Price Increase on Snacks & Drinks at Disney World
Walt Disney World has once again raised food prices across the hotels and parks, with some significant increases at outdoor vending carts and on counter service menus for beverages and popular snacks. In this post, we’ll share the new prices, and add our commentary as to whether we view these price trends as sustainable in the long term.
Here’s a partial rundown of the price increases:
- Regular soda: $3.99 – up from $3.29
- Large soda: $4.49 – up from $3.49
- Coffee: $3.29 – up from $2.79
- Orange Juice: $4.99 – up from $4.29
- Bottled soda: $4.50 – up from $4
- Bottled water: $3.50 – up from $3
- Powerade: $4.50 – up from $3.50
- Mickey Pretzel: $7 – up from $6
- Mickey Ice Cream: $5.75 – up from $5
Some people are bound to defend these price hikes with retorts like, “if $1 more for a pretzel is make or break, you shouldn’t be vacationing at Walt Disney World in the first place.” To be sure, it’s highly unlikely that any of these price increases will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of vacation affordability. Presumably, Walt Disney World is counting on that.
Where these price increases, and the barrage of across the board hikes, do the most damage is in terms of perception. No one is going to cancel their vacation upon reading this news, and it’s certainly not going to make headlines on the nightly news or in the mainstream media (as has been the case with ticket pricing and parking charges).
For regular guests, this news is just the latest in a long line of stories about Walt Disney World nickel and diming guests. It’s unlikely to be what turns them off of a WDW vacation, but the cumulative impact of this type of news could do exactly that.
Even among first-timers and infrequent guests, this image seems more pronounced. There’s always been the running joke that every ride exits through the gift shop, but lately there’s been an odd proliferation of guests wearing homemade (or Etsy-made) shirts emblazoned with phrases like “Disney ATM,” “Most Expensive Day EVER!” and lines about working to support Disney addictions.
The notion that there’s no such thing as bad publicity doesn’t apply here, but Disney has no one else to blame for the burgeoning market for this apparel. (Now the question is whether Disney will make its own shirts like these–does profitability or dignity will win out?)
This is all fun and games now. While we’re not huge fans of shirts like that, we realize they are worn in jest. However, the underlying sentiment rings true, and that is something the general public will remember in earnest once the economy goes south.
When you couple the acute awareness of Walt Disney World’s priciness with regulars who are growing increasingly frustrated with the blatant cash grabs, there’s the potential for real issues. We sound like a broken record harping on the impact of consumer confidence on travel and tourism, but it is a big deal.
People are willing to laugh off the expensive nature of a Walt Disney World vacation right now as they are confident about their economic prospects, but what happens when confidence in the economy is not so high? The U.S. economy has been growing for a while now, and it’s hard to imagine that we aren’t at or near the late cycle phase. That doesn’t necessarily mean another recession is right around the corner, but a slowdown likely is.
When that inevitably occurs, some people will have second thoughts about booking a Walt Disney World vacation. Not everyone, but it doesn’t take everyone for there to be a big impact on hotel occupancy and attendance. Even 10-15% of people hesitating due to perceptions of pricing is a huge deal.
Of course, Walt Disney World benefits in the short term from people who purchase snacks on impulse and those who need their Coca-Cola fix. In the immediate future, it seems unlikely that the loss of sales from people balking at the increased prices outweighs the added revenue from the price differential.
There’s also the added byproduct of the value perception of the Disney Dining Plan improving. This could lead to more purchases of the Dining Plan from people who do the math, or simply peruse online menus and are taken aback by high out of pocket snack and drink costs.
As for us, none of this will affect us in the least. The last time I purchased a large soda at Walt Disney World, it was $3.29 (so, two years ago). I remember that because I flinched at that price, and realized it was an unnecessary expense. Even before then, we had mostly switched to using these Mount Hagen Organic Instant Regular Coffee sticks. The last time I purchased large sodas with regularity, it was the good ole days (~4 years ago, I believe) when they cost $2.79.
We sometimes get odd looks as we mix up our own coffee, but as caffeine addicts, we “need” our fix. (It’s not even close to the weirdest thing we do in the name of blogging.) There’s no way we’re spending ~$60 on a week’s worth of caffeine at Walt Disney World. In that sense, Disney has saved us money, because if prices were still in the realm of reasonable, we wouldn’t be doing this. (On a related note: we highly recommend grocery delivery–read our tips for having groceries delivered to your Walt Disney World resort at a reasonable cost.)
