Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Disney World Ticket Price Inflation


If you live in the real world, you won't be surprised to hear that things today cost more than things did a year ago.  And that things a year ago cost more than these same things five years ago.  This is true pretty much everywhere, and Walt Disney World is no exception.  If you last went on a trip ten years ago and wanted to price out that exact vacation again now, you should be prepared for some sticker shock.

But do all increases happen at the same rate?  I got to thinking about this when I saw the shocking increase in ticket prices between our last trip and our upcoming one, and I did some digging.  The short answer is no - at least in this particular case, the percentage increase in ticket prices is far higher than other increases.  But there are several factors that might affect this, which we'll discuss below.  The bigger question is why this is, and I'm not sure I have a great answer to that.

Unfortunately, my record keeping isn't very comprehensive between one trip and the next.  I have certain things noted, which I'll talk about below.  But it's almost impossible to ascertain increases such as food costs, which vary by location and type, as well as things outside of the control of Disney, such as airfare and other transportation costs.

Even for the things I am talking about here, this isn't a "one size fits all" scenario.  Both ticket price increases as well as resort stays increase pretty much every year, but it's not an across the board increase.  Certain ticket and room types may actually DECREASE, and that's usually the focus of the press release at the time.  I know recently there were fewer dates at the lowest prices, but Disney could still use the line "starting as low as ___" in talking about them.

So I can only go by my own past experience and the notes that I have from my previous trip.  I don't usually book trips directly from Disney, but instead rent DVC points and purchase tickets from third party vendors.  That doesn't change anything in this analysis though - if the ticket prices I find are discounted, they are still in proportion to the full price tickets on Disney's website.

I'll start with the resort, which falls into what I would consider "normal" price increases.  In 2022, for example, I priced out numerous resorts for a six night stay by renting points from David's DVC Rentals.  We didn't stay at the Boardwalk Villas two years ago, but we are staying there next time, and I had priced it out at the time.  A six night stay in 2022 for a preferred view cost $2,520 then and $2,691 now.  That's an increase of 7%.

Whether you consider that "good" or "bad" is a matter of perspective, but I personally think it's justifiable.  I don't have a record of a similar time frame in 2023 but I have to imagine it was somewhere between those numbers.  And we DID stay at the Grand Floridian in the Villas last trip, which I priced out at $3,100 and now costs $3,358, an increase of 8%.  So I believe the resort increases are fairly consistent.

Whether that holds true for the lower tier resorts is questionable, but I suspect the increases are actually even less pronounced - Disney can push the envelope at the higher end of their pricing, but not necessarily the lower end, as those guests would be more cost conscious.  Again, though, I don't have that information available.

I should also point out that when we went in 2022, it was during Easter season.  If you look at the rack rates for Disney resorts, the periods are broken down into many different categories, but a holiday such as Easter will always be a higher price than another week in the same season that doesn't encompass a holiday. I mention this because in 2024, the week we are traveling is Passover week (our school break - I'll have a LOT more to say about this in the future, but I suspect the crowd levels will be more favorable) and according to the calendar, this is not considered a holiday period but instead "regular 2".  In other words, it's not an apples to apples comparison.  For Easter week (3/30-4/5, in this example), the preferred view at the Boardwalk is $3,059, which would be a 21% increase from two years ago.

I want to circle back to this in a minute, because that large of an increase is a pretty big pill to swallow, and speaks again to the idea that timing is everything when it comes to Disney.  My point is not that this type of increase is easy to wave away, but what follows will be an interesting comparison when we shift the time period.

Now let's turn to park tickets.  I usually purchase these through Undercover Tourist, a legitimate third party ticket seller.  These are real Disney tickets sold at a discount - you will always save on the base price of tickets that you would purchase directly from Disney.  So the price increases shown here will be reflective of the same increases when buying from Disney.

For the days we traveled in 2022, a seven day park hopper ticket for an adult was $631.30 through Undercover Tourist.  For our 2024 dates, this same ticket costs $821.44, an eye-popping 30% increase.  I had to check this numerous times to make sure I wasn't doing anything differently or incorrectly.  That is a staggering number compared to the increase in our resort cost for this trip.

But what's really interesting is that when those dates are moved to Easter, the increase is only slightly more - for Easter week, that ticket is $840.77, a 33% increase over Easter 2022.  The percentage difference THERE is much less pronounced than in the difference for the resort.  I'm not sure there is any particular explanation or justification for this, other than to say that Disney will get your money one way or the other.  Sometimes they get more for a resort stay, and sometimes for a park ticket.

I tried to think of reasons why this would be, and I could only come up with a couple.  One is that most people DO purchase their resort and tickets through Disney directly and that purchase is done as a package price.  In that case, which "side" increases more is largely irrelevant, as the increase will only appear as one lump number to the guest.  If you didn't break it out separately (and I suspect most people don't), you probably couldn't tell which one of these increased more.

My other thought is that Disney is offering more discounts than we've seen in a number of years.  Most of these discounts are "room only" discounts, meaning they are a percentage off (usually 25-40% in the best case scenario) the price of a resort stay.  If the cost of a resort room is increasing slower than the related ticket price, Disney is actually "saving" money by offering a discount off of the resort instead of the tickets.  And if you took advantage of the discount by purchasing through Disney and still purchased your park tickets from a reseller, they still get the money for these tickets.  There's nothing wrong with taking a discount from Disney but there are other ways that the house wins, and a higher increase in ticket price while offering a discounted room is certainly one of those ways.

A lot of this might be too "in the weeds" for most people, and I suspect there are two many different permutations and variables for these things to be consistent in every scenario.  But I found it interesting in this particular case and thought it was worth exploring in detail.  If there's a takeaway here, it's that you should always run the numbers in as many ways as possible to find out what the best deal is for you.  This can be deciding between a package versus a la carte, staying on site or offsite, taking advantage of one discount over another during the same time period, etc.  As always, the more informed you are, the better off you will be when planning a trip.


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