Disney made two announcements last week that will affect trips to Disney World and Disneyland. We checked in with Susan Kelly, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Disney trips, to learn more about how these changes could impact any family vacations you may be planning to the happiest place on earth.
The first news was that annual passholder rates have gone up and benefits have changed. “Now visitors have options between different levels of passes at different price points,” Susan explains. “The most expensive Platinum Pass includes parking, park hopping, a photo pass, and no blackout dates.” Conversely, the least expensive option has blackout dates and excludes the extra perks.
These passes are geared toward visitors who go to Disney a lot, Susan points out, so the change might not affect you at all if you’re planning a one-off family vacation.
The second announcement will have a greater impact if or when it is eventually implemented: surge pricing. When demand for tickets is highest (holidays, school breaks), tickets will be most expensive; when demand is lowest, tickets will be cheaper.
“The current park admission model has everyone paying the same flat rate to enter the parks,” Susan explains. “A four-day pass is the same price, no matter when those four-day visits occur. The new pricing being considered will have different prices for each day, based on what season and what day of the week you visit. A visit to Magic Kingdom on the Saturday of Christmas week will be more expensive than a visit on a Wednesday in early September. You will save by visiting on weekdays and designated off weeks.”
One reason cited by Disney for this potential change—apart from the obvious goal of making more money—is crowd control; the theory is that cheaper tickets offered at low-peak times will help spread out the high peaks and valleys of visitor numbers throughout the year. “Hopefully it will do something to alleviate the crowds,” Susan says. “The number-one question travelers ask us is: ‘When can I go when it is not busy?’”
And how can families still make a Disney vacation affordable? It’s all about planning: “You will save more the longer you visit,” explains Susan. “It’s the family visiting for only one or two days that pays the most per day. There is the opportunity to save up to 45 percent on park admission if you visit for more days. Knowing that, it’s smartest to plan for one big trip. It is better to visit once for eight nights than to do two shorter visits of four nights each.”
Susan also recommends taking advantage of any promotions that Disney runs. “Part of our free service is that we keep our ears to the track on discounts as they are released, and we work to apply them to existing reservations. If there are no discounts available at the resort the traveler booked, we give them the option to move to where there is a savings.”
Your best strategy? Reach out to Susan to book your Disney vacation for the smartest dates. (She knows when they are.) And keep in mind that if the only time your family can travel is during a peak week, and you hate crowds, Disney might not be the right place for your family at that time.
“I think that one hand of Disney is trying to find ways to manage the crowds by providing a financial incentive to visit during ‘off’ times,” Susan says, “but the other hand has over-built and over-promised that ‘magical’ experience. You can’t skip down Main Street with 25,000 people in your way!”
Remember also that Disney can be so expensive on some dates that it might actually be more affordable to take your family overseas! For ideas, check out our list of European Cities that Are Surprisingly Kid-Friendly and contributor Eric Stoen’s guide to a perfect family vacation in Paris.