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Disney World’s Ticket Pricing System Takes Hold as Guests at Some Theme Park Locations Will Soon Pay More to Visit During Nice Weather

cinderella castle sunlight dollar bills
Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

When the Walt Disney World Resort opened in October 1971, the giant theme park resort began the neverending work of paving the way for every other theme park that would open in Central Florida after that point, setting the standard against which competitors would forever be critiqued.

crowds at disney world

Credit: Becky Burkett

Now, more than 50 years later, Disney World continues to set the standard when it comes to the ways in which theme parks earn revenue, operate, and relate to their guests. And though other theme parks and theme park resorts in Florida have yet to match Disney World’s success thus far, many are striving to follow at least some of Disney’s examples, especially when it comes to creating revenue that all-important revenue and attracting guests.

The Exorbitant (and Rising) Cost of Admission at Disney World

Once upon a time, admission to Disney World wasn’t quite as costly as it is today. But over the years, ticket prices at the Most Magical Place on Earth have increased exponentially and are projected to soar to more than $250 per day per person by 2030.

disney world theme parks

Credit: Disney Parks/Canva

When Disney World first opened in 1971, excited guests paid $3.50 per adult admission ticket. As of March 2024, however, the minimum cost per ticket per day is $109. Guests who purchase multi-day tickets ultimately pay less per day, but it isn’t until the fifth day in the parks that the price actually averages out to less than $100 per day.

But only certain one-day tickets to Disney World are available at the $109 level.

Currently, guests will pay as much as $159 per person per day, depending on the season–or, rather, depending on how crowded the season renders the parks. That is to say that guests who visit Disney World during holiday seasons, during the summer months, and during certain events at the resort, such as EPCOT’s assortment of annual festivals, will often pay a much higher per-day ticket price than guests who visit during less-crowded times.

flower and garden festival at epcot topiaries

EPCOT’s International Flower & Garden Festival/Credit: Becky Burkett

And hang on to your hats (and your wallets) because earlier this year, Disney World announced significant ticket price hikes coming in 2025. Guests hoping to get the best daily ticket prices next year will want to visit on select days during which ticket prices will be at their lowest. Click here to see which dates in 2025 offer the lowest prices on daily admission per person.

Ticket Prices Keep Rising, But Guests Keep Showing Up

In the theme park industry, Disney World’s pricing practice–which includes price differences based on attendance in the parks–is often referred to as surge pricing: when park attendance is projected to see a surge, as it does during the holiday seasons and during the summer months when school is out, ticket prices also see a dramatic surge.

And though many guests complain about the continual stream of ticket price hikes, they don’t seem to be keeping guests from showing up anyway. So, if you think about it, guests are the ones telling Disney to keep hiking prices. Every time ticket prices skyrocket and guests continue to fill the parks, Disney gets the message–one that says, “The demand remains high for what you’re offering, and we’re willing to pay, no matter the cost.”

minnie mouse in front of cinderella castle, money in the background

Credit: Disney / Canva

In fact, the majority of guests who visit Disney World do so on credit, often going into debt if it means they can experience the magic–and introduce their kids to the magic as well.

Now, other theme parks are following suit, once again looking to Disney as the gold standard for theme park operations and the creation of a continued stream of revenue.

Other Theme Parks Follow Suit

Since Disney first arrived to construct its massive theme park resort atop the swamps and wetlands of Central Florida in the late 1960s, numerous other theme parks, amusement parks, and larger theme park resorts have followed suit, joining Disney World in putting down roots in and around the Orlando Metro area.

orlando area theme parks on a map

Credit: Visit Orlando

But that’s only one way in which competitor theme parks in Florida have become copycats following Disney’s lead.

More recently, other theme parks have entertained the idea of surge pricing that Disney has obviously implemented with great success. Whether it will work for them remains to be seen.

Legoland, owned and operated by Merlin Entertainment, will reportedly begin implementing the practice of increasing ticket prices during seasons in which attendance is projected to be higher.

Legoland Florida

Credit: Legoland

Ticket prices will likely be higher during holiday seasons, but Legoland will begin to raise the price of tickets for admission during busier-than-usual weekends at the park. Merlin Entertainment has plans to implement a new pricing system at its top 20 global locations by the end of 2024, according to a spokesperson for the company.

The Financial Times reports that the entertainment group, which also owns Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE Aquarium locations–and just purchased the giant observation wheel at Orlando’s ICON Park (and renamed it The Orlando Eye)–plans to extend its new pricing system to other Legoland locations in the United States in 2025.

renderings of the orlando eye

Renderings of the Orlando Eye/Credit: Keator Construction

But please don’t refer to Merlin’s new pricing system as surge pricing. Representatives for the company would rather refer to it as dynamic pricing, per Merlin’s CEO. The system, whether surge or dynamic, features ticket pricing that fluctuates based on guest demand.

Guests Will Soon Pay More to Visit When the Weather is Nice

“At least for our business, surge pricing is not the name, it’s dynamic pricing,” Merlin Entertainment CEO Scott O’Neill told CNBC on Monday. “And that actually, ironically, does two things. It actually protects the guest experience.”

LegoLand Florida

Credit: Legoland

During an interview with CNBC on Monday, O’Neil said that dynamic pricing would help the company’s theme parks respond to that fluctuating demand in a way that ultimately reduces overcrowding and high wait times for rides and attractions.

“You don’t want to go to Legoland Florida or Legoland New York or Legoland California or Madame Tussauds right down the street here and wait hours in line,” he said.

Merlin’s new system will increase ticket prices during peak attendance times at its theme parks, meaning that guests who visit during sunny summer weekends will pay more for admission than guests who visit in the offseason or during rainy weekdays.

legoland

Credit: Jennifer Marx, Flickr

“You take the prices up, it keeps the numbers down to a reasonable number,” O’Neill explained. “On days without as much foot traffic, the park could then lower the price of admission and attract those looking for a bargain.”

Obviously, an added perk for Merlin Entertainment is the increased potential for higher revenue during seasons of higher admission.

It’s unclear how many of Disney’s competitors have plans to implement ticket pricing systems based on attendance and guest demand. It also remains to be seen whether such systems will prove successful for smaller enterprises like Legoland, Peppa Pig Theme Park locations, and other amusement and theme park locations.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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