Twice I've requested food due to specific dietary needs on the phone, and twice the restaurant has no note of it. Bad customer service came from Big Thunder Ranch's Buffet where we then complained to the manager who then sent us to Town Hall. Town Hall then said to e-mail customer service where we received a cookie cutter response. That's NOT how you handle a customer complaint. If this is the future of Disney's guest services, then I definitely won't be renewing my pass and will be extremely disappointed in the company.
I mentioned this on Twitter earlier, but I'll post here, too. Personally, I think the best value in the theme park business today is spending a night at one of the on-site hotels at Universal Orlando. That gets you two days of front-of-the-line Universal Express access at the two parks, plus an early admission to Harry Potter. Cram a family of four or five into one room, and that's a heck of a deal -- one that completely changes the way you approach a theme park vacation. Universal's certainly investing in its parks, too.
That said, I think Disney can be worth the new, higher cost, too -- especially in California. But if you want the ultimate in first-class service at a theme park, and are willing to pay it, Disney *is* your best choice -- but not in Orlando or Anaheim. Save the cash for a visit to Tokyo Disney and you'll enjoy the best theme park quality in the world.
So you've always got options. Explore them. That's why we're here for you! ;^)
Our last visits to Disneyland were weekend visits last October and December, and the parks were so crowded and the lines so long, we couldn't do half of what we wanted. There are no longer discounts to Disneyland (there used to be 2fer tickets in the first 5 months of the year), but with how well the parks are doing with CarsLand and the California Adventure improvements, Disney doesn't need incentives anymore, and people will willingly pay (even if they complain) the higher ticket prices.
Last fall, Knott's Berry Farm was selling season passes for calendar 2013 for $66 (thanks for the heads-up, Robert). Granted, the level of theming and quality of the rides and shows is not up to Disney standards, but they are making steps in the right decision with the recent Log Ride refurbishment, new promotional events, and a new commitment to what made the park special in the past. For the price, we are getting one year of unlimited visits for about half the cost of one-day Disneyland park hoppers.
Another park we've come to love is Legoland north of San Diego. Everything is tailor-made for children under 12 or so. It's a little farther away (maybe 2-3 hours), but still manageable. Tickets are about the same price as Disneyland, but there are lots of discounts available, especially if you live in southern California and are involved with your local schools or libraries. We just got back from a visit that included a stay at the new Legoland-themed hotel right on property, and in truth the hotel plus the park visit was more magical than our Disneyland visits for the past 3 or 4 years.
It's true -- there are lots of alternatives to Disney parks, especially when you consider the value of what you are paying for.
If you're forced to consider alternatives to Disney, it might actually be a healthy decision and you CAN save a buck or two. There's nothing wrong with making Disney your vacation every five years or so. It is a major decision to travel to the theme parks as vacation as it is for visiting a city or country destination.
I completely agree with the comments on Universal. While it is expensive to go there as well, I feel you get more bang for your buck. My wife and I were all about Disney, but Universal's constant upgrades and more mature feel, have won us over.
If someone is all about the rides, and doesn't care as much about the theming, then they should ditch Disney and Universal all together. Six Flags is much more reasonably priced, as are the Cedar Fair Parks. If you want to really do it the dirt-cheap way, there are a lot of great family-owned amusement parks around the country as well. In Pennsylvania you have Knoebels and Waldameer. They offer free admission, free parking, and free shows. Many of the rides, especially the wooden roller coasters, are top-notch and have won a lot of awards. You can get an all day ride-pass at one of those parks for about $20-$30.
I'm an Orlando die-hard, and fantastic theming and world-class dark rides are where I'm putting my vacation money towards.
Sure, Six Flags: Magic Mountain is closer, and less expensive, but the park has no feel to it - its just a bunch of great rollercoasters (and not much else) which you wait in very long lines for. We were done after about 4 hours. It wasn't a memorable experience like all of our Disneyland trips have been. For that alone, I'm willing to pay the difference.
Speaking of which, they made a terrible decision when they decided to phase out the 6-day multi-day tickets. Do they want us to spend less days in their parks, driving us into the arms of the competition? Mission accomplished.
Being an Orlando resident, I would go to Disney World an average of twice a month, sometimes more (Food & Wine/Flower & Garden specifically) and sometimes less (middle of Summer, Jan/Feb), but getting an annual pass was built into me and my wife's budget. Even if they raised their prices $100, we'd still get passes.
But now that I'm far from WDW, I have to think about things a little more. For instance, the option of going to Disneyland is a lot more appealing now that I don't have a local park that I can drive to in less than an hour.
The cost of a park ticket really isn't going to affect me, as it's only a few bucks. But I will at least take a few hours to research different options and read suggestions and guides on how to have a better vacation as I can no longer take it for granted that WDW (and Universal Orlando/Sea World) are in my backyard.