It's that time of year again: Walt Disney World has increased its ticket prices. Hardcore Disney fans are not only accustomed to the annual (and sometimes more frequent) increases, and swap advice with each other online about the best ways to plan for it. I for one picked up a 10-day no-expiry Water Parks Fun and More park-hopper Magic Your Way ticket about a week before the increase, with an added discount thanks to my subscription to the MouseSavers newsletter.
It's easy to get cranky about these annual increases, and getting cranky is one of the things I do best. Recent years ticket increases have felt especially difficult, given the sluggish economy, and the financial hardships being endured right now for so many people. Even those of us fortunate enough to be employed are a little nervous, a little tighter with the belt.
After getting past the initial crankiness, I did a bit of research. Using historical and current ticket data from AllEars, I put together three comparisons of Walt Disney World ticket prices over the past ten years. I chose two fairly extreme price points: The single-day, single-park ticket, and the Annual Pass, and compared both of their annual increased to inflation, according to the US Consumer Price Index. (Throughout the rest of this article, whenever I refer to "ticket prices", I'm referring to only those two ticket categories. Also, whenever there was more than one price point for a given ticket in a given year, I used the data for the higher-priced ticket.)
Here's what I've found:
WDW increase vs. inflation rate
Most years, the increase in WDW prices is higher than the inflation rate, with the exception of 2003 (when Annual Passes did not increase in price). When expressed in terms of the difference between the increases, the chart is somewhat startling. Be sure, though, to read the scale on the left side of the graph; these changes may be sharp, but the absolute values are not that great.
Tickets vs. Purchasing Power
The numbers look a little different when displayed this way, but a similar picture emerges. Walt Disney World ticket prices were more closely tied to the Consumer Price Index 10 years ago than they are today, and there's a slight widening in the gap over the past couple years.
I don't believe that the ticket price increases we've seen over the past 10 years are likely to have much bearing on families planning vacations. A few extra dollars per person, per day are unlikely to persuade a family of four to decide to vacation elsewhere, especially as Walt Disney World has structured its Magic Your Way ticket system to encourage longer stays, as the cost per-day decreases with each additional day. I do think, though, that over the next 10 years Disney will need to carefully consider how much longer ticket prices can rise faster than the Consumer Price Index, without turning potential Guests away.
And finally, a word about buying tickets in advance in order to hedge against the annual increases and inflation: Do the math. Be sure that you can pay for this with cash -- if you check your credit card interest rates, I'd bet that incurring credit card debt to save money on park tickets doesn't make sense financially.