Disney World Increasing Prices & Removing Reservations for 1-Day Tickets
Walt Disney World is increasing prices and making major changes to single-day ticketing and park reservations on December 8, 2022. This post offers details and our commentary about how this will impact the guest experience, motivations for the new approach, and more.
This is big news, but only somewhat surprising. It isn’t to the extent that there were a slew of price increases for Walt Disney World at the start of the fiscal year. This encompassed everything from Savi’s Workshop for Handbuilt Lightsabers to a new (more expensive) date-based pricing for the Genie+ service. On top of that, Walt Disney World bumped up the price of hundreds of menu items all around the parks & resorts at Walt Disney World.
The surprising part is that this didn’t happen then, and that this is the second ticket price increase of the year at Walt Disney World, with the first happening in mid-February. Even that isn’t unprecedented. That’s why we’ve been advising readers to purchase tickets in advance to lock-in current prices in our 2022-2023 Discount Walt Disney World Ticket Buying Guide.
While we didn’t necessarily expect another increase this year, it’s not a surprise. Sadly, they’ve become all too common with Walt Disney World. The good news is that Undercover Tourist, one of our recommended third party ticket sellers, still has tickets at the “old” prices for a limited time. By buying through them before Walt Disney World’s upcoming price increases take effect, you can save a significant amount per ticket.
For the first time in several years, the price of single day tickets is increasing. These will now vary by park, and still start at $109, which has been the base price since the introduction of the date-based system back in October 2018. However, the maximum 1-day ticket price is increasing for Magic Kingdom, which is the first time that’s happening since March 2019.
With that said, we have no clue how the distribution of price points has changed during that time. We don’t track the price calendar that closely. It’s highly probable that even before this there was a shrinking number of cheaper dates and growing number of more expensive dates.
We also don’t know what that distribution will look like going forward, but we do have the new price ranges. Walt Disney World will introduce park specific pricing for single day, single park (so not Park Hoppers) tickets beginning December 8, 2022. Price ranges are as follows:
- Magic Kingdom – $124 to $189
- Animal Kingdom – $109 to $159
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios – $124 to $179
- EPCOT – $114 to $179
As before, ticket prices will vary based on dates, hence the ranges. This is not dynamic pricing, but it is demand-based in the sense that dates forecast to be busier also cost more. (H/t to theme park journalist Scott Gustin.)
Also starting December 8, there will be no need to make a Disney Park Pass reservation with single day, non-Park Hopper tickets. With these being park-specific, that would be redundant. As such, Walt Disney World’s system will automatically make a reservation for you.
This change is only for those who purchase 1-day tickets for a specific date and park. Most guests will continue to make theme park reservations. As before, Park Hoppers and multi-day tickets will need to make reservations. There are no changes to the Park Pass system for these ticket types (yet?).
Along with the introduction of park specific pricing at Walt Disney World on December 8, the cost to add the Park Hopper (and other options) to your ticket will also vary by date.
Walt Disney World has not yet provided pricing specifics–we’ll update accordingly once the new prices go live. Again, these are the second price increases of 2022 for park tickets, so we’re hoping that Park Hoppers don’t go up too much. Of course, what we hope happens and what actually happens are often two totally different things.
Similarly, although new Annual Pass sales remain paused, those APs will see an increase when sales resume. Here are the new prices for each tier:
- Incredi-Pass: $1399 – previously $1299
- Sorcerer Pass: $969 – previously $899
- Pirate Pass: $749 – previously $699
- Pixie Pass: $399 – no change
For those wondering when new AP sales will restart, Walt Disney World has no official answer. We cover our current expectations in When Will Walt Disney World Resume Annual Pass Sales?
As for commentary about the price increases, I’ve lost the capacity for surprise when it comes to those. This is similar sentiment to the commentary in other recent price increase posts (plural), but it remains true here. Even though this is the second ticket price increase of the year at Walt Disney World, it’s still not a huge surprise. Crowds are crushing, pent-up demand is still strong, and the parks have a devoted and passionate fanbase.
The busy Christmas season has arrived and with it, two of the highest attendance months of the year. Last year, Christmas was such a popular season that Walt Disney World ran out of reservations even at top-tier prices and suspended ticket sales for some dates. Our expectation is that this holiday season will be even busier.
