Disney World is designated as the happiest place on earth.
Unfortunately, it’s not always happy for our wallets.
It can cost hundreds of dollars to get in for a day, and even more money once you get into the park.
Why is it so expensive? Well, here are 20 reasons to help explain some of the costs.
Why Is Disney World So Expensive?
Disney World is an experience.
With four parks to choose from, it offers fun for all ages.
While it’s pricier than some can afford for vacation, there are reasons for some of the high costs.
1. Demand is High
The demand to go to Walt Disney World is high.
With demand so high, it only makes sense that there’s going to be an expensive ticket to get inside.
If it were cheap, they’d be turning people away at the door every day, and then, no one would get to go.
This is common in economics.
Whenever there’s a high demand and a limited supply, prices go up.
It’s a way to ensure balance.
Disney is no different.
There are four parks.
However, the Magic Kingdom is still the most popular park because of the epic rides that are available.
As such, Disney decided several years ago to increase the price of an admission ticket to Magic Kingdom proportionately.
Now, it costs more to go to Magic Kingdom than to the other three parks on property.
2. There Is a Limit to Guests Each Day
There are maximum capacities at all four of the Disney World Parks.
While Disney has not released those limitations, they are in place.
Considering that they will actually close the park to more guests after a certain number have entered, it ensures that everyone can enjoy themselves.
Without a limit, people would swarm into the parks.
It could lead to even longer lines for the rides than there are now. It could result in running out of food, long lines for restrooms, and much more.
Essentially, limiting the number of guests is to preserve the magic, but this comes at a cost.
Since there is a maximum limit, Disney has to compensate for the money that they lose by having to say, “No more.”
Additionally, on nights when there are special tickets to get in, such as for Mickey’s Not So Scary and Very Merry Christmas, the tickets are priced higher than standard tickets.
The reason is that the guests are limited even more than a standard day.
As such, people pay more for the experience of not going into a crowded park.
3. Parking Isn’t Included
Disney gets expensive when you start to look at all of the costs involved.
You may pack your family into a car and have spent over a grand on tickets.
However, there are parking attendants who will stop to charge you for parking.
The cost is $25 per day, which can add up depending on how long you’re going to stay at the park.
The only way around this expense is if you stay at one of the Disney resorts.
Once you do get into the parking lot, there is a tram that will pick you up.
It will deliver you right to the main gate which cuts down on walking.
The $25 that you pay to park covers the cost of the tram, the maintenance of the tram, as well as the labor for the person operating the tram.
4. Rides Are Continuously Being Maintained
Disney World has been open since 1971.
Many of the rides that were there when the park first opened are still around today.
Even as new rides have been created, it still requires that the rides be maintained.
Each and every day, there are thousands of people climbing in and out of the rides.
Over time, the door hinges deteriorate.
The paint fades.
The seat cushions tear.
This means that there are significant repairs that need to be made regularly.
Teams of engineers are on site every day to help with the maintenance.
Additionally, they’re available to complete repairs that may happen on the spur of the moment.
People are paying hundreds of dollars to get into the park, and it may be their one and only time there.
Therefore, all rides have to be fully operational.
With the cost of the repairs, the cost of the paint, and the cost of the labor for the engineers, it all adds up.
Considering that there’s always some level of maintenance being performed on the rides and the various props throughout the parks, it adds to the operating expense.
5. Training Is Thorough
Employees at Disney are referred to as cast members.
Those cast members are given extensive training to learn about customer service and the “Disney way” of doing things.
Most cast members will spend at least one full day in basic training to learn about how to work at Disney.
After that, they will get training based on their actual job.
Training where employees are in front of the public is more extensive.
In most instances, cast members will spend seven to 10 of their first days in training.
This adds up to a lot of labor.
Additionally, there’s a full Disney Institute where professional development and leadership courses are offered.
Employees in leadership positions are encouraged to take courses.
There’s the cost of providing training as well as the salaries for all of the trainers.
Plus, a full building is dedicated to training, so there’s the cost of keeping that building up and running.
