Oct 6, 2015

The Cost of Happiness

With the internet uproar over the recent price increase at Disneyland, I thought it would be interesting to figure out how much it actually would have cost to do a day at the park opening year.

It's actually pretty easy, just find images of the old ticket books and add up the values for all the rides. There were 38 attractions that were either free or required an A, B, or C ticket. A tickets were 10 cents. B tickets cost 20 cents. C tickets were 30 cents. So I made a list of all the rides listed on the tickets added up the values and voila, $6.60 worth of tickets would get you 1 ride on every thing in the park. Plus the $1.00 admission fee and your day at Disneyland set your back $7.60. Of course that is 1955 money. Adjusting for inflation and that comes to $67.58.

Now, you might be tempted to think that this is significantly cheaper than the $99 1 park 1 day pass is now, but this doesn't take in to account the different rides at the park now vs then. The only way I could think of to fairly adjust for this was to set all the ticket prices for today's rides to 1955 ticket values and then adjust for inflation. There are actually 7 more attractions at the resort now, plus two new ticket levels that were introduced in 1959. D tickets at 35 cents and E tickets at 50 cents. Adding all of this up gives you $12.25, and adjusting for inflation gives you $109. So Disney is actually charging $10 less than the actual ride value of the park. Plus, today's park tickets allow you unlimited rides on all rides. You could ride nothing but E tickets all day long and rack up a huge ride value bill easily. The freedom alone carries value on top of the ride value. There are also far more shows now than in 1955 including two parades, fireworks, and Fantasmic!. Those carry value also. Many more food options and higher quality souvenirs as well as better themeing across much of the park and additional acreage and lands. In other words, the single day value of Disneyland today is far higher than what they are actually charging for it making Disneyland cheaper to visit today than it was on opening day.

But, what about DCA and park hopping? Well, if you add DCA in to the mix, there are 66 total attractions today compared the the 38 of 1955. Add up the values and adjust for inflation and you get a single day value of $159. The present day 1 day park hopper ticket is priced at $139. The same intangibles and shows adding value on top of the attractions apply to DCA as well, so you're getting a really great deal.

"But," you are probably saying, "the price increases were heaviest on the annual passports, not the single day tickets! So It isn't cheaper today than it was in 1955 for them!" Let's take a quick look at that. Disney doesn't do some weird math and divide the number of times you visit in a year into the cost of your AP to figure out how much they are making per visit off of you. It's much simpler than that. You take the cost of your AP and divide it by the 1 day park hopper price. That's how many days you need to go to the park to pay for your AP. Any additional visits are free. Here's how that breaks down for each of the new AP levels:

$1,049 needs to go 8 days to pay for itself.
$849 needs to go for 7 days.
$599 must visit 5 days.

If you go more than that minimum number of days on your level of AP, then you are getting in for free all of those days. To word it a little differently, if you paid $1,049 for an AP, then you gave Disney enough money to cover 8 days of you being in the park. Let's say you go once a week, an amount that is completely reasonable for many who hold the high end APs. That's 52 times a year, minus the 8 paid days and you're getting in for free 44 times. If you had to pay for those days in the park, it would cost you $6,116. So instead of having to pay $7,165 dollars to go one time every week, you only have to pay $1,049. You are paying a mere 14.6% of the value of what you are actually getting. By raising the AP price, Disney is basically asking you to cover more of that $6,116 they are losing on letting you in for free. Seems a reasonable request.

So remember, even though it sounds like a massive price increase, the park has significantly more value today than it did when it opened, and the price, adjusted for inflation and accounting for new attractions, is cheaper than it should be. And if you are lucky enough to be an Annual Pass holder, remember, it pays for itself very quickly, and from then on, you technically don't have to spend a dime to enjoy any and all attractions that Disney has to offer. Count your blessings, it could cost you far, far, far more.

(For those interested, here's the raw data charts I compiled to figure this out: Google Sheets)