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Vote of the week: What theme park discounts will Disney offer in 2010?

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Published: August 6, 2009 at 6:54 PM

Don't be fooled by news reports claiming that a vacation to Walt Disney World will be more expensive following Disney's annual price increase last week. Published ticket prices are like the "rack rate" for a hotel room. Sure, some people pay them, but many more find deals.

As the economy continues to struggle, many observers expect the Walt Disney Company to continue to discount the cost of its theme park vacations in 2010. Count me among them. But don't take my word for it. I asked editors at several other websites that cover the theme park industry to offer their predictions, too. And all expect continued discounts from Disney.

Arthur Levine, About.com Guide to Theme Parks:

Unlike Madame Leota, I don't have a crystal ball. But based on this year's plethora of offers, I'd expect Disney to continue making almost anything and everything available to boost attendance and hotel occupancy as long as crummy economic conditions prevail. While I was surprised, given the sour economy, to see Disney stick with its annual August ritual and jack up ticket prices a few days ago, I would not expect them to offer discounted multi-day passes--at least at WDW--beyond the savings built into the existing Magic Your Way program.

Mary Waring, MouseSavers.com:

Unless there is a radical change in the economy by the end of this year, I would expect that next year we'll see the same type of deep discounts we saw this year at Walt Disney World. That means something like the "7 nights for the price of 4" vacation packages in January-June, discounted summer vacation packages, and "free dining" vacation packages in late August through early December.

At Disneyland, I would expect to see continuing discounts on tickets for Southern California residents (2fer tickets, $99 specials, etc.), plus the usual vacation package discounts like "everyone gets in for the kids' price" in January-April, "5 nights for the price of 3" in April-September, and "4th night free" in September-December.

Al Lutz, MiceAge:

At Disneyland (with a healthy local visitor base, and busy new attractions schedule) the story there is about how much more they can get out of the customer, so if the numbers hold my thought is that you won't see much of a change or increase in any current discounting.

They have a different situation in Walt Disney World. Without a strong base of locals, lots of rooms to fill, and past management slow to schedule new attractions and resistant to upgrade/refurb what they already have; my thought here is that they will have be more aggressive in offering discounts. Expect to see more formerly extra cost options to be free - triggered/increasing as stays are lengthened. I would also expect to see more package deals focused on transportation discounts.

In this unsteady economy everything is subject to change; which is why I haven't done much more than generalize here. But one thing I am sure of is that there is no company more adept at adjusting their plans than Disney, others only wish they had their problems. ;)

Let me throw this question to you now. Of the discounts Disney's run in the past (or have been rumored to run in the future), which one would be most likely to get you to book a vacation visit to the Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resorts? You can vote in both polls, but select just one option in each. And if you are not interested, or unable to buy with any discounts, those options are available, too.

Tell us your thoughts, in the comments, about which types of discounts motivate you to book trips, either to Disney theme parks, or anywhere else.

Scheduling note: I've been laid up by a nasty cold here in Orlando, so we've pushed back our trip to SeaWorld to Sunday. I'll file a report, with photos and maybe some video, Sunday night. Thanks for reading.

Readers' Opinions

From Robert Niles on August 6, 2009 at 6:59 PM
I also got this response from Lance Hart at Screamscape:
Considering the large ticket price increase, I would think the best thing they could do to soften the blow would be to offer some free tickets with a certain number of hotel nights, or to continue with what has been working somewhat so far, with the free dining options or free extra nights.

On the west coast, I would think they might go back and offer some cheap SoCal Resident one day or even a cheap SoCal Resident season pass option, since such a signifigant ammount of traffic to the Disneyland Resort parks are simply day trippers.

From James Rao on August 6, 2009 at 7:36 PM
Interesting topic, and one that is very important to my family as we pushed back our 2009 WDW trip to 2010 because of the work on Space Mountain and the work at Universal. We won't push the trip back again, so WDW 2010 is going to happen!

Anyway, the 7-for-4 is a good value as it would allow my family to stay on site at a deluxe resort for essentially the same price as a moderate cost us in the good old days. And a week at the Beach Club sounds real nice right now....

As for Disneyland, I will probably hold out for a visit in 2011 or 2012 when Cars Land is complete. As much as I would love to visit my old stomping grounds (I grew up in Simi Valley), it is such an expensive trip that I just can't see making it until most all of the DCA refurb work is complete. Still, the 5-for-3 would probably get me the most bang for my travel dollar.

Anyway, get well soon, Robert, and have fun on Kraken and Manta!

From Anthony Murphy on August 6, 2009 at 8:12 PM
Meal plan is great, better with it being free!
From Andy Guinigundo on August 6, 2009 at 9:35 PM
We've been sucked into free meal plan the last 2 years. Park food is so expensive...

I voted to pay 4 get 7 days at WDW.(I'd take the free food on top of that!)

From Jasmine Grant on August 6, 2009 at 10:04 PM
For me and my hubby the 4-7 deal would be enough to get us to return in 2010. But even better for us, would be if WDW decides to keep there Armed Forces Salute Program going along with the deeply discounted prices to stay at the Disney Resorts for military personnel.
From Gareth H on August 7, 2009 at 2:19 AM
It was actually prety mild here in Orlando yesterday afternoon. Definately a cold maker. One minute hot, one minute mild, so not surprised you have a cold.

Didn't I see something on the news yesterday about an annual pass deal at WDW?