On top of that, inflation is running hot around the globe, with the United States hitting a four-decade high above 8% this year. Most of these price increases are in the neighborhood that. On top of that, the least expensive single day tickets haven’t gone up since October 2018.
However, it’s also fair to point out that with the end of free FastPass+ and introduction of paid Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, which Disney has indicated that roughly half of Walt Disney World visitors are purchasing, the effective cost of visiting has gone up by more than 10%. In order to have an equivalent experience as compared to pre-closure, you’ll need to spend an extra $25 per day, at least, and that’s just for Lightning Lanes. That’s still not exactly apples to apples, but it’s close enough for the sake of our comparison.
During earnings calls and interviews throughout the year, CEO Bob Chapek has directly addressed price increases–and prepared fans for more of the same. He has said that Disney’s theme parks are seeing unprecedented demand, and have pricing power as a result. Chapek has also boasted that the company’s domestic parks and resorts have achieved all-time revenue and operating income records.
For several consecutive quarters, per guest spending at the domestic parks has been up more than 40% versus the same quarter in 2019, an absolutely staggering number. This has been driven by a more favorable guest and ticket mix (read: fewer Annual Passholders), plus higher food & beverage and merchandise spending, as well as contributions from Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. Revenue and operating income exceeded pre-pandemic levels, and that’s even as Disney continued capping attendance.
In essence, Chapek has said that the ball is in consumers’ court—so long as they continue to descend upon Disney in huge numbers and willingly pay more, Disney will continue to raise prices until met with resistance. (In the form of lost sales and reduced demand, not online complaints divorced from actual action.)
Sadly, Chapek is correct—at least in the short term. It’s hard to make a compelling case that Walt Disney World has any sort of pricing problem, at least for now. Even with all of the recent (non-ticket) price increases, the company is posting unprecedented numbers and demand is off the charts.
Excluding the early fall off-season, Walt Disney World crowds have been absolutely bonkers thus far in 2022. While the Florida parks haven’t hit Disneyland levels of absurdity, they are closing in on 2019 wait time levels (but almost certainly not raw attendance numbers due to the reduced capacity of the parks, which exacerbates “feels like” crowds). This is something we’ve discussed in countless crowd reports and Disney Doesn’t Want Lower Crowds, so we won’t belabor that point here.
In short, as long as consumers keep spending and pent-up demand is strong, people will pay the prices for Walt Disney World park tickets, Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, and whatever else has gone up in price. The serious issue will come down the road when people are not feeling so hot about their economic circumstances and future.
At that point, it’s a question of whether discounting will be enough to incentivize guests to return, or if irreparable brand damage will have been done during the last decade or so of increases. We don’t have an answer to that–no one does–but it’s definitely something about which we’re curious.
We aren’t alone. During the Walt Disney Company’s fiscal fourth quarter 2022 earnings call, Wall Street analysts and investors asked CEO Bob Chapek and CFO Christine McCarthy about contingency plans to keep the company on track to meet its financial targets during a potential recession in 2023.
In response, they indicated that there are a number of “levers” they could pull in the event of economic downturn. We explain those options in What Does Walt Disney World Do During a Recession? However, in the here and now, pent-up demand still has not exhausted itself. This holiday season might be the ‘last hurrah’ so to speak, but it’s likely to be a busy one.
On a positive note, we are very pleased to see reservations rolled into 1-day tickets. This is a step in the right direction, and one we’re shocked didn’t happen at the start of this year.
The argument could be made that reservations are useful when it comes to staffing or resource allocation, but that doesn’t really hold water with single day tickets—especially under this new system. We’re skeptical that it ever was true for any tickets, as Disney is notoriously bad with data and analytics, even if it might fancy itself a tech company now.
As we’ve pointed out elsewhere, the only parks that are regularly running out of reservations are Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. This has been occurring on many days regardless of wait times, with both parks going unavailable on occasion with 5/10 or lower crowd levels.
This means that Walt Disney World is now using reservations not out of necessity, but to redistribute attendance on many days. They’re doing this by capping reservations at Magic Kingdom and pushing people towards Animal Kingdom and EPCOT to increase the utilization of those parks and normalize numbers across all four parks. There actually are a number of benefits to this approach, including making for a more pleasant guest experience and easing staffing shortages.
Multiple Disney executives have implicitly indicated that this is more or less occurring. When discussing the park reservations systems, they routinely mention yield management–or maximizing revenue by anticipating and influencing consumer behavior.
