Will Walt Disney World do something unprecedented next month?

September 26, 2018, 6:40 PM · Walt Disney World announced earlier this week that it would expand its seasonal pricing on one-day theme park tickets to all multi-day tickets, starting next month.

That means that the price of two- through 10-day tickets to the Disney World theme parks will vary by "value," "regular," and "peak" seasons as they now do for one-day tickets. Visitors will need to pick a specific date for their tickets to become valid, and the price of those tickets will depend upon which of the three seasons those dates fall into.

What we don't know yet is what any of those prices will be. Two years ago, when Disney switched to seasonal pricing on one-day tickets, it actually dropped the price of value-season tickets to the Disneyland theme parks in California, relative to what Disney charged for one-day tickets before the change. Might a rare price drop be possible for some Walt Disney World Resort theme park tickets this time?

I cannot recall the last time that Disney World dropped the list price of any of its theme park tickets. (Readers, inform me in the comments, please!) So a price decrease for Disney World tickets certainly would be rare, if not unprecedented.

Most of us are assuming that the net change with next month's switch will result in price increases. Peak-season prices for multi-day tickets certainly will rise... and perhaps substantially. Regular season prices likely also will drift up a bit, as they did earlier this year. But things get interesting at the value level.

One of the big reasons why Disney is switching to a seasonal pricing model is to shift attendance from busy seasons to less-popular ones. Load-shifting attendance allows Disney to increase its annual visitation without having to spend any money to increase its parks' capacities. Raising prices at the high end can discourage attendance on those days, but cutting prices at the low really helps drive the attendance to days when the park operates far below capacity.

Or at least, when they used to operate far below capacity. Disney has been using special events, from runDisney weekends to Epcot festivals, to drive attendance into its former "off season." Now it will try to use baseline pricing changes to accelerate that shift.

But how aggressive will Disney get with this? Could Disney try to get by with leaving value pricing flat, hoping that a second price increase in less than a year drives people away from other days? Or will Disney really push the shift by offering a rare price cut on its theme park tickets?

We find out on October 16.

Replies (14)

September 26, 2018 at 8:00 PM

Lower their prices right before they open a Star Wars Section in the parks and a star wars themed hotel?

It'll be just like when Universal lowered their prices when they added the Harry Potter section to their parks, oh wait...

September 26, 2018 at 8:09 PM

They’ve got a whole year to go before Galaxy’s Edge opens to raise prices again!

September 27, 2018 at 7:20 AM

I really don't think Disney is changing their pricing schemes in an attempt to load shift their attendance. They must know that very few visitors to WDW can shift the timing of their multi-day vacation to correspond with a less-busy time of year. I would say at least 90% of guests are locked into when they visit WDW based on a previously existing time share week, school/work schedules, and/or an annual/semi-regular routine. They have already put the screws to guests to get them to shift their visits based on crowd levels, with guests that have the ability to make those shifts already have done so in an attempt to avoid the crowds. A @$10/person/day savings in admission cost is not going to get anyone to make dramatic changes to a $3-5k vacation, but the thought of standing in 2+ hour lines after FP+ reservations disappear within seconds of the 70-day on-site guest booking window will.

This move is merely a cash grab for Disney and an attempt for them to further maximize revenue. It's also likely a way for Disney to soften the blow in advance of more dramatic price increases and/or ticket restrictions coming in the near future.

September 27, 2018 at 8:10 AM

Completely agree with Russell.
Disney has proven time and time again that they will continue to nickel and dime their guests as long as they will keep paying. The last thing Disney cares about is saving people money, there are too many examples to list. The most recent being the ridiculousness of now charging guests to pay for parking on top of the already excessively high hotel rates. Really it is out of hand, they have already boxed out much of the average person who can no longer afford a Disney vacation. Luckily I live close enough that I can change my dates but there is a reason why their are peak times and to most of America, there is absolutely no way to avoid going during those times especially when you have kids. Disney knows this so don't think for a second they truly believe this move will "shift" attendance and save people money.
That all being said, we still continue to go, it's a sickness lol.

