Name and shame: Who's the worst for nickel-and-diming?

February 16, 2023, 1:20 PM

Which park right now is creating the worst experience with hidden or unavoidable extra charges during a visit?

I'm not talking about a park that creating a bunch of upcharge products that the average visitor can skip without harming their experience. (FWIW, I count Disney Genie+ in that category here at Disneyland.) I am talking about buried surcharges on purchases, big parking fees, overpriced food - anything that makes a day in the park more expensive that the basic ticket price might seem.

And if you are feeling positive at the moment, which park is the best right now at not nickel-and-diming its guests?

Replies (7)

Edited: February 16, 2023, 2:29 PM

Parking fees....

Parking fees have gone up so damn much in Orlando area in the past years.

When we first started to vacation in Orlando - I believe it was $10 to $12 to park. Now they are up to $25. No need to keep adding to the cost of a vacation.

$25 per day * 4 days compared to $10 per day * 4 days.....

Is it necessary to increase parking fees every year?

Edited: February 18, 2023, 12:33 AM

I'm not ignorant to the fact that this has happened to pretty much every industry, heck even Sam's Club of all places has an upcharge "come when its not as busy" option (totally insane world we live in). But every major park has gone totally off the deep end with the nickel and diming to the point where it really negatively impacts the experience, and I think its the most frustrating with Disney and Universal just because they are consistently the most crowded (but it can be any major park that gets really busy like CP and SFGAm). I can tell you from first hand experience that the pressure to meet their quarterly numbers often leads to ridiculous decisions in the day to day operations.

However, since being sold by AB to private equity and subsequently going public, the worst in terms of making blatantly obvious nickel and dime decisions consistently over a long period of time has to be the Sea World company. First off they pretty much laid off or chased away all of their full time staff and replaced them with lower paid part time that have no idea what they are doing (and now they are severely understaffed and desperate for labor but still refusing to raise wages). They closed and laid off their entire call center staff and replaced them with contractors in third world countries. The prices on parking and food are straight up insanity (and these are American suburban parks, its not like there is decent public transit to get to these places). And the most egregious of all is now the prices they post aren't even the real price, there is small print saying the price is actually 5% higher (which in my opinion shouldn't even be legal). And while doing all of this they have cut to bare bones staffing levels and operate major attractions with reduced hours. They also made it so if you're an annual passholder you have to visit at least three times within a specified time period to just even be invited to sign up for a preview of the new ride.

TBH I think visiting Orlando now isn't worth it, it's way too expensive for what you're getting and the weather is awful and seems to just keep getting hotter and hotter. And this is coming from a long time Orlandoan who is a UCF/Valencia grad and worked in the industry for 25+ years.

February 18, 2023, 7:11 PM

Strong analysis on SeaWorld there. Thank you for the detailed response.

If anyone wants to talk about the flip side, I can't at the moment think of a park that is better at NOT nickel-and-diming than Holiday World. Free parking, free drinks, free sunscreen.

It's so good there, I have to take a break for a little while after visiting, so I don't get super upset with whatever park I visit next.

February 18, 2023, 10:28 PM

SeaWorld's definitely the worst for this, with prices that are out of proportion to what they offer and hidden surcharges on pretty much everything despite sliding quality. They are managing to keep people coming by being the most aggressive of the chains in terms of new investment right now, but if that dries up they're going to be in trouble. Runner-up is unfortunately Disney, not just because of all the upcharges, but because a lot of those upcharges used to be included with the admission fee and that hasn't been adjusted to compensate for what's no longer included.

The best of the big chains when it comes to avoiding nickel and diming is Universal simply because while they're expensive, they're upfront about prices so you have a good idea what it's going to cost. However, most independent parks are a lot friendlier to the wallet, often without (or with much lower) parking fees and not requiring extras like skip the line passes to make sure guests get the most out of their day.

February 19, 2023, 10:25 PM

Plus Holiday World’s level of cleanliness puts Disney to shame.

February 20, 2023, 5:31 PM

@TheOldCream - AMEN!!! Just finished a five day Disney trip on Friday, and man things have changed in the past few years. We love Holiday World, we have traveled from Wisconsin to Southern Indiana the past three summers for Holiday World. The value at their park is second to parking, free drinks, free sun screen, etc.. and the quality of staff destroys anything Disney is currently offering. I've never left Disney World feeling disappointed and almost ripped off before, but this trip has swung that way. Our two kids are all in on Universal next time and skipping Disney all together.

As for the actual question, Disney is skirting into the Six Flags level of nickle and diming. The fact that you need to buy Genie Plus and then buy Lightening Lane. $900 for a family of four for five days is approaching Six Flags...

Edited: February 28, 2023, 11:12 AM

Knoebels in Elysburg, PA - Free Parking, Free Admission, and Free Entertainment! Pay as you ride or eat...but picnic for free as well! One of the few bargains left in the world.

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