Another year, another Disneyland price increase, another day of online outrage.
I always say, there are only three things in life that are certain: death, taxes, and Disneyland price increases.
But all things considered, the price of admission into Disneyland is still a good value for me. It may not be a good value for everybody. But for me, Disneyland is a priority.
My Guiding Star
I remember buying my first Disneyland annual pass when I was 18. It cost $199, and it was a hefty fee to pay while working my full time minimum wage job while also adjusting to moving away from home and paying my own rent and expenses for the first time. But, Disneyland was that important to me.
Disneyland has always been important to me. My first visit was when I was two years old. Growing up my family visited at least once a year. When I was in high school I went more often, with friends. Even back then my friends considered me a Disneyland expert. You know that Breaking Bad meme where he says, “I am the map” … yeah, that’s me.
I had first dates at Disneyland. I’ve been dumped at Disneyland. When I was in college I did my homework at Disneyland. I got engaged and married at Disneyland.
Disneyland is my happy place. It’s my second home. It’s my escape from depression and anxiety. It’s familiar and comforting. It’s where I go when I want to relax, or think, or celebrate, or mourn.
But still, I know Disneyland is a privilege, not a right. I am not entitled to Disneyland. And while I’ve been lucky to be an annual passholder for 20+ years, I don’t know what the future holds.
But I’ve made Disneyland a priority in my life because of what it gives back to me. Comfort, friendship, reliability. Attractions may come and go, and the colors on Sleeping Beauty Castle may change slightly, but Disneyland itself is my constant guiding star. After hundreds of visits, I still feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders when I walk through the gates and see the train station and Mickey’s smiling floral face.
I prioritize my annual pass before any other vacations. I don’t visit zoos or carnivals or other theme parks aside from Universal Studios. I don’t see many movies in the theater or go to a lot of concerts. Disney is my #1 source of entertainment.
Yes, the magic comes at a price. And yes, that price is increasing by a crazy rate. But it’s still a price I will happily to pay.
So, what is the reason for these annual price increases?
I don’t work for Disneyland’s accounting department so I can only make a few educated guesses. The first is simply supply & demand. The population is increasing and the physical size of Disneyland is not getting bigger (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge expansion aside). Disneyland has to do something to keep crowds under control, and the easiest way to do that is by raising the price.
I know every increase prices certain people and families out. I know every increase makes it tougher for a family of four or five or six to visit. This truth is, Disney has always been a premium experience and some families have always been priced out, since 1955. I don’t want to seem cold-hearted about this. Trust me, I wish every person in the world could experience Disneyland, at least once. I wish everyone had the luxury to visit whenever they wanted. I truly do.
There are a lot of things I want in life. I wish I could live in a mansion by the beach and drive a Mercedes. Some people can live that life but most people can’t. And I’m not mad at Mercedes for pricing their cars as they do, just because I can’t afford one. And if driving a Mercedes was truly a priority for me, I’d skip out on my Disneyland pass, and many other things I buy, and save that money until I could afford one.
But for now I’d rather drive my Nissan to Disneyland.
Another reason for price increases is to fund renovations, expansions, and new offerings. Building Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge cost $1 billion dollars. New fireworks shows and parades cost money from blue sky ideas to creation. Disneyland is always changing and offering new experiences, and that takes money to fund.
To close this out, I just want to address my least favorite Internet argument when it comes to anything Disneyland does: “This is not what Walt would have wanted.”
Look, very few people alive right now knows what Walt would have wanted, and I’m guessing none of them are reading this website. But also, you know what Walt consistently wanted when he was alive? Money. Sorry if that makes you feel uncomfortable, but it’s true. The Walt Disney Company has always been a business, seeking to provide a quality product and earning revenue to appease shareholders to keep the company thriving. Walt was a great man and I admire him so much. I love Walt, and I love his vision for Disneyland, and I’m so grateful he worked hard to bring his vision to life and give me my happy place.
I just found this quote from Walt recently, that he allegedly said after a ticket price increase in 1963: “I don’t care what Guests think about how much they paid when they came in, I care what they think when they leave. There might be some sticker shock, but they’re going to have such a great experience all-around at Disneyland, they’re going to be grateful.”
And that sums it up for me. Yep, I inhale sharply every time I pay that annual pass bill. But I’m so, so grateful every time I step foot inside Disneyland.