Are Disney theme park tickets still a great entertainment value?

February 16, 2017, 9:14 PM · OK, it's been a nearly a week since Disney announced its latest theme park ticket price increase. How are you feeling about it? Angry at the latest increase? Relieved that it wasn't higher? Numb by all the price changes? Or are you just so happy with what you get from a Disney visit that the price increase doesn't bother you one bit?

Disney has been raising its ticket prices faster than inflation for more than a decade, but the parks still keep bringing in more people, year after year. I explain how Disney's been able to pull off that bit of financial magic, in my Orange County Register column this week. Go read it if you want that detail, but I want to hear from you on this page.

Let's put the question to a vote:

In the comments, I'd love to hear what you think about Disney's ticket value versus other theme and amusement park companies. Have you been buying more or fewer tickets or annual passes to other parks, in response to what's happening at Disney? What do you think about the value that other parks provide versus the Mouse?

Read Robert's column:

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Replies (38)

February 16, 2017 at 9:46 PM · There are few bigger Disney fans than myself, yet many other themed entertainment companies are offering a better value. Not least of which Tokyo Disney Resort. Better themeparks, better service, better attractions and better upkeep. All for about 40% less than the American Disney parks.
February 16, 2017 at 9:54 PM · Most likely a very unpopular move, but I had really expected the monthly payment option to be eliminated. Without an actual increase in price, it would have thinned the heard. I don't think that's the plan. The plan is still to fill the parks as full as possible with as high a ticket price as possible. I think we will only see higher prices, more packed parks. The general public will continue to come and have a jolly good time. Those of us who inhabit places like TPR will continue to wish for better things.
February 16, 2017 at 10:08 PM · No, they are not. Frankly, the price increases have absolutely no impact on it. This is because airline tickets fluxuate greatly, and we can either wait for the air travel prices to drop or drive to offset the ticket increases. What has decreased the value immensely is the inabilility to accomplish as much in a day at a Disney park as you used to could. It used to be if you got to the park an hour before opening, it gave you about two to three hours of almost no wait attractions, then the park would start to get crowded. Now the public is onto this, and there is a sea of people before opening. You have 45 minutes of no wait before things heat up. Second, and I have said this way too much, the new FP+ is a much worse system than what they had before. You can't do as much, and attractions with traditionally light wait times have long waits all year long. You can go to Universal and spend what is the equivalent of a Disney moderate resort and have unlimited front of the line access to all but a very few attractions. I really wish this were not the case. I do love Universal, and really all theme parks, but Disney is where I want to go. A perfect Orlando trip would be six days in Disney followed by three at Universal. Unless there are major changes, this just will not happen. The sad thing is I think they could undo much of these problems, but I am afraid they have invested too much into the current system and may be unwilling to consider that it does not benefit the guests, I do love the arm bands for room keys, tickets, and wallets. Also, going to the pool with them is wonderful; no wallet or keys needed.
February 16, 2017 at 10:12 PM · I used to be a Season Pass holder (Florida Resident) and then some years ago, I don't call exaxctly when, but Disney started turning its back on Florida Residents and go after the more affluent customer. The prices from tickets, to room discounts, to special ticket prices slowly went away or reduced in savings. Eventually I stopped buying the Annual Pass, but stayed at the Disney Resorts. Then about 2 years ago, I started to find out I got better pricing at the Waldorf-Astoria (Bonnet Creek) than at the Disney Resorts, so I stayed there. Just last year, I bought Premiere Annual Pass To Universal Studios which gives ALOT MORE discounts built in as well as room prices. Universal was behind Disney but they have substantially caught up to Disney in many ways, not on the amount of parks but the rides, hotels, entertainment. I would say the in another 1-2 years, Disney and Universal will be EQUALS.
February 16, 2017 at 11:19 PM · Maybe now a lot of these people who spend ALL their money on a Disney vacation will realize there's a big country out there, and most of it can be seen for less than what it costs to see the same exact things year after year. Take the kids to New York, to Chicago, to Key West, to San Francisco! Get them a little learnin' in Williamsburg or Boston or Washington DC! Get them out into REAL nature - not the manufactured kind - in Yosemite or Yellowstone or Niagara Falls or Hawaii! Take them on a cruise to see some Caribbean islands or Mexico or Alaska!

