As anticipated, Walt Disney World and Disneyland increased prices overnight. That’s bad news for anyone purchasing tickets or vacation packages directly from Disney today. The good news is that you can still purchase tickets from the “old” inventory at the old prices from ParkSavers (for Walt Disney World or Disneyland) or Get Away Today (for Disneyland). So you might want to jump on that if you missed our ‘heads up’ post yesterday and awoke today to the news of higher prices.
One tidbit you might’ve missed that we added to that post when revising it today was the possibility of seasonal pricing for multi-day tickets at Walt Disney World (and, presumably, Disneyland). This isn’t just speculation on our part–although we have (wrongly) speculated that it would be rolled out for the last couple of years now.
Disney spokesperson Andrea Finger released a statement to the Orlando Sentinel: “Given the small percentage of guests that purchase a one-day ticket at Walt Disney World, extending pre-published, date-specific pricing to multi-day tickets will further advance our efforts to spread attendance throughout the year and ensure all guests have a magical experience no matter when they visit.” The Sentinel further indicates that Disney is planning to begin selling these tickets later this year.
What, exactly, this means is unclear. The vague wording allows for a range of interpretations, and describes everything from Florida resident ticket deals to the type of pricing that was introduced a few years ago for single day tickets. In our estimation, the latter is the most likely possibility. (It also opens the door for “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Opening Month…Season” with prices for Disney’s Hollywood Studios about double what they are now.)
In Disney parlance, this is known as seasonal pricing. It’s the same as flex, demand-based, surge, or variable pricing. The higher demand, the higher the cost, and vice-a-versa. For 1-day tickets, there are currently three seasons: Value, Regular, and Peak.
When these price seasons were introduced a few years ago, prices increased fairly significantly for both the Regular and Peak Seasons, while Value Season prices were a small decrease as compared to regular prices at the time. This was a clever move on Disney’s part, as it allowed them to issue statements like the following when discussing the price changes: “[guests] have a variety of options, including many days in the value period, which will give them the opportunity to pay less for a 1-Day ticket.”
If seasonal pricing is introduced for multi-day tickets (and despite Disney’s statement, it is still an if at this point; plans can always change until they happen), we would expect the same: a slight drop in the baseline for Value Season pricing, with spikes for Regular and Peak Seasons.
Let’s tackle what this could mean for you. The obvious one is that you’ll potentially pay more thanks to a second price increase (err…”change”) in 2018. When looking at historical price increases for Walt Disney World and Disneyland tickets over the course of the last decade, July or August 2018 seems like the most likely time for this to occur. This would also allow Disney to analyze summer trends post-Toy Story Land opening, and also have a good idea of what fall bookings look like.
If you travel during anything but Value Season, prices for your multi-day tickets would likely increase if/when seasonal pricing for multi-day tickets is introduced. To get an idea of which ‘season’ you’re visiting during, look at the current single-day ticket calendar (DVC point or hotel rate charts could also be useful). While that calendar should be instructive, it’s not definitive. Disney may fine tune seasons more to further manipulate crowds.
That’s the obvious impact, but not the only one. In our Summer Isn’t Peak Season at Walt Disney World Anymore post, we focused a lot of attention on dynamic ticket pricing, and attributed the pricing seasons as one of the reasons May and June had not been as busy for the last two years as they had been in previous years.
We extended this logic in our more recent Is There an Off-Season at Walt Disney World? post, commenting that a variety of factors have caused surges in crowds across the board–and have also made predicting crowd levels extremely difficult.
Introducing seasonal pricing for multi-day tickets should not have the effect of increasing crowd levels across the board. If the net impact is higher prices (as will be the case), seasonal pricing should “help” to further thin crowds. What it will do, though, is make crowds even less predictable, and push crowd calendars further towards obsolescence, at least in the short-term.
Predicting crowds requires a mix of reliable historical data and forward-looking information that offers a window into Disney’s internal crowd forecasts. When prices change like this, historical data becomes less reliable (as there’s a new variable present that did not exist before), and for a period of time, it’s tough to predict exactly how visitors will react–to what degree crowd patterns will shift.
This is problematic for all of us who try to cherry-pick the sweet spots for crowds: mid-January, September, and early December. (Two of which are already skewing towards being significantly busier.) Personally, I can stomach price increases to a degree; what’s more troubling for me is visiting during times that have historically been off-seasons…only to find the parks swarming with people.
Ultimately, a lot of this is informed speculation at this point. While the official statement from Disney makes seasonal pricing for multi-day tickets seem inevitable, it’s not a done deal until it happens. We think it’s pretty safe to say we have not seen the last big ticket price increase–or even second to last one–before Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens next year. While you can’t fully prepare for that/those price increases quite yet, buying now to lock-in pricing is definitely a good idea if you’re visiting later in 2018.
What do you think of the price increase and likelihood of a shift to seasonal pricing on multi-day tickets? Are you concerned that Disney is pricing out too many guests, or do you think it’s a good move to curb ever-growing crowds? Other thoughts or insight? Share your opinions or questions in the comments below!