It's hard to believe, but we may have just made our last visit to Disneyland for a while. Our annual passes expire in October, and we're pretty booked up until then, so it doesn't look like we'll have another trip back before they run out. It feels really weird to be leaving without the next couple of trips back already booked. I'm sure we'll come back when CarsLand opens next summer, but that's almost an entire year away and my kids have gotten used to spending time at Disneyland every couple of months. There's some economics at play too though, and it may be that our time of being Disneyland professionals is coming to an end.
If there's one thing you can count on Disney to do like clockwork, it's raise prices. Every year the price goes up, and it's usually a significant increase too. Annual passes now cost $500 per person for the premium version, which we need as we usually travel on school holidays. I'm not arguing that you can't get value out of the annual pass as I'm sure you can. We spent almost 35 days at Disneyland this year, which brings the price down to just over $14 a day. Disneyland is definitely worth that. There are, however, other options.
My kids have kind of outgrown most of the rides at Disneyland. We seem to spend most of our time trying to get on the "big name" rides, and Disney doesn't have that many of those. They have wonderful theming, and great kiddie rides, but when it comes to serious thrill rides, they're getting blown out of the water by people like Six Flags and Universal, yet they're still charging like they're top dog. An example: I could buy a seasons pass to Disneyland & California Adventure for $499 or I could buy seasons passes to:
- Universal Studios Hollywood
- Seaworld San Diego
- San Diego Zoo
- San Diego Wild Animal Safari Park
- Knotts Berry Farm
- Six Flags Magic Mountain, Los Angeles
- Six Flags America, Baltimore/Washington DC
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo
- Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio
- Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey
- Six Flags Great America, Chicago
- Six Flags Mexico, Mexico City
- Six Flags New England, Springfield, MA
- Six Flags Over Georgia, Atlanta
- Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington, between Dallas and Ft. Worth
- Six Flags St. Louis
- The Great Escape, Lake George, NY
- La Ronde, Montreal
Those 19 parks come to a total of $493, and I suspect I could do a little better by buying early. It seems like it should be a no-brainer right? Alas, I'm emotionally attatched to Disneyland. Our kids have spent almost half of their Christmas mornings in the park, and while it can get ridiculously crowded in Disney sometimes, in general the people there are happy and well behaved. Late Friday night in a Six Flags theme park can be a bit of an eye-opener for the sheltered.
Time will tell what we do, but I think it might be time to take a year off Disney and explore some of the other parks more thoroughly. The key will come this Christmas. Can I resist the urge to book something so we can spend one more Christmas morning with Mickey, or is it time to spend the holidays with the Simpsons, Snoopy, and the Justice League of America? I suppose we could save a bunch of money and stay home for Christmas, but let's be realistic here. We'll set the odds at 2-1 against us being at Disneyland for Christmas this year. Any takers?