6. All Employees Get Costumes
If you ever stop to look around at Disney, everyone is in a costume.
It starts with the parking attendants, continues with the cleaning crews, and ends with the costumed characters.
Once a person is assigned a job, they are issued uniforms for that particular job.
The cast members who work in Tomorrowland look different from the ones who are on Main Street.
Consider the cost involved with providing every position at Disney with a different design.
It means that there’s a need for multiple sizes of virtually every costume out there.
It’s a perk for the employees because they don’t have to buy clothes for their job.
However, it comes at quite a cost for those who want to visit the park.
Even beyond the cost of the costumes, Disney provides all of the cleaning and maintenance.
Employees simply show up for work.
Then, they can expect a clean costume to wear.
If a costume rips, Disney provides a new one.
It’s all a part of the experience, but entire departments are designated to handle the uniforms.
7. Benefits Are Significant
Disney employees are given a significant number of benefits.
While it varies from hourly to salaried employees, even basic cast members are given benefits that would be impressive compared to even other theme parks.
Employees are given main gate passes, which allow them and their personal guests into the park at no cost.
Health insurance options are available.
Retirement plans may be available.
Employees are also given vacation and personal holidays, making it easier for them to have a life outside of work.
Additionally, Disney offers 100% tuition assistance through the Disney Aspire network of schools.
This allows part-time and full-time employees to pursue a degree.
Beyond the basic benefits, employees can access childcare support, wellness programs, and career development.
While Disney is known to not offer the most competitive wages to its employees, they do take care of employees through the many benefits.
This is an expense that HR must endure.
It all contributes to the operating expenses of keeping the parks open, which means it will impact the cost of the tickets into the parks.
8. You Pay for the “Experience”
There’s a lot that goes into the experience at Disney.
Cast members are always walking around to offer you directions.
Trash is picked up within seconds of it hitting the ground.
The landscaping is meticulously groomed. This is just the overall aesthetic.
Then, you look around at all of the buildings.
Everything is themed.
You feel as though you’re on the set of Star Wars.
As you get closer to the ride, everything has been perfectly themed—the music, the décor, and even what the cast members are wearing.
You can feel like a kid again as you stand along the main roads and watch the parades.
Entertainers interact with the crowds and put on a show as they go by.
At the end of the night, you can look upwards to see a fireworks display unlike anything else in the world.
It’s expensive, but people pay because it’s the experience that you get at Disney which you can’t find anywhere else.
9. Employees Are Always Working
Disney may have limited park hours, but employees are always working.
There are employees working in order to prep food for the restaurants, to prepare the rides for the next day, and to clean up all of the messes.
There are also other things going on.
Engineering is working to make repairs.
The IT department is maintaining the website.
So many things are happening even when the park is closed.
The amount of labor spent at Disney is insane, and it all takes its toll in terms of how the tickets are priced.
10. The Park Is Kept Clean
If you’ve ever been to Disney and been to other theme parks, you’ll notice a difference.
Disney is immaculate from the moment you drive in until the moment you drive out.
Employees are paid to walk around with dustpans and brooms.
If they see litter on the ground, they pick it up.
There are also entire landscape crews that will clean up so that you never see weeds.
They keep the plants watered and everything alive.
Extra employees are always around so that there’s never an issue of dirt.
If a kid throws up, you’ll never see it because employees rush to make it look as though nothing happened.
It’s part of the experience.
It’s why Disney is more popular than other theme parks.
Others are cheaper but Disney is cleaner.
11. A Lot Goes on Behind the Scenes
The only thing that you see when you’re at Disney is what’s happening around you.
Whether you’re going to Animal Kingdom or Magic Kingdom, a lot is happening behind the scenes.
There’s a department responsible for laundry.
There’s a department responsible for cleaning the character heads.
There’s even a department responsible for decorating for the various themed events.
When you take a peek at what’s going on, it can be amazing.
There are buildings upon buildings on Disney properties that you’ll never see.
They’re all responsible for keeping everything running smoothly.
The HR, the IT, the engineering—it’s all behind the scenes.
