Disneyland raises prices every year, and frequent park goers grumble every time. This year, however, the price increase is hitting much harder than normal for a variety of reasons.
I’m a long-time Disneyland fan, so I’ve been through price increases many times before. I had an annual pass from the late 1990s through the early 2000s, and have visited once every year or two both before and after that time. I’m used to Disneyland fans (myself included) complaining every time prices go up, so this usually wouldn’t be that big of a story. This year, however, it feels so much more severe.
First of all, the price increases usually occur after the holiday season, so many Disney fans woke up this morning to this terrible news without any warning prior to the holiday rush. And the news came basically in the middle of the night for Californians, so it was a rather rude awakening for a lot of them. Disneyland bloggers and YouTubers are all scrambling to make sense of the changes today, and everyone – even the happiest bloggers who never complain about anything – have a general tone of irritation about the sudden news. And honestly, I don’t blame them.
Additionally, this came on top of the upcoming Genie+ add-on that’ll add at least $20 to your day if you want to skip the long standby lines (and more for Rise of the Resistance, Radiator Springs, or WEB Slingers). This price increase for an optional service was already causing waves, prompting some fans to call it the end of middle and working-class accessibility to the parks. Many of us were able to rationalize it away as an extra service aimed at dispersing crowds and making up for income loss due to the pandemic (not that Disney is all that poor as a corporation, but the park was closed for 14 months, so it was at least a believable excuse). This unexpected and off-season price increase, however, can only be rationalized with the latter excuse, which felt paper-thin already with the Genie+ add-on.
Frankly, it feels like a cash grab. I hate to be that blunt, but that’s what this is.
To rub salt in our wounds, parking prices have increased from $25 to $30 dollars a day ($40 for oversized vehicles) while guests have to walk to the park along the tram route. That’s right, the trams aren’t even running right now, so you are paying more just to walk almost a mile from your car to your gate. Apparently, trams are due to come back sometime next year, but man it sure feels terrible to have to pay more for less service than we got before the pandemic.
Let’s Break Down the Disneyland Ticket Price Increases
There are numerous types of tickets you can obtain to experience the parks at the Disneyland Resort. You can purchase a one-day ticket for one park, or a one-day ticket for both parks (called a ‘Park Hopper’). The tickets are also tiered based on expected demand for any given day. Tier One covers the absolute least popular days (think weekdays in the middle of winter, for example) and thus they are the cheapest, while Tier Five are the most popular days (Saturdays in the summer or holidays) and thus the most expensive ticket options. This increase has also added a Tier Six, which I assume will be the absolute most popular days. You can also buy multiday tickets as both One-Park and Park Hopper passes.
All of these passes, except for the One-Day, One-Park tickets, have increased in price from $5 to $25.
One-Day, One-Park Tickets
Tier One: $104 (no increase)
Tier Two: $114 increased to $119
Tier Three: $124 increased to $134
Tier Four: $139 increased to $149
Tier Five: $154 increased to $159
Tier Six: Introduced at $164
One-Day Park Hopper
Tier One: $159 increased to $164
Tier Two: $169 increased to $179
Tier Three: $179 increased to $194
Tier Four: $194 increased to $209
Tier Five: $209 increased to $219
Tier Six: Introduced at $224
Two Days: $234 increased to $255
Three Days: $310 increased to $330
Four Days: $340 increased to $360
Five Days: $360 increased to $380
Multi-Day Park Hopper
Two Days: $290 increased to $315
Three Days: $365 increased to $390
Four Days: $395 increased to $420
Five Days: $415 increased to $440
So to contextualize all those numbers up above, if you are only going to one park on one day during an off-peak Tier One and you don’t have to park a car on-site and you don’t plan on using any Lightning Lane add-ons, congratulations! Your cost will be the same. You won’t be impacted by this at all. But you are the only guests besides current Dream Key holders (more on that later) and other Key holders who won’t be parking their car at the park. Everyone else will be paying more.
If you are going for a Park Hopper ticket on an extremely popular day, pay for parking, and want to add the Genie+ pass, you’re looking at a $40 increase per person for the day. If you want to use the Lightning Lanes at Rise of the Resistance, Radiator Springs, or WEB, you’ll have an as-of-yet unknown additional cost. The prices for the add-on Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World range from $7-15, but we simply don’t know how our prices will shake out at Disneyland quite yet.
If you are getting a 5-day Park Hopper with parking and the Genie+ add-on, you’re looking at a $150 increase. Again, this isn’t counting the additional Lightning Lanes you can purchase with an as-of-yet unknown cost, but if we theoretically use the most expensive prices from Walt Disney World as a base price, you’re looking at $45 extra to skip the line at all three rides. Once we get the actual prices, this guess will likely be way off, but we don’t have much else to work from at this point.
And, well, you can do the math on your own group size based on the above numbers and see just how much additional money you’ll be paying for your family. A party of four, for example, would see an additional $160 and $600 increase respectively based on the examples above.
