Walt Disney World and Disneyland typically raise their prices once per year, with increases on park tickets, food, parking, Annual Passes and more all typically going up around the same time. This post offers offers dates of past price increases, when we’re expecting this to happen in 2023, and and our commentary about the amount of cost jumps, motivations for the changes, and more.
For starters, we should emphasize the “typically” in the sentence above, as prices increases are not a sure thing at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. In fact, the California parks recently went over a full year without a single increase. Granted, that was the year-plus that the parks were closed…minor detail.
Aside from that not-so-notable exception, price increases don’t always happen “only” once per year. Last year, Walt Disney World raised ticket prices twice. The first increase occurred in mid-February and the second happened on December 8. That was actually a bit of a weird one, as Walt Disney World made structural changes and removed reservations for single-day tickets and gave three weeks’ notice before implementing the changes. But it was also effectively a price increase for most dates.
If you’ve read those posts, you’re likely already aware that Disney typically increases ticket prices in February and/or October. With only a few anomalies like last year and ahead of the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, this has happened consistently since 2014. (Prior to that, price increases typically happened in the summer.)
In any case, the best recent predictor of an October price increase has been the lack of a February price increase. Guess what didn’t happen this winter at Walt Disney World or Disneyland?!
As noted above, the last major price increase at Walt Disney World occurred on December 8, 2022. Again, that was an outlier due to structural changes. There’s absolutely no reason to believe Disney will wait until the heart of the holiday season to raise prices again.
Usually, prices are raised at the start of the fiscal year–which just happened on October 1, 2023. Last year, Disneyland raised its prices on October 11. That was very much a typical increase, with prices going up on preferred parking at the theme parks, valet parking at the hotels, and the Genie+ service. Naturally, admission was the big thing that went up, with new ticket tiers added and prices going up for both single and multi-day tickets.
If you’re looking for a blueprint of the upcoming price increases, what happened last year at Disneyland–both the timing in October and what will be impacted–is probably it. It’s also possible that Disney will make other ancillary changes in the name of guest satisfaction or substantive offerings to take the “sting” out of the price increases.
If we were placing bets on that, the odds-on favorite would be Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway joining Genie+ and ditching the Individual Lightning Lane. Other possibilities could include news about returning entertainment or the dropping of the virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
I’m skeptical either will happen–attaching unrelated positive news to negative news isn’t really Disney’s style. Aside from the MMRR change, they’ll likely just highlight existing new stuff and seasonal offerings that make the parks “exceptional values” or whatever. Hope you’re all getting the full value out of those Disney100 celebrations!!!
Offering ‘forecasts’ about how much specific tickets will increase is a fool’s errand. Expect prices to go up by around 5-10% on average, with some prices remaining unchanged and others going up by 12-15%.
One prediction we will make is that the starting price of 1-day tickets will NOT go up. These still start at $109–but only for Animal Kingdom–which has been the base price since the introduction of the date-based system back in October 2018. Maintaining this $109 starting price is an important talking point for Disney. When costs of visiting are discussed in the mainstream media, there’s typically a quote from a Disney spokesperson reiterating that the base price has not gone up in over 5 years.
That’s technically true, but the practical reality is that 95% of tickets actually cost more. That is, unless you are only visiting Animal Kingdom for one day during the off-season. Our guess is that 1-day tickets to DAK don’t account for a tremendous amount of ticket sales, so the ‘static base price’ talking point is largely fluff. (It does really underscore why Animal Kingdom needs expansion, though!)
The other prediction we’ll make is that Annual Pass prices will go up. Those last increased when APs weren’t even on sale, which was a weird move, but they did not go up prior to sales resuming this spring.
This is a bit bolder of a bet, as no tiers of Annual Passes for Walt Disney World have sold out since sales resumed. That was despite Disney warning on day one that they’d likely sell out that day. That was months ago, and it’s been smooth sailing since!
Again, the amounts of the increases are anybody’s guess. If there were logic to this, the most obvious increase would be a major one to the Pixie Dust Pass. Unlike the other tiers, this option for Floridians didn’t have sales paused, so there are a ton of them in circulation. That’s resulted in some ‘interesting’ and unprecedented crowd dynamics, such as the weekends (when that AP is blocked out) being the slowest days of the week at Walt Disney World this year.
Trying to ‘nudge’ Pixie Dust Passholders to higher tiers via higher pricing on it would make sense. But then again, Walt Disney World may not want to lose ‘borderline’ APs, especially since that tier helps fill the parks during the off-season.
The good news is that you can guard against the likely increases on admission. If you’re a prospective Annual Passholder, you can purchase a voucher or certificate to secure current pricing. If you have a Walt Disney World trip planned between now and December 2024, you can buy tickets now to lock-in current costs and guard against future increases. There will almost certainly be one price increase between now and the end of 2024, with 2-3 price increases in that timeframe being a distinct possibility.
With that said, if you’re on the fence but planning on buying via an authorized third party ticket seller, you are probably fine to wait until after the price increase is announced/occurs. For the past decade-plus, authorized sellers have maintained inventory of the existing tickets at the “old” prices, usually for a couple of weeks after the price increase. I can’t remember the last time that was not the case, so it’s safe to say it’ll likely happen again with the October 2023 price increases.
