Is Disney World Eroding Fan Goodwill?
While reading the comments to the recent news about Walt Disney World charging for parking, I noticed many readers indicated that this was their tipping point: they were done with WDW. This has been a trend I’ve in comments to stories of this kind the last couple of years. More and more one-time fans seem fed up with what they view as nickel and diming, and practices that don’t value them as customers.
It’s easy to write off these comments as hollow words that won’t be backed up with action when it comes time to book their next vacation. Impassioned initial responses will give way to cooler thinking or ways to adjust behavior and ‘make it work’ to continue feeding the Disney addiction. The internet being what it is, there is no doubt some (a lot) of that.
However, dismissing the chorus of complaints out of hand would be foolish. I’ve been around the fan community a while, and have seen a lot of people move on the last few years; fans with thousands of posts suddenly disappearing or social media accounts changing their focus. These are just the prominent, visible examples. If even the most passionate fans felt alienated, no doubt more casual lurkers have reached their own tipping point. For me, this raises a couple of interesting questions: has Walt Disney World eroded fan goodwill, and if so, will that have negative ramifications down the road?
For those unfamiliar with the term, goodwill is basically the consumer relationship with and perception of the brand “Disney.” What you think when you hear the word, the loyalty you have as a result of past experiences, and how likely you are to be an advocate for the company. (This is all reductionist, but it provides a working understanding of the term, and why it’s a significant intangible asset for Walt Disney World.)
In Walt Disney World fandom, this manifests itself in myriad ways. People accumulate thousands of posts on fan forums, spend their hours discussing the parks on social media, and even descend upon the comments sections of articles critical of the parks. People spread the ‘Disney gospel’ to family and friends. Heck, it even leads the most overzealous fans to start blogs about Disney, documenting every experience, no matter how insignificant.
Historically, the Walt Disney Company as a whole has enjoyed exceptional consumer goodwill. Last year, Forbes ranked it as the #6 most powerful brand in the world (#1 was LEGO). The year before that, Disney claimed the #1 spot in Forbes’ measure of goodwill. Those impressive rankings sort of beg the titular question here. However, I’d argue that there’s a significant difference between goodwill for Disney and goodwill for Walt Disney World, which is a subset of the former.
For Disney as a whole, it’s easy to see why goodwill is so high. The company has a solid reputation as being family-friendly, producing toys and television shows that kids love. Then there are the Disney and Pixar-branded animated films; both studios have enjoyed an impressive streak of films that are well-received by families. (I’m inclined to withhold Star Wars and Marvel from consideration here, as I’m not entirely sure the average consumer associates those with Disney.)
Evaluating the theme parks is a bit trickier. Whereas every first-run movie, regardless of quality, costs the same amount to see, theme parks exist in a world of vacation destinations that are not exactly apples to apples comparisons for a multitude of reasons. Pricing, crowds, nature of the experience, etc., all vary dramatically, making head to head comparisons exceedingly difficult.
It’s entirely possible that Walt Disney World enjoys a similar level of goodwill as the Walt Disney Company as a whole. Given the prevalence of “Disney parks are overpriced, tourist traps” articles and sentiment in the mainstream, I find that a very difficult premise to accept.
Walt Disney World does enjoy its own unique reputation, earned from decades of its–and Disneyland’s–existence. The United States Disney parks are viewed as rite of passage vacation destinations where parents, even the most cynical and Disney-averse, take their children. Hugging Mickey Mouse (and capturing the photo to prove it!), getting that first flight on Dumbo, being tall enough to ride Space Mountain, etc., all are experiences that have become ingrained in our culture. Suffice to say, Walt Disney World is an American institution, and a place many people aspire to visit.
Among the general public–the ones who don’t read blogs like this–experiencing this cultural touchstone is important. In today’s strong economy, it’s also easier to justify. Sure, there will be sticker shock when seeing hotel prices, but they’ve heard brand advocates like us touting Walt Disney World for decades.
As a culturally-important, rite of passage vacation at a time when unemployment is at historic lows and they have record high confidence in the economy, Walt Disney World is very appealing for casual consumers. This is true even if the vacation costs $6,000 to $8,000 and requires going into a bit of debt to fund.
These first-time visitors who will spend big on their vacation, doing everything they can to ensure that their important trip lives up to expectations, are a lucrative audience for Disney. These guests generally don’t know hacks to save cut costs, and generally spend more money than regular guests. (Obviously, there are exceptions to every generalization–we know plenty of Annual Passholders who are merchandise-addicts.)
A compelling argument can be made (one that I’d agree with) that Walt Disney World is tailoring its business strategy towards one and done visitors, eager to score big financial results in the short term. Right now, it’s also quite conceivable that Walt Disney World is not particularly interested in loyal customers. It doesn’t need them to fill hotels, and doesn’t recognize their long-term value.
The first problem with this line of thinking is what happens when another recession hits or an event negatively impacting the tourism industry. Since 2000, this has occurred twice. Even if you think the fundamentals of our economy are sound (I don’t), it does not take a vivid imagination to envision a time in 5 years or less when things are not so rosy.
During both of the past recessions, Walt Disney World discounted heavily and was very much reliant on its ardent fans to pick up the slack. Following the last recession, the argument was made that Walt Disney World is ‘recession-proof’ in light of its healthy performance.
I’d retort that this misses the mark. Historically, Walt Disney World fans have had an ironclad passion/addiction that they would prioritize going to Disney over other discretionary expenditures. More casual middle class families with kids of the ‘right age’ would do likewise since the parks enjoyed such a strong rite of passage reputation. Sound promotional strategies plus these demographics meant that a recession was not enough to discourage robust attendance numbers.
