BAY LAKE, FL—Citing the 75 percent increase in ticket prices over the past decade, a report published Thursday by consumer research firm McGann & Associates found that the rising cost of admission to Walt Disney World is prompting more parents to leave their children at home when visiting the popular resort.
According to the study, while real wages in the U.S. have remained stagnant over the past 30 years, the price of a one-day theme park pass has increased fivefold, a development that is forcing many mothers and fathers to drop off their kids with relatives or family friends before traveling by themselves to patronize the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, or any of Disney World’s other properties.
“For most U.S. households, the previously common practice of taking the whole family for a long weekend to Disney World is now simply out of reach, leaving parents with no choice but to go to the park on their own,” said the report’s author, Marie Dolan, who added that the average family simply does not have enough in savings to buy more than two tickets at their current cost of $105 apiece, a price that she was quick to point out did not even include a water park add-on option. “A family earning the national average could at one time afford not only tickets, but also three nights in an onsite Disney hotel. But now, principal wage-earners must make tough sacrifices, which usually means leaving the young ones behind while Mom and Dad go off to ride all the rides and visit with all the Disney characters.”
“Nowadays, if you look around Disney World, it’s mostly just mothers and fathers who are waiting in lines for the attractions or taking one another’s photos in front of the Haunted Mansion,” Dolan added.
Even for parents who try to cut costs by purchasing five-day value passes or restricting their visits to just Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom, the resulting savings reportedly aren’t enough to allow them to bring the entire family along. In the best-case scenarios, Dolan conceded that a couple could theoretically be able to scrimp sufficiently to take just one of their children, provided his or her siblings were left with a caretaker who could look after them free of charge.
“I have so many great memories from when my own parents brought me and my brothers here, and we all rode Space Mountain and watched the Country Bear Jamboree together—but my wife, Danielle, and I just didn’t have enough money to bring our own daughters,” said resort guest and father of two Paul Gomez, 36, speaking to reporters while holding a Mickey Mouse–shaped ice cream bar and wearing the park’s iconic mouse ears hat. “I wanted more than anything to give our kids the same amazing experience I had, but with all our bills and mortgage payments, we could only cover a pair of airline tickets and park passes. I know my girls would have loved going on Splash Mountain, getting off the ride, and then rushing to get back in line with us today.”
“Maybe things will turn around in a few years and we’ll be able to bring [Gomez’s daughters] Zadie and Erika, but until then it’s going to be just me and my wife at the character breakfast with Belle and the Beast,” Gomez added.
Numerous other parents, including Jessica and Raymond Huebel of Provo, UT, said they had hoped to give their children at least a glimpse of the fun they were having at Disney World by bringing home a set of high-quality pictures, but expressed dismay that they weren’t able to cover even the most modest Memory Maker photo packages the park offers. According to the Huebels, their tight budget only allowed them to purchase a single 11-by-14-inch glossy photo of the two of them riding Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which they said they intended to hang in their own master bedroom.
“Just walking up Main Street, U.S.A. and seeing Cinderella’s Castle in the distance—I would have loved to turn to my son at that moment and see him smile,” said Jessica Huebel shortly after hugging both Chip and Dale in Frontierland. “But my husband says we’ll barely have enough gas money for the trip home as it is.”
“I just hope prices don’t keep going up too much,” she added. “Otherwise, during the next visit I’ll probably be riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad by myself.”