When it comes to planning for Walt Disney World or Disneyland, price increases on food, hotels, park tickets and more have become a fact of life. Adding insult to injury, free FastPass+ was replaced by paid the Genie+ service and other perks previously included with packages have been cut. (Updated February 16, 2024.)
Accordingly, “lower prices” and “Disney Parks” may not seem like words that go together, but it’s true. This post covers the prices we paid for a number of things–including airfare, hotel, food, merchandise, and more–that were lower than what we paid back in 2019. Of course, the catch is that this wasn’t a trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland.
Many American fans don’t realize this, but their vacation dollars go a lot further at the international parks. Not only are they less expensive, but they’re home to incredible attractions and lands like the new World of Frozen and Fantasy Springs. Just take a look at our Rankings of the Best Disney Theme Parks in the World!
Before we delve into this, context is necessary. We routinely see Walt Disney World or Disneyland fans compare the high cost of tickets at the U.S. parks to the lower prices of the Asian parks. While that’s objectively true, it’s also not the full story. Unsurprisingly, the primary demographic of Disney Parks in Japan is not Americans.
There are a couple things Americans typically don’t take into account when comparing the numbers. One is major differences in median wages/household income, with those numbers being far higher in the United States. Another is the strength of the U.S. dollar. Relative to other currencies, the dollar is incredibly strong–to an almost unprecedented degree.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when contrasting the U.S. dollar to the Japanese yen. In the last couple of years, the yen has fallen to levels last seen in 1990. Beyond that, the real effective exchange rate of the yen has hit its lowest level in 50 years. This is largely due to the divergent approaches between central banks in the United States and Japan.
As of February 2024, the yen is hovering around the 150 level against the U.S. dollar, a three decade low. To put this into perspective for those are are unfamiliar with traveling to Japan or foreign currency, a good/normal rule of thumb used to be a 100:1 exchange rate. Now, it’s 150:1. I’m no mathematician, but that’s a massive improvement. It’s also on top of the lower baseline prices in Japan.
This is great news for Americans traveling to Japan. But it is not objectively great news across-the-board for everyone. You probably should not walk into a supermarket in Japan and shout about how “cheap” everything is in there. That won’t win you many friends, as the people who live in Japan and are paid in yen have a very different perspective than yours.
There are a lot of current and historical explanations as to why this is the case, which are quite fascinating but beyond the scope of this post. To that point, I’d recommend watching this video and googling Japan’s “Lost Decades” (plural).
All of this also makes comparing prices at the domestic parks to the international ones an apples to oranges kinda deal. To be sure, we love Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea and think they’re generally better than the U.S. parks, but drawing that conclusion doesn’t require a disingenuous price comparison.
We’re going to set all of that aside–but just know that it’s not a straightforward comparison. The point of this post isn’t to explain the why of it, just that your dollars as an American Disney fan can go a lot further at Tokyo Disney Resort than at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.
One final note before we begin the price rundown is that we are not suggesting that a trip to Japan is “cheap” or even something that anyone can do. A trip to any Disney park is financially out of reach for most of the world’s population (and always has been), so we’re all quite fortunate if we’re ever able to visit any Disney park anywhere.
Our only point is that prices at the parks in Japan are cheaper relative to Walt Disney World and Disneyland for Americans with the means to vacation at Disney Parks in the first place. It’s a narrow comparison aimed at only a sliver of the world’s population, but there’s a decent chance you’re among that demo if you’re reading an English-language Disney blog based in the United States.
We have pointed out in the past that these international trips don’t have to be as expensive as many people assume they are (see our Tips for Saving Money at Tokyo Disneyland post), and depending upon your party size, a trip to Tokyo may cost about the same or even less than a vacation to Walt Disney World.
In fairness, this is typically only true for those without multiple children, those who can travel during non-peak times, and live near a major international airport or can save miles or credit card points for the trip. As with anything, your mileage may vary.