This raises several questions. Are there still just as many fans with that ironclad passion today as there were a decade ago? If not, can those one-time fans be lured back with aggressive discounting? Is Walt Disney World raising new generations of fans in the same number as it raised my generation and those before mine? Does Walt Disney World’s longstanding institutional rite of passage reputation outweigh its newfound “Walt Disney World is a playground for the wealthy” reputation?
I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. I’m guessing Disney does not, either (if they’re questions even being asked within the company). While I can understand Disney’s eagerness to capitalize on short term trends, I’m weary of what some of the company’s decisions mean in the long term. There are obviously still a ton of things I love about Walt Disney World, and I’m incredibly enthusiastic about what’s on the horizon between now and 2021. I also have a bit of trepidation about pricing trends, and find myself a bit disenchanted with a business plan that, in my opinion, does not hold a whole lot of regard for loyal customers.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Has Walt Disney World lost some of the goodwill you once held for the parks? Do you agree or disagree with our analysis? Other thoughts on this topic? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
I went to Disney World for the first time with my wife and 7yr old daughter back in May of 2019 and the thing that really pushed me over the edge was the lack of free water. I planned the trip on a budget and heard you can get free cups of water if you ask. The catch though is that the only places that give “free” water have a 15min + wait. There are drinking fountains but the water isn’t even cold. I thought it was disgusting that Disney would gouge families with $4 water bottles in 90 degree heat. They know full well the drinking fountains are warm and not refreshing and that people will not wait in line for a cup of water. Then they pretend to be conservationists while they gouge customers on millions of plastic water bottles.
All that being stated I get that there is only so much room at The Magic Kingdom and the world’s population is skyrocketing so they can just cater to the wealthy now if they want. The only way to bring back the lower crowd, lower price, higher quality experience of the past is to build more parks elsewhere in the US but why build more parks just to lower prices. The only way it will happen is to have a visionary leader who wants Disney to remain accessible to the masses
Yeah, Adam…if you’re looking for free water or free anything really, Disney isn’t for you. Sure it’s hot, but nobody made you go. You should have planned ahead. It costs $4 bucks x 3 people that’s $24.00 a day extra. i’m sure you won’t have to walk home after buying 6 waters a day. And if you drink more than 6 in a day, maybe a diet program would be better than a trip to Disney.
No one should have to plan on paying $24 / day for water at Disney. That’s a rip off!!
There are many ways to get around that.
And for your information Drinking 6 bottles of water or more a day is very healthy, especially if you’re outside walking around in the heat all day. Water is good for you. Drinking lots of water can actually help overweight people lose weight. No need for anyone to go on a diet plan because they’re drinking too much water. Water keeps people from becoming dehydrated, helps to keep our organs keep functioning properly and has 0 calories.
I agree everything is overpriced at Disney, or any theme park really, and unfortunately the costs go up every year. I’ve never had to wait 15 minutes for a cup of water but I’ve tried to plan my vacation time there for the less crowded periods. If you’re on a tight budget another way you can save on water and food in general is have bottled water, pop and snacks, cereal, milk, apples, granola bars, muffins, cookies, chips, nuts, chocolate, bread & peanut butter, etc, delivered to your hotel room/hotel customer service at disney via garden grocer and keep stuff in your mini fridge. We have to travel by plane but if you can, if you’re travelling by car, just pack a cooler & bring all those items with you. Pack a few paper bowls/plates/plastic cutlery, sandwich Ziploc bags, etc. Bring travel mugs. Bring a couple small ice packs and a small cooler bag to put in your backpack to take drinks/water & keep it cold with you to the parks. Bring a thermos or 2 and fill it with ice at the hotel to bring with you to the parks. We stay at the value resorts and we’ve done this a few times to save on drink & food costs. It also saves on your time for breakfast so you can get out to the parks earlier in the morning when they first open which is usually the least crowded time and not as hot as afternoon. Just some tips to save some cash. Hope this helps.
I totally agree with your assessment. As a Florida Resident, I was a Season APH from 2001-2007 and I paid for my niece’s pass as well. Used to always take her to a Disney Resort, stayed at GF, Wilderness Lodge (my fav), Boardwalk Villas, Caribbean Beach, Animal Kingdom Lodge (Animal View Room), etc. The most I paid back than was at the GF, $250 a night for 7 days/6 nights prior to blackout for the Christmas Holiday in Dec. and it faced the castle dressed as its 25th Anniversary bday cake. Now that same room goes for $700-$800 a night!!! The customer service isn’t their..the only place I find “Eisner” Cust Svc is at Wilderness Lodge and Old Key West. There’s even a section in the new part of Disney Springs I call “Rodeo” Disney because of the stores there (a watch costing $38k! Disney is all about making a buck vs providing a guest experience. Eisner knee it, but apparently Iger hasn’t learned that, provide a customer experience, you develop goodwill for Disney and bring that guest back to Disney for another visit. I believe Disney has hit the ceiling when they raised their AP prices earlier this year and thus less guests at the parks. I’m seeing that Disney is and continues to have lower attendance vs last year at the same time.
As one who’s been faithfully coming to WDW since the summer of ’72, I fully agree the attitude toward guests has clearly changed in negative ways. We are nothing more than dollar signs to Disney and they’re more aggressive every year. The more they grab my wallet, the less magical the experience. I understand prices will increase over time, but really nasty things like parking fees for resort guests, are a total slap in the face. When I’m paying OVER $500 PER NIGHT to stay at a resort, how dare they hit me with a parking fee!!! The only message that sends is “we will take everything from you”. I pay it because there is no other choice for someone driving in (we live 2 hours away), but every time I see it on the statement of charges, it chips away at my my lifelong Disney fandom and tarnishes the good-will feelings I’ve accumulated over the years. “Magical” is giving way to “MoneyGrab” at every opportunity.