Disney CFO Christine McCarthy has also indicated that the company pivoted with the Disney Park Pass system from limiting capacity due to local mandates to using it to “better balance load” attendance. This is something we’ve seen with Disney attempting to manage Lightning Lane inventory, and load balancing is also occurring with park reservations.
With that said, there are downsides and potentially ulterior motives, as well. For example, if EPCOT has higher food & beverage spending–which it almost certainly does–management might have an incentive to funnel guests there.
The downside for Walt Disney World is it could backfire, which probably explains this change (and why we expected this to occur a long time ago). It’s one thing to manipulate reservations for multi day tickets or Annual Passholders, as they will simply adjust accordingly (most of the time).
It’s another entirely to do that for those who purchase single day tickets, which is a surprisingly large portion of Walt Disney World visitors. If you’re taking a Florida trip and want your kids to “get the Disney experience” for a day, that most likely means Magic Kingdom. If only EPCOT is available for regular ticket reservations, some guests will choose not to buy tickets at all and simply not visit Disney. (Keep in mind that for many causal visitors, Magic Kingdom is synonymous with Disney; EPCOT and the rest are not a comparable substitute.)
Of course, this is also precisely why Magic Kingdom is going to cost more than any of the other parks. Maintaining the same range as before for Animal Kingdom while effectively increasing prices (potentially by significant amounts) for each of the other 3 parks is savvy marketing that will also yield significantly more revenue from visitors who do day trips to Walt Disney World and want to do “the Star Wars park,” “the Disney World park,” or “the Drinking World park.” (Sad trombone for Animal Kingdom, forever “the zoo park.”)
We’re only half-joking. Walt Disney World is becoming even more adept at yield management, and trying to shape consumer behavior or capitalize on the popularity of the parks.
While they’re getting “good” at this, it’s still a delicate needle to thread. Consumer behavior is also the ultimate ‘check & balance’ on corporate behavior and could prevent the Disney Park Pass system and so much of Walt Disney World’s current approach from being viable once demand for ‘make-up’ vacation starts to abate and spending falls back to regular levels–or worse, if there’s a recession.
Ultimately, it’s still our belief that things aren’t too far from normalizing. (You might call it wishful–or delusional–thinking!) Again, this holiday season will certainly be busy and we’re not suggesting otherwise. However, these price increases and other changes last beyond Christmas. It’ll be interesting to see whether capturing extra revenue for another couple of months is worth the headlines that further cement Walt Disney World as a travel destination with ever-increasing prices.
It’ll also be interesting to see just how quickly Walt Disney World is able to pivot and pull some of those “levers” (to borrow a phrase from the c-suite) when attendance or the U.S. economy (or both) switches gears. At some point, pent-up demand will fizzle out and inflation on necessities will negatively discretionary spending; on top of that, higher interest rates, underperforming investment portfolios, and growing household debt will bring the party to an end. The clock is ticking on all of that.
When all of some of that happens, consumers will return to being more cost-conscious and price sensitive, and things will normalize to at least some degree. However, there don’t appear to be any signs of those things happening anytime soon. So, get used to high prices, heavy crowds, and nickel & diming at Walt Disney World and Disneyland as this record run of revenue and income continues for at least the immediate future. We’ll be paying careful attention to all of the changes, and will keep you updated as we learn anything new.
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!
What do you think about Walt Disney World’s decision to change the park ticketing system and increase prices along with it? Do you think Disney is going too far with increases in a way that’ll leave lasting reputational damage, or will the company be able to quickly pivot along with economic circumstances? Think Chapek is right or wrong about how guests essentially control Walt Disney World’s prices by virtue of demand? Agree or disagree with our assessment? Any other considerations we failed to take into account or details we missed? 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!
Disney needs to understand that the consumer is holding all the face cards (Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Grant, etc) and all they have is a bunch of numbers. When consumers decide to play hardball, Disney will be coming to the consumer with their hats in their hands. My grandmother would say that they are getting too big for their britches and need to be taken down a button hole or two.