To be sure, this price increase, as with all past price increases, is a calculated decision with clear advantages for Walt Disney World. However, those advantages lie entirely in the short term. As with a lot of moves Disney has made in the last couple of years, there are also potential negative repercussions in the long-term. We’ve been sounding this same alarm bell for over two years now, so at this point you might be inclined to disregard our commentary, but it will happen at some point. It may not happen in the near-term with Walt Disney World’s golden goose set to debut in a little over a year, but we maintain that this is not a viable long-term strategy for a vacation destination that still largely caters to the middle class.
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 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!
I will never get to Disney not even when we had four small children.They have made the prices so high that the normal family can not afford it.Walt Disney would be rolling in his grave right now.Especially now that the park has gone Woke.We have no desire to go there.Raising the prices on drinks,coffee,ice cream,sodas,etc is just too much.
Just got back from WDW (mid October) with the Family (no small kids)- first time in about 10 years. $26 for parking, $13 for a one star cheeseburger at the Frontier Land Cafe where I was told they don’t give refills on Sodas- only water- you pay for three drinks when you buy one- who wants to stand in line to buy another drink? The moat around the Castle had trash in it. The Carousel of Progress was exactly the same as it was 10 years ago- the technology of many of the rides seems so obsolete now. Went to Disney Springs one night where they wanted $26.00 for a chicken breast dinner! I felt like I was getting ripped every time I wanted to buy something. We all tried to be positive and enjoy the park, which we did, but collectively we have no desire to return to Disney World anytime soon. I’ve been to WDW about 5 times- maybe I’m just tired of it.
Price gouging is definitely unpleasant, and anything unpleasant steals part of the “magic”. I personally have been going since the very first summer it was open (’72). My friends and I grew up on frequent MK visits, and I never stopped going as an adult. Price increases have been many and substantial, but it’s the egregious jumps in the past 18 months that finally hit a tipping point for me. Thinking of “year” in terms of our annual pass renewal dates, last year was typical with 8 multi-day visits (approx 6-7 weeks apart) staying on-site at a Disney resort every time. This year so far, only 2 visits with plans for only 2 more– cutting in HALF the number of visits this year. And for the FIRST time in my life, I don’t care or miss it… because prices are increasing faster than I can pretend to ignore them. Passholders get punched in the head at every renewal because Disney is increasing prices TWICE A YEAR. And let’s be honest, aside from a few huge-dollar projects, not much has changed in the last 20 years except the prices. Disney is aggressively grabbing money now because the economy is hot and people are spending, but what’s going to happen when the inevitable correction (recession) happens? You think the 2008 recession killed attendance? Wait until the next recession with WDW charging these outrageous new prices!!!
We just got back from our first Disneyland Resort trip after going to Disneyworld last year. Oh my how expensive it’s getting in such a short amount of time. Last year when I was forking out $4 for sodas I flinched but I was even more shocekd this time – I’m just so happy we didn’t drive and park this time!!
I wonder how much more of this they can try and get away with. I’m planning on returning to Dineyworld in 2020 and I doubt I can face forking over say $5 for a bottle of soda. Nope!
Are you able to bring backpacks with water bottles? How much was water when you went 3.50 or more?
Popcorn, sodas, ice cream….incredibly expensive!!!! If just 4 out of 10 adults would bring all their sodas and snacks in a backpack, maybe they would lower the prices.
We just came back from Disney World and it seemed like prices were hiked again compared to even last thanksgiving. Is this true or just a perception?
I think the problem with the increase is not that it is “the straw that broke the camels back” as such, it is just that it makes it seem much more worthwhile to bring a soft drink or two with you where as before I wouldn’t have bothered. So instead of buying 4 or 5 drinks during the day I now bring a couple and then have iced water with food and maybe just buy 1 or 2. So now instead of spending $16-20 on drinks that’s down to just $4.50-$9 a day. So for me I’ve ended up spending less in Disney as a result of them increasing their prices.
