Welcome, World Travelers! Is Disney World Getting Too Expensive?
by James Coulter
Last month, Disney announced it would be discontinuing its FastPass service. Using the new Disney Genie+ app, Disney guests can now make reservations for their favorite rides and attractions for Lightning Lanes, allowing them to skip long lines. The difference? It’s going to cost them!
As SFGate reports:
“Under this new system, Walt Disney World guests can pay $15 per day, and Disneyland guests can pay $20 per day for access to a ‘Lightning Lane,’ replacing what used to be a Fast Pass line. Those fees add up: for a family of four, it would cost $80. However, that flat fee only includes some of the park rides and attractions. Many of the more in-demand rides, like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, will have an additional, as-yet-undisclosed per-ride fee.”
No longer will Disney fans have the privilege of skipping long lines for free. Now, if they want to make a reservation for their favorite ride, they will have to pay for it, with some rides requiring them to pay extra.
Not surprisingly, many Disney fans were displeased by this news. On the Disney Parks YouTube channel, the video announcing these changes received more than 21,000 dislikes (as of Sep. 15) and plenty of unfavorable comments. One comment wrote: “Disney needs to spend more time ‘imagineering’ new rides and less time ‘imagineering’ new fees. Another wrote: “This is the best Universal Studios commercial ever, even better [than] the ones they create.”
Disney replacing free Fastpasses with a paid service like Genie+ should not be the least bit surprising. In recent years, the company has been making rather unpopular changes that have made the overall park experience much more expensive.
In 2018, Disney discontinued free parking for hotel guests. Now resort guests will have to pay anywhere between $15 to $25 per night for standard overnight parking. This year, Disney announced it would also be discontinuing its Disney’s Magical Express service, which allowed guests free transportation between the parks and the airport.
All of these changes are only making what was already an expensive vacation even more so. When Disney World first opened 50 years ago, admission cost $3.50 for adults and only $1 for children; now, a one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom can cost anywhere between $109 to $154. And that’s only for park tickets!
Currently, the cheapest “room” on resort property is a tent or pop-up campsite at Fort Wilderness Resort—priced at only $123 a night! The most affordable hotel room is at the All-Star Movies, Music, or Sports Resort for $197 per night. (The most expensive room is at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa for $712 per night)
AllEars.net recently published an article estimating the overall cost for a two-night, three-day trip for a family of four in 2022. In total, an average trip would cost $1,538.80 for tickets,
$447.20 for hotel rooms, $440 for food, and $125 for merchandise. All for an overall total of $2,551!
With the median American household income being around $68,703, according to 2019 U.S. Census data, the average trip to Disney World would cost 3.7 percent of the average family’s annual income, with more expensive trips costing between 4.35 to 7.25 percent, AllEars.Net reports.
Meanwhile, Disney operates Golden Oak, an upscale luxury residential community, where people can buy their own house for the “low” price of $2 million—with some of the pricier mansions costing as much as $16 million. The ultra-wealthy can enjoy their own mansions with pools and private chefs, while the poor can barely afford a tent at the campgrounds.
Is it possible to visit Disney World on a budget? Yes. There are plenty of blogs and websites that can teach people how to do precisely that. And, in the end, a Disney World vacation is not a vital necessity. Unlike healthcare or groceries, the average family can survive without visiting Disney.
Still, for a company that prides itself in appealing to families of all types, it’s in rather poor taste for Disney to enact such new fees and changes that only make it more expensive for families, especially lower and middle-class families, to visit the parks—and such changes are especially disingenuous during a time of financial hardship following a pandemic that has created labor shortages and eviction crises.
When Walt Disney first opened Disneyland in 1955, he wanted somewhere where everyone could have fun. He was inspired to build it several years prior after being forced to watch his two daughters ride a children’s carousel while he sat alone on a park bench. He didn’t want people to feel excluded like that. Instead, he wanted someplace where parents and their children could have fun together.
Several years later, when he opened Disneyland, park admission was only $1, and the park itself, unlike other establishments, wasn’t racially segregated. Disneyland was truly a place that people of all backgrounds could enjoy, regardless of their age, race, or income. The Disney Parks were never perfect, but they at least attempted to be inclusive. Sadly, with recent changes making them more expensive, the parks are quickly becoming a playground exclusively for the wealthy.