You wake up to your Twitter feed filled with DIStwitter arguing. Disney Facebook groups are quaking. Annual Passholders (APs) are allegedly dropping like flies. You’re sweating, shaking, scrolling...it’s that time of year — ticket price increases. DUN DUN DUN.
Okay, okay...you check twice to make sure you’re seeing the right number. You are. Could it be? But didn’t it just skyrocket last year? Can you afford your AP or even just an occasional trip? Why, why, why?! “Why?” seems to be the common question that gets thrown around. Bob Iger’s pay raise seems to be the common scapegoat I’ve found, but how accurate is that? And what does this mean for the parks? Well, here’s what I think.
A 2- day park hopper I was gifted for Christmas that was sold at the price it was before the purge...I mean, ticket price increase.
Let’s talk Disneyland. Did you visit in 2018? If you didn’t, let me sum it up for you: IT WAS CROWDED. When I say crowded, I mean crowded. I visited five separate times in the year of 2018 — March (spring break, really horrid idea), July, September, and two times in November. Only a couple of those visits had a manageable crowd.
My last visit prior to 2018 was in December of 2015. At the time, I expected the park to be crowded. It was December, after all. But it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. To be fair, this could’ve just been a string of unusually empty days. There was room to walk and plenty of rides with reasonable wait times. Out of all five of my visits in 2018 (17 days total), only a handful of those days had comfortable crowds. And by “comfortable,” I mean crowds that I could walk through without feeling trapped and claustrophobic.
The security line I waited in during one of my November visits. This backed up all the way to Harbor Blvd.
Let’s look at the figures. Disneyland attendance was at 16.7 million in 2014, and was at 18.3 million in 2017. The estimated attendance of 2018 has yet to be released, but I would assume the attendance has grown a bit. With that amount of growth in attendance, at what point will Disneyland run out of room? Obviously, they have quite a bit of park to fill. But at what point does the park get so full that people don’t want to return? There were some moments throughout my 17 days in Disneyland that I believed the parks were reaching that point. You probably know exactly what I mean. You can’t walk anywhere, you can’t find a place to sit, food lines are unnecessarily long, and you can’t get on a single ride without a Fast Pass. I mean, we’ve all complained or thought about at least one of those issues during a trip to Disneyland.
When we complain, or even think negatively about those aspects of the trip, we fail to see the fix. How do you fix overcrowded parks? Well...you lower the attendance. Boom. Done. End of column.
Okay, well, it’s obviously not that simple. If they could lower attendance without (key word) losing money, don’t you think they would? That way, their guests would have a better quality trip, and there would be a greater chance of guests returning. Well, friends, Disney is pushing for that. They have been, actually. Each time those ticket prices increase, it’s for a reason. No, it’s not so that Disney executives can take your money to get a pay increase. Galaxy’s Edge, our mystery Marvel expansion, and lower attendance all require increases in ticket sales.
Now it’s probably obvious as to how Galaxy’s Edge and other expansions benefit from the increases in ticket price, but how about lower attendance? As unfortunate and blunt as it sounds, it makes the parks more of a luxury. So many of us have been blessed to buy an AP and plan trips on a whim. Even without an AP, some people are still able to afford to visit whenever they desire. But these parks can’t expand or stay comfortable when that’s so feasible.
Disneyland isn’t built for everyday park-goers. It’s a smaller-scale park when comparing it to many others, and if everyone in Southern California visited when they felt, there would be no room for families on their dream vacation to Disneyland. How many of us grew up with Disneyland as the dream vacation spot? Plenty of us did. And now vacationers show up to overcrowded parks because locals and other APs have flocked the parks for the new popcorn bucket, ride overlay, or rare pair of ears. Speaking of — this is a huge way that Disney has contributed to the overcrowding at the parks...along with other issues (*cough* people buying 10 of a popular item which leads to guests missing out *cough*). At some point, something had to give.
I believe we’ll continue seeing these increases. At least until attendance starts to decrease. However, with the opening of Galaxy’s Edge and the soon-to-come Marvel expansion, I don’t think we’ll be seeing a decrease in attendance for a while.
An interesting point to keep in mind is that this is the first year that Disneyland APs have days where they’re only allowed into a single park. There are select days in the calendar where passholders can only visit either DCA or Disneyland — not both. So in theory, this means that you’re getting less out of your pass, yet the price has still increased. As the blockout calendar continues to get unveiled for the year of 2019, we’ll see how much this changes the schedule. Perhaps it’ll give passholders less blockout dates, and in return, have numerous dates where they’re only admitted into one of the parks. That could mean APs are given dates where they otherwise would’ve been blocked out of both parks. We’ll see with time.
As a parent and lover of Disneyland, I understand both sides. As a hardcore Disney fan, I understand why these increases are necessary. I understand that while Disney is a part of so many people’s lives — it’s also a business. I understand that these decisions are made with the future success of Disney and their expansions in mind. I understand that the parks desperately need a decrease in attendance, or else they risk being so overcrowded that no one wants to visit.
But as a parent, I understand how much this hurts families. When you are paying for an entire family to take a trip to Disneyland, these price increases are difficult to manage. Those increases in addition the the hotel, food, and travel costs, can make it impossible for Disneyland to be a destination for a family vacation.
I’m hoping that something gives soon. My daughter is 15-months old, so she gets into the parks for free. With that in mind, it makes sense to continue renewing my AP until she ages out of the free admittance. Once she ages out, I’ll discontinue my APif the prices continue increasing. I’m hoping that within this time frame, something will change. Whether that be attendance decreasing or the company wanting to change prices due to customer feedback (which is laughable), I’m hoping that something will change. I’d love to continue making these memories with my child, and have such a close vacation destination. I guess we’ll see what happens.