From David Sutter on August 7, 2009 at 6:20 AM
Sorry to hear your not feeling well Robert...looking forward to your report on Seaworld....
As for what would make me visit WDW? Well I live 13 miles for the maingate of all four parks..And would be more then haoppen if they offered us locals a really sweet deal. Something along the lines of Busch or Universal. As a former cast member and currently living in central fl. A visit for us to a major theme park is a big deal.
And most of us who make everyones trips to Orlando so enjoyable cant afford to even walk in the gates. So heres a challange to the bean counters at WDW...come up with something for your own locals.
From Brandon Mendoza on August 7, 2009 at 6:27 AM
As I have an AP for Disneyland, the only way I can get my non-AP holding friends to go now is through at least the 2 fer Tickets. The more the merrier! That was always my favorite discount before my AP.

As for Disney World, I'd need to buy the 4 get 3 days free in order to go. I'm only planning on staying 7 days there next year as I haven't been back since 97.

From Joshua Counsil on August 7, 2009 at 6:57 AM
Definitely the free airfare. Flying from Ottawa to Orlando is pretty damn expensive, and driving eats 26 hours each way.

A lot of people go for the free dining plan or the hotel deals, but I can eat and sleep inexpensively with a little effort. Using the DIS boards to rent a DVC 2-bedroom suite for our upcoming trip saved us over $1000, and the suite's kitchen allows us to make many of our meals.

I never, however, find great deals on airfare.

From Vincent S on August 7, 2009 at 8:42 AM
There is a reason why WDW doesnt have strong local customer base compaired to Disneyland.

Disneyland is in the Los Angeles/Southern Cal area.

WDW is in the Orlando/Central FL area.

Job Market sucks in Florida therefore people are not going to spend money on WDW.

From Amanda Jenkins on August 7, 2009 at 8:49 AM
We were sucked into the buy 4 for 7 nights back in February. We then were able to buy our sons (at the time 1 year old and a 4 year old) all the toys they wanted. So Disney probably got more money out of us than expected. We would more than likely take advantage of this deal again and save our DVC points for a large extended family vacation. I'm more than ready to plan some vacations. Bring on the Deals!!!
From 82.21.130.235 on August 7, 2009 at 10:21 AM
Sadly being a english holiday maker these offers are never enough to encourage me to rush a trip in, although disney dinning is intended to help a 2 week vacation being a family who always stay at a disney hotel but spends equal time in the competitors parks this never really works out to being a saving, i think some how free disney park tickets would be a much better insentive.... over here we can purchase a disney ultimate tickets that lets us in to all of the parks every day (hopping about as much as we like between them). (dont belive you have that over there?). I think we also suffer not being big eaters and having 2 vegetarions in our party does dampen down the amout of food we consume compared to an avwerage family.... but we are not alone. where every body who vists wdw needs tickets, and the more time they keep you in there parks the more you eat drink & spend ! but i suppose when we buy a package holiday to the usa we pay so much for flights tax hotel etc the tickets seem like the smaller cost....

we have visted florida 5 times in past 2 years and am now currently counting down the days till our first trip to disneyland ! so i suppose these offers dont really make to much differance to us, they all seem much more intended for the american's, where the uk is suffering just as much in the down turn, doesnt help that only the most exspensive airlines & travel agents are still going so from our first trip to now on top of the hickes in fuel etc we have to go by the most exspensive operates, so disney needs to be able to help lower your vacation cost more than the food when you arrive, to be honest that just comes out of spending money and goes unnoticed.... unlike the holiday payments !

From Amy Tupper on August 7, 2009 at 9:25 PM
I voted "None" in both polls because, for me and my family, the current military discount plan is what is putting us at WDW so much this year, and without a similar discount, we wouldn't go as much next year. We live in Central FL as well, so hotel discounts/free nights are lost on us. And the flaw in the 'free dining' deals they have are that to get them, you have to a) stay onsite and b) purchase the MYW package, WITH tickets. Granted, with my (current) military discount, I can afford to eat in the parks, no prob. But next year? Who knows?

I also answered 'None' for DL, mostly because of military discount again. However, my husband told me this week that next year, we can have our big vacation out there - and this will be my first time going to DL and California. So, discount or not - we're going and I'll do my best research to get the best deal possible for our family and base our entire trip from that. The planning/research will be a welcome distraction for me, since I'll be deployed to Afghanistan for the first half of 2010. :)

From 69.136.208.179 on August 8, 2009 at 4:28 AM
my wife and me are at our final times with disney world,cant afford much more price increases we have alawys stayed on site.we have never missed a year since 1975.sometimes 2 times a year. we need something like the free dining plan to help with the cost.
thank you for letting me commenting.see you at disney world in september for the 2nd time this year.we are waiting for the 2010 plan before we book anything,Im hoping we can still stay on site.
Jerome wool
From Larry Zimmerman on August 8, 2009 at 7:18 AM
I'd love to go back to the original mouse, but with airfares pushing $1600 for a family of four, and limited days available (putting a road trip out of the question), I can't even look that way unless Disney can work out better deals with the airlines...
From 173.169.200.185 on August 8, 2009 at 11:38 AM
They definately need to sweeten the deal for Florida residents, though I did take advantage of their birthday celebration this year. Busch Gardens and Universal offer much better values so unless I'm in need of a Disney fix, I'd go with one of the other parks.
From Emily G on August 10, 2009 at 9:35 AM
I voted I have no interest in visiting Disney World in 2010 and Disneyland would have to be free. I would love to visit Disneyland and all other Anahiem and nearby theme parks one day but it isn't the cheapest or most straightforward place to get to from Manchester, UK at the moment. One day I will visit though. As for Disney World I recently visited in June 2007 and will be going back this November so have no plans for a revisit in 2010 and possibly not until I go back with children.

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