Just got back from Disney World. 8 days in all 4 parks, including Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party one evening. We hadn’t gone since 2019 so we splurged…stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge to get the extra perks like early reservations, early park entry, and extended evening hours. Made more restaurant reservations than normal, including Space 220. Bought Genie+ every day-I was very unhappy when they changed the pricing for Genie+ days before we arrived. It’s a little frustrating to have plans months in advance then to have them change their pricing after all of my plans are locked in. It would have been nice if they gave the option to buy Genie+ in advance for guests with reservations. We also bought ILL for Guardians and Avatar. That allowed us to enjoy all of the experiences several times. All combined we probably spent AT LEAST TWICE AS MUCH as I ever have for a similar Disney Vacation – that’s comparing at least 15 trips in the past 20 years. We had a great time but due to the rapidly increasing prices and the money-grabbing changes, I doubt that we’ll be back for several years. It’s not just the cost…it just appears that Disney is taking advantage of the desire of people to recover from the pandemic. I’m sure that many people are spending more than they should because of life and attitude changes due to the pandemic. I always knew that Disney was a corporation and that they want to make money, but I always felt that they wanted people to experience magic in their parks and resorts. This seems to be taking advantage of people and the current conditions. I’m sure that they’ll make a lot this year and maybe for the next few years, but we’ll see if there are any long term repercussions. Maybe our next trip will be to the beach, or a National Park, or Discovery Cove (Sea World and Busch Gardens)? We’re still big Disney fans, but our eyes have been opened a little.
Our last family trip was in 2014 when the magic still existed. We started planning for a Dec 2020 trip one year in advance but the Wuhan Flu and changes at WDW made us cancel. I have monitored closely the changes over the last 2 years and I can’t see any more trips to WDW ever. The magic is truly gone for good.
If you haven’t been back, I’d still give it a try! The magic isn’t gone. There are some frustrating things, it’s more expensive, it’s more crowded. But the CMs by and large are still wonderful and continue to make magic for guests! And it continues to be a great way to enjoy quality time with family. We’ve been back 5 times since reopening and have still very much enjoyed ourselves. Due to prices and other factors we probably won’t go as often after 2023, but we still enjoyed the times we’ve gone. The negative bias on social media makes things appear more dire than they are. Not that I’m defending the changes, yes, thins were better before. I’m suggesting it’s not irredeemable at this point. For those who have gone and feel it’s not for them anymore, I understand. But for those who haven’t gone back, you may find it is still magical enough to be worth it for you.
Not magical anymore. We live close. So we have seen the negative. Poor maintenance, trash not emptied, dirty.
I’m a true Disney fanatic. This year marked our 58 time of visiting Walt Disney world in 50 years. We even had our daughters wedding there 38 years ago and we are planning our next trip now for July 2023. I will pay whatever price there is to get into the “Disney Bubble” once or twice a year. We save every week towards our vacation. We put money away and pay into our vacation when we aquire enough dollars. Right now I’m booked and paid for 10 days at the Caribbean Beach resort. My park reservations are already made. I enjoy all of Disney world. I enjoy all of DISNEYLAND. We have tried other vacation spots but nothing compares to the total sensory experience that you get with Disney. So the price goes up, so did my gas price for my car, my food prices are up, all the cost of living prices are up. If I except a wonderful, clean, wholesome environment for myself and my family I’ll choose Walt Disney world or anything Disney everytime.
I think they will not feel the effect of their price increases until 2025 when Epic Universe opens and draws the crowds away from WDW,
I went to Disney in 1997 and again in 2003. It was wonderful – everything everyone always said it would be. Visited MK, (back then) MGM, and Epcot both times and was just floored that the magic was real. I’ve wanted to take my own kids for years now, and the price just keeps going up and up. I hear horrible things about food, wait times, crowds, etc. We went to Sea World one year instead and after seeing the changes Sea World made, especially queues just to even see the penguins or whales, I couldn’t even bring myself to deal with Disney. It’s sad because I have fond memories of the way it was. It almost seems like Disney is peddling Mickey-flavored dope. People are shelling out thousands of dollars trying to recapture that nostalgia that once was, like an addiction, and Disney is just eating it up. I can’t do it.
We took are 4 grandkids this year in June stayed at a Disney hotel and five days spent a total of 10,000. absolutely crazy this suppose to be a place you can afford and not go broke to take your family. Disney you make plenty of money quit robbing families that work hard and try to take their families to your parks.
This was our last visit.
Stay offsite and bring your own food. I’ll go ahead and send you another copy of that memo.