One other bone of contention, even though it’s off-topic for this post, is how crowded the resorts have become. I don’t mean guests. I mean those who AREN’T staying there. We spend extra for the deluxe resorts, and expect a deluxe experience. Sadly, it’s become common knowledge that resorts are open for anyone to clog up during the day– not just guests at other Disney resorts, or campers, but even day-trippers. It’s often a fight through crowds just walking through the lobby to get to the monorail, because the place is packed to the gills with non-guests wandering around, taking up seating, creating long monorail waiting queues, and the like. The only places they can’t go are into the rooms and pool. Everything else is fair game. The price is premium. The rooms are nicer. But oh my gosh… the crowds… make it the OPPOSITE of a premium experience!!!
All hotels allow non guests to make dining reservations at their hotels restaurants. That’s the same pretty much anywhere, not just in WDW. Aside from that, a dining reservation, I can’t imagine why a non resort guest would want to come and just hang around and take up seating areas??? Sounds rather odd! & also rather Boring!! Why would they bother. Unless perhaps they have come to the resort for a dinner reservation, in which case they have every right to be there! And perhaps after dinner, which I’m sure they paid good money for, they might take the monorail to leave & go elsewhere, which they have every right to do so! And how can you tell who is not a guest at the resort?? WDW is a huge place and altogether a usually very crowded type of place to be often full of all kinds of people and if you can’t handle it or don’t have the tolerance for crowds you should probably plan your vacations somewhere quieter and more intimate without crowds! Deluxe Resorts are not small resorts and hold many many guests as they have many many rooms. They are only Deluxe because they are a little fancier, have a spa, are closer to the parks, and they cost a lot more money. They are not Deluxe because they are less crowded. They have many rooms and many many guests stay there.
Yes, I’m well aware of how big the place is… like I said, I’m a lifelong Florida resident who’s been faithfully going to WDW for a little over 47 years. Have you ever stayed at the Grand Floridian or Polynesian? They’re just outside the MK main gates with direct monorail service, and plenty of non-guests use them to escape the heat and crowds of the park. They hop the monorail, exit at the resort, get something to eat/drink, sit in the lobby, wander around lookie-looing, It’s pretty obvious when people wander off the monorail, sit down to fan themselves in the lobby and drink a bottle of water, they aren’t staying there; otherwise they’d go to their room and freshen up. The lack of MagicBands tends to give it away, too, since all resort guests get one at check-in because it’s their room key (among other things). I’ve walked past people talking to each other about their site at Ft. Wilderness. I’ve heard people say variations of “… we’re staying at (somewhere else) but came here for…” I know plenty of non-guests come to the viewing areas at Poly and GF to watch the fireworks. My wife and I got to the beach well in advance of fireworks one night to get a nice spot, and at the last minute an obnoxious group of non-guests showed up and parked themselves in front of us. Turned a beautiful serene spot into a raucous frat party. How did I know they weren’t staying there? I heard them talking about where they WERE staying. I get that people are allowed to make dining reservations, and I don’t object. But I do wish they would have more registered-guest-only spots, like a reserved section of the beach, so those of us spending a small fortune to stay there could actually enjoy the amenities we’re paying for. Currently, only the pools lock out non-guests.
Well, then you already know that a really big resort like GF or Polynesian is going to be pretty crowded even if other non guests come to visit it or not. I do understand your frustrations and maybe you could suggest to the management or concierge that as a loyal guest you would appreciate the perk of having some Grand Floridian guest only areas. Maybe they’ll do something about that, you never know? It doesn’t hurt to suggest it. And keep suggesting it! Squeky wheel gets the oil and all that!! It’s not an unreasonable request considering how much money you’re paying to stay there. They should consider it & I certainly wish you luck with that. I’m sure many people in different resorts or in the parks can relate to your story of finding the perfect viewing spot for fireworks and then suddenly having a large loud group of people surge in front of you at the last minute, whether it be in the park or on a beach. I think that happens to all of us & there’s no way around this unless you pay extra for a special viewing area.
Frankly I’d be scared to be on the beaches there at night because I’m afraid the alligators might come out there & attack me – but that’s just me! I do understand your frustrations & I feel for you But, that’s how it goes in WDW now, really it’s a crowded place. My doctor has been to the Grand Floridian many times for medical conference large group trips & he says they have a lot of conference groups stay there at GF now so that probably adds to your crowding problem too. I’ve been past the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian on the way to the Magic Kingdom many times but I’ve never stayed at them. I would never go on the monorail to Polynesian or Grand Floridian just to get out of the heat of MK park as there are so many easier & quicker ways to get out of the heat at Magic Kingdom. I know many ways anyone can more quickly & easily find air conditioning & a cold drink at MK park. I can understand some park guests or guests staying at other disney resorts might like to go look at the deluxe resorts just to check them out & see if it’s a place they might consider staying in the future or to see it & decide if they think it’s worth the high price tag for them to book there in the future? It is quite pricey so some people may feel they may want to look before they book! Myself I live far away and I have only been to WDW about 12 times over the last 15 years & I never had any interest in going to check out either of these resorts. I’m in an upper middle class family range & those resorts are just way out of my price range. I don’t know how people justify that cost. We work hard for our money so, with costs of flights for 4 people and paying extreme exchange rates on the US dollar these days those deluxe resorts are just not worth my dollars & I really don’t need them to have a good time at WDW. Plus MK is not my favorite park so I don’t need to be that close to it.