However, if you’re booking a Walt Disney World vacation package that includes tickets, do not wait. Lock-in something ASAP. Once those prices go up, there’s no workaround for getting the old prices. Your only alternative would be a room-only rate, and buying tickets separately via the aforementioned authorized discount sellers.
This is especially true for those of you traveling between now and Spring Break 2024, as a number of discounts are already available. (See All Current Walt Disney World Discounts – Fall 2023 to Spring 2024.) Vacation packages, including discounted ones, reflect the price of tickets when originally booked. This means if ticket prices were to go up overnight, you’d pay more for the Free Dining Card Deal, tomorrow than you would today.
This doesn’t just apply to brand-new bookings…it also applies to modifications. If you have a vacation package booked today, but ticket prices increase and you then apply a retroactive discount, you’re going to pay the new rate for admission. Over the years, we’ve heard from readers who have been surprised that their price is higher with a discount than without. This is usually why–base prices increased between the time they made the reservation and the time they applied the discount. That’s why it’s best to both lock-in rates and apply discounts ASAP, whenever possible.
Obviously, it’s not possible to apply discounts to stays in April to December 2024 (aside from bouncebacks), but it is possible to at least book the undiscounted package now. After these potential price increases, it’s possible that’ll end up being better than future promotions. (We highly doubt it given how aggressive discounting has gotten, but we’d still recommend hedging!)
It’s likely there will be price increases on more than just regular tickets, parking, and Annual Passes. Other potential big ones are things like Droid Depot and Savi’s Workshop for Handbuilt Lightsabers in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and price increases on character dining experiences, which last went up across-the-board in the middle of last October.
There’s very little you can do to guard against this type of price increase. Booking any prepaid experiences ASAP is savvy, as Walt Disney World should honor the price paid at the time of the reservation. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s worth a shot. As for everything else, there’s really not much you can do.
We’re not expecting any massive changes to Genie+ at this point until the pre-booking rolls out in Winter or Spring 2024. That’s likely to be a complete paradigm shift (yet again), so it’s doubtful they’ll mess with Lightning Lanes yet again in between. Prices will go up, on average, but that’s due to the upcoming months being busier and Genie+ now using date-based and per-parking pricing.
Given that Iger was largely brought it to stem the bleeding from streaming and improve Disney’s financials, I have a difficult time believing that he is going to take the immediate hit on prices and the other upcharges just to improve goodwill among Walt Disney World fans. It’s very difficult to envision a way that Iger does that in the near-term given the uphill battle that Disney+ and Hulu face.
The other reason they might hesitate on more price increases is that Iger also confirmed on the most recent earnings call that attendance and hotel occupancy are both down at Walt Disney World. Disney executives have repeatedly ‘warned’ investors of a slowdown at Walt Disney World due to the end of revenge travel and conclusion of the 50th Anniversary. Disneyland has comparatively overperformed, but it also saw lagged pent-up demand, so it’s also likely to slow soon.
Walt Disney World and Disneyland both did a “great” job of capitalizing on revenge travel, raising prices and increasing per guest spending by a whopping 40% as compared to 2019. That’s a big part of why increases occurred at an “alarming” rate–because guest demand was so strong and resilient no matter what shenanigans Disney pulled.
Consequently, it might be time for the company to take its foot off the gas and pump the brakes on runaway pricing. There’s already the 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 yet even more price increases certainly can’t help.
Wall Street analysts and investors have similar fears, and have asked the company about contingency plans and whether the current rate of growth is sustainable or damaging in the long term. (Remember the proxy fight earlier this year? That was one of the issues.) In response, Disney indicated that there are a number of “levers” they could pull. We’re already starting to see that happen via discounting.
My guess is that price increases will happen in October 2023, but by lower amounts than in the past few years–with the possible exception of certain Annual Passes. I think there’s probably internal apprehension about the perception of even more price increases, and also how it’ll negatively impact the already-soft forward bookings. But not enough that they won’t do it.
For one thing, inflation is still an issue. Thankfully, this is starting to decelerate as consumer spending also starts to cool, but inflation does remain elevated. Its own costs having increased, Disney has a motivation for raising prices. It also has a degree of justification, as consumers are already accustomed to paying ever-increasing prices.
For another thing, Walt Disney World long ago adopted the “Kohl’s Model” to pricing, where the sticker prices are almost meaningless due to discounts. Even during the Great Recession, Walt Disney World kept raising prices…while also ramping up the special offers. As Kohl’s learned ages ago, if the base price is higher, it makes the discounted rate look like even more of a bargain! The Disney Dining Plan also has this impact on menu prices. If the latter increases, it makes the DDP look like a better value, and 2024 Disney Dining Plan prices are quite high!
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, happens with prices at Walt Disney World and Disneyland in October 2023. Even in the face of pent-up demand exhausting itself, the next few months of Halloween and the Holidays will likely be busy. 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 and Disneyland as travel destinations with sky-high prices.
Thoughts on the potential price increases? Think Walt Disney World and Disneyland will raise rates across the board in October 2023, or will they hit pause in light of the economy? 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? 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!