Theme park pricing stays at an all-time excessive — will guests get priced out of those holidays quickly?

Possibly vacationers are making up for misplaced time, or they merely wish to escape actuality. Possibly their journey patterns replicate an financial panorama the place the “haves” dwell a lot otherwise than the “have nots.” Regardless of the explanation, it may well generally really feel like there is not any restrict to what individuals will spend within the title of leisure.

Adele tickets in Las Vegas are promoting for hundreds of {dollars}. Resort room rates are setting new information. Cruises are adding new fees that lead to paying extra for much less. The listing goes on and on.

The identical is turning into more and more true for theme parks.


Theme parks are removed from alone of their resolution to extend charges in recent times. Guests are nonetheless exhibiting up with sparkly ears on their heads, magic wands of their fingers and an additional wad of money of their wallets simply to flee actuality for a day or two. Many big-name theme parks have had a number of quarters of earnings studies that paint an image of visitors spending greater than ever on a per-visitor foundation.

To place numbers to it, in 2022, Disney reported per-visitor theme park spending was up 40% from 2019. Common additionally noticed a virtually 50% improve in theme park income in 2022 versus 2021 earnings, additionally representing a measurable improve in per-person spending.

Sufficient individuals appear keen to tolerate sure value will increase — pricier theme park tickets on peak dates, just a few additional {dollars} for ice cream and creeping charges for reduce-the-line passes. Nevertheless, over time, there’s nonetheless an invisible third-rail restrict to what individuals will spend that maybe can solely be discovered by surpassing it.

Will 2023 be the yr that the restrict is lastly hit?

Theme park bills are presently at an all-time excessive

Worth will increase, inflation, and new and revamped add-on choices for tickets imply the typical theme park day prices considerably extra money than it used to. In some circumstances, the rise in out-of-pocket bills is dramatic.

For instance you wish to spend three days at Walt Disney World this week. You could have two adults and two youngsters visiting one park per day. These tickets presently value $1,891.92.

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It is a busy week, and also you wish to benefit from your time within the parks. So, you buy Genie+ — Disney’s cross that permits you to cut back your wait in line — for every of these three days. The value of this service varies however might value as a lot as $35 per individual, per day, based mostly on current pricing traits throughout busy days. That is an additional $120 per day for a household of 4, or $360 over three days.

Whereas some guests might cease there, let’s additionally assume that all through your three-day journey, you desire a Lightning Lane to each Tron Lightcycle Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. These are the 2 latest rides at Disney World that aren’t included with the $35 Genie+ cross.

If you happen to miss grabbing a digital boarding group in Disney’s app (which is simple to do once they disappear in seconds on the 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. launch occasions), buying these Lightning Lane passes might be your solely choice for decreasing wait occasions, as there aren’t any common traces for these sights. Nevertheless, the Lightning Lane passes do not come low cost. Typical costs hover round $20 per individual for Tron and $18 per individual for Cosmic Rewind. This provides $152 to your loved ones’s trip.

With all of those bills tallied up, you are taking a look at spending greater than $2,403 only for entry and ride-related charges.

Associated: Everything you need to know about visiting Walt Disney World Resort

It wasn’t at all times so expensive to go to Disney World, although.

Again in 2019, theme park tickets have been a bit cheaper, and there have been no things like Lightning Lanes and Genie+. As a substitute, there was the free FastPass service out there to all guests, plus the complimentary Magical Express Bus to and from the airport for Disney resort visitors. There have been additionally free MagicBands and PhotoPass photograph downloads for annual passholders.

However let’s not get too nostalgic for the fond recollections of the previous. Even assuming all different issues are equal, you may end up paying an additional $512 over three days for simply skip-the-line companies — a perk that was once free.

In fact, it is not simply Disney that is placing the squeeze on guests’ wallets.

Common Orlando’s skip-the-line service, Universal Express, begins at $89.99 per individual, per day — a charge that is a lot greater than the price of Disney’s Genie+ service. It will get pricier, although, with the perk costing as a lot as $349.99 per individual, per day throughout busier occasions of the yr. That is way over the price of your entrance ticket to Common and much more than what you may pay for a group VIP tour on many dates.

Fortunately, there’s a manner round dropping this sort of money to skip traces at Common Orlando: You may get Common Specific at no additional value by staying at the right Universal hotels.

Associated: Universal Orlando guide: Tips from frequent visitors

Demand for expensive theme park experiences could also be cracking

On the day that Disney’s Genie+ service hit a brand new all-time-high worth of $35 per individual, per day, it additionally sold out faster than ever before. It turned unavailable for extra purchases by late morning. However whereas such information factors might make it really feel just like the money in a household’s pockets is a limiteless useful resource, everyone knows it is not.

Even Disney has felt the influence of holiday makers reducing again on trip spending in current months.

For instance, take into account the much-anticipated “Star Wars” lodge, recognized formally as Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. The 2-night expertise was initially offered out for a number of months — even with sky-high costs that began at $4,808 for double occupancy and $5,999 for a household of 4. Nevertheless, demand has tapered off as a result of the pool of house followers keen to pay the exorbitant charges (which value the identical as a visit Europe) has reduced in size.

This expertise is a bucket list opportunity that prior visitors cherished and would possible get pleasure from once more. Sadly, the otherworldly price ticket makes a keep on the Galactic Starcruiser a once-in-a-lifetime type of expertise for many.

Solely time will inform if that may stay the case, although, now that Disney is starting to launch reduced rates for the experience.

Whereas the pricing mannequin has stayed largely intact, reductions of as much as 30% can be found for teams comparable to Disney annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club homeowners. The variety of two-night experiences out there every week may also lower beginning this fall. That is maybe because of the lack of sold-out dates on the calendar, suggesting an total lack of demand on the present charges.