We usually stay for 9 -11 days at one of the value resorts or just on a couple occasions at a moderate. If I want a relaxing luxury vacation I can find a much cheaper deluxe resort in the Caribbean, in Mexico or Jamaica or on cruise. Or even over in Naples, Florida where we’ve found it’s quiet & not crowded & near a much nicer beach/gulf coast than any WDW beach. You’re very fortunate that you can afford to stay at these deluxe resorts at WDW & also you can go so often since you live nearby. It’s kind of sad though that you pay so much money and yet are unhappy with your stay due to over crowding. I really don’t mind staying at the value resorts. It saves money that I can use on other things that I value more. I find the value resorts are usually not very crowded, but it depends on when you go. I do some research to stay at the less crowded times. We don’t spend that much time in our room anyway and they’re clean & comfortable & quite modern since they’ve updated them & the resorts have great customer service & it’s usually pretty quiet there most of the time so, they’re fine for us.. They have nice enough large clean pools with life guards & those pools are often practically empty. They’re close to Disney Springs and the Water Parks. Close to Epcot, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom. Just no on site spas! We would have to go off the resort to another WDW resort for that or go off WDW but the spas where I live are so much less expensive & high quality that usually I just book a spa day someplace near my home a day or 2 before I leave for WDW & then I don’t need their spas. For non quick service / finer dining we go a short ride to Epcot or Disney Springs. I try to plan my trips during less crowded times of the year & have been pretty lucky. I enjoy the value resorts & most of our day is spent at the parks anyway. Check the Disney touring plan website to find less busy times to visit WDW and keep suggesting to GF / Polynesian resorts that they give it’s high paying regular guests some guest only areas and some extra perks. I wish you luck.
disney caters to two groups now, DVC, and the massive spenders who will spend money on every single extra they can fit into their trip in case it’s the only time they can go. the average once-a-year family or the day visitor, they couldn’t care less about anymore. in the 80s and 90s, and even the early 00s before Iger, the average visitor was treated like royalty and made to feel special. more and more, i just feel like a walking dollar sign anymore. sure, they’ll gladly take the money of the average family, but that family or day visitor isn’t going to spend like the once-in-a-lifetime group. they aren’t doing dessert parties and extra morning magic, and after hours, and vip tours, and premium parking. those are the customer that disney is after. them, and anyone they can rope into DVC to drop that massive load of cash up front. beyond that, they don’t care what a buyer does with their timeshare. but that average family? they are more likely to know the money-saving and “hacks”, all things disney is slowly trying to phase out. everything is going to reach a point that is too expensive.
We used to spend a week at Disney World every year. This year we skipped. When we do go, we can only afford four days, stay at value resirts, and purchase the counter service dining plan. We began at deluxe resirts, then moved to moderate when that became too expensive, for the last five trips, we have stayed at All Stars. We have a trip planned for four days in 2019, but feel this may likely be our last trip
Just a idea go to disneyland its a different area of the world to see. Just a couple weeks ago we stayed as close to disneyland as the contemporary is to magic kingdom for 115 dollars a night and might I add the staff was more cordial there. Not only that but they have a night time parade brand new this year. I’d say quantity of rides go to disney world but quality goes to California. Quite possibly looking to go back for another time before heading back to disney world in 2019. We do have annual passes to wdw but for a vacation I enjoyed the last one better than I have a wdw vacation in quite some time. P.s if your wondering where this awesome staff is located it is castle inn and suites
I can relate. We’ve been going almost every year about 12 times over the last 16 years staying anywhere from 9-12 days at a time. The first couple times we stayed off world in nearby rental condos. Then after that we tried a deal with free dining at a value resort & got hooked & we always stayed at value resorts after that. We could never afford deluxe resorts, we had to buy airfare too & we’re middle class but not rich & we didn’t really need it, we were comfortable and happy enough at the value resorts. Rooms were clean & service was good. The last few trips though as prices have kept going up it was a real struggle to pay for it. Now the last 2 years with prices gone up so much and a few other unexpected expenses we got hit with at home we just couldn’t manage a way to afford it and we just didn’t go. We did end up managing a shorter trip this mid September to Disneyland & California Adventure in Anaheim, California for a short stay. The weather was beautiful. You can book a day tour from Anaheim area to any of Hollywood/LA/Santa Monica or other beach areas or Warner Bros Studios or Universal theme park for anywhere from $60-$170 / person depending which tour you choose. For Disneyland & California Adventure parks we got 4 day parkhopper tickets with maxpass. We got a great deal at Wyndham Garden Anaheim Hotel, it was an affordable hotel with the most amazing friendly staff in a large, clean, comfortable, quiet, modern room with a coffeemaker, fridge & microwave inside the room, the hotel had a nice heated pool & hot tub area and I could see parks fireworks from my window, it had a bar & restaurant & laundry on site & was surrounded by affordable restaurants and was a very short walk to Walgreens & CVS & just 2 blocks walk to the parks entranceways and we had a great time there. It was very uncrowded at both parks and was easy & quick to cross from one park to the other to ride our favorites at both parks in one day and all wait times were minimal, even Millennium Falcon which rode 4 times was always only 20-30 minutes wait each time though signs always said 45 minutes. Most rides were 5-20 minutes wait. They didn’t have everything WDW has but they did have some great things that WDW does not!! There were many things at the California parks I actually preferred and really enjoyed & I would consider going back there again. One thing you’ll notice in the area surrounding Disneyland is that unfortunately for a state that is the home to so many rich & famous people and right next to a theme park whose company just spent billions on additions there are a great deal of homeless persons living on the street surrounding the parks and though none of them were pushy or threatening in any way that I personally encountered there were many obviously homeless & poor people with hands out or signs asking for help. Some looked so frail & thin & were sleeping on the sidewalks/boulevards. I couldn’t understand why the state of California & the Disneyland company & all the millionaires & billionaires living in this state with all of their money cannot get together and do something to help these poor souls get off the streets & into some form of housing & get them fed & also get them any help they might need with any