Fall 2019 Food Price Increases at Disney World

As of the start of Walt Disney World’s fiscal year, a number of snack prices increased. These include refillable mugs, pretzels, popcorn, churros, alcoholic beverages, and other items that are ubiquitous at generic snack kiosks and some counter service restaurants through the parks and resorts.

The majority of snacks haven’t increased in price at all. Most of those that did went up by around 25 cents, including beer. A small handful of alcoholic beverages went up by as much as $1, but there are incredibly limited numbers of these–at least, that we can verify (it’s entirely possible that more pricing changes are yet to be rolled out). The $1 increase on refillable mugs is probably the most noteworthy, and bumps those up for $20 per stay.

Perhaps we’ve just become numb to Walt Disney World price increases, but this one barely even registers for us. Part of the reason might be that it, literally, hardly registers. Outside of alcohol, it appears that only about a dozen unique items are impacted…

The bigger reason it barely registers is not because it’s relatively minor. Twenty-five cents isn’t much in isolation, but that amount every year on small-dollar snack items is a fairly big bump percentage-wise, and certainly adds up over time. Rather, the reason it’s not all that notable is because it’s totally avoidable.

Almost all of the items that have increased in price are sold at snack kiosks, and are generic items or pre-packaged foods. They’re the kind of impulse buys that guests are making out of convenience, or those on the Disney Dining Plan are using snack credits to grab (and the latter group is unaffected by this price increase).

Anyone reading Walt Disney World planning resources is likely aware of having groceries delivered to Walt Disney World resorts at a reasonable cost and can easily avoid this price increase by bringing their own snacks to the parks. Why not just do that? The items impacted are nothing special–no different than things you could buy at the grocery store or the Costco food court.

Nothing about Walt Disney World is “essential” or a “necessity,” but even on the spectrum of things that are significant or important to a WDW vacation, all of these items are all on the super low end. These aren’t iconic meals, snacks, desserts, or specialty beverages that only Disney does.

Part of the reason our response here is on the flippant side is because we view this as something that’s ultimately self-defeating for Disney. Sure, they’ll reap some short term revenue gains by charging a quarter more for ice cream or pretzels. However, these decisions also have long term ramifications that can far outweigh the immediate gain of that quarter.

The biggest consequence of this and every recent price hike will eventually be in terms of perception. We’ve mentioned this before in the past, but there’s a cumulative impact of these increases. Even if this is not borne out right away, they do take a toll on guests and change how people view Walt Disney World’s value proposition.

No one is going to cancel their vacation upon reading this news–or most stories about pricing, even ones that are more likely to have a bigger and more immediate impact. It’s more of a gradual annoyance about Walt Disney World nickel and diming guests that eventually changes behavior.

Right now, visitors wear “Most Expensive Day Ever” (among countless other designs) Etsy shirts half in jest, while still visiting Walt Disney World. They’re willing to laugh off the expensive nature of a Walt Disney World vacation right now as they are comfortable with their personal economic circumstances and the overall cost of the trip, even if grumbling about it.

However, there are two possible tipping points–one in terms of Disney’s pricing going too far, and the other with consumer confidence/sentiment declining. When either of those tipping points inevitably occurs, many people will have second thoughts about booking a Walt Disney World vacation.

I feel like a broken record about this, and our commentary in all of these price increases posts contains more or less the same economic analysis/predictions, so I’ll spare you all that…

On a relatively novel note, with this increase there’s the added wrinkle of the value proposition of the Disney Dining Plan improving. This has actually been the case for the last 3 years, as menu price increases have dramatically outpaced Disney Dining Plan price increases, which seems to have more or less reached its maximum per day “sticker shock” pricing.

Raising the prices on certain snacks improves the perception of the Disney Dining Plan, which could be what this is all about, rather than more direct revenue on individual items. (Whether it’s $19 or $20, how many people are actually paying out of pocket for a refillable mug?) This in turn could steer people towards the Disney Dining Plan, and lead to more purchases of that by people who do the math, or simply peruse online menus and are taken aback by high out of pocket snack and drink costs. From Disney’s perspective, this would be a win; locking guests into the Disney Dining Plan offers a variety of upsides. It’ll be interesting to see how guests react to this latest round of increases, and how, if at all, behavior is impacted.

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!

Your Thoughts

What do you think of these and other recent price increases at Walt Disney World? No big deal for you, or a reason for concern as you plan where to take future vacations? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Think there will be long-term consequences for Disney resulting from its pricing trends the last few years? 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!


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