September 27, 2018 at 9:04 AM

At least some shifting has taken place over the years. WDW opened in October not only because of the fiscal year but because it was traditionally dead. Thanks to F&W, MNSSHP and convention activity, October is now one of the busier months. A lot of folks (families with school kids) can''t shift, but empty nesters can. It's all about the margins.

September 27, 2018 at 12:19 PM

"Thanks to F&W, MNSSHP and convention activity, October is now one of the busier months."

Very true, but the people that shifted their trips from summer to fall did so because of the extra value added by the seasonal events (and sparsely crowded parks). I don't think you'll see people shifting their vacations to save a relatively small amount (again, based on current seasonal pricing on 1-day tickets, it will only be @$10/person/day, so $200 for a typical week long trip with 5 days of admission for a family of 4, which on average costs $3-5k). Those that have the ability and flexibility to shift their vacations probably take crowds more into account than a cost savings that amounts to @5%

September 27, 2018 at 12:24 PM

I wonder how they will adjust the price of the tickets to reflect the value one felt by getting more days on their ticket. For example, I pay about $15-20 per day for some of my days on a 10 day ticket. Will that value still exist?

September 27, 2018 at 1:22 PM

Calling it a money grab is like saying that a movie theater is greedy for upgrading its seats and then raising prices to pay for the upgrade.

WDW has recently built, or is currently in the process of building, Pandora-The World of Avatar, Toy Story Land, Frozen Forever After, Tron Coaster, Ratatouille, a new Illuminations, Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster, Star Wars-Galaxy's Edge, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, and the Disney Skyliner. That's a huge amount of capital investment outlay. Now, from Introduction to Finance 101, does it make sense to make a huge investment without expecting cash flows to come from that investment? No, the investments have to be paid for over time and must also earn a return, or the investment wouldn't be made.

I can't comprehend why guests would think that the company can build all the cool new rides and attractions and offer them for no additional cost. If you don't want price increases, then you're welcome to ride Ellen's Energy Adventure without a refurb until the end of time.

If the new investments could generate their cash flows simply through attendance increases, there would be no need to increase admission prices, but there is scant capacity for attendance increases (what increases are possible are being targeted at the lower-attendance parks), so ticket price increases are required to pay for the investments. Moreover, the price increases are designed to incent guests to visit when capacity is available.

September 27, 2018 at 2:41 PM

"so ticket price increases are required to pay for the investments. Moreover, the price increases are designed to incent guests to visit when capacity is available."

OK, so exactly why has Disney been raising admission prices annually over the past 20+ years. You want to argue that the new attractions and experiences cost money, but fail to recognize that WDW sat virtually stagnant for over 2 decades with the only significant additions being cloned attractions from other parks. Guests were paying more and more every single year with practically no investments going into the parks (and in some cases the park offerings shrinking).

Yes, all the new attractions coming over the next 5 years represent a significant investment, but that was revenue collected over the past 20 years of WDW sitting on their hands and collecting increased revenue on admission costs (as well as increased attendance) year after year. The money to build Galaxy's Edge was made off the back of guests visiting DHS over the past 5 years despite a shrinking number of attractions, not the 10% more they will pay in 2020 and exponentially beyond.

Honestly, it's not the fact that Disney is likely going to increase the admission cost that's the problem. It's that they are going to try to collect additional revenue from guests simply for starting their vacation on a busier day, when lines are longest and the quality of a visit to WDW is its lowest. It's almost exploitative to be honest, because Disney knows darn well that most guests aren't going to shift vacations to less busy times of the year, because they simply can't do it. Instead, Disney will spin it like they're giving guests "value" by reducing admission costs on slower days (don't be surprised if they start reducing attraction capacity and availability during those days more than they already do now), while at the same time charging peak prices to some of their most loyal visitors (the ones that are crazy enough to visit on the 4th of July or Christmas Day, and bear the 2+ hour lines for Small World and Dumbo). Disney's not stupid, they're a business, and they're making money for their shareholders. You can't blame them, but you can certainly criticize them for continuously trying to extract blood from a rock.