rehab or medical care or maybe a program for them for education/re-training & help them get some work. I gave some small amounts of cash to those that I could. It makes you feel pretty crappy & sad walking past all these homeless poor people on your way into an expensive amusement park on your holiday & sure puts some things into perspective. This was the one sad downside of our visit to Disneyland & our stay in Anaheim. So many homeless in the area. I also remember seeing this before during a visit in Las Vegas. Many homeless people sleeping on sidewalks, on boulevards and between shrubs. Also, Fortunately we missed the horrible fires that they have been dealing with in the California area for quite some time now. This seems to be a reoccurring problem they’re now dealing with every year. It is very frightening and my hopes and prayers go out to all of those people there dealing with these fires this horrible disaster right now. At the end of this I’d like to say: I’ve been fortunate to have taken my family to many WDW vacations over the years (,among some other places) and I enjoyed it but, if it’s now getting so expensive that maybe we can no longer afford to go at least we had the opportunity to enjoy those past vacations & experiences and we should really be thankful for that when there are so many poor & less fortunate people in our world who may have not ever been able to take any such vacation & perhaps never will. So, I think that when there are so many homeless & sick & poor everywhere, not to mention little children trapped in war torn countries, I probably shouldn’t complain if the price increases mean I can no longer afford another Disney vacation. I should be thankful I have been very fortunate. I have a decent home to live in, in a nice neighborhood, and we have food to eat every day here in our house. To my wonderful neighbors to the south, I wish you all well in the USA. I wonder if some of these homeless I see in the USA lost their homes or jobs due to medical issues/costs they couldn’t cover. I worry about these people. I want you to know, Here in Canada: In my life, Nine times since childhood I’ve stayed in hospitals. I’ve given birth to 3 babies in hospital & suffered serious illnesses & have been rushed to hospital & have travelled by ambulance and have had to have 4 operations over my life and the doctors & nurses here are fantastic, I received great care & we never lost our house because here in Canada we don’t pay for medical care. My son just stayed in hospital and had a tonsillectomy. He received great care from surgeon, doctors, & nurses. It cost us nothing. No bill!! We can go see a doctor anytime we need to and I don’t pay a dime. My doctor, he’s a very good doctor & our Government pays him. If I need to see a specialist he sends me to one and I get no bill! It’s covered. Same for my children & my husband. We never have to worry if we get sick, we will be taken care of and receive no bill! We won’t lose our home to pay medical bills. My mother got cancer, her operations and chemo was all covered. No bill!! She didn’t lose her house.
We don’t have to buy any expensive insurance and worry if it’s good enough, if we’ll be covered. I don’t know if we may pay a little more for taxes to cover it but it’s not enough to notice. I keep thinking If we can do it & there are many other countries that do it too, then a big strong wealthy nation like the USA can surely do it too!! But, of course it’s up to you in the USA. I wish you all well.
I have been a loyal on site Disney guest for years! I would set my budget and work out all the details to make sure Disney worked out. No unfortunately it’s not affordable no perks, less staff and rude people everywhere. The parking fees are what has made me say never again. My last day trip was not nice. I was cursed at for getting into a ride with some people who thought two riders on test track. The lady also was hitting the rider in front of me that the cast members filled the car with. The inadequate staff mean that issues like these aren’t dealt with. Long lines every place. I considered this my favourite place ever. No more it’s not worth it
That’s ridiculous, I would have cursed back loudly, and hit back too!! I have never experienced anything like that at WDW & I’m so sorry for you for your horrible experience. Some people are just ignorant and have no class! Unfortunately that is found everywhere, not just WDW. People should be respectful and kinder and more courteous and civilized especially when they are on vacation. I wish you would have complained loudly to anyone and everyone. I am just disgusted that this happened to you. The staff should be explaining to people entering the rides clearly and loudly that they will be sharing a car with other guests, that all seats will be filled!! This is horrible and inexcusable.
We’ve been DVC members since 2003 and were going 1-2 times per year until 2 years ago. We don’t have to pay for parking, but the overall price increases are ridiculous. Extra perks we had are now dwindling away to nothing. The new fast pass system sucks as well. Parks are packed and filled with people from outside the US that invade personal space and pop an squat in the middle of stairs and walkways. We got 2 day park passes with unlimited meals at Busch Gardens/Sea world or their water parks for $124.99. Disney is nicer and the employees are better, but they can’t match the prices.
Our kids prefer we rent out our points and do the cruises, which is a far better value for the money IMO.
nickle and dime will catch up sooner or later. Now serving liquor will also cause problems sooner or later. I have always enjoyed WDW , the cast members are the ones that make your visit great. I visited 10 times since 1981. Brought friends and they to have gone back as repeat customers. Maybe at 80 years old I may try one more time in 2020 when all the new attraction are complete. Hopefully that same feeling of appreciation will still be there. Nickle and Dime will drive people away. Maybe Disney only wants the rich to attend, and that would be a shame.
This is fascinating, and part of the reason i love this blog above other disney blogs; you put so much thought into everything and try to see from all sides.
As long as people DO pay, Disney WILL keep charging.
I personally think that Disney will try to charge for what they can, for as long as they can. I was just reading about “morning magic” and how they are charging people $80 for 90 minutes in the park ahead of regular guests. Sure they get breakfast and short waits and popular rides but…………really?? i might, MIGHT, pay $40 for something like that. Also…..that’s what extra magic hours are for! Which don’t even matter anymore because they’re allowing off-property guests the same incentive. The “extra value” just isn’t there anymore.
So, Disney has decided the economy is doing so well that they can charge more for everything while offering less. I wonder if the rollercoaster the stock market has been on lately will effect anyone’s trip plans for later this year? How about the new tariffs on trade? The people’s faith in that economy? How will Disney react (if at all) if people start to get spooked and decide a vacation costing thousands might not be a good idea this year with so much uncertainty? We shall see if their actions come back to bite them, sooner rather than later.
If the economy tanks, then Disney will offer discounts and incentives, just as they did after 2008/the Great Recession. It’s all cyclical . . .
