Original Article By Laura Begley Bloom at Forbes.com
It’s the “happiest place on earth,” but if a recent report is correct, Disney may soon be one of the most expensive places on earth. Koala—an online website that connects travelers with timeshare owners—recently did a study on the cost of going to the Disney parks in 10 years. The report shows that by the year 2031, the cost of Disney tickets is expected to increase up to a staggering 104%, and at one of the resorts it will cost over $1,000 per day for a family of four.
“It’s always interesting to see how prices increase over time,” says Mike Kennedy, cofounder and CEO of Koala. “It’s hard to imagine the price of an adult ticket to Disneyland California was just $2.50 in 1955.”
In order to assess where Disney prices are headed, Koala looked at the original cost of a ticket in each of the Disney parks around the world—from Orlando to Tokyo—when it first opened. The site then compared that against current Disney ticket prices in order to predict how much a ticket will cost in 2031. The findings might surprise you.
According to Koala, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is projected to be the most expensive Disney park on the planet. Adult tickets could cost a whopping $253.20 each by 2031—an increase of 7134% since the park first opened 50 years ago. To give you an idea: In 1971, tickets were just $3.50 and today, an adult ticket costs $124. “At that rate, it will cost over $1,000 per day for a family of four to go to Walt Disney World in 10 years,” says Kennedy.
By 2031, Disneyland Resort in California is predicted to cost $224 per person—a mind-boggling 8858% spike since the resort first opened in 1955. This is the biggest percentage increase across all the Disney parks.
Then there’s Disneyland Paris, though it wasn’t always fully owned by Disney (which could account for the lower prices). When it opened in 1992, a ticket was €30.49. Now it is €79 ($94), which is an annual increase of 3.34%. Koala projects that a ticket will be €109.73 ($131) by 2031—a 259.89% increase.
The Asian parks (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo) are likely to remain more affordable, and Koala found that the smallest increase on the list is predicted to be at China’s Shanghai Disney Resort, where prices are only projected to rise 25% by 2031.
Kennedy says that that his company decided to do this research when they witnessed the popularity of one Orlando location. “When we launched Koala, we noticed a surge of bookings at one of the more affordable resorts on the Disney premises in Orlando, Florida,” says Kennedy. “It was clear that families from all over the world love Disney and were willing to hunt for deals on stays so they could afford the relatively high cost of entry to the parks.”
According to Kennedy, the Koala team wondered what effect inflation had on the price of entry and what effect it will continue to have. “Was it always considered expensive relative to its time?” he asks. “Based on the current inflation trajectory, will the exponentially high cost of entry curtail some family vacations in the future? Most importantly, how can we help vacationers prepare for this?”
The Koala team wasn’t surprised to see that the price of admission to Walt Disney World in Orlando is set to nearly double by 2031. “After all, the park has huge plans for expansion, including an extension of Epcot,” says Kennedy. “What did surprise us was how affordable the Disney parks were when they first opened in Florida and California. It is hard to believe that Walt Disney World in Orlando cost $3.50 in 1971 compared to $124 today. That’s an inflation rate of 7.4%—more than three times the national average.”
One thing that worries Kennedy is whether the prices could begin to feel exclusionary for some. “Unfortunately, most Disney hacks are catered to those who are willing to spend more—not less—like their new FastPass+ launching this fall, which starts at $15 per person per day,” he says.
And yet, Disney remains wildly popular—even during the pandemic. “Like many of our most popular destinations this year, travel accelerated as vaccines became more widely accessible and travelers felt more confident,” says Kennedy. “What makes Disney unique, however, was the intensity of the pent-up demand. From March to April, for example, Orlando bookings more than doubled.”
Though there’s been an uptick in Covid cases in Orlando, Kennedy says that Koala hasn’t seen a decline in bookings. “We believe Disney locations are still seeing above-average travel for a couple of reasons,” says Kennedy. “One, they continue to be highly responsive to the situation. For example, Disney mandated masks and social distancing very early in the pandemic. Second, it’s a very accessible location with many major U.S. cities within driving distance.”
That said, some travelers are planning their vacations further in advance and gravitating to flexible cancellation policies that accommodate a changing situation. “Koala recommends traveling with caution right now and only visiting a Disney theme park if you feel safe and comfortable doing so, and if local government restrictions allow it,” says Kennedy.
Some other tips: “We recommend wearing a mask at all times, regularly washing your hands and using hand sanitizer after every ride, using a cashless form of payment, maintaining social distancing and staying outdoors as much as possible,” says Kennedy.
Keep reading for some tips on how to save money on a Disney vacation.
How to Save Money on a Disney Trip
Whether you’re going to Disney now or plan to save a trip for a later date, there are a number of ways to save money. Here are some top tips for cutting costs when going to any of the Disney parks:
- Take advantage of ticket sales: “The Disney parks will occasionally offer tickets that can save you money if you can make the small print work with your plans,” says Kennedy, who says that you can purchase tickets up to 16 months in advance and save some cash if your dates are flexible.
- Time it correctly: “The parks typically offer some discounts from January to March,” says Kennedy.
- Travel in the off-season: “Ticket prices during the off-season are more reasonable, from airfare and park tickets to hotel and rental rates,” says Kennedy. “So traveling to Disney parks off-peak is bound to save you some money. Plus, with fewer crowds, you’ll be less tempted to purchase priority tickets to skip the line.”
- Use a travel agent: “Travel agents will often have subsidized tickets or bundle options that come with a discount,” says Kennedy.
- Consider the cost of transportation: “When booking your rental properties, consider transportation links to the parks and weigh up the expense,” says Kennedy. “Many timeshare resorts will offer shuttle services directly to the resorts, so you don’t have to worry about parking. Some resorts may be within walking distance and for others, you may need to use public transportation or rent a car.”
- Be careful about food and drink: “Rather than buying food and drinks on-site, go grocery shopping and stock up on supplies. Lunch for a family of four at a Disney park can easily top $50 a day,” says Kennedy. “So make use of the kitchen in your timeshare rental, and make your own sandwiches for your day at Disney.”
- Come prepared: “Forgetting one small item on your day out at a Disney park can cost you a lot since Disney charges premium prices for everyday items,” says Kennedy. “Make sure you come prepared for any weather with an umbrella and rain poncho, sunscreen and sun hats. It’s also always useful to pack a spare change of clothes, wet wipes and tissues, notepad and paper and a mini first-aid kit for any emergencies.”
- Rent a timeshare: “Timeshare owners can’t always use their vacation property, and they will often rent them to help defray their annual costs,” says Kennedy. “Timeshare resorts are ideal for families, because they have extra space, kitchen and laundry facilities, and all the perks of a traditional resort.”
- Look for deals: If you’re heading to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, check out VisitOrlando.com, which has tons of deals.