It costs a family of four MORE THAN $400 a day to do WDW (not counting hotels). It takes a quarter of that to spend an afternoon on a black sand beach followed by an evening on top of a living, breathing volcano. I love theme parks - obviously - but my kids have been to Disneyland ONCE, to Disney World ONCE and this year we're going to Universal Orlando and Busch Gardens FOR THE FIRST TIME. Every other year they've spent somewhere REAL.

February 16, 2017 at 11:27 PM · At Disneyland in California, I get the price hike, as minimum wage is going up (and will reach $15 within two years). Value, however can be measured in the number of attractions, shows, or parades that are worth repeating. I let go of my annual pass to Disneyland three years ago because, well, there wasn't anything WORTH doing there for the price being paid.

I bought an annual pass this year because of the Main Street Electrical Parade. The parade is something I want to see again and again and again (especially inside Disneyland Park, where it belongs IMHO), so to me, the parade represents VALUE for the price being paid.

So, when looking at something like an annual pass to any theme park, you have to look it in terms of value. If there is nothing there your heart really yearns to see repeatedly, don't buy one.

February 16, 2017 at 11:54 PM · My opinion is mostly based on the Disneyland Resort, but I would say the current prices are right on the border between remaining a good value and becoming inferior to alternatives. Disney parks are expensive, but they offer an experience of such a high quality that I feel the expense is justified. Increasing the price without increasing the offerings, however (either by improving quality or offering new attractions), would cause enough of a decrease in value that I would likely begin to change my visit habits. While busy, the current crowd levels do not significantly affect my enjoyment of the Disney parks and therefore don't diminish the value, it is more the lack of interesting new offerings despite continuous price increases that cause my enjoyment per dollar to decrease slowly.

Based on the current attraction selection and current ticket prices (one day at cheapest price available from official website), I'd rank the So Cal parks as follows based on enjoyment per dollar:

1. Disneyland (or resort as a whole)
2. Legoland California (if traveling with children age 10 or below)
3. Knott's Berry Farm
4. Six Flags Magic Mountain (coaster lovers only)
5. Disney California Adventure Park (one-day at DCA only)
6. SeaWorld San Diego
7. Universal Studios Hollywood

February 17, 2017 at 2:18 AM · If they invest in their products and parks i have no problem paying increases. It's when, like the past decade, they have invested absolutely nothing of major note to their parks at Disney and still increase prices i am angry about.
February 17, 2017 at 3:10 AM · Disney tickets are not worth the price anymore. The parks are crowded meaning you get to do very few attractions and spend most of the time on a queue. Major attractions are closed down for months for refurbishment. Don't see why it takes so long to repaint repair stuff. With ticket prices so high you get to sample very little of the premium experience. My last Disney experience just did not live up to expectations.
February 17, 2017 at 6:09 AM · The best value for locals is the SoCal 2 or 3 park pass offered in the Spring or the SoCal Annual Pass with monthly payments. Universal and Knott's have comparably cheaper Annual Passes that are better bargains. It's a good idea to go to the parks to get it out of your system. Disney has so much more to offer compared to 10 years ago. Hard to enjoy it all without multi day passes.
February 17, 2017 at 6:36 AM · I can't disagree with what Disney is doing. They've got a premium product that is in great demand, and their Magic Kingdom-style parks are the best in the world. As long as people keep packing the parks to capacity, they're smart to keep increasing the prices.

Now with that said, I think the Universal parks are a better value for me. I have more fun at IOA and Universal Studios right now than I have at the Disney parks in Florida, and at times when I'm in the mood for a good rollercoaster fix, Busch Gardens and even Six Flags can be a good time at a reasonable price.

As I get older and go to the parks with family, Disney parks will probably be the park of choice (until the grandkids become teenagers). Disney parks will never return to the more relaxed vacations they once were (and by relaxed, I mean eating breakfast in the Crystal Palace without a reservation and without Disney characters in costume before rope drop into Adventureland). But that was 30 years ago, and despite what people may say, things are much better now.