Problem is how many loyal disney fans have they turned off recently.me, myself I will still go. But in those times its the loyal disney fans that tend to carry it. Just saying it will be interesting
Agree . . . though new loyal Disney fans are being “born” every day. Those most angry about these price increases right now and who plan to never return remind me of the old man from Disney-Pixar’s “Up” . . . With canes thrust to the sky they are decrying and resisting change/evolution/progress/whatever. Not that that’s bad at all – I fully support it! Look at the new adventure that Carl had when he refused to sell his home.
They’re angry because they feel they’ve been loyal for many years and have earned something from Disney in return. Something they are not getting. So it is only right for them to leave Disney and to never look back – to find a new adventure.
I just don’t agree with the anger – IMHO the pricing is not so outlandish in comparison to everything else in the Entertainment/Hospitality sector. A Disney vacation (or any vacation) is luxury and it seems that people view it as almost an entitlement or necessity, which speaks to a certain perspective on the world.
New fans will replace old fans. Pricing will change and evolve. Discounts and special offers will be made according to demand/economics. I will continue to come, as I have since 1977! And I’m confident that the parks will not die a slow death due to abandonment by former loyal fans.
So will I since 1971!!!!!
I don’t think it’ll die a slow death either, quite the contrary with so many new experiences being added: Pandora, Toy Story land, Tron at MK, StarWars GE, the Gondolas, awesome update to Disney Springs, etc. Hard for fans to resist.
The continual moves by WDW that chip away value have put our family in a defensive position. We used to spend freely within our WDW budget and not over-scrutinize expenses; we now seek to not be taken advantage of. APs & Good Neighbor Hotels are our new choice this year instead of the Magic Your way Packages we always bought. We always ate at parks/resorts, but I have a feeling that will change as well.
We’ll spend the same amount we usually do, but now we feel forced to invest time seriously strategizing and get a tremendously larger bang for our buck. Pretty sure WDW ends up with less profits on us this year. We’re doing 3 trips for the same price as we used to do 2.
My family and I were just discussing this on the weekend. Our biggest issue is the tiered pricing. There is an assumption that if you stay at a Deluxe resort that you have more disposable income. Why the tiered pricing? We LOVE staying at the Beach Club. So we save for a few years in order to stay there. Why do I need to pay more for parking just because I’m staying at a Deluxe resort?
Deluxe resorts have nicer everything including parking hence increased fee
I disagree. At the moderates at least you can often practically park right outside your room. At many of the deluxes, the parking is very far away. You can valet, but I’m not paying for that on top of what I’m already paying to stay there. Plus you still have to drag your luggage to your room, which in many deluxes is quite the haul. Either way, parking is not a better situation in deluxes, at least not across the board, than the other resorts.
Nicer parking? What does that even mean? Closer? Obviously not, because the resorts like Caribbean Beach you can park close to you actual building. Whereas Boardwalk, for example is the parking lot not near the building… Otherwise cement is cement. The parking isn’t covered (like a garage) at deluxe resorts to protect your car from overheating from the sun or hail.. How exactly is the parking better? Do pray tell.
Sorry all was being facetious guess I was only one in on joke
I apologize Michael for being serious, as I thought you were. Granted if you weren’t kidding, you are entitled to your opinion. Disney has pushed my buttons too far on this last issue and I’ve become vocal about it. I don’t even drive when I go to Disney. Lol. I apologize as well. Happy Spring!!
How is the parking nicer at deluxe? That’s ridiculous. We’re already paying more to stay at Deluxe and we don’t get any extra perks in the park than the Value or Moderate guests (we don’t get more FPs, for instance). They shouldn’t be charging at all for parking. This isn’t Los Angeles area where real estate is at a premium. It’s swampland. It’s all greed. You watch, they will start charging for parking at Disney Springs, then for FastPasses, etc. It won’t stop until consumers finally say enough is enough.
Nicer parking should have higher parking charges. I measured each parking space at every resort level deluxe spaces are an average 12 feet wide. Moderates are 11 feet wide and value an average10 feet wide tell me why you shouldn’t have to pay more.lol
Hey s read all comments before you comment you would have realized I was being facetious
Hey s how much are the one day tickets for the deluxe resort. The same for the price at the value resort. Which tells you one thing the theme parks aren’t included with the price of the resorts. Which you can conclude fastpasses aren’t included in the price of the resort. So what you pay more for are two things first and most of all is the better resort. Second is proximity to the theme parks why do you think they made the ones closest to the theme parks the nicest
Hey everybody, Mike is totally just joking / kidding around/ being sarcastic about the deluxe resorts have nicer parking so should cost more comment!!!
Great article Tom. I agree with you completely.
‘Goodwill’ is a great way to describe it. To me it means trusting you are getting the proper value for your money, fairly along with other consumers. It’s become the worst jumbling numbers/perks game where guests on the same exact trip can be spending an incredibly different amount of money. I don’t want to be on the losing end of WDW’s new offensive line-up. Time to defend.
The detail of immersion is hard to match but definitely exists a tipping point where it comes to value. Sky rocketing prices alongside reductions in experience do not go unnoticed. Examples:
HS. I get it… big plans for the future that are actually being realized. But it’s been years that HS continued to close things down without much compensation. Further insulting the guests at one point by making them choose between nite show viewing when there was already so little offered in that park.
DVC resale buyers now denied of perks.
Cutting park staff, forcing guests to endure considerably longer attraction lines.
Memory Maker buyers slapped with long lines after APs included them as a bonus toward THOSE hefty price increases.
Epcot food booths downgrading the initial offerings while jacking up prices.
The boutique in MK charging a lot extra for the pics that used to come standard in that already expensive package.
On-site now having to share FP windows with Good Neighbor hotels.
If you find a great spot to view a show, next time it’ll cost $75 to stand there.
Charged a premium to park on-site? You’re already saving WDW money by not using their transport!