September 27, 2018 at 7:08 PM

The other day I talked with my neighbors son. I 11 year old kid who doesn't know company's but he knows what he likes. He is into the Hobbit and very much into Harry Potter. I asked him about Disney and he said he like the old animated movies but is burned out on princess movies. I asked him about the Marvel movies and Star Wars. He like Marvel first but now it's too much of the same thing and Star Wars is his dads thing so he defensively doesn't care. He was very vocal I didn't want to go to WDW, no mater discount days, he didn't like to go there period.
Sure it's just one kid but still I think Disney has a problem.
It's a shame they put so much work in pricing structures and in low capacity rides to sell upgraded events tickets to ride them for the stupid few instead of getting back to the classy company who was started by the man who's name is now a synonym for money grab. It's so very, very sad.

September 28, 2018 at 9:05 AM

When guests book their vacations to stay at a Disney resort don't they typically buy their tix in advance -- thus locking in the prices?

September 28, 2018 at 1:10 PM

I agree that Disney Spent a LOT of money doing upgrades. But that should be the reason for raising prices. They should do upgrades just to keep up with technology. Toy Story Land seems nice, but they didn't add any new BIG rides.Spending a full day in Hollywood Studios is a waste of money. If you don't have a park hopper option, you're stuck with it.

Avatar (in Animal Kingdom) is great, but I sure wouldn't wait in line for three hours to the Flight of Passage. Yes, it was good, but 3 hours for one ride is too much.

Disney is irritating me. After 25 vacations for a week at a time, I think it may be time for a change. Now that I've said that, I already have a package for another week in November. I'm stuck!

October 1, 2018 at 7:31 AM

"When guests book their vacations to stay at a Disney resort don't they typically buy their tix in advance -- thus locking in the prices?"

I think it varies from person to person and trip to trip. From my own personal experience, we still have a couple of non-expiring admission media, so technically my wife and I still have tickets we could use for any trip. However, for 3 straight trips (over 5 + years) we never used a single day from those non-expiring media, because we were taking advantage of a free Disney Dining Plan promotion, which required the purchase of tickets to qualify for the promotion. Also, since we purchased the non-expiring media before our son was born, we have had to buy tickets for him the past 2 trips.

Even if we didn't have the non-expiring admission, we wouldn't normally purchase admissions when booking an on-site hotel. Because of the way Disney does hotel pricing and promotions along with restaurant ADRs, it's usually wise to have your resorts booked more than 180 days in advance. However, there rarely any advantage or discount provided if you book your theme park tickets at the same time you reserve your room, so it doesn't make sense to lock in your park tickets until just before it's time to make FP+ reservations or if the rumors are swirling of an imminent pricing increase. Also hotel reservations are fully refundable at any time up to 48 hours prior to check in, while tickets must be cancelled much further in advance to receive a refund, so there's little risk to booking a resort stay versus locking in your theme park tickets. So, unless the purchase of theme park tickets is necessary to qualify for a promotion, or if you know there's a price increase coming soon, there's no reason to book theme park tickets more than 60 days in advance of your visit.

October 1, 2018 at 2:30 PM

I agree with Russell: what did Disney do with alllllll the price increases, parking fees, etc, etc, etc for the decades when they introduced nothing new??
As a Florida native and one that lives within 100 miles of Disney World, all they have done is make me disgusted and wash my hands completely of all things Disney. However, that is what they want. They do not want Florida Residents, we do not spend as much money and we clog up the lines. Tis a pity, because I really LOVED the Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom and I rarely rode any rides. I do not like to wait in the heat for nearly an hour (or more) like an animal. I spent money, I bought food, trinkets. But, they have lost me. I have broken free of their grasp and am all the happier for it.

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