February 17, 2017 at 6:47 AM · I admit I got so spoiled with the almost non-existent crowds at Hong Kong Disneyland. Whatever the price, it was worth it to basically have the park to myself. I haven't been to a U.S Disney park since I've been back, but I don't expect to be an AP holder any time in the near future.

I used to live in Orlando, and I'd go to the parks so often that I didn't even partake in attractions many times. I got more than my money's worth.

Now that I don't live near a Disney (and thus, a Universal) park, I find myself thinking about them as vacations that I save up for. If the price continues to climb (and why wouldn't they?), I will be more strategic in the timing of when I decide to finally get out to the park - say, after a couple of new lands or attractions have opened.

So if the prices rise, and the new offerings are fewer and farther between, I may find wake up one day and realize I haven't been to a Disney park in 7 or 8 years, and I didn't miss it at all.

February 17, 2017 at 7:50 AM · Honestly, I would rather pay more if crowds were smaller. I can't blame Disney for raising prices, it's a business. If people are willing to pay then why not? Disney will continue to raise prices until it affects attendance.
I do miss the days 20-30 years ago when you could go in late fall & essentially have the parks to yourself. Of course there was less to do, but it was great. We could get some relief in crowd size if the strength of the dollar increases & get less international travel. It seemed as if half the people there were foreign.
February 17, 2017 at 8:23 AM · As an Orlando resident, I broke down and bought a Silver Disney pass this year which has the monthly payment option after a $112 downpayment. 6 weeks into it and I have already visited the parks at least 6 times so it's works out for me even if I only go in for a few hours in the evening. I got it mainly because I wanted to visit Epcot multiple times this year with all the festivals and my hospitality pass only gives me one visit per year free unless I time it right in which case I get two visits.

As far as the general traveling public goes, I have seen a major drop in the last 5 years from 4 or 5 day tickets to 2 or 3 days max at Disney, most of the guests saying the cost is just too much for them and the value has just gone down because the parks are so crowded and the Magic Band program is so confusing. A lot of people have also said that they would be willing to pay double or triple the price if they could just have a day with no children or strollers in the parks...LOL.

February 17, 2017 at 8:51 AM · Metallica Tickets - Highest Level Back of Arena - $91.78
John Mayer - Madison Square Garden - Highest level - $169.00
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings - Highest Level - $94.95
Hamilton - Private Bank Theater Chicago - $259.00
Breckenridge ski resort - One Day - $147.00
Amy Schumer - Floor Seats - $109.00

Are you not entertained?

February 17, 2017 at 8:52 AM · Family of 4 at an all inclusive resort with kids club, $3000 for a week. Add in some fun day trips here and there and still way better value than Disney. but they haven't really been good value for a long time. It's more about the feeling you get when you are there which in my opinion is second to none. You can make memories anywhere but WDW for me is the place where we make the most memorable ones.
February 17, 2017 at 9:14 AM · I would not go see Amy Schumer if YOU paid ME $109.00.
My question is how many people go to Disney that really can't afford it? Some people max out one or even two credit cards to go, when that money should really go toward their kids college fund or their own retirement.
February 17, 2017 at 9:19 AM · It's like asking a smoker do you think cigarettes are too expensive? Of course they are! Of course you moan every time they put the price up. But you are addicted so you still carry on buying, regardless. Disney and Universal theme parks are no different. Wanting to attend them is a drug. Attending them is a drug. The instant sense of karma you get as you clear the bag control and turn-styles is a drug. Yearning to return is a drug. So you moan at paying an extra dollar each time you visit each park at the parking lot from last year, your UK 14 day pass has gone up about 15%, the crowds are increasing even out of season so you are doing less but you are still getting your, ultimately, is it still all worth it? Why do I return every year?
February 17, 2017 at 9:26 AM · Perhaps the real question would be is big time entertainment a good value? Whether it's Disney, major concerts or ski resorts, price increases have greatly outstripped inflation.
February 17, 2017 at 9:29 AM · Rubicon: "I would not go see Amy Schumer if YOU paid ME $109.00."

I respond: And there is a certain slice of the public that say "I would not go to Walt Disney World if YOU paid ME $109.00."

Different strokes.