I’m thankful for Universal since they should help keep WDW on its toes in regard to expanding budgets for quality and more inclusions. Time will tell if WDW ends up needing to recapture fans they once had who realized they could throw their big money elsewhere for a more satisfying trip. We are getting close. In the meantime, we’ll just throw their “milking” strategy right back at them by utilizing fansite advice to milk our stay for all it is worth. Lol.
Well said, Bill. As you mentioned the immersion and attention to detail can only go so far, and then the utter lack of $ to experience because of all those factors you mention can sour the experience. The execs at Disney need to reexamine their business model and fix it with better solutions.
I can understand the parking fee (it doesn’t mean I accept it, just that I think I understand the reason behind it lol). Due to the increase in prices, many people (in which I include myself) have decided to take a car to Disney for convenience. Planning your whole trip and schedule around a 5:00pm Dinner Reservation in BOG one day makes no sense at all. Some of us have decided taking a car, and eating out of Disney property might be a better option (For example, eating at the Waldorf Steak House needs about a two week reservation and won’t set you back anything more than any Disney Restaurant). That way you most of the time end up paying less and not having to worry that much about your reservations.
Some other people like to bring breakfast to their hotel room. The easiest way is to bring groceries yourself or send someone in the morning to buy breakfast outside.
Having people pay for parking makes them wonder if its worth having a rental car. Without it, they will most likely stay on property, or will need additional funds or planning for going outside. Convenience wise? Better stay and SPEND on Disney property. Remember that $35 t-shirt you saw on X in Disney Property which is half the price in the Florida Mall and a Quarter on the Premium Outlets? Yeah, too bad you have to stay on-site so its worth paying $35 for that…
There is almost universal agreement in these comments that the parking fee is the “last straw,” and commenters will not be returning to Disney. Ever. I’ve also noticed comments have become a catch-all for every complaint against Disney, and how Disney just isn’t the same.
I fully respect each person’s opinion, and I’m a firm believer in spending (or withholding) one’s money as a means of “voting.” Please, open or close your wallet as you see fit!
I do have to say that it’s also human nature to remember the past a bit through rose-tinted glasses. The reality is that it probably wasn’t as great as you’re remembering, and the present isn’t as bad as you’re interpreting it to be by comparison.
Growing up, we were middle class and for us staying on-site was definitely financially out of reach. And this was waaaay before there were Value Resorts (remember that???), which start at VERY affordable $120/nt in today’s dollars. For most people back in the day, staying on-site was reserved more for the elites. Perhaps those who are/were accustomed to staying on-site at Mod/Deluxe Resorts have lost sight of how fortunate they actually are in comparison to most other people (Disney Resort visitors are roughly 1/3 of total Disney visitors). The addition of Value Resorts and more lower-priced Moderate resorts opened up this tier of visiting to more people, yay!
But I can’t help notice the sense of entitlement that has crept into this thread. People have grown so accustomed to getting deals and promotions over the years that the “regular” price seems obscene – even when far fewer than half of visitors stay on-site.
Many people here have mentioned staying for extended 10 day vacations in pricier Disney properties . . . Apparently the idea of staying within one’s budget by choosing a cheaper resort is just too much to bear and people are choosing to not come at all. I applaud that – stand by your principles and standards!
But the idea that pricing is so outrageous or that the old loyal Disney fan base won’t be replaced by new fans is a little delusional. Disney’s investment in technology is definitely keeping up with trends and is a wise expenditure drawing the next wave of fans. That’s the way things are going, Folks.
Disney is changing and evolving, and I am still a fan and like the changes.
I LOVE the pre-planning!
I love FastPass and even the idea of paid FastPass.
I’m ecstatic over the park additions and innovations, and I’m happy to pay a little more to see them come to fruition. I’m happy to adjust my accommodations/expenses to fit my budget.
For those who believe that Disney’s pricing is outlandish, it is actually right on par with the Entertainment sector as a whole. Look at almost ANY theme park in the U.S., and their prices have tripled since the early 1990’s. Same as Disney’s. Same with hospitality trends.
In sum, I respect that some people do not like Disney’s “new” direction and will not return . . . Good for you, time freed up to explore other vacations!
The new Disney direction isn’t for everyone, but I’m excited about where it’s going and plan to return for many many years, whatever my budget, and I believe the next generation of fans will, too.
but that is a part of the issue. When staying at a Disney resort you are paying more than others. And you’re getting more than others. The Motel 6 may be charging a resort fee, but that’s on a $79 room price. Disney can charge $200 for a room because of all that the resort offers, but to then turn around and add a resort fee would be too much. Disney charges more, but also gives more. To break out some of those perks and charge extra for them begs the question of what you’re paying for to begin with. Why pay $200 a night to stay on property when you will then need to pay all the add ons?
What’s next? A charge for magical express? A fee for the buses? At what point does Disney lose the magic because they started to charge extra for it?
The only time that change will take place is when consumers speak with their money….same thing with any business that pushes the boundaries with their customers. The only person I’m hurting but “taking a stand” and not going is myself. If I budget properly there should be no issues. Disney is like any other business…prices go up on food, all sorts of entertainment, insurance…why should Disney be any different when, at it’s core, is a business?
Yes! I totally agree. Inflation happens everywhere. When people complain about prices it blows my mind, I couldn’t imagine the daily operating cost of one of the parks. It seems fair to me to get all of the shows, attractions, meet and greets that you get for admission.
Being cynical towards a major company is easy. I agree with speaking with your wallet. I am definitely happy to pay for what I get.
Live in Tampa so we can and do go to the parks often. Was planning a quick trip in April just to chill and hang out at Port Orleans with my husband. Once I heard about the parking fees I changed my plans to Ft Myers or maybe Cocoa Beach.
I also think that Disney is in for a rude awaking in the future years. If I may use an analogy.
