A day at one of Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Florida theme parks doesn't come cheap, and it may be about to become more expensive. There are several reasons why folks planning a one-day visit to Disney World in the near future may want to buy their tickets now, ahead of what seems to be an inevitable price hike.
- Disney raises its one-day ticket prices every year. You have to go all the way back to 1988, according to a pricing history chart at AllEars.net, to find the last year that the media giant didn't boost its rates.
- The hikes have happened in February the past three years. That makes the shortest month of the year the most likely time for the move, stretching its streak to February increases to four years in a row.
- Universal Orlando parent Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (UNKNOWN:CMCSK.DL) boosted its admission prices earlier this month. Usually, Disney fires first, but Comcast -- armed with thriving parks that are growing faster than Disney's -- decided to lead the way this year.
Disney's increases have typically gone into effect for new single-day ticket sales on Sunday. That means that we could be eyeing a hike tomorrow. If not, it would be a shock if it doesn't take place the following Sunday.
Park guests can buy one-day tickets now to lock in the current rates. They're certainly not going to head lower. However, most visitors are either on annual passes, or purchasing multi-day passes that fall under different hike timelines.
Right now, it costs $105 to enjoy a single day at Disney's Magic Kingdom, the world's most-visited theme park. It charges $97 for a single day at either of the resort's three other parks. Comcast's Universal Orlando went from $102 to $105 for a single day at either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure. The one-day ticket that includes access to both Universal Orlando parks saw its price move $8 higher, to $155.
It wouldn't be a shock to see a one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom go up to between $107 and $110. That would pave the way for Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Epcot to barely break into the triple digits. However, the more game-changing scenario would be if Disney introduced dynamic pricing. Charging more during peak season -- and naturally less when demand thins out -- would be new to Disney, but it wouldn't be new to consumers.
We know that surge pricing kicks in on Uber during peak travel times. Many pro sports teams charge more when the more popular teams come to town. Why should ticket scalpers have all of the fun?
Disney hinted at a future of seasonally inspired pricing late last year when it revamped its annual pass plans. It introduced several pass options, and the plans get more expensive based on the number of blackout dates.
Demand-based pricing would help smooth the stigma of Disney's pricing being out of touch. There may be some bellyaching about one-day tickets during Christmas shooting up to $140, or up to $125 during the summer; but if that paves the way for $70 tickets during the slow season, it can always point to those offerings for cost-conscious travelers.
Different pricing may confuse some guests. It may also lead to folks pre-paying for tickets that wind up not being valid at different price points later on.
Disney will figure it out. It usually does. Either way, how much the one-day tickets are going up, and the manner that the pricing will roll out, probably won't be a mystery for too much longer.
Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.