But the individual ticket holders aren’t the only ones getting hit with bad news today. No, the frequent park goers also woke up to some majorly bummer news.
The Dream Keys Are Paused
If you looked at the above numbers and are considering getting an Annual Pass because surely that’s got to be a better deal per day than individual tickets, there are a few things you should know. First of all, it’s no longer an ‘Annual Pass.’ They’re called ‘Magic Keys’ and you are limited to a certain number of bookings at any one time, subject to availability. Long gone are the days where you can buy an Annual Pass and go whenever the heck you want. You’ve got to plan in advance.
The passes range in price, starting from $399 for the Imagine Key, which is restricted to southern California residents. You can get 10% off select food and merchandise and hold up to two reservations at a time. This is the most budget-friendly option available, but it’s restricted to certain zip codes and you may not be eligible for it if you live outside of that region.
Up next we have a $649 price for the Enchant Key, which has quite a few blackout dates mainly during the most popular times (weekends, summers, holidays). You can also get a 10% discount on select food and merchandise, and can hold up to four park reservations at a time. This Key, along with the next two, are not locked to certain zip codes and are available for anyone.
For $949 you can get the Imagine Key with fewer blackout dates, 10% off select food and merchandise, and 50% off of parking (which, as noted above, has increased in price). You can also hold up to six reservations at a time.
Lastly, for $1399 you can get the Dream Key which theoretically has no blackout dates (more on that later) and includes a 20% discount on select food, a 15% discount on merchandise, free parking, and the ability to hold up to six reservations at once.
At least you could get the Dream Key prior to today. This tier has been paused and is no longer available for purchase. But honestly, based on feedback from some Dream Key holders, it hasn’t been worth the cost for a lot of people. Getting weekend reservations has been a nightmare, which is why I say it theoretically has no blackout days, but the competition for weekend slots has effectively created blackout days for those who aren’t totally on it and ready to reserve their spot months in advance. With the fierce competition for peak days, you have similar availability as the Imagine Key. Is that $450 price difference justified by free parking and increased discounts alone That’s up for debate. Personally, I would be pretty mad if I had this Key and was unable to go on weekends and holidays due to demand.
The Dream Key is the only one to have free parking, however, which means Disney will be making more money off of everyone who buys any of the available keys for the duration of the pause. Sure, it’s only $5 for the Imagine and Enchant Keys, and $2.50 for the Imagine Key, which gets a discount, but for frequent park visitors, that’ll certainly add up. Perhaps it won’t add up to the $450 price difference, but they’re still going to be getting some more money out of them, and really that’s kind of the main problem out of this whole ordeal.
It was a bad morning for pretty much all Disneyland visitors, whether you are a one-time visitor or a Key holder. We’re almost all going to be paying more, and in most cases getting a lot less for it.
What Does This Say About the Future of Disneyland?
Let’s be real – Disney fans like to complain. I know. I was a passholder for a long time, remember? I lived through the introduction of Disney’s California Adventure and the era of Light Magic. I’ve seen some complaints, man. I was right there complaining, too so I get it. Our years of complaining has become kind of a joke at this point, though. We can get cranky at just about anything and, honestly, the reputation is kind of deserved.
But the price increases and add-ons being introduced back-to-back was a pretty big hit and the complaints are pretty justified this time around, with or without the expected Disney fan entitlement reputation. Middle-class and working-class people are being priced out of the parks incredibly rapidly. On top of the cost issues, everything from reserving Dream Key dates to getting dining reservations feels like an almost impossible task. Disneyland Resort is now a stressful expensive mess.
How understanding will Disney fans be considering the incredibly weird circumstances we’re in? The park was closed for well over a year, so sometimes I personally feel I should just be grateful that I can go at all right now. I was supposed to go in July of 2020, but this whole darn COVID thing happened and now my first trip back is in November of 2021. I’m grateful! I miss the park. So maybe I should leave the entitlement at the door.
But I’ve also already purchased my tickets for the year and don’t need to pay for parking, so I don’t have to deal with the ticket and parking price increase. I also scored my top dining reservations already (but man, that was hard) and don’t have to deal with the Dream Key headaches. So perhaps I’m in a slightly better position than a lot of people, and therefore a bit more understanding. I sympathize with people being impacted by these issues, though, and feel this goes beyond the typical Disney fan grumbling. And when I inevitably plan next year’s trip, I’m sure I’ll feel it in my bank account then.
I’m going to keep going to Disneyland for as long as I can, but at some point, I just won’t be able to afford it anymore. Back in the early 2000’s I already got priced out of an Annual Pass and dramatically reduced my attendance. If I get priced out of these once-every-year-or-two trips, I’ll be incredibly heartbroken. But until that moment, Disney will keep making money off me just as they’ll keep making money off all the other Disney fans who want to keep experiencing the magic of the parks. I dread the day when I can no longer go, but at this rate, it’s bound to happen sooner rather than later.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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