I’ve been tracking ticket prices at Walt Disney World since the 2011-2012 price increases. With seven years of detailed price data, perhaps we can begin to discern some patterns and strategies emerging over time. First, let’s examine the raw numbers:
You can click on the graph to see it full-size and read the numbers clearly. But even seeing just the trend lines is useful. The first thing I notice is that, even though the focus of news reports is often on the price of a single-day ticket, the real story starts with 4-day tickets. That single day ticket price is bunched together tightly, with the exception of the big jump in 2016 because we use the highest-priced single-day ticket for tracking purposes, and that is the year that dynamic pricing was introduced. But look at the gaps in the graph if you track 4-day tickets – there appear to be above-average increases at that point every year since 2012.
It’s also interesting to note how closely the year-to-year price increase curves track one another. If you look closely, you can see that, for the most part, each year’s price increase rate is a fairly straight line climb, with only a couple of recent exceptions. The 2016 and 2017 price increase curves “break” again at 7-day tickets. The rate of increase slows somewhat for tickets at the longest-end of the spectrum. Of the three biggest year-to-year increases, two can be pretty readily explained. The 2013 price jump immediately followed the grand opening of New Fantasyland (December 6, 2012). And the 2017 price jump anticipates the grand opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar (May 27, 2017). The large jump in 2016 is a bit harder to explain, but likely anticipated the June 2016 openings of Arendelle at the Norway Pavilion and the revamped Soarin’ in Future World in Epcot. (Yes, I agree that’s a bit of a stretch to justify the size of the jump).
So let’s dig inside the numbers a bit more. What can we learn if we look at the rate of increase, rather than the dollar amount, for each ticket length over time?
Again, you can click on the graph to see it full size and read the numbers clearly, but the shape of the curve is really where we can extract meaning. The first thing to notice is that the orange line – the 2012-2013 price increase is a rather extreme anomaly. The smallest price increase in that round was over 9.5%. And with the exception of the dynamic pricing of single-day tickets, there are no other increases that large on anything shorter than a 6-day ticket. So let’s put that round of increases aside and look at what we can learn from the rest.
First, it appears that the 4-day ticket is Walt Disney World’s core product. Price adjustments for tickets shorter than 4-days have varied much more widely. And starting with 4-days, rates of change have been pretty consistent, especially for tickets between 4 and 7 days in length. After 7 days, pricing strategy appears to become more divergent again. This is in line with most research that suggests that the average domestic vacation in the United States is just four nights.
Beyond a 7-day ticket we’ve seen the rate of increase slowing down a bit for 7-day through 10-day tickets. This likely reflects an effort to balance the cost of these longer tickets with the cost of Annual Passes (not addressed in this analysis), particularly since the no-expiration ticket option was discontinued in 2015.
One last chart that provides a helpful illustration is to look at the price by ticket length over time:
Again, 4-10 Day tickets follow a pretty consistent arc. Prices are steadily climbing, but the price differences among tickets in this range remain fairly small, leading to that “Disney math” we’ve all played with where we justify that 8th or 9th ticket day because the marginal additional cost is small, and it helps amortize the cost of the more expensive (on a per-day basis) first three days.
As I mentioned in the Walt Disney World Price Increases 2017 – The Basics article yesterday, I would characterize this round of increases as rather moderate, all things considered. With a somewhat surprising small price DECREASE for 2-Day and 3-Day tickets balancing larger increases in the middle of the ticket menu. I have no inside information on this, but my prediction would be that we will see similarly moderate price increases next February, but that February 2019 price increases may be substantially steeper, with the impending opening of Star Wars Land. It also would not surprise me to see a restructuring of ticket pricing between now and then, which is somewhat easier to do now, since unused tickets now have expiration dates. Walt Disney World is no longer stuck trying to fit square peg tickets into round holes if they change ticket structures – holders of older tickets will just receive credit toward a new ticket that is consistent with the new structure.
What do you think? Has this round of ticket price changes caused you to alter vacation plans for the next year? Was there anything unexpected in these changes?