The buildings require maintenance.
The utilities need to stay on.
The departments need to be manned by multiple employees at all times.
With all that’s going on behind the scenes, it’s a lot—and it’s all an expense that is endured to provide you with the magic that you pay for when you visit Disney.
12. Cast Members Are Everywhere
You’ll find that there are cast members everywhere.
You won’t be able to go into a single area of Disney without finding at least one person who works there.
Look at the number of people lined up to scan your ticket.
Look at the number of people working in the different shops and boutiques.
Look at how many people are operating the rides.
Cast members are there to offer you an incredible experience.
As you travel further into the parks, you’ll come across more cast members.
Some may be dressed as Mickey and Minnie.
Others will be guiding the characters through the park.
Even the parade is a tribute to the sheer number of employees.
A typical parade will often have at least 100 visible cast members there to wave and entertain.
Although cast members get paid different hourly rates based on their job position, you have to figure that there are thousands of employees on the clock in every park at any given moment.
Taking care of guests is a top priority at Disney, and they have a hefty payroll to ensure it remains as a priority.
13. Food Is Expensive Because It’s Convenient
The food throughout Disney is expensive because they know that you’re not going anywhere.
If they want to charge $10 for a mediocre hamburger, they know that someone will buy it.
After all, it’s going to be cheaper than you having to leave the park, go out to eat, and come back into the park.
By eating the more expensive burger, you’re able to spend more time at the park that you spent so much money to get into.
There are quite a few options for food in Disney, and many of them have been created by celebrity chefs and world-renowned chefs.
Iron Chef’s Cat Cora was a Disney chef for many years.
A lot of thought has gone into the way that the food is created, presented, and even sold inside of a themed restaurant.
When you go to Disney, you never feel as though you’re just getting a burger.
Some restaurants are expensive because of the convenience.
Others are expensive because of the quality of the food or even what you’re getting out of the experience.
All-you-can-eat buffets are found across the property.
They’re expensive because they know that people have worked up an appetite from walking around the parks.
They’ll charge you, knowing that they’ll still probably lose money in the deal.
14. Advertising Is Ongoing
Advertising is always happening.
The commercials are on TV, on the radio, and even in magazines.
The advertising ensures that people remember all that Disney has to offer.
What’s more, the ads are nationwide.
This ensures that people are reminded of the magic of the theme parks so that they book their next vacation at Disney instead of somewhere else.
15. Expansions and Updates Are Always Happening
Disney wants to keep the experience new so that they can continue to get repeat guests.
Older rides are repurposed for newer ones.
New characters are introduced.
More modern rides are presented.
At Hollywood Studios, Disney spent a fortune to bring the magic of Star Wars to its guests.
Galaxy’s Edge cost a significant amount of money so that people could participate in the Rise of the Resistance.
Even the food has been themed so that Star Wars fans can enjoy a glass of blue milk.
In every park, updates are made.
These cost millions of dollars, and people are happy to pay just to enjoy something new from time to time.
16. Stockholders Want to See Profits
The hard truth is that stockholders are running Disney.
In every aspect of the company, there are stockholders that make decisions.
Many of those decisions are based on profits.
They don’t look at anything else, and that means that, in order to turn the best possible profit, they’ll raise ticket prices.
Tickets used to be less than $100 for a single-day admission.
Now, it can cost significantly more for a day—and you could spend double or triple that depending on where you eat and what you buy when you’re at the park.
It has been estimated that a family of four will spend approximately $5,000 for a Disney vacation.
It’s a lot, but the stockholders have priced everything so that the magic is still there while being able to obtain a profit that they can live with.
The stockholders would rather raise the cost of the tickets than drop the magic.
They could get rid of certain rides or forgo the fireworks.
However, that’s not going to make anyone happy.
People will pay for the experience, and the stockholders know it.
As long as Disney has stockholders to report to, they will make their decisions based on profit.
As new labor laws come on board and other regulations change, it will become more expensive to operate Disney.
Therefore, it appears that Disney will only get more expensive as time goes on.