Airfare – Flights are frequently viewed as the insurmountable obstacle for visiting Tokyo Disney Resort. If you search from a regional airport in West Virginia on Christmas Eve (returning on New Year’s Eve), you might conclude that all dates from all airports cost $2,471 roundtrip. Of course, that’s not reflective of average flights costs, just as it wouldn’t be for airfare to Walt Disney World.
For our last trip, flights from Los Angeles were around $600 total, flying into Tokyo and out of Osaka. For our upcoming 2024 trip, those costs have increased to the $800 range, flying into Osaka and out of Tokyo. Prices generally are up, but we’re also more data-constrained due to the opening of Fantasy Springs.
In perusing the calendar for Fall 2024, round trip airfare is all over the place. There are $600 RT dates and also $1,000 RT dates. Use Google Flight Search’s flexible calendar feature to determine realistic/reasonable prices from your home airport. We’re also big fans of airfare alerts–I get emails about one per week for sub-$600 round trip flights between Los Angeles and Tokyo.
At the absolute maximum, the cost should be LAX-TYO + LAX-your home airport (and you can do a stopover at Disneyland!). Flights to Japan will be more expensive than prices the vast majority of tourists would pay to get to Walt Disney World. However, we will almost fully close that gap with our next booking…
Monorail Loop Hotel – For years, we’ve recommended visitors on a budget eschew the Disney-branded hotels in favor of the Tokyo Disney Resort Official Hotels that are on-site and offer monorail access to both parks. To draw a Walt Disney World comparison, these would be like putting the Swan & Dolphin in the Contemporary’s location.
We have stayed at every single one of these, but favor the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay or the Hilton Tokyo Bay. We usually book the latter since Sarah has Hilton Diamond Status, which gets us free upgrades, breakfast buffet, and concierge lounge access for meals.
Even without that, we would say both of these hotels are Deluxe Resorts by Walt Disney World standards–so long as you get updated rooms. (If the two were priced exactly the same, I’d pick Hilton Tokyo Bay over the Contemporary as the superior hotel.)
Rack rates vary tremendously for these hotels, but you can expect to pay 20,000 yen per weeknight at one of the monorail loop hotels. In doing a range of sample searches, I see the Grand Nikko Tokyo Bay Maihama, Hotel Okura, and other official on-site hotels costing $101-$128/night for many weeknights.
Last time, our after tax total for a 5-night stay at Hilton Tokyo Bay was 97,774 yen. That ended up being just under $144.60 per night at the time. For Summer 2024, we’re paying an average of $180 per night.
This actually is not that great of a rate–we’ve paid as little as $99/night in the last 5 years, and $150/night was about average for weeknights. (And that was when the yen was much stronger.) Hotel prices throughout Japan currently seem higher in yen than normal–especially on weekends, which is likely due to delayed pent-up demand.
Full single-day park tickets cost 7,900 yen to 10,900 yen for adults. As of February 2024, that’s approximately $52 to $72. During out last trip, we also bought a Weeknight Passport at the front gate for ~$30. Tokyo Disney Resort has not yet resumed sales of multi-day tickets or Annual Passes.
1-Day Passport: Fantasy Springs Magic Ticket – This is the one exception to the cheaper park tickets at Tokyo Disney Resort, as the Fantasy Springs Magic Ticket costs 22,900 to 25,900 yen for adults, or $152 to $172. So basically, $100 more per or nearly triple the price of a regular single day ticket. We bought these for a day in June 2024.
The difference, aside from the significantly higher price, is that this is basically an unlimited FastPass for the brand-new Tangled, Peter Pan, and Frozen attractions (minus Fairy Tinker Bell’s Busy Buggies) in Fantasy Springs. There will otherwise be a free virtual queue for the rides (also necessary to enter the land), or paid FastPass for each individual ride.
Our bet is that that the ticket, although expensive, will be a lifesaver that saves us from having to camp out for hours before park opening. Unfortunately, these are only available to guests staying at Tokyo DisneySea Fantasy Springs Hotel or via an eligible Tokyo Disney Resort Vacation Package plan.
