Whiners get the worst deals on theme park vacations
Written by Robert Niles
Perhaps the only thing more predictable than Disney's annual theme park ticket price increases is the complaining that follows them. (If you haven't seen it yet, check out the non sequiturs that animate this Los Angeles Times editorial on the topic).
This is the way Disney theme park fans would prefer to get soaked on their vacation.
But getting emotional about purchases -- whether you feel positive or negative about them -- provides the surest path to making a bad decision about your money. Ticket pricing is business. Theme park companies don't get emotional about it, and if you're a smart consumer, neither should you. Consumers who get the best value for their money are the ones who approach decisions about which parks to visit -- and which tickets to buy -- with as much cold calculation as the parks bring to pricing those tickets.
So Disney raised the price of a one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom by $6, Disneyland and California Adventure by $5, and Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios by $1. Parking went up a buck, too. Don't whine about that. Just do the math, and decide if Disney continues to be a good value for you and your budget, or not.
This is why I urge fans to look across the industry, at a wide variety of parks. Don't assume that just because Disney is the market leader in annual attendance that it offers the best theme park experience for your family. Does your family love Epcot? Have you considered Busch Gardens Williamsburg as an alternative? Do you enjoy live shows in the parks? How about Dollywood, instead? Thrill ride fans? Disney's never been the best value for you -- now's a great time to look around at other parks.
Even if you decide that you do value the Disney experience above all the others, you still can find value by adjusting to the latest price increases. At Theme Park Insider, we've long suggested that the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California provides better value for the money than Walt Disney World for many visitors. If you're a frequent Disney World visitor and not priced Disneyland recently, you should. Even if you decide to remain with Orlando, that area's wide variety of hotel accommodations provides an opportunity for you to save the price difference in Disney tickets by selecting a different place to stay.
The worst choice you can make, though, is to dump Disney in a huff, then spend your money instead on a poorly researched vacation that you and your family end up not enjoying. You're not "saving" money if you don't enjoy what you bought.
No matter where you decide to spend your money, you should choose a vacation based on a hard look at its costs and the value you get from that spending. Disney's just changed the numbers on us. It shouldn't change the way we approach making decisions about vacations.
Disney doesn't care what you say in comment forums. It does care whether you spend your money in its theme parks. If enough people decide that Disney's price increases have gone too far that the company starts to earn less money, that'll do more to get Disney to change course than all the comments on the Internet, together. But, I suspect that millions of theme park fans around the world will continue to decide that Disney delivers a premium vacation experience that's worth its premium prices, and that we'll see yet another price increase from Disney sometime around summer in 2014, too.
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