Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is Disney Really A Good Value?

How many times have you gone to Walt Disney World and had people say to you, how can you afford to go all the time? Isn't it WAY overpriced? Which got me to thinking...there are of course, some aspects that I believe are a tad costly, however, for the most part, you do get your money's worth.

My thought process on this began when I was trying to decide where to take my annual trip this year. Last year we went to Disney in September and took advantage of Free Dining...but this year, I wanted to do something different. I was worried if I kept going back to Disney World too much, I would get tired of it and it wouldn't be as magical of a place as it should be. So, off I went in search of a good destination to visit.

But as I started searching things out, I realized...Disney really is a great value for the money. No, is. We thought about taking a cruise, but that was well over our spending limit. We looked into going to another country, again...way costly. We looked into going to a vacation destination/theme park close to home...but it was so close to Disney's cost, we thought, why would we want to waste our good money on that when I can get Disney quality for just a little more. We finally decided on a trip to Disneyland and California...because it's just different enough and we wouldn't be spending all our times at the parks.

However, even that trip is extremely really would have been a better deal to head back down to Orlando. The cost of only airfare, rental car and one night's stay at a hotel (b/c my husband works for a national chain, so we get free hotel nights) was close to one thousand dollars. And keep in mind, that's without any theme park tickets or paying for anything else we plan on doing while gone. With a Disney World vacation, only a few hundred dollars more and we would have had EVERYTHING paid for...including food, since we'd be going in Sept. again.

A recent topic though got me thinking about this notion again. Some one asked if Disney was worth all the money. They mentioned how if we think about it...if we think about all the costs Disney incurs throughout the day, that it's a shock it doesn't cost more! (Not that I'm trying to give them any ideas.)

Disney has a ton of things that need to be paid for...things like paying it's vast number of Cast Members, electricity, refurb costs, costs to build new attractions to keep us coming year after year, transportation costs for the monorail, boats, and buses (which I'm sure are quite costly with gas prices the way they are), fireworks every night, equipment, plants, food costs, insurance...and I could go on and on and on. Plenty of these things listed cost a pretty penny however, we get most of them at virtually no additional cost directly.

But when comparing Disney to other entities, the different resort aspects really aren't that outrageously most areas. For example...let's start with their moderate and value hotels. These really are right in line with most other hotels in the area. Especially when you consider the little extra perks that you get for staying on property, like unlimited transportation, Magical Express, and Extra Magic Hours. Plus, if you did stay off property, you'd almost have to rent a if you add in the price of that (and of course gas to fill up said car) the cost is pretty close to what it would cost to stay on property anyway.

One area where Disney does charge a fortune and maybe unrightfully some of their Deluxe hotels. Although, it really isn't too outrageous for some of the hotels there either. To stay at the Contemporary in Sept, it costs $361. To stay at a hotel that compares to it (say a nicer Hyatt) you'd have to pay $295. Albeit, it's costs a tad less off property, but a stay at the Contemporary honestly really isn't too much higher. Although there are other hotels on property that charge way more than that too.

Another area where people complain about costs is the food department. And is expensive. However, if you look at the cost of food for counter service restaurants at Disney and then look at any other entertainment venue, such as a baseball game, concert, or another theme park, the costs really are right on par. Unfortunately, these places can charge a premium for food because you are a captive audience. Usually, you aren't going to be leaving to go grab lunch or you aren't going to be bringing your own food into the parks with you. So, while it is a bit more than going to your local McDonald's for a counter service meal, it isn't a whole lot more than other entertainment venue options.

However, dining costs do vary. If going to a Sit Down restaurant...sometimes it can be a little outrageous. Of course, there are still some reasonably priced fine dining restaurants mixed in as well. Places like California Grill, Hollywood Brown Derby and Yahtsman's Steakhouse are going to cost more than places like 50s Prime Time, Chef Mickey's, and even name only a few. Both have good just depends on what you want.

People also have mentioned that park tickets are expensive. However, this is not always the case. Of course a one day ticket is going to run you more money than a ten day...however, think about this. If you go to a concert or a Broadway style play at home, it can cost anywhere from $80-$100...and that's usually on the cheaper side and only lasts for a few hours max. When you go to Disney World...and if you are paying for only one day's admission, you get the whole entire day...which roughly comes out to around $6.00-$7.00 an hour. Cheaper than a movie in most places. (Plus, you get to see Broadway style caliber shows on Disney property AND still get to ride attractions!)

If you're going to the parks more than one day, your cost, does go down as the days increase...which can be quite a savings...and has worked because it's kept me on property instead of visiting other local parks. (Let's see, I could spend $2.00 a day additional or $70...hmmm...tough choice.)

Now of course, there are some areas where Disney has recently taken most of the value out. The Dining Plan (when not free) is one of these areas. Before, when they included the tip, the Dining Plan was a tremendous value. Now that we have to pay the tip on top of what we've already paid for the Dining's definitely not even close. And taking out the appetizer even reduced the value further.

Also related to dining is the surcharge they now tack on if you visit during peak times. This is ridiculous. I understand that the restaurants are at a premium during these times...but you shouldn't punish people who are choosing to eat at a sit down restaurant for whatever reason they may have for doing so.

Another area where the value has diminished is in the hot button topic of stroller rentals. $31 a day for a double stroller is absurd. I understand that Disney hadn't raised the prices on this in years, but the least they could have done was raised the prices slower, instead of it being a huge margin like it was.

It's also been noted that AP holders are seeing less and less value on their passes. Disney is releasing fewer and fewer AP rates and they aren't for as deep of a discount as they used to be.

But despite some of these massive jumps in price, some of which seem unnecessary, Disney however, can still be a just have to do your homework, which is something too many newbies don't do. Your trip, of course, will be what you make of it. If you eat in only the most expensive restaurants, get the Deluxe Dining Plan, stay at the most expensive resort, get park tickets that have every bell and whistle on them, and go during peak season...yes, it will be an unsightly amount of money. However, if you really look at your needs for your vacation and figure out what amenities you must have and what you can live without...a Disney vacation can be just as affordable as any other vacation destination. Sometimes, in my case, even cheaper.

There is one last thing that hasn't been talked about and that is the one thing you can't put a price on...all that Disney Magic. That right there, really is priceless.

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