February 17, 2017 at 9:35 AM · Many of the comments have touched on a point that I tried to make and feel like I failed to make. Sure it is expensive, but I don't care that it is expensive. I love Disney them parks, or used to. I would save up and pay the price. Yes, it costs a lot to go to concerts, sporting events, resorts, etc., but if I enjoy it, then I will save to do it. The problem is my family no longer has the same amount of enjoyment at a Disney park compared to Universal, and now that my kids are high school age, they really can't miss school, so going to a Disney park now has more trouble than enjoyment due to their changes. Our decision is why would we go there and stand in line all day long when we could go across town and avoid all the lines entirely? I would gladly pay more to experience the Disney park of 15 years ago. The level of customer service was unbelievable. I recall a time a person in our group had a bad expression on their face, because they were frustrated with having to leave to make a dinner reservation. A cast member was on them in a second. The exchange went like this: "Sir, is there a problem? No, not at all. We are having a great time. Well, I could tell you looked a little frustrated. That was certainly not your fault, we are having fun." The cast member then handed every person in our group two unlimited fast passes to use any time we wanted. Those kind of things happened all the time back then. They have not happened, at least to us, on any recent visit. Now it is all lines, crowds, and closed off fences. I really wish they would find their way back.
February 17, 2017 at 9:44 AM · While we're paying more, we're getting less. I understand that the park is still refusing to run attractions at full capacity. Yet Guests continue to pour in accepting this. This adds up to longer lines, fewer attractions ridden per day, and basic gridlock. The current lack of river attractions puts more people on the walkways and--again--thins the number of attractions one might visit. Meanwhile, the custodians are having a hard time keeping up with the now standard huge crowds, Guests are feeling more temperamental, and the whole thing becomes a logistical fight.

The park is coasting on the fact that, as Prof Plum said above, Disney is a drug for many people. Guests keep coming no matter what because--since their childhoods--Disney has had a special place in their hearts. I wonder what will happen a few decades from now. Will a new generation rise up associating Disney with crowded, expensive and annoying? The good will built by Walt, his policies and ideas was powerful, but will the current management techniques eventually wear that down?

February 17, 2017 at 9:44 AM · Walt Disney World cast members provide an exceptional level of quality guest service and a a large part of the reason that the cost of a visit to a Walt Disney World theme park is "as great a value as ever."
February 17, 2017 at 9:46 AM · In the UK the comparison would be Merlin's top theme parks- Alton Towers, Thorpe Park etc - are about £50/$60 at the gate. The alarming drop in value of sterling against the dollar 1.60 to 1.20 means the price of a day ticket at Disney and Universal in Florida is now about 80% more expensive. But worth every additional penny/cent in my eyes. For that 80% you get the weather, far better dining options, longer park hours, superior rides/shows/attractions, superb guest relations, spotlessly clean and the one thing we all crave - complete immersion.
February 17, 2017 at 10:41 AM · Magic Kingdom peak day ticket-$124

Tokyo DisneySea anyday ticket-$66

February 17, 2017 at 11:38 AM · Not a very good value In comparison to other theme parks in the area and around the world. There are even better values at other Disney theme parks As has been pointed out here By others. I am an annual passholder so this mostly affects the members of the groups I travel with. Most of the time it's difficult to justify the expense of Disney versus universal. Luckily my annual pass for both Disney parks in the United States will take me past the opening of avatar land. Fewer trips from then on.
February 17, 2017 at 12:54 PM · FACT CHECK:
During its 1Q17 earnings announcement WDCo again indirectly revealed soft WDW attendance. They then, added validity to the softness by offering great admission deals.

Anyone that follows theme park social media knows WDW is suffering from a lack of NEW rides, shows, parades, evening spectaculars at all four parks.

Team Orlando is addressing this in 2017, 2018 and 2019 with projects in various stages of construction. For 2020 and 2021 those projects are progressing rapidly as well. Leaks have already confirmed them.

Anyone outside the theme park fan bubble visits a theme park when a new E-ticket opens. It's always been that way, and most likely will always be that way.

As for this, in the bubble theme park fan survey, if you're "not buying as much anymore" why is...