We did the latter, overpaying for a stay at Toy Story Hotel. Our total cost for that is $1,187, which includes the aforementioned tickets plus normal tickets to Tokyo Disneyland, FastPasses each day, the breakfast buffet at Lotso Garden Cafe, a night at Toy Story Hotel, and a bunch of other extras we didn’t really want. Suffice to say, these vacation packages–and even this ticket–are not a good illustration of how to do Tokyo Disney Resort on a budget.
Disney Premier Access – Paid FastPass has (sadly) spread to Japan, and is available at popular rides and entertainment at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. Known as Premier Access, it’s their version of Individual Lightning Lanes.
We did not buy Premier Access for any attractions, instead using early mornings and late nights to knock everything out (including multiple rides on Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast) without much issue. However, we did purchase Premier Access once for “Believe! Sea of Dreams” at the cost of 2,500 yen for each of us.
I don’t think it was worth it and wouldn’t do it again, nor would I recommend anyone else buy it. We did it as peace of mind for opening night of a show we only had one chance to see. Live and learn.
Had we not bought the Fantasy Springs Magic Tickets, we would pay for Premier Access in Fantasy Springs at Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey, Rapunzel’s Lantern Festival, and Peter Pan’s Never Land Adventure at a cost of 2,000 yen or $13.32 per ride. There’s a good chance we would’ve done that multiple times over the course of multiple days…if possible.
Here’s a rundown of other selected expenses on meals and souvenirs from our last trip to Tokyo Disney Resort…
Christmas Sweaters & Sweatshirts – As a native Michigander, I have an affinity for sweaters. That stopped making sense a while ago, as they’re less “appropriate” for day-to-day life in Orange County (Florida and California). Nevertheless, I still purchased three Christmas sweaters at Tokyo Disney Resort.
The cost of each sweater is ¥5,900. That’s currently $39.29 or approximately half the cost of a Spirit Jersey.
Tokyo Disney Resort Hooded Sweatshirt – This is one of my favorite sweatshirts of all time–it’s comfortable and shockingly high-quality for the price, which has always been a bargain. I’ve bought two other versions of it in the past–there was a new colorway I had to have.
This hoodie is 3,800 yen or ~$25.
Lil’ Rin Rin Christmas Shoulder Bag – Tokyo Disneyland has a line of holiday merchandise featuring Lil’ Rin Rin, who is named that for the sound of the bell attached to the tip of his pointed hat and looks like a cross between Mickey Mouse and a gnome. Lil’ Rin Rin is the man.
Little else is known about this mischievous character, but he is believed to be a feared troll that roams the Nordic countryside between St. Lucia Day and Christmas. Feared for his (or her) ferocity, Lil’ Rin Rin emerges from his (or her) cave and only spares the households that leave bowls of porridge outdoors to appease the appetite of Lil’ Rin Rin.
The Lil’ Rin Rin shoulder bag cost ¥2,900 or $19.31, but would be “worth it” even at $1,931.
Baymax Curry – Served at the Center Street Coffee House, a table service restaurant in World Bazaar, the Baymax Curry is sweet and mellow butter chicken curry and medium-spicy beef curry with chunks of beef.
The Baymax Curry costs ¥1,580. That’s currently $10.52.
Little Green Mochi and Personal Pan Pizza – Pan Galactic Pizza Port is the first pizza restaurant in the solar system, setting up shop as a counter service spot in Tomorrowland at Tokyo Disneyland. Manager Tony Solaroni operates the PZ-5000 fully automatic pizza machine and takes orders.
The sausage personal pan pizza is ¥740 and the little green mochi are ¥400. That’s currently a total of $7.59.
Hungry Bear Curry – Another such curry meal was at Hungry Bear Restaurant in Westernland, which is my favorite counter service spot for curry in either park.
