $85!

    • I have my 5-day (child’s) passport from 1981. $26.13 including tax! We only used 3 of the days in 1981, so I was able to use one day for my son in 2001 and one for my daughter in 2008!

  • Had this question come up when we were down at Disney for the Princess 1/2- to get a one day park ticket or not… we decided against it.

    Sure Disney provides a whole day of fun, but not all of that time is “entertainment”, part of that time is spent waiting in lines (even short ones add up over the course of a 12-14 hour day). Some entertainment simply has more enjoyment per hour than others- your Genensis ticket for example.

    I have an entertainment/eat-out budget of between $100-$150 a month. The question became, would I be willing to sacrifice all other non-free entertainment for the month for one day at Disney. No… I love Disney, but for $100 I’d rather have a nice meals out, cheap seat to the theatre, and drinks afterwards with my frineds than 1 day at Disney.

    As mentioned before, the math equation changes the longer you stay. For a week long trip, Disney is absolutely worth the money.

  • Good article, however I believe you have omitted cost additives higher than then entry. The cost of food and lodging are much, much higher than admission, and certainly a less enjoyable part of the cost.

    • The food is one of the reasons we love to visit Disney. They do a great job of combining food with entertainment & fun. The Food & Wine Festival in the fall is amazing and don’t forget to take advantage of the special promotions that Disney offers, such as Free Dining, that really lightens the load on the cost of food. 😉

    • Stay off site and bring in sandwiches. That will cut all of that extra stuff way down.

  • Huge fan of the Disney experience; but another ‘devil’s advocate’ point is the crowds,…It is very expensive to then be corralled all day long. If I see a Broadway show, I am in my space and others are in their space. Good on Disney for being a Brand and Experience that sells to capacity; but the incentive to repeat the experience annually; given the whiny, fussy, hectic, and sometimes rude patron drawbacks are starting to make a tangible difference.

  • What a great perspective!
    I simply say to those balking at the price, “If $4 more per ticket is an issue for you, then Disney World is not for you. Perhaps Dolly-wood or Six Flags is more your bag.”
    We save up for about 2 or 3 years before going. The last thing I want to worry about on a family vacation is “How much is this or that going to cost me?”
    If cost is an issue and you go to WDW every year, scale back and go every other year. It will still be there.

  • I think my issue is that it is nearly impossible to do WDW in short visits. Of course WDW is more cost effective the longer you go, but at the end of the day if my budget for a two day visit is $800 then I’m not going to be able to afford a $1,000 or $1,500 vacation despite the latter being a better buy for time spent. I dislike the idea that in order to “afford” Disney I have to stay a very long time and spend a very large chunk of cash. Additionally a 10 day vacation is out of the question for many families, I’d consider 5 days a typical vacation. Maybe 7 with good planning.

    • Yes, I agree. I always come with my family for 8 days in the parks , so the per day amount is much less. I feel sorry for people who come to the parks for 2 days since they pay more than twice the amount per day

    • i totally agree. this pricing is still very impractical. also do these price increases trickle down to those working at the parks. i have heard their pay is not the greatest.

      • Yeah, as a Disney Cast Member, I can vouch for the fact that none of the employees you interact with on your vacation get paid enough to do their job. The Cast Members you meet on a daily basis – the ones checking you into your hotel, serving you food, monitoring the attraction queues – are the ones making minimum wage or just above. The increase in ticket price might affect some of us by a 20 cent raise, maybe if we’re lucky. One can only hope. But the Cast Members certainly deserve it. I wish guests understood just how much Disney actually does bend over backwards for our guests. Y’all are so important to us. You have no idea. 🙂

      • I totally agree with you. The Cast Members are absolutely amazing. They are trained so well. I had one Cast Member spend over an hour with me to restore the photos on my memory card that somehow got deleted. He was so kind and patient. So many others who work for what Cast Members get paid would probably not take the time or be as kind. I wish you all were able to get a big raise!! You deserve it!! Thank you for all you do to make my vacation a wonderful experience!!

  • Great article! Gives good balance for folks struggling between a practical and emotional vacation purchase.

  • Great post. And I agree with the other comments. Yes, WDW is expensive if you look at just the face value of the cost. However, it’s the overall vacation experience we are all aiming for. And when you break it down to an overall cost per day as compared to other vacations, they really do even out. I think of it this way — 1 week in WDW with dining plan is as comparable to either a cruise, or to a driving vacation where I’m paying for meals, hotel, gas, attraction costs. I know from experience because we did a family cruise 2 years ago. Guess what? The cost was almost the same as a week vacation at WDW with dining plan. Shoot, take out the dining plan cost and WDW now becomes a cheaper vacation alternative.

  • Great post, Erin! I definitely agree that Disney prices sometimes give you that jolt of sticker shock, but in terms of value, I still see it.

    The only “Devils Advocate” kind of thoughts that enter my mind are rapid price increases (i.e. how far can they push it for repeat visitors, etc) but even that thought process is soon thwarted because, well, it’s still crowded even in the “off season” now, so people are still paying! 😉

  • Dear Erin,
    Thank you for yet another excellent article: factual, well-written, respectful of all readers.

    This is a much-better analysis of why our family returns to WDW when we vacation than the explanations I usually offer to those who ask why we return and those who lament that it’s sooooo expensive to go to Disney.
    We’ve “run the numbers” on a week at the beach, a week in this or that city…and with smart shopping we just can’t beat WDW prices. (We do go other places…but it usually costs more!)
    Thanks again!


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