Walt Disney World has finally announced a roll-out for the date-based ticket pricing hinted at earlier this year. Beginning October 16, 2018 on DisneyWorld.com, guests will purchase multi-day tickets priced by the first date of visit. In this post, we’ll detail the new ticket-buying process, and speculate about what this means for prices and the future of visiting Walt Disney World.
In terms of logistics, when guests purchase tickets online, they will start by using an interactive online calendar that displays different prices based on the start date guests choose to visit, as well as some conditions and ‘add-ons’ for their ticket, such as the “Flexible Dates Option.” This interactive calendar will also allow guests to see the lowest-priced days each month.
In viewing screenshots of the new system, it looks a lot like some airfare booking engines, albeit with pre-published prices that are date-based rather than dynamic. Irrespective of that, the motivations behind the schemes are similar: demand. Walt Disney World indicated that it’s making the change to date-based tickets and pricing to better distribute attendance throughout the year.
Walt Disney World has posted a quick video from which you can glean quite a bit more about how all of this will work. We’d encourage you to take a couple minutes to watch this:
Okay, so a few things. First, we wouldn’t spend too much time freeze-framing the video trying to gain insight into new ticket prices (even though we may or may not have done exactly that). As the video clearly disclaims in the bottom corner, “prices shown do not reflect actual prices.”
We would anticipate that some dates will decrease in price while the majority increase, similarly to what occurred when Walt Disney World shifted to seasonal pricing on 1-day tickets a few years ago. A Disney spokesperson indicated that this is the continued evolution of that, with date-based pricing rolling out for multi-day tickets and being further segmented for single day tickets.
Disney’s rep also stated that new single day prices would range from $109 to $129 for single day, single park tickets, as compared to current prices ranging from $102 to $129. Additionally, the price distinction between Magic Kingdom and the other parks will be eliminated.
Second, there are a lot of steps to complete the ticket-buying process. As sites like Amazon have aimed to streamline and ease their online checkout process, it’s odd that Disney would be making things more difficult. It’s fair to point out that booking components of a vacation is not akin to buying an inflatable dinosaur pool float. However, numerous studies of online shopping behavior have concluded that each added click (or layer of resistance) leads to abandonment by customers, and a lower conversion rate.
Prior to this being announced, one rumored reason for the delay in it being rolled out was the cumbersome booking process that was “still being perfected.” Even though many of you reading this are doing so as Walt Disney World veterans who have years of experience planning trips and seldom are confused, that’s not the norm for first-timers. Confusion and frustration are pretty common.
As a blog that is popular among people planning once in a lifetime Walt Disney World vacations, we see this confusion countless times per day. People are overwhelmed and perplexed–and those are the people who are doing their homework and trying to plan in the first place. These changes will only compound guest confusion, and further solidify Walt Disney World’s spot as one of the most difficult vacations to plan.
As much as Walt Disney World might want to make this sound simple with phrases like “seamlessly planning,” “simplify the booking experience,” and “easier ways to plan” in their press release about the changes, it’s pretty easy to see through that. This further complicates what was already a complicated vacation planning experience.
Moreover, it’s not as if Walt Disney World is world-renowned for its robust and fail-free IT infrastructure. We can’t help but wonder what kind of service outages and problems will occur come October 16, 2018–and how long they’ll last. To that end, we’d advise booking FastPass+ and Advance Dining Reservations before then, as it could be a frustrating day (or days) for the My Disney Experience app and DisneyWorld.com.
We also wouldn’t be surprised if this process and pricing continues to be tweaked between this October and November 2019. If Disney notices its online conversion rates are dropping, or a surplus of confused guests are showing up to the turnstiles with the incorrect tickets, or feedback surveys reveal dissatisfaction, further refinement is likely. This is being introduced in October 2018, but the goal is probably to have it running smoothly for the Late 2019 debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
In addition to releasing this info on the Disney Parks Blog, a FAQ about these changes has also been sent out. One item of info that we think is interesting concerns modification–Walt Disney World will allow modification prior to the ticket start date: “If the ticket is changed to a higher priced date, guest will be responsible for paying the difference in price. There will be no refunds to changes to lower priced dates.”
This is unsurprising, and is likely a result of Walt Disney World anticipating problems with guests purchasing the cheapest possible tickets, trying to use them on busy days, and then playing stupid. With this new modification policy, rather than the harsh potential extremes of allowing guests to use this as a money-saving ‘hack’ or forcing them to repurchase tickets entirely, Cast Members at the turnstiles can turn them away and advise them to go ‘upgrade’ their tickets to the correct dates.
Finally, and most importantly to anyone reading this blog as a planning resource: “Will I need to pay more for my ticket if I already purchased it prior to Oct. 16? No. Please be sure to check the specific terms and conditions on your ticket to confirm the expiration policy.”
It should go without saying, but we would strongly encourage you to purchase your multi-day tickets prior to October 16, 2018 if you plan on traveling sometime before December 31, 2019. As we cover in our Tips for Buying Discount Walt Disney World Tickets post, authorized third parties have tickets for sale with a first-use between now and December 31, 2019, and buying those now to lock-in current prices and the flexible price scheme are highly recommended.
While Walt Disney World has emphasized that this change is about offering better value and redistributing crowds throughout the year, we’d caution people about being too enthusiastic about the upsides here. We’ve been down this road before with single day tickets going to seasonal pricing, and at that time the majority of tickets increased in price. We would expect the same here, with fewer than 25% of dates staying the same or decreasing in price.
Walt Disney World wants to be able to pitch this as a price change rather than a price increase, but for most guests, it’ll be a price increase. Moreover, while Disney might present it as a way to redistribute crowds, it’s real aim is undoubtedly to increase per guest spending and decrease operating costs. The increased spending is obvious, coming via the higher prices. The decreased operating costs will occur via Walt Disney World having greater insight into attendance in advance, and adjusting staffing and capacity accordingly.
Expect crowd trends to change slightly, but there’s only so much they can change. Peak seasons are not the most crowded because they’re objectively the best times to visit, but because they’re most convenient. Hotel prices and airfare already reflect this, and act as a means of “discouraging” visits at certain times. Radical price differences on hotels and airfare has already proven mostly ineffective at redistributing crowds, and there’s no reason to believe a less-significant difference in ticket prices will be more persuasive.
Even if you somehow get lucky and your dates don’t increase in price on October 16, you can be 99.999999% sure all prices will increase between now and the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Oh, and you might think we’ve been emphasizing Star Wars land a lot, even in seemingly unrelated posts–almost nothing happening between now and next fall is unrelated to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
What do you think of the new date-based ticket pricing coming to Walt Disney World? Disappointed that planning will become even more complicated and rigid, or pleased with the potential for scoring value-priced multi-day tickets? 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!