Disneyland Anaheim busting at the seams?!?!?

Why will WDW attendance rebound once new E-tickets open?!?!?


February 17, 2017 at 8:20 PM · I think it is a little unfair just going after Disney for increasing their prices. Great America raised their prices along with Universal.

I come to expect this increase every year.

February 17, 2017 at 8:44 PM · Most online Disney fans say that the problem to overcrowding at Disneyland is the monthly payment option. But it's interesting that Disney kept it, and also they didn't raise AP prices that much. I would have thought, especially with the continuing crowds, Disney would try to raise prices incrementally the next two years until Star Wars Land opens.

This summer is going to see the river reopen with a new waterfall scene and who knows what else, the train returns with hopefully a tribute to Rainbow Caverns, and a brand spanking new Fantasmic show. Also Marvel will probably grow in DCA. Disney has more than enough reason to raise prices with what's happening this year.

I know that Disney is probably trying to figure out that sweet spot for pricing, but for the time being, it seems like it's going with a strategy of not raising prices too much and just trying to figure out ways to manage the crowds. Maybe they're expecting the crowds to be self correcting, those who cannot stand the overcrowding will drop off voluntarily.

I also hate the crowds, but truthfully, I'd rather have lower prices and just deal with the crowds.

February 17, 2017 at 10:07 PM · We live about 40 minutes away from Disney World and Universal Studios and have annual passes to both. For us, the value is good because we make frequent trips. The Premier Annual Pass at Universal is a great deal (compared to our Disney passes) because it includes preferred parking as well as the Universal Express Pass after 4 pm every day of the year. Yes, the passes are expensive, but we enjoy ourselves, even if we just want to have a change of scenery, grab a bite to eat and maybe watch a live music show or parade or just take a walk through the parks.
February 18, 2017 at 6:46 AM · Let's hope that "slice" of the public increases and makes it more pleasant for the rest of us in the parks.
February 18, 2017 at 3:23 PM · Compare Europe....
One case :
Price increase 2017, EFTELING, +1€ compared to 2016 !! ... = now € 36,50 at the gate (!!) price.
What do you get at Efteling for that little price ?
A "real" theme park boosting a level of detail in it's attractions (and restaurants, toilets, hotel rooms .. etc) equal to Disney, sometimes even more. I know 99,995 % of all Americans do not have any idea what is "Efteling".

I usually then say, have a quick look at attractions in Efteling in a few competely at random photo links : (<< impossible with puritan Disney .. lol )

(From a darkride very often in industry review, ranked n°3 worldwide, after Disney's HM and POTC..)
> and backstage, the incredible elaborated transport system in that darkride, more advanced then the best Disney omnimover ..... ..

And does anyone know any Disney park with such a mindblowing "entrance building" ? (Yes, indeed, just the general entrance, but in summertime, circus acts are performed there inside the huge rooftop, above the heads of the amased visitors.)
Lichts on, early morning safely inspection on the track (Shop..)
(From a darride very often ranked n°3 worldwide, after Disney's HM and POTC..)

I could add 5000 other pictures, all as amasing, but....
Why do I refer ?
because you can clearly see that exquise world top in theming, in Europe, is cashing in just 1/3 of low season Disney dayticket in USA. And the park is still 100% independent after 64 years...

There exists a complete set of reasons behind the obviously VERY low entrance price, there.
(1) ethics , it plays a major role with the company (which is commercially operatd, but not commercially owned, a mystic double leadership)
(2) the unavoidable big difference in holidays spending, when comparing Europe with USA. With an average similar spendable holiday budget, in Europe there are about twice as much official "payed holidays" compared to the USA. This results in a much more carefull holiday spending patern in Europe vs. USA. The average per day available spending = HALF. It's the main reason why in Europe, general theme park attendance per 1000 people is half from USA...
(3) the general 'experience industry' in Europe, does not just have the theme parks competing amongst each other, but also the countless (90% free to attend) historic and contemporary city festivals, in a 'natural' theming set, often outblowing the themeparks.
Picture ? (from Belgium, in this case, as her is the worlds highest concentration of theme festivals in the world)
And anyone knows where was Disney's inspirational origin of the Electric Parade ? > Belgium as well ! (MOL Lichtparades, now 124 (!!!) years old ....)
This massive offer of public top notch spectacles in (historic) city centers, builds a much more critical look from customers into the height of ticket prices in theme parks. In summertime, if I would plan well, I could go to up to 3 such (free) spectacles PER WEEK in Belgium.
Fact is : The competition is way DIFFERENT.
What IF... such existed in the USA ???