Associated: Disney Imagineers reveal how they brought the new ‘Star Wars’ hotel to life

Past the “Star Wars”-themed lodge expertise, Disney has acknowledged that it could have gotten a bit too zealous about costs and add-on charges.

“In our zeal to develop earnings, we might have been a little bit bit too aggressive about a few of our pricing,” Disney CEO Bob Iger mentioned on the Morgan Stanley Expertise, Media & Telecom Convention. “I feel there’s a solution to proceed to develop that enterprise, however be smarter about how we worth in order that we preserve that model worth of accessibility.”

Iger “put his cash the place his mouth is” when Disney, in a little bit of a shock transfer in early 2023, eliminated parking fees for Disney hotel guests. These charges had been in place since 2018, when a la carte add-on pricing for choose companies began.

What to anticipate for future theme park visits

So, given this fluctuation in what individuals are keen to spend for theme park holidays, what can we anticipate occurring within the foreseeable future? For now, it would not seem that journey demand is the problem.

Travel demand is on the rise, with no discernable slowdown in sight. In actual fact, many vacationers are nonetheless trekking to locations like Florida and visiting U.S. theme parks. In consequence, it is unlikely that costs for a la carte choices like Genie+ and different theme park bills will lower anytime quickly. If something, they could proceed to get pricier.

Happily, there’s some excellent news. With the stratification we’re seeing on the greater finish of theme park experiences, we’re additionally seeing growth on the extra budget-friendly finish of the spectrum.

One such instance of that is Common Orlando.

If you happen to look again about 5 years, attendance at Common Orlando’s two theme parks by no means surpassed attendance at any of Disney World’s 4 theme parks. As of 2021, nevertheless, Common Studios Florida and Common’s Islands of Journey had greater attendance numbers than three of Disney World’s 4 parks.

Associated: How Universal is stepping out of the mouse’s shadow to become the hottest theme park

This progress might have a number of explanations, however one which theme park followers have acknowledged time and time once more is that it’s merely cheaper to go to Common Orlando. Whereas the tickets are comparably priced, Common has a number of strong lodge choices that begin at lower than $125 per evening — one thing you not often discover at Disney.

These aren’t simply glorified motels by one other title. For instance, at Universal’s Aventura Hotel, visitors have entry to a rooftop bar and restaurant, plus contemporary sushi from the meals corridor. In the meantime, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort gives two swimming pools, a lazy river and a waterslide. Beginning costs at every are sometimes lower than $140 per evening.

The lazy river at Common’s Cabana Bay Seashore Resort. SCOTT MAYEROWITZ/THE POINTS GUY

To place issues into perspective, you’d want to remain at Disney’s Seashore Membership Resort or Disney’s Yacht Club Resort to get a lazy river and waterslides at Disney World. Each of these properties value nearer to $450 per evening. For a sit-down rooftop bar and restaurant at Disney, probably the most budget-friendly choice can be at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, the place rooms begin at about $260 per evening.

Associated: The best Disney World hotels for your next magical stay

Past the largest parks, there’s been a current development towards scaled-back themed experiences with smaller worth tags.

For instance, Peppa Pig Theme Park in Winter Haven, Florida, sells one-day tickets for as little as $34 per day. Quickly, the park might be including a possible equally priced location in Texas.


Universal recently announced plans to open a theme park in Texas, too, to draw households with younger youngsters. The placement might be smaller than its different parks and can possible be cheaper to go to. Common can be growing a year-round Halloween Horror Nights-themed expertise in Las Vegas for older visitors.

These parks and sights will not be multiday locations, however they will present a dose of theme park enjoyable with out breaking the financial institution.

An extra bit of fine information is that there could also be fewer logistics to kind out when visiting theme parks within the close to future.

“We’re listening to visitors’ suggestions, and we’re constantly working to enhance the standard and worth of their expertise,” Iger mentioned in Disney’s 2023 first-quarter earnings name in February.

Based mostly on the current rollback of parking charges at Disney World — together with some adjustments relating to park-hopping and reservations — there’s hope that visits might grow to be easier to plan and perceive, even when the pricing mannequin would not budge.

Associated: It’s a changed world after all: 9 things you must know if you’re heading to Disney World

How to save cash when visiting theme parks

If the dearth of drastic drops in pricing is inflicting you to stress about future journeys to the theme parks, do not despair: There are nonetheless methods to cut back the out-of-pocket value of your theme park journeys.

To begin, look into using points for your theme park tickets. Relying on which bank cards you will have in your pockets, you may additionally discover it less expensive to buy gift cards at a decreased price or with a cash-back supply to make use of towards your trip.

One other manner it can save you cash when visiting Disney is to rent Disney Vacation Club points to your keep and use these factors to safe your lodging. For instance, you may bask within the full immersion of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge by redeeming as few as 7 DVC factors (which frequently begin round $21 per level to lease from websites like David’s Vacation Club). You possibly can save a whole lot of {dollars} by reserving your room with DVC factors as a substitute of money.

Associated: What it’s really like doing Disney World 3 different ways: Budget, moderate and blow-out luxury

Backside line

It is onerous to place a worth on priceless household recollections. Nonetheless, once you price range out that subsequent theme park trip — particularly on the big-name parks — be prepared for these “priceless” moments to value you significantly greater than they used to.

It is onerous to say how a lot experiencing the most recent and best curler coaster will value you. Hopefully, with a little bit luck (and a few pushback from guests), this yr would be the one when the coaster lastly descends from the highest of the hill, bringing most of the newest add-on bills down with it because it comes rolling again to Earth.

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