Would you go into debt for a Walt Disney World vacation? Many Americans do, according to a new survey.
About in one in five families that visit Disney go into debt to pay for their trip, LendingTree found in a survey it conducted last month. A total of 18% of survey respondents who had visited Disney theme parks said that they went into debt to pay for a Disney trip. Nearly a third of those - 5% of respondents overall - said that they went into debt for multiple Disney trips.
Incurring debt is not automatically a bad thing. The most common way that people go into debt for vacations, such as Disney visits, is by putting charging the cost to their credit cards. If you pay off those charges by your next due date - and are not carrying a balance on the card - you typically won't pay any interest on top of the charges you made. Sure, you might pay an annual fee for the card, but if you are getting reward points and not paying interest, using the card for something big like a Disney trip can be smart use of your credit.
In fact, 29% of respondents who reported charging their Disney visit said that they paid it off within one billing cycle, according to the LendingTree survey.
The trouble comes when you don't pay your balance in full each month and interest charges begin to build. If you charged your Disney vacation because you couldn't afford to pay for it right away, you are now making that trip even more expensive by paying interest on top of the trip's cost, too.
That many people are willing to go into debt to pay for a Disney vacation makes it easier for Disney to raise prices and start charging for things it gave away before, such as Fastpass queue access. That creates a vicious cycle for Disney fans who borrow money to visit the parks, leaving them feeling frustrated and angry with Disney management.
But theme park fans can save their money and stay out of debt (and maybe happier as a result) by recognizing that they have reasonable alternatives to Disney. I'm not talking about settling for visits to local amusement parks that lack the theming and storytelling that fill Disney's parks. Disney fans can find other parks that deliver a top-quality themed entertainment experience, too.
The easiest substitution for a Walt Disney World vacation may be to head up the road to Universal Orlando. Universal is offering a "two days free" deal now with the purchase of a two-day ticket [here's the link], as Universal typically discounts its tickets more aggressively than Disney ever does. Universal's on-site hotels, run by Loews, are excellent and almost always priced below Disney's hotels. With The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Seuss Landing, and Jurassic Park, Universal offers richly themed lands. And Universal has four of our readers' top 10 rated attractions in the world - more than Walt Disney World has.
If your family loves Epcot, consider Busch Gardens Williamsburg instead. A former winner of our Theme Park Insider Award for Best Park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg offer lands themed to several European countries, with an impressive line-up of roller coasters, shows, and festivals. Pair a trip to Busch Gardens with visits to nearby Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, and you can enjoy an engaging get-away for less than you would pay to spend the same amount of time at Disney. [Here are links to discounted tickets to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and other local historic attractions.]
If you enjoy the shows at Disney, try Dollywood on your next vacation. Dolly Parton's theme park in the Smoky Mountains stages outstanding musical entertainment, along with fun rides, tasty food, and some of the most-praised customer service in the industry. Nearby Smoky Mountain National Park is America's most popular, which can make the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area a tourist traffic jam. But the region is so popular for well-justified reasons, including all those local attractions and less expense than a trip to see Mickey and Friends.
Disney fans, what are some of your other favorite, lower-cost alternatives for theme park vacations?
* * *
For more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.