A Day at Disney World Hits $99 (Taxes, Parking, Food and Souvenirs Extra)

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Disney World Fantasyland
Associated Press/Phelan M. Ebenhack
It's going to cost you a little more to ride Space Mountain.

On Sunday, Disney (DIS) rolled out ticket price increases with single-day admissions climbing $4 across its four major theme parks in Florida. The Magic Kingdom will be $99 for a one-day ticket, though guests will still pay a bit less -- $94 -- to get into Animal Kingdom, EPCOT or Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The family entertainment giant boosting its entrance fees isn't a shock. Like your cable provider, Disney isn't afraid to push through prices increases year after year, whatever the economic climate.
It's the timing of the move that's a bit of a surprise. Disney's annual hikes had come in early June for each of the three previous years -- strategically timed to cash in on summer vacation season.

Advancing the price increase to February is a bold move, and -- with two hikes in one calendar year -- it's one that may cast Disney in an unflattering light. Combined with June's $6 increase, spring break visitors will be paying 11 percent more to visit the "happiest place on Earth" than they did a year ago.

It's All About Keeping You Close

Critics will note that it's hardly a matter of just $99 to get into the Magic Kingdom. We're talking about $15 to park, and then you start paying for all of the premium-priced meals, snacks and souvenirs.

However, Disney will point out many of its guests pay far less than that. The theme park leader discounts multiday passes that are popular with those staying in one of the resort's nearly 25,000 hotel rooms. A traveler opting for a 10-day pass will be paying less than $40 a day. Resort guests also enjoy complimentary transportation to the parks, and on select days can get in early or stay late to milk the most out of their admissions.

Discounting the multi-day passes is a smart tactical move. It encourages visitors to Central Florida to limit their treks to Disney parks, and that's important. Legoland Florida opened a couple of years ago, and rival Universal Orlando has been a tourist magnet since opening up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Comcast's (CMCSK) Universal is planning to open an ambitious expansion of its Potter-themed attractions in a few months. If higher one-day ticket prices lead guests to consider longer stays to take advantage of multiday discounts, Disney wins on both fronts.

Making it Worth Your While

The interesting thing about $99 for a one-day ticket to Florida's Magic Kingdom is that it pushes the next inevitable increase into triple digits. To be fair, $99 already breaks through that ceiling once state taxes push the retail price to $105.44. However, it will still be a psychological barrier that may test the resolve of day guests.

Disney knows that it needs to give guests more to justify asking for more, and it's been sprucing up the Magic Kingdom. The New Fantasyland expansion opened in late 2012, and in a few weeks the park will open a Snow White-themed mine coaster in the place where 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea used to entertain guests. The other three parks have been slower in introducing new E-ticket attractions, but that also explains why Disney began charging more for the Magic Kingdom last year.

Potential visitors naturally won't like Sunday's increase, but that doesn't mean that they will balk at the move. Attendance at the Florida parks has improved most years despite the annual increases. In an improving economy, a $4 bump to get through the turnstile isn't going to be a deal breaker.

One day Disney will realize that it doesn't have unlimited elasticity in its increase. But for now it won't keep the Disney from attracting what should be another summer of record crowds.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.

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rlw71345

The "improving economy" doesn't mean the working class people got raises, increases, etc. A lot of the people we know stay outside the park, a mile or two away, rent a compact car, pay between $40-50 per night for a family of four, and wind up saving a lot of money vs staying in the park. Yes, you don't get the little perks but many of the motels/hotels offer discounted tickets to the park, about 10-20%. Families eat, all-you-can-eat breakfasts, and then go to the park. If you want to pay $200-400 per night, to get a free ride by bus to the park, that's your choice. Even with the $15.00 parking fee, you still save money. The souvenirs are costly and the lunches are a little high but they will tide you over until you leave and have dinner at a hundred different places in Kissime or International Dr., which is a few minutes outside the park. Every fast food, restaurant, etc, that you have back home is there, and you will meet other families that are friendly and you can share stories and pick up some good information. There are people that are not going to be there the extra day and they are selling their world passes for 1/2 price, also, if you want to purchase an extra day or two. The Disney experience is great and truly enjoyable but you can save some money if you plan it out.

May 09 2014 at 12:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
teedee911

"A Day at Disney World Hits $99"

Hmmmm, must have gone down, cost the family $288 10 years ago.

February 25 2014 at 1:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to teedee911's comment
mgh406

PER PERSON + TAX +PARKING+FOOD+SOUVENIRS EQUALS SEVERAL TIMES$288 FOR A FAMILY!!!!!!

February 26 2014 at 10:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply