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7 Sneaky Ways Disney is Making Guests Pay More on Their Disney Vacation

Meals

Image: DisneyAccording to my bio page, I’ve been writing for Theme Park Tourist for more than five years now. I mention this because I’ve infrequently glanced at some of my earliest work. On those occasions when I’ve mentioned prices, well, it quickly escalated. Breakfast at Chef Mickey’s cost $35.99 in 2014. As I type this, the listed price is $48.99…which somehow may sound quaint to you if you read this in 2024. Friends, that’s a $13 or 36 percent increase in five years. Dinner prices actually went up by $15 over the same timeframe. 

Now, restaurant prices do go up over time. Inflation is a factor that impacts all phases of the economy. The numbers discussed would be extreme hyperinflation, though.

The food didn’t get $13-$15 better at Chef Mickey’s over the past five years. Chicken nuggets are still chicken nuggets. But Disney has regularly raised the cost of food at all of its most popular restaurants. Nothing will stop this from happening again in the future.

Parking

Image: DisneyBefore March of 2018, guests at official Walt Disney World resorts received free parking privileges. Realistically, that’s a good 47-year run for an amenity most hotels don’t provide. Generally, tourist areas such as Orlando hide hotel fees in places like paid parking. It was commendable of Disney to hold out as long as they did.

Unfortunately, the good times are over. Guests currently pay as much as $25 per night for the right to park at the Disney resort where they’re staying. This fee is on top of the expense of the hotel room itself, which is never cheap at Disney, something we’ll discuss in a moment.

Even worse, park officials have already increased the cost of parking once. Only 15 months after introducing this fee, Disney raised the floor from $13 to $15 per night at Value Tier resorts while increasing Deluxe Tier fees to $25 nightly. No, there's no good reason why guests staying in a nicer resort must pay more. Disney's merely doing it that way since they can…and they will do it again in another year or two.

Resorts

Image: DisneyFive years ago, the cheapest hotel room at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort started at $438. That was the rack rate at a time before surge pricing technically existed…although it's always been hidden in plain sight. For 2020, the cheapest room at the hotel on the same date will cost $591.

I could add a ton of caveats to this. Due to readily available discounts, guests should never pay rack rates at Disney hotels, even on major holidays. And savvy travelers can either join the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) or rent DVC points to stay in the same room for much cheaper. That’s the apologist’s evaluation.

The economist’s evaluation is that room charges increased $153 per night in six years. That’s $25.50 annually. At the current pace, a night at Bay Lake Tower will start at $700 by 2024. I’m one of the world’s strongest proponents of this property, and I wouldn’t pay that. In all likelihood, this trend will continue, but Disney should strongly reconsider it.

Admissions

Image: DisneyThe cost of admission at Disney parks is the topic that drives theme park tourists crazy. All of us remember a time when a Disney visit wasn’t just affordable; it was a terrific deal! Alas, those days seem further away with each price increase.

Ticket prices go up annually at Disney theme parks these days. In fact, the company sometimes sneaks two into a calendar year. Theoretically, our friends at the Mouse House do this to protect the park experience. They care deeply about park surveys, and guests almost always indicate that they have a better time when the park is less congested.

Disney's price points are also pain points. They want to charge an admission price that will deter guests from visiting on certain days, the ones where crowds are historically most significant. The logical conclusion of this philosophy is surge pricing, wherein Disney charges guests more to attend the most popular days.

Recently, Disney’s gotten even more aggressive with pricing, though. The company has built several jaw-dropping new attractions and themed lands. While doing so, they’re passing the cost of these projects along to guests.

This trend certainly won’t go away anytime soon, which is why you should dampen your enthusiasm whenever an E-ticket attraction gets announced. Sure, the ride will be sublime. Ultimately, you’re the one paying for it, though.

In fact, you’re the one paying for all of these upcoming price increases. If you’re angry about that thought, let Disney know. Remember what I just said about how much company officials care about those surveys. Tell them if you think Disney prices have reached a tipping point!

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