Most of the replies above are very interesting from a sociologic viewpoint. I've read opinions/insights (US originating) from people with very different basic interest backgrounds. Such a range of essential choices exist everywhere, but the 3 factors I mentioned above, are probably the most important 'external factors' influencing the considerable difference.

(Writing as a parttime industry profesional)

February 18, 2017 at 5:02 PM · The difficulty in comparing Efteling to Disney in the US is that they are 2 completely different market places. Whilst they do compete in a theoretical manner, this is minimal in reality. For US patrons to visit Efteling involves an overseas flight, foreign languages and currency, foreign culture and cuisine, many things that turn some people off travel (makes me interested though). This reduces the value for money for some people. The reverse is true for Europeans visiting the US.

The other factors are the competition for the entertainment dollar, workforce and maintenance/development costs. It's not an apples for apples comparison.

I think leaving foreign parks, even Tokyo Disney, out of this conversation is a better idea.

February 19, 2017 at 10:43 AM · Having just paid $169 for a one day park hopper (2/17 - possibly the worst weather day of the century) I say unequivocally that it was worth it.
February 19, 2017 at 1:26 PM · Disneyland Anaheim provides the only decent value among American Disney parks.

Iger/Chapek ruined California Adventure when they removed Soarin' Over California, Twilight Zone and Aladdin. There's no reason to visit California Adventure anymore. Visit Knott's Berry Farm or Universal Studios Hollywood instead.

Epcot is a total rip-off; just a bunch of movies you can see on TV, except the TV movies are better. The few rides at Epcot stink: Soarin' Over the World, Frozen, Test Track and Mission Space should all be scrapped; how many times can you ride that garbage? The overpriced food at Epcot is glorified dog food.

Hollywood Studios has three decent rides and a whole lot of nothing; Star Tours should be retired immediately, along with every other ride except Twilight Zone, Toy Story Midway Mania and Rock N' Roller Coaster. Fantasmic is a pathetic copy of the Anaheim original.

Magic Kingdom is a sad imitation of Disneyland Anaheim. Space Mountain, Pirates, Big Thunder Mountain and Peter Pan are all incredibly lame versions of the Anaheim classics.

Animal Kingdom is the best Disney park in Orlando, but Busch Gardens in Tampa and San Diego Zoo provide much better values. Save your money and visit Busch Gardens or San Diego Zoo instead.

All in all, only one Disney park is still worth visiting at these prices: the park that Walt built. Universal Parks are better values than the other Disney parks. Knott's Berry Farm is a better value. Seaworld is a better value. In fact, most roller coaster parks are better values than 5 of the 6 Disney parks in America.

February 19, 2017 at 11:59 PM · We still feel that Disney offers excellent value, despite the crowds. We started going to both resorts yearly since 2007, and while the crowd situation has worsened, the parks have added high-quality new lands, rides, shows and parades.

I do agree with a lot of posters above, though. The situation is far from ideal. On our next trip, we'll be joining the early magic hour/rope drop crowd. That, and a mountain of planning, is the only way to beat the crowds.

February 21, 2017 at 11:57 AM · Hello grant crawford
February 18, 2017 at 5:02 PM ·

"Whilst they do compete in a theoretical manner, this is minimal in reality."

I nowhere in my post said that, not even made an allusion on it.
(Try to read it again, you try to let me say 3 times, statements that I did not write at all.)
I was talking about the competition (IN Europe) between (a) theme parks and (b) public themed city festivals.
I actually was comparing the way DIFFERENT situations in USA and in Europe.... And I posed the final question :

"What IF... such existed in the USA ???"

Sociologic viewpoint.

February 23, 2017 at 2:31 AM · Efteling really great themepark. Live in Ireland and spent five days there with my family great memories.

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