When I was a young family man (I am now 55) I bought frozen Orange Juice at $0.77 a can. The price eventually went up to 88 cents and then 99 cents. I still bought it because nothing stays the same price forever. Then the can got a little smaller and the price went up over a dollar. I stop buying it unless it went on sale for 99 cents or less. Now the price is almost $2 a can and the size of the can is still small. I don’t buy it any more. BUT the up and coming younger generation doesn’t know any other price but $2/can. So they but it and the orange juice company still makes an increased profit.
Does that sound like Disney?
But what Disney is not taking into consideration is the fact that the new generation is all about instant gratification. They don’t want to spend hours planning their vacation, and don’t want a bunch of options and multiple different prices for every little feature of their trip. They want to pay their money and have a good time.
I know of a few different younger families that have gone to WDW and just hated it. (They went with little or no planning. With the hopes of a relaxing holiday) They will never go back.
What will be the outcome be if new customers won’t come back and the loyal fans are not returning.
If Disney wants loyal fans and repeat customers then they have to stop charging for every little thing and start concentrating on making the experience SIMPLE and MAGICAL again.
I’ve sort of become the “go to guy” for WDW where I work, and the first thing I do is point people towards this blog, and lend them my copy of “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.
I also make it a point to tell them to be up bright and early, if they are staying at a WDW resort, 60 days ahead of time to make their Fastpass reservations, and 180 days ahead of time for restaurants. I also tell them if they decide to “sleep in,” they WILL face those hours long lines they’ve heard about.
If they have young children, I also stress the mid day pool or nap break, to “keep the peace”with their kids, so they don’t get overheated and have everybody become cranky.
You’re pretty spot on there. I’ve noticed with my generation, it’s either they LOVE Disney and always go to the parks or they absolutely HATE Disney and will never go. There isn’t as much in between as generations past “I’ll take my kids once, so they can see it,” sort of attitude.
I am a millennial (non snowflake lol) who is more in attitude like that of a baby boomer or generation x adult. I have been to Disney three times, and one will never see me there again unless they stop their crazy nickel and diming or if I ever have children/nieces/nephews. I’m not sure if Disney thinks the increased prices are worth the longER waits than ever before, more maintenance (good) but when you get there and 4 rides you love are shut down for renovations it leaves a sour taste. Also, their bus service is absolutely TERRIBLE! Waiting up to 50 minutes to get on a crowded bus to go to another Disney destination is irritating.
There is a big world out there to explore. Disney has alienated me for good.
Once upon a time, I was a living, breathing, walking commercial for WDW. All I ever did was talk about what time of year is the best, where to stay, how to “manipulate” transportation to get where you wanted, best resort hotels and why, places to eat, and soooo much more. Lately, I can no longer answer the questions of why should someone stay on property or do FPs because I don’t know why myself. It makes me sad to feel like Disney no longer wants me to come. I considered myself a local (live 6 hours away) so we would get Aps and go 6 or 7 times a year. Now, it seems Disney only wants those folks who travel from super far not repeat visitors. There are no longer “off” seasons for us AP locals. The hotel discounts are minimal if any. I know plenty of folks who feel the same and all the forums I have been reading lately indicate I am not alone in this. Before we would go to WDW because that’s just what we did and we LOVED it! Now, I don’t know. I just don’t think they care if I am there or not. I wonder what Mr. Disney would think….
I agree that this new parking fee is the last straw for us. We will likely go this year simply because we’ve been talking to the kids about it and they are excited to go. I don’t want to change and tell them we aren’t going now. But I am done with Disney after this trip. The nickle and diming is out of control and our last trip there was definitely less magical. Disney has become too wrapped up in profits and the experience is less and less enjoyable. Crowds have gotten worse off season too which makes it less fun to go in the off season. You have to stay at a Disney resort to do fast passes 60 days in advance so you can’t save money off property if you want good fast passes. They are taking advantage of this and now forcing us to pay more to stay. Disney has lost my goodwill for sure.
I have been a huge fan of Disney ever since my first trip in 1992. I have been many times and have spoken of WDW very highly to everybody willing to listen. This past week, an acquaintance I have spoken to WDW about told me very excitedly that she was taking her kids on a surprise trip to WDW this week. She asked me a couple of questions about a few things. I really wanted to tell her, “Don’t go!” I feel like the fun is just gone out of WDW. I held my tongue though since she was already booked and about to go. I just feel guilty now that she may not have a great time and part of it may be my fault for talking so highly of Disney in the past. I WILL NOT be talking highly of WDW in the future. It’s just not even close to the same magic and experience it used to be. I have had some amazing experiences at WDW, but I think those times are over. I have branched out into other vacations that are much more relaxing and enjoyable without all of the crowds and over planning every moment of every day.
I agree I used to be one of the Biggest Disney fans and would let people borrow my Disney planning CD that I would get each year. Man the days before blogs like this!! Thanks again Tom for what you do! A lot different than back in the day!
But I have also talked to many in the last year and the first thing I ask after they want to know about Disney is what are you willing to spend because it will drain your bank account! And tell them to prepare to plan and book Restaurants/rides and what park you will visit each day starting at 180 days down to 30-60 days out. Then I get the deer in the headlight look and refer them here and other websites and tell them to do some homework on how to do Disney or you will waste time and a lot of money. But I don’t go out of my way recommending it like I did in the past.
To much like work for me planing a Disney vacation now!
The pixie dust has worn off for me but my husband loves to go so I am giving it one more try. We camp at fort wilderness for 10 nights and enter parks 6 days.
While I am fine planning and making fp reservations I am disgruntled at the park entry price increases and food quality decreases over the last few years. Nickel and dime is actually quarter and dollar in my wallet.
The lack of goodwill felt has so many facets for me. Too many to list. I am actually leaning towards Silver Dollar City and Dollywood which give more of a Disneyland vibe of small and friendly.