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Robert Trigaux

As Disney, other theme park fees approach $100, how often is it worth going?



disneylogowhite.jpgWake up and good morning. Is it the economy? Is it common sense? Is it a matter of what else you can do with those precious entertainment dollars? Is it my being a curmudgeon? Am I the Scrooge of Theme Parks?

The answer's probably yes to all of these questions. How often is it worth going to Orlando's Disney World?

I was reminded of this persistent question this month when a niece, born and raised in Florida but now with a family of her own in Connecticut, let us know she would be coming (again) to Orlando to "do Disney" with her husband and three young children. We declined to join them, not because we don't love them but life is busy and the admission fee of Disney is no longer a casual expense to us. Full fare entry at Disney is now $87.33 per person ($78.81 for kids 3 to 9).

It's not price per se that stops me. I am reminded by St. Petersburg Times business reporter Mark Albright, who's covered the theme park industry for many years, that the majority of theme park visitors buy discounted tickets. No, it's the frequency of going there that stops me: How often is too often?

Not that Disney's suffering from attendance. It was up slightly this year through September, though Disney raised its admission fee in August. It really won't be long before Disney -- and all major theme parks -- hit that magic one-day pass price of $100.

I was reminded of my admission angst by a just published Wall Street Journal story raising some of these very same concerns over family finances. The family -- father (a Journal reporter), mother and two kids, ages 14 and 7 -- spent close to $5,000 for a four-day visit to Disney. That price included airfare, hotel, park entrance fees and a meal plan.

$5,000? Now I feel cheap. I have no airfare costs, just gas and parking in driving over from Tampa Bay to Orlando. Floridians even get an admission discount. I have no meal plan, though buying a meal or two inside any theme park is no bargain. Obviously, I'd be more motivated if there were new and substantial things to do and see at any theme park. (That's why Universal Orlando's enjoying boffo increases in visitors with its new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction.)

Here's the Journal reporter's lament: "Five thousand dollars. Maybe we could justify it if it was our first trip to Disney. But it's our third since 2002. Given all the other vacations we could be pursuing with the kids, this simply doesn't seem worth it." He adds: "I'm not alone in trying to decide whether a trip to Disney is worth it, especially if you've already been there, done that."

Read the entire Wall Street Journal story here.

How about you? Given the economy, especially, are you have second thoughts about Disney (or any theme park) visits?

-- Robert  Trigaux, Times Business Columnist



[Last modified: Monday, December 13, 2010 7:32am]


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