Consumer debt ie credit cards, lines of credit and interest rates are another factor in this. No way the majority of families have been paying $12K to $20K cash for their WDW family vacation. Credit rich and cash poor is the reality for many North American families. As interest rates climb, many will feel the credit squeeze. Spendy annual WDW vacations are wants not musts. Recession, stagflation and every other ‘flation’ will dampen non-essential spending. Unemployment sadly may be another. The levers WDW pulls to discount inflated vacation packages will need to be substantial in 2023 and 2024. This round of price increases is also their hedge against those future discounts. Not just another routine price increase.
If they have so much demand at WDW why aren’t they building that 5th park? If Chapek’s going to brag about how he has our money we need to demand he use it on a 5th park. Everyone needs to take their comments directly to the Disney site so they actually read them.
People used to complain about Eisner, I want him back! My stock has been plummeting recently.
IMO, there are two “versions” of Eisner: the one with Wells and the one after Wells’ death. The first Eisner was unparalleled for park expansion, and the company as a whole.
Even the latter Eisner was probably better than Chapek, but it’s also a different world even since then. Corporations definitely have gotten more “creative” in squeezing consumers, profits, etc.
As for the share price, I don’t think that has anything to do with WDW. I’d imagine that if parks were spun off, they’d be performing tremendously well right now from a shareholder perspective.
Could be worse – Elon Musk could be Disney’s CEO
We used to go every year. We haven’t been in 7 years but will be going in January. We are only going to share the experience with our grandkids. But this is the last time. The magic is gone and our $$ will also be gone. Sad.
This is a basic question, but if you buy a ticket (say a 5 day base ticket), can you later upgrade in the middle of your trip (say, add a 6th day or park hopper)? I remember you could do that in the past, but not sure of current rules. Thanks for any help!
Yes. You just can’t downgrade in the middle of using a ticket.
Yes, in fact, you get a huge discount for the 6th and successive days.
Why “if there’s a recession”? We’re already in one, it just has yet to overcome pent-up demand and reservations booked months earlier.
We are currently in a technical recession. There has yet to be consumer behavior or a drop in economic activity to justify the official call of a recession. Prevailing belief is that’ll happen by 2023, though.
My niece took her family to Disney World last January and were thoroughly disgusted with Disney’s nickel and diming them on everything. She said they will never go back again and her kids are only 4 and 6. I went in September the week before the hurricane. This is supposedly their slow season. There wasn’t one adult ride with less than a 1 hour wait. I could only get to about half of the park in a day. I’d hate to see this place during the busy season. I can remember 25 years ago when my kids were little if we waited 15 minutes during the off season that was a long wait. I was there in 2017 and the parks were nowhere near the madhouse as it was in September. I was so disappointed I’ll never go back again. This is just another attempt for Disney to look for that magical ouch point where they can squeeze every last penny out of you. I think it’s time for a management shakeup.
You went in September? I call B.S. on the “no adult rides with <1 hour wait”.
This new system seems so confusing and complicates everything. Chapek is making my head explode. Can’t Disney just be magical?
Read Tom’s posts and you’ll be alright.
Tom, will this effect current reservations? We booked a package for march.
No. If you already have a reservation booked. your price is locked in.
Screw Disney … this has become a place for only the well to do, those foolish enough to save for 1+ years and those who get free tickets due to unfortunate circumstances or illness. They can kiss my middle class butt. I’ll enjoy the national parks and real life experiences.
right on bro
The only way they will make changes is if guest numbers decrease to the point where their revenue is affected. As long as people pay the increases, they will only increase further. My progress trip to WDW is the first that truly made me angry. G+, ILL are one thing but the hotel and park parking were the real killers.
Every hotel and theme park charges for parking including Universal.
2022 Red Hot Chili Peppers tickets $350 each x 2
2022 Keññy Chesney tickets $300 each x 2
Dinner for 2 at our local favorite non-chain restaurant $140 = 2 drinks and 2 apps each and one entree
$5.60 a gallon for home heating oil in PA
$400 electric bills
We have grown children and I work a part time job for spending money above my $85k and her $45k salaries
Everything is insane. We don’t even talk about money or prices in our house anymore as it leads to depression and anxiety
WDW was our second home. Beaches bore me and mountains are worse. Guess we’ll just pay the $25 and go sit in the parking lots