17. New Movies Require Money
Lots of Disney moves are made and remade.
There have been cartoon and live-action versions of such classics as Lion King and Aladdin.
There are plenty of Disney movies that are not even cartoons at all.
Disney has bought various franchises over the years, including both Marvel and Star Wars.
All of these movies need funding.
It’s important to remember that while Disney World is expensive, it’s also part of a bigger company.
Disney is funding movie projects every year.
Then there’s the Disney channel.
It all costs money because of the film sets, the actor wages, production costs, and more.
When you buy a ticket into Disney World, some of it’s going toward all of that.
Disney needs people to keep going to the parks and buying the merchandise so that they can see where fan loyalty lies.
It tells the Disney executives what kinds of projects to invest in so that they can keep perpetuating the love of Disney for future generations.
18. Fan Loyalty
There’s a significant amount of fan loyalty.
Die-hard Disney fans are the ones who will support Disney World no matter what.
They’ll buy the annual passes.
They’ll buy the newest theme of Mickey Ears.
They’ll talk about the amazing features of Disney to everyone on social media.
With so many fans from around the globe, Disney knows that they’re never in danger of losing out on business.
There will always be enough people to say, “Fine, I’ll pay.”
This gives Disney a significant amount of confidence to increase their ticket prices almost every year.
They raise the rates, and while some people will complain, there will always be people lining up to get tickets.
Entire generations have been raised to be fanatics.
Kids grow up going to Disney and make the solemn promise to bring their kids.
As new movies are released, people’s love for Disney is renewed.
As long as Disney continues to create memorable and lovable Disney characters, there will always be people who will find the money to go to their parks.
19. Transportation Is Included
Once you park at one of the four parks or even Disney Springs, you have access to all of the parks.
Transportation is provided in the form of buses and monorails.
These are continually moving about the resort property.
Most of the time, you won’t have to wait for more than 15 minutes to be taken to where you want to go.
Even if you don’t stay at one of the three hotels connected to the monorail system (Grand Floridian, The Contemporary, and The Polynesian), there are plenty of other on-site hotels that are connected to the resort.
You can get to where you want to go via the buses.
Airport shuttles are regularly available, too.
Rather than paying for a taxi or rideshare, you can take advantage of the free transportation offered by Disney to head right to the resort property.
Employees will even help with loading and unloading your luggage.
20. On-Site Hotels Add to the Experience
You can stay at these hotels in order to immerse yourself fully in the magic of Disney.
The only downside is that they can be hundreds of dollars more per night than the hotels that are located off-site.
Why are they more money?
Part of it has to do with the monorail.
There are three hotels that are connected to the Monorail system, making it easy for you to get to Magic Kingdom and Epcot when you stay at these hotels.
Additionally, they’ll provide you with plenty of experiences while you’re staying there.
Some of the hotels may offer a visit from Mickey and Minnie.
Others will offer you incredible activities, access to pools, and even more.
Many will offer seasonal activities.
Plus, there are world-class restaurants on site.
It’s all part of the magic and the experience.
Stay at a Disney hotel and you won’t have to leave the property.
The hotels will send shuttles to the airport.
Once you’re on property, there are monorails and buses to take you to every park and the Disney Springs shopping area.
How to Save Money at Disney World
Disney World isn’t one to put out coupons.
They take the approach that if someone wants to go, they’ll save up and go.
However, there are a few ways to save money when you want to go to the park.
It comes down to how often you’ll want to visit.
If you live in Florida, you may want to consider buying an annual pass.
Once you get past the initial shock of the cost, it breaks down to considerably less per visit.
Otherwise, consider at least a three-day or five-day pass.
This will be much cheaper than a one-day pass and allow you to check out more of Disney while you’re there.
There are a few other ways to save.
You may want to work with a Disney vacation planner so that you can get a package deal on a hotel, park passes, and even food passes.
Other savings may be available if you’re a veteran or a first responder.
Deals may be available periodically to celebrate those groups.
Otherwise, Disney will unapologetically expect you to pay full price for everything because of the magic that they provide at every turn.