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3 Reasons Why Disney World May Be Cheaper Than You Think

By Rick Munarriz - Feb 27, 2016 at 8:05AM

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The leading theme-park operator is inevitably going to raise prices, but it's not as bad you probably imagine.

Image source: Author.

If recent history and the growing number of industry watcher predictions play out, it will cost you more to buy a one-day ticket to Disney's (DIS -1.20%) Florida theme parks tomorrow. With Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSK) (CMCSA 0.66%) Universal Orlando raising prices earlier this month, Disney's response is coming. Disney World prices have inched higher in late February for three years in a row, and the increases have typically been pushed through on Sunday morning when the media coverage isn't around to chronicle the consumer outrage. 

"What do you mean ticket prices are going up?" your social media feeds may blow up tomorrow. "The Magic Kingdom was already at $105 plus tax!"

It's certainly true that a day at Disney World isn't going to work for folks living paycheck to paycheck. That has never been the case, and the world's largest theme park operator isn't making it any easier by raising prices every year. The massive Florida resort has come through with annual hikes in each of the past 27 years, according to the ticket rate history at The pace, unsurprisingly, is easily outpacing inflation. A one-day ticket for the iconic Magic Kingdom has more than doubled over the past 12 years. 

It's fairly obvious why Disney has come through with these annual increases. Folks keep paying the higher prices. Disney World continues to clock in with growth and record attendance levels. Why wouldn't it test its pricing elasticity? 

However, let's not assume that a vacation to the world's most popular collection of theme parks is as outrageous as the inevitable price hike will have you believe. Let's go over three reasons why a getaway to the House of Mouse may be surprisingly reasonable.

1. It's cheaper to get to Disney World in the first place
The dramatic drop in oil prices makes it cheaper to get around. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported earlier this month that the average domestic air fare clocked in at $372 during the third quarter of last year, down 6.2% from $396 the prior year. With fuel costs dropping sharply during the fourth quarter and through early 2016 it wouldn't be a surprise to see that year-over-year decline widen.   

You may be driving into Disney World, and that could be even better. Gasoline prices have fallen by roughly 25% over the past year, according to pump tracker Whether you're flying into Orlando or making this part of a road trip, the savings on transportation costs just to get there should be more than enough to offset the pricier turnstile clicks.

2. Disney's one-day ticket pricing isn't the norm
There are people that will shell out as much as $105 for a day at Disney World -- and probably more if they wait until tomorrow to buy their tickets. However, Disney knows that the real prize is to grab a tourist for longer stretches of time. 

Disney's multi-day rates drop sharply on a per-day basis. A two-day ticket runs a still steep $96 per day, but once you work down to 10 days it breaks out to $36.50 a day. The total for a 10-day ticket is less than twice as much as the two-day ticket. If you're debating between spending six or seven days at a Disney World park, that seventh day costs just $10 more. Suddenly the value proposition isn't at outrageous as it is for guests visiting just once. It certainly makes it less attractive to give Comcast's Universal Orlando that seventh day. Why do you think Comcast has been spending so much money on building out its own hotels and theme parks?  

The volume pricing model has served Disney well. It helps send guests to its on-site hotels where the experience is enhanced with extra theme park operating hours and free transportation for guests staying at the resort.

3. It's easier to save money
Getting into the park costs more every year, and it's also not a surprise that the costs of eating, drinking, and shopping at Disney World's park also inch higher. However, the asset-sharing and gig economies are arming thrifty travelers with ways to save money. Ubers are typically cheaper than taxis. Airbnb and other housing marketplaces offer what can be cheaper alternatives to traditional lodging.

Let's also not forget daily deals websites that make off-site dining venues and attractions easier on the pocketbook. Disney may be increasing prices, but it doesn't mean that you will have to spend more this time around. 

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The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
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