Friday, August 26, 2011

The Price of Entertainment

Every time I talk about Disney World with a novice traveler (novice in terms of Disney), there’s always someone telling me something about “how expensive that is”.  Most of the time, I don’t bother to correct them.  These are the same people who won’t think twice about spending gobs of money to go to a pro League sporting event or a music concert.  I think people have a misunderstanding of costs, or it’s about priorities for them.  It’s more important for them to have season tickets to a sporting event rather than take a Disney World vacation.  That’s fine, but don’t tell me you don’t go to Disney World because you know it’s too expensive.  Be an educated consumer.  I’m a penny pincher by nature, but Disney doesn’t phase me.  Why is that?  It’s not just because I enjoy the parks and that’s my priority, I also see the value that I’m getting while I’m there. 
I recently ran across an online article on a budget travel website talking about the high cost of theme park admissions.  Of course, on the top of their list was Disney World at a whopping price of $90.53 for a one day park ticket.  This really bugs me.  Not the price, but the figure quoted.  While this figure is true, what they forget to point out is that per day park ticket pricing goes down as more days are purchased.  What they also fail to point out that Disney World is typically not a one-day park for travelers.  With 4 theme parks and variety of attractions, you really need to go multiple days to get the most of out of the parks.  If you pay for a one day ticket, it’s really about you paying for the convenience to go to the park for one day only.  Disney World’s pricing model is based on multi-day passes.  Kind of like buying in bulk.  You can buy one roll of toilet paper for a dollar or 12 rolls for 6 dollars.  And when you think about it, would you travel to Breckenridge just to ski for the day?  No, you’d probably get a multi-day lift ticket.  So, Disney World being set-up as a multi-day experience is not unique.
Right now, a single day adult non-hopper park ticket is $90.53 and a 10 day adult non-hopper park ticket is $309.92.  That’s $30.99 per day!  Now, I know most people don’t or can’t go to Disney World for 10 days or want park hoppers which increase the cost of tickets.  But just for ease of computing, let’s use a trip of say 5 days/4 nights.  Non-hopper tickets for 5 days comes out to $53.46 per day.  What does the average adult get for $53.46 a day?  A lot when you think about it!  For starters, access to one of four theme parks for up to 12+ hours (depending on park hours, season of the year, and extra magic hour resort guest benefit), an assortment of rides, attractions, performances, parades, shows, and magnificent fireworks displays.  But my point here is not to tout the variety of entertainment options Disney has, but rather to discuss the value Disney has to offer when compared to other activities.  Let’s run the numbers:
Disney World 5 day ticket
$53.46/per day
Assuming a 12 hour day, that is $4.46/per hour
Movie admission
Assume 2 hour movie, that is $4.88/per hour
Ski Lift Ticket, 3 day pass
Average price $250
$83.33/per day
Assuming you ski for 8 hours each day, that is $10.42/per hour
Laser Tag game admission 
Assuming a 30 minute game (I’m being generous!), that is $14.00/per hour
On a per hour basis, the numbers aren’t bad.  And we haven’t touched on quality.  I’d rather set foot in any Disney World bathroom before I venture into my local movie theater bathroom at the end of the day.  Also, I didn’t mention Disney World’s generous policy on bringing food into the parks.  Yes, you can bring a bottle of water in with you and it will not be confiscated by the security guard!  If fact you can bring snacks and drinks, as long as they are kept in smaller containers with no alcohol or glass.  I believe it’s a very reasonable policy.  Ice water is also free at all the counter service restaurants.  Just ask.  I really like this, because you shouldn’t be forced to pay $4 to hydrate yourself at a park just because their policy is no food or drink carried in.  In Florida, it’s important to stay hydrated.  By the way, a bottle of water in the parks is $2.50.  Compare that to a bottle of water at a sporting event which can run upwards of $4.00.  
But I didn’t talk about lodging or food?  No, I didn’t.  I could and maybe I will one day.  I think I can weave a comparison story with those items as well.  My example is here to show that a vacation at Disney World isn’t as expensive as most people think or are lead to believe by the media.  You know those commercials where the family sees they can take a Disney World vacation for less than $100 per person, per day, lodging and park admission included.  It’s true!  And if you time it right, you might be able to find additional promotions and offers.  Our 10 day summer trip this year to Disney World came to $95.00 per person, per day, with park admission, lodging and dining plan.  I venture to say that I couldn’t have gone anywhere else and gotten the same amount of entertainment for that value.  
The one caveat to my example here is that I, nor Disney World, has control over is airfare prices or gas prices.  So, getting to the resort from a remote destination could prove pricier than other vacation destinations.  Also, I'm not implying that going to Disney World is a cheap vacation.  Even being frugal, you can drop a substantial chunk of change on the trip. In these slow economic growth days, families may opt to skip the Disney vacation and go for something close to home and more reasonable.  However, if you are picking and choosing vacation options, it's definitely not fair to put Disney World in the "too expensive" category when lined up with other vacation options.  I think Disney gets unfair billing sometimes because of perception.

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