Choosing Poison with the Apple

Katelyn asks an expert if biting a poisoned apple was worth her reward afterwards. Disneyland’s recent price increases sure feel like a poisoned apple in that sense…

This year, daily passes for the Anaheim Disney parks — Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park — rose as of May 20 from $80 to $87. The biggest increase hit the estimated 300,000 park-goers…who buy premium annual passes that include parking. Those went from $499 to $649…”This is all about Cars Land,” said David Koenig, author of four books about Disney’s theme parks. “If it wasn’t for Cars Land, the increase would be $4 or $5. Park-goers will go to see Cars Land.” Koenig also noted that the big jump in annual pass fees may be intended as a cap on those visitors. Pass holders tend to be Southern California locals who don’t spend as much on food and souvenirs, and they can crowd out the big-spending out-of-towners, he said. “There is no room in the park and the parking lot for this many people to come back over and over and over,” he said.

While the initial mention of the Disneyland price hikes showed up in a small note in their Business pages, this morning’s L.A. Times shared out a much larger story about this fee increase’s impact.

With Katelyn’s 5th birthday coming this weekend, we’re taking advantage of our own annual passes and taking our little princess to Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel on Monday morning, followed by some pushing and shoving to get into the park itself to give her some theme park time as part of her birthday present.  Given that it’s Memorial Day, no doubt it will be busy, especially since the park didn’t blackout the day for Deluxe pass holders (as we had originally suspected they would).  The wife and I are Premium passholders, which gives us the run of the park, along with parking, and discounted pricing for many items and meals at the Disneyland’s stores and restaurants.  Kate, for her part, has the Deluxe pass, which limits her entry to certain days (most Saturdays and a chunk of Winter Break, for instance).  We made that decision based upon the price structure of the pass when we got it, as well as realizing that we wouldn’t be going to the park during the days that were blacked out as it was.  One of our friends, also a passholder likes to call that time “asscheek-to-asscheek”.

Fortunately for the wife and I, our annual pass renewal was due in March, so we re-upped for our third year.  Katelyn, for her part, has her pass up for renewal in July, and therein lies the big conundrum that this fee increase will mean for us.  The wife wants to upgrade her pass, while I’ve been content to allow the pass to remain at its current level.  We’d been paying monthly for the $379 Deluxe pass price, which will go up to $469 under the new price structure.  The wife’s thinking, prior to the pass price increase, was that the bump to $499 (last year’s price for the Premium pass) wasn’t that significant.  Unfortunately, with the price of the Premium pass now jumping to $649, we have to think hard about that, especially since our own passes will eventually come back up for renewal next year.  Sadly, it’s also got us rethinking ideas that possibly “gifting” some passes offered a good value for potential gifts.

While Disney is publicly stating that the prince increase is to provide “entertainment value”, I think a lot of us would feel better if they’d just admit that it might be all about building Cars Land over in Disney’s California Adventure.  Or not.  As a captive audience, Disneyphiles will continue to come irrespective of the pricing structure.  And if we, or others, didn’t buy or renew our annual passes, other park visitors will be getting off the parking trams each day to take our place.

As the article points out in its anecdotes, it’s not like we haven’t taken advantage of our passes.  We got our passes first, when Kate was still 3 and could get in free.  We’ve gone nearly 40 times in the 3 years we’ve had the pass.  We’ve even planned our own gifting for our little princess to coincide with merchandise purchases either in the park or at Downtown Disney’s World of Disney store, to take advantage of the 20% discount we get on things we buy there.  It represents a significant savings for us over buying similar items at the local Disney Store.  For instance, with her birthday on Monday, I headed down to Anaheim earlier this past week to buy Disney/Pixar “Brave” goodies for Katelyn to open on her birthday this Monday.  I saved over $30 on items we had planned on buying her anyway, which also would have included additional shipping and handling, had we gone through the Disney Store website.  Then, on Monday, when we go to Goofy’s Kitchen, we plan on using our pass yet again for the meal, in addition to getting our parking cost covered, since it comes automatically with the price of the Premium pass.

Do we take advantage of being passholders?  Absolutely, wherever and whenever we can.  From this morning’s story:

“If there is going to be resistance, it will be from locals,” said Gerner. After all, they’re more likely go multiple times in a year. To appease them, industry experts say theme park operators often unveil discount deals for area residents during lower attendance periods, particularly in the fall or winter months. But Disney fans such as Casado don’t want their visits to be limited to off-peak periods…Casado said she and her family try to visit one of the Anaheim parks once a month. “It hurts,” she said of the price hike, “because we count on that as our only entertainment.”

Making the decision to upgrade Kate’s pass and pay the $270 price increase will undoubtedly seem to constitute a similar commitment on our part.

Maybe that’s part of Disney’s plan all along.

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