Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Is a Shorter Trip Worth The Effort?


Everyone tours Walt Disney World differently.  My perspective in writing this blog is as people who can't go as often as we would like, but when we do go, we go big.  Usually it's a week long, mostly park-centric trip that runs us all to the brink of exhaustion.  By the time we get back, we've wrung every drop of fun out of a vacation and are happy to be home.

At least, for a little while.  And that got me thinking today - if I could go more often, but the trips would have to be shorter, would that be worth it?  Would it be a better plan than the one we currently use?  I know some people who go every year, but it's as part of a larger road trip, where they stop into Disney for a day or two.  That's not exactly what I was thinking of in this case, but it did spur me on to think about this topic.

Before we delve too deeply into this, I'm going to put out my usual caveat here.  Any kind of "is (blank) worth it?" question is highly subjective.  I even said in the first line above that everyone tours differently.  Maybe you live more locally, maybe you are able to afford to go a couple of times a year (or more) and maybe your budget it simply different than mine.  This is all reasonable - as I said, I can only write from my perspective, but I try to see these things from as many angles as possible.  Now let's crunch some numbers.

The best way to look at costs in this hypothetical is to figure out what your cost per day would be.  Some costs of a Disney vacation are the same per day, and some vary wildly.  For the sake of ease, I'm going to look at this as two adults with two kids, and I'm going to look at a trip that would be around the end of September this year (which is where all of my numbers are coming from).  Obviously this isn't everyone, but I'm going to try to make a point that is relatable to all party sizes.

Let's look at some costs that will the same per day across the board.  I'm looking at a moderate hotel for the week of 9/24-9/30 (seven days, let's say six park days) or 9/24-9/27 (four days, three park days as an alternate).  The average price per day is around $300 in this case (or at least it was as of this afternoon when I was nosing around the Disney website).  There are some minor differences depending on the day of the week, but there's a reason Disney shows you the average price per night.  That means if you stay six nights or three nights, your cost per day is the same - about $300.

Now let's talk about meals and souvenirs.  Again, I'm going to paint with a broad brush here and say that you want one table service meal, one quick service meal, some snacks and maybe a souvenir per day.  You can adjust those accordingly, but I'm going to roughly price that at about $300 per day for these four fictitious guests.  The longer you stay, the more this will cost in total, but it should average out to the same thing daily.

So far so good.  But now we need to talk about things that are much more variable.  The first thing here would be tickets.  I'll assume you want park hoppers (because why not?  We're just making this up anyway) and I'll use Undercover Tourist as an official ticket reseller.  For a three day trip, this shows $1,680.00 (two adult and two kid tickets).  Spread over four days of vacation (counting travel days), that's $420.00 per day for tickets. But as we've discussed before, Disney radically reduces the cost of a ticket over the price of a trip.  A six day park hopper ticket for four would be $2,380.00.  Certainly in total, that's more expensive, but it comes out to about $340.00 per day over a seven day trip.   

The biggest x-factor here is airfare.  As you are probably aware, air travel has been a mess in recent months, from high demand to staffing shortages to huge price increases (due to fuel costs and general inflation).  I'm working on a separate post for this as we debate driving versus flying, so I don't want to get too in the weeds here, but I'll try to work with some current pricing levels.  Your mileage (literally) may vary.

If you can purchase a coach ticket for around $200 each one way, that translates to $800 one way or $1,600 round trip.  You may do better than this, but for argument's sake, let's use that as a rough number.  The key takeaway is that no matter how many days you go for, you're still paying the same total price.  A $1,600 cost for a seven day trip may seem more palatable than the same for a four day trip.  To break that down in per day terms, the longer trip would cost you about $228.50 a day in airfare, while the shorter one would come to $400 a day.  That's a tough pill to swallow.

If we add up the cost of everything listed above, the seven day trip here would cost a total of $8,179.50.  The four day trip would be $5,680.00.  That's definitely cheaper, sure, but if you look at it per day, those numbers are $1,168.50 and $1,420.00 respectively.  You're paying $251.50 per day MORE on the shorter trip.  If you wanted to take two shorter trips in a year instead of one longer one (assuming all else is equal, which is unlikely here, but go with it), you'd be laying out $11,360.00 for the same amount of park time, just spread out.

A couple of takeaways here.  First, as I said, this is a very general scenario.  I'm often tempted to try to pick up some park time whenever I can, but some of these costs are hard to justify.  I'd rather spend an exhausting week at the parks than try to cram in a few days worth.  This also says nothing for how much vacation time you have, what your personal/family obligations are, if someone can watch your goldfish, etc.  This is purely a monetary comparison.

The other big thing here is that any trip you have to fly to is dependent on airfare prices, which are rough right now.  If things start to take a downward turn, maybe a shorter trip would be more appealing since that's the majority of the per day cost differential.  If you're someone who drives, you might look at this and wonder why I'm making such a big deal out of it.  But I would counter that and say that if you're looking to do a shorter trip, you're even MORE dependent on flying, because you presumably don't have a lot of time to spend driving back and forth in only a few days.

Personally, I would like to go to Disney more often, even if it were for less time each trip.  I would know I always had one coming up, in case I couldn't get to everything I wanted to do. And since there are always so many things changing, it would allow me the opportunity to experience them sooner rather than waiting until whenever our next trip is.  But I'm also practical, and know that I don't want to overspend (at least more than I have to!) just to get my "fix."  I'm always planning a trip, real or imagined as my wife would tell you, so I keep an eye on these things.  If the prices made sense, I would be all over it.

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