Yep. And never rule out the time-honored tradition of trunk dining. All the years growing up, my dad refused to pay Disney food prices. So, my mom packed our king-sized camping cooler full of ice, drinks, sandwiches and snacks. Over the years I ate more PBJ, lunchmeat, and egg salad sandwiches in the MK parking lot than I can remember. Drinks were whatever we carried into the park, or water fountains. Back then, a one-day passport to the MK was less than $20, and without meal expenses, a day at the park was– dare I say– cheap.
That is a great point. Only problem, it takes forever, and a few thousand extra steps for a round trip to the car.
Hi Tom! Question about your coffee packets… is there access to hot water in the park? I’m curious as to where/when you found your coffee packets came in handy. Thanks in advance!
I was wondering the same
Been taking 4 kids to Disney for 10 years.
We used to stay on property.
We used to dine at character meals.
We used to eat 2 meals and snacks in the park.
Just got back from a 5 day trip where we stayed in a condo, ate one quick serve per day and bought snacks only once for our 4 kids.
Teppan Edo for candlight procession was going to cost us nearly $400. I cancelled it. Sorry, the food just isn’t that good.
Too bad we can’t get some more magic with those price increases.
Overheard another guest say, “I’m not paying $7 for an uncrustable.”
Totally agree. We just at at Nine Dragons for $58/per person for food not much better than Panda Express. Menu cost of what we had was only $36-40, so we paid $18 (or more) each for the Candlelight Procession tickets. We won’t be renewing our annual passes.
WHY would anyone choose a typical Chinese restaurant at WDW when the are so many better choices? Seriously, why? You know you’ll just be hungry in an hour and need a Mickey Bar…
it is a simple matter – they will take what the market will bear
Hi Tom and Sarah. I just came home from WDW yesterday and I always expect the price increases, but this time I brought my three kids and my sons girlfriend and really noticed the difference. For the person who says it’s only a dollar increase, times that by 5 or 6 people over several different items and you’ll find those dollars add up quick.
I still believe Disney is trying to balance price and crowds. They are using the “apple” business model. Less sales at higher prices equals the same as more sales at lower prices. They are hoping less people paying a premium translates to lower crowds which creates a better overall experience, and the trickle down effects means less employees and over head costs because you have less people to move around, rooms to turn over, wear and tear on facilities, etc. I hope I am wrong and I also hope I don’t reach my breaking point because I have always loved Disney world and want to pass that love on to my future generations.
Chris, on some level, I’m not particularly opposed to reducing crowds by raising prices– but I say that with disclaimers.
In order for this to work, they’d have to raise TICKET prices. Raising food and drink prices will not deter crowds, because the net effect will be more people bringing their own snacks/drinks. (When I was a kid, we headed to the car where the trunk held a cooler full of soda and sandwiches.) Same heavy crowds, just fewer concession stand sales. The cost to “get in the door” is still within reach.
Raising the cost to get INTO the park– now that will deter people if the increase is significant enough.
I know this reply will likely generate some negative blowback from some, but please hear me out. I’ve been going to the Magic Kingdom since the summer of 1972, so I have first-hand knowledge of the crowds of the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 2010s. I say with a clear conscience that I never remember the park being as unpleasant as it is this decade. People are far more rude, pushy, and at times we feel we’re drowning in a sea of people. And people with strollers– horribly aggressive shoving their way through crowds like bulldozers. It’s definitely a much different crowd than in decades past.
If Disney would raise ticket prices enough to reduce crowds– THAT is the only way higher prices would translate into a better overall visit experience. Fewer crowds mean shorter lines, less bumping and shoving, easier viewing of parades and shows.
What I object to is constant price increases with NO IMPROVEMENT in overall experience. Heavier crowds, longer lines, and higher food/drink prices conspire to kill the magic. The only way to improve the visits is to thin the crowds a bit. THAT, yes, I would be willing to pay a bit extra for.
I’ve been saying for several years that we would be willing to pay triple for tickets if crowds were back to early 90s level.
the bad behavior on the part of the crowds is also because people in general have changed, for the worse, unfortunately…..just watch ur local news…its also part of bible prophecy 1 timothy 3:1-5 and its only gonna get worse…
but disney is still the best escape from the world and as long as i can afford it, im going to continue to be there to escape reality and make happy memories!!
I hope they aren’t following Apple, making a crappy product that is behind the times technologically and panders to the technically inept.