Sunday 16 October 2011

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Is Disneyland Worth $13 a Day?

It's over.  We are officially no longer Disneyland annual pass holders.  Actually for us I suppose it ended in August,  but we held out some hope for a last minute October long weekend trip that didn't happen when one of us suddenly came down with a case of fiscal responsibility.  Still, we got a lot of use out of our Annual passes at Disneyland this year, but we wondered if they were a worthwhile investment.  After all it's a big chunk of money to put out up front every time, almost enough to keep us in  stuffed crust pizzas for the year.  Is it a good value?

Well putting aside the extremely high regard I have for pizza, I'd have to say that the passes are probably a very good buy.  We bought five annual passes last year at the cost of $450 each for a total of $2250.  That's a lot of money to go to a theme park, even one as good as Disneyland.  The key to the value though, lies in the number of days that you actually use the pass.  We spent 34 days in Disneyland last year (yes, I'm aware that
we live in Canada not Southern California) which brings the daily cost down to $66 a day for a family of five, or just over $13 per day/per person.  The advance purchase price on park hoppers produces a best daily cost of around $42 per day/per person.  So doing the math, we saved $29 per day, times five of us, for a savings of $145 per day.  We visited 34 days so we saved a total of $4930, which is more than the cost of the passes, so they were free right? (I'm aware this kind of logic isn't right.  It's the same breakdown of costs that I hear from my wife every time she goes to the mall.  "Look at how much money I saved you honey!")

Despite my wife's knack for creative accounting, let's focus on the $13 per day to visit Disneyland.  I'm pretty sure most people would find that to be an acceptable price for Disneyland, but when you go 34 times a year, you don't do Disney like a family that's on a once a year vacation.  A couple of those days we only visited the park for an hour or so in the morning before we had to catch a flight around noon.  Some days we arrived late and only got to the park for some fireworks and a couple of late night rides.  Once I think I only stopped in the park to pick up a couple of churros (which I then took back to my room to eat with my stuffed crust pizza).  So not every day is an action packed, morning to night, festival of rides. Of course some of us get a better value out of the $13 than others.

My youngest doesn't like thrill rides (see #5 on this list for the reason) so her days in Disneyland tend to consist of the calmer kids rides like Toy Story, Peter Pan or the Little Mermaid.  These are still pretty good rides, but you have to spend a little more time in line for these, as there are no fast passes available for them.  My older two kids prefer the high speed rides.  These usually have long lines, but they also have fast passes and single rider lines.  I'd say it's not unusual for the two older ones to hit 10 or 12 rides per day in Disneyland, even though we never stay in the park between 11am and 6pm.  Youngest might hit half that many.  That brings our average cost per ride in at between $1 and $2.  More than I had expected, but still a pretty good value (although not enough for a pizza.  Can you tell I'm hungry while I write this?)

There's plenty of other value in a visit to Disneyland.  You get fireworks, parades, Fantasmic, the World of Color, and the opportunity to meet and get your picture taken with all sorts of characters.  Having an annual pass also gives you free parking and a 10% discount at most of the stores in the park (Great, another chance for Lori to demonstrate how much money she can save me.)  It seems to me that the break even point for the pass would be about 10 days.  If you're going to go less than that, you're probably better off buying regular park hopper tickets.  If however, for some reason, you really, really want to have an annual pass, I can always get Lori to do the math for you.  I'm sure she can save you enough to make it a great deal!


  1. You definitely got your money's worth. We used to get one for WDW, but opted for an after 4pm pass to Epcot this year as that's where we realized most our time was spent. We're heading to Disneyland in December...Looking forward to it!

  2. 34 days in Disneyland?!? Now that's some Disneyland dedication. I suppose it's much different if you have kids or enjoy rides, but I'm not even sure I could keep myself entertained there for one full day. Okay, I could probably do one full day, but then after that what do you do? Other than eat churros, of course.

  3. @Deej - I didn't know they had individual park passes. That would be a great idea for Florida, as there's a couple of parks I wouldn't spend too much time in. I was going to tell you to enjoy the warm weather in California in December, but I guess that doesn't really apply to you, so enjoy Disneyland!

  4. @Technosyncratic - Yeah if you don't enjoy kids or rides, it might not be the best destination for you guys. On the other hand, if Princess Aurora ever needs a housesitter....

  5. wow 34 days, how many trips did that include in one year? did you drive from kelowna or fly from bellingham??

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