The pork cutlet curry costs ¥1,100 and the chicken curry is ¥900. The Pistachio Cream & Pudding with Souvenir Cup cost ¥900. (We bought every variety of these–not for the dessert, but because the little cup is perfectly-sized for espresso.) The total current cost of this all is $19.31.
Crystal Palace Buffet – The three-domed glass building is a direct clone of the sit-down Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom. The key differences are that no Winnie the Pooh characters are present, and the cuisine is better (in our opinion) at Tokyo Disneyland. In addition to meats, sushi and seafood, Crystal Palace also has a formidable dessert lineup. The little green mochi are, to borrow a phrase from Joey, where we win our money back.
The Crystal Palace buffet costs 4,500 yen per adult, which is currently $30.
Gaston’s Feast – Of course we had to eat everything on the menu at La Taverne de Gaston in the new Beauty and the Beast area. Pictured here is the sausage ‘big bite’ croissant, french toast/grilled cheese sandwich, sweet mousse, hunter’s pie, and apple-caramel churro.
Total cost of everything above is 3,200 yen, or $21.31.
Coffee Mugs – On our flight back from Japan, each of our carry-ons were about 50% mugs and cups. We bought a wide variety of options at Nakano Broadway, Kyoto antique shops, and Starbucks throughout Japan. We bought the four mugs above at TDR; the two on the left have heat-activated effects and all four have tactile, dimensional designs. All are microwave and dishwasher safe.
These 4 mugs were a total of 2,800 yen–currently $18.64.
Ultimately, it’s a great time for Americans to visit Japan if you want to take advantage of our stronger currency and greater purchasing power. As intimated above, the good news for Americans is that this has less to do with Tokyo Disney Resort having reasonable prices and more about the value of our currency and purchasing power thanks to higher wages.
This means that you won’t just encounter “cheap” prices at the parks–you’ll find them pretty much everywhere you go. That will remain true so long as the exchange rate continues to be historically favorable and around the 140 to 150 yen to dollar level. Of course, this assumes you’re able to score reasonable airfare, are comfortable traveling internationally, and have the desire to visit Japan.
It’s probably obvious to regular readers, but we are huge fans of Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. For years, we’ve been imploring diehard Disney fans to visit these parks, which are our two favorite theme parks in the world. They are a breath of fresh air for Walt Disney World fans who have become disillusioned with price increases and all the nickel & diming. (A few years ago, we wrote “Want to Recapture the Disney Magic? Visit Japan,” which underscores all of this.)
With that said, Tokyo Disney Resort isn’t perfect–especially not right now. Entertainment and seasonal offerings are still scaled back, especially at Tokyo DisneySea. Part of this was (sadly) inevitable as the parks shifted from entertainment to capex and opened new attractions–but another element is due to the phased reopening being about 18 months behind.
Our hope is that a lot of this will be rolled back or otherwise resolved by June 2024 when Fantasy Springs opens. Realistically, the after-effects will probably linger for several years. The aging population and immigration compounds matters, leading to labor shortages. (To be sure, the United States has a similar dynamic, but we’re a decade or more away from it being as pronounced here as it is in Japan.) In any case, even imperfect TDR beats Walt Disney World right now for us.
We are very much looking forward to returning to Japan in Summer 2024, and taking advantage of this dynamic again. We likewise recommend Japan to first-timers and repeat visitors alike at that point. Tokyo Disney Resort not firing on all cylinders is still something special, especially at an effective discount due to the weak yen and strong dollar. The only downside is that it’ll forever change the way you view every other theme park.
Have you visited Japan in the last couple of years? What was your experience with the strong dollar and weak yen? Even if you visited pre-closure, what did you feel about the value proposition of Tokyo Disney Resort? Pleased with the bang-for-buck you got out of the trip? Excited to experience Tokyo Disney Resort in the coming years? Are you delaying your first visit to maximize seeing ‘new stuff’ or moving it forward to avoid the crowds? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!