I realized while walking though Disneyland that it is truly a substantial investment. I’m not telling you to avoid Disneyland, but do consider where that money can take you if you traveled instead. A “real” vacation may be much cheaper…and more enjoyable.
Disneyland Versus A “Real” Trip – Consider The Alternatives To A Day In The Happiest Place On Earth…
Disneyland was packed. And this was a weekday in the off-season:
Nothing like spending hundreds of dollars for tickets to Disneyland only to encounter long lines. Throw in exorbitant prices for food and drink plus souvenirs and you’re looking at blowing the vacation budget in one day.
And indeed, that’s what many people do.
For many, that is exactly what they want and there is no judgement in that. I saw all the die-hard fans with their pin collections and mouse hats and other Disney-related apparel. I know that for kids Disneyland can be a joy, as it was for my five-year-old son.
But the point of this post, coming from a travel writer, is that I’m not sure everyone considers the alternatives to a 1-2 day vacation at Disneyland.
With budget carriers like Avelo, Frontier, or Spirit, you can travel to destinations near and far, sometimes for under $50 round-trip if you travel light. Imagine instead of driving to Disneyland and spending a day there, you can fly to Montana or Colorado and enjoy a few days in nature. Or flying to Miami or Seattle or Las Vegas and enjoying seasonally pleasant weather, reasonably-priced hotels, great food, and a change of venue.
I’m not a die-hard Disney fan and therefore I guess I cannot understand how important Disneyland is to some people. But if I only had a few days off per year, I’d want to stretch my money out and go explore a new city. It truly is possible once all the costs are added up.
Airports and airplanes don’t have to be hassles. Parking, security, baggage, boarding, and deplaning may sound daunting, but arriving early and traveling light make the experience so much easier. I find I routinely overpack even with just a carry-on bag. Traveling light is liberating.
Throw in smart credit card spending and the trip will end up costing even less if you can use points to offset airfare, hotels, and car rental.
Looking at the pricing and crowds at Disneyland, I just could not believe how much of an investment a trip to Disneyland is. While I will treasure the memories from this day and the pictures we took, I find money much better spent on trips to new cities than to theme parks like Disneyland.
I suppose there is no way to objectively value a trip to Disneyland, but even with your own subjective measure, do run a cost/benefit analysis and understand how cheap it is, thanks to budget carriers, to hop on a plane and fly across the country.
Our son is Augustine’s age and I’ll never understand the obsession with Disney. And I really don’t understand it for adults. All I see is long lines, overpriced souvenirs, crowds and, these days, germs, germs and more germs.
Frankly, once they removed the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride from Disney World, Disney was dead to me.
Di$ney isn’t something I go out of my way to visit, but the last time we flew out to LA to visit my MIL, my son (3 1/2 at the time) really, REALLY wanted to see Mickey Mouse, and so we made the trek out there. His grin from ear to ear as we walked in made the day worth it. OTOH, he hasn’t asked about going back to Di$ney since then – our next family trip after that was to Alaska, and he seemed far more interested in that trip – and I’m not planning to volunteer it as a destination, either.
BTW, as a Di$ney shareholder, I thank you for your business.
There is a pandemic going on. Matthew’s article have value when others read it. However, exposing children to possible Covid-19 is not a good thing to do. Think of other things, like a drive to wilderness attractions.
My dad took me to Disneyland in 1965, when I was 14. I never had a desire to return, or to set foot in the Florida version. Don’t understand U.S. residents who will travel to France or Japan for the purpose of visiting a Disney bubble. As Matthew says, for the same money, you can visit somewhere “real” instead.
I don’t love Disney by any means, but I’ll say that in Japan and Hong Kong (not sure about Paris but it looks to be similar), it’s much more affordable – I think I paid less than $40 for late-day entry in Tokyo a few years ago – and not quite so in-your-face as the U.S. properties. So while I’d never go to these wonderful places for the *purpose* of going to Disney, I think adding that into the mix can be a reasonable diversion. For me, I was jetlagged after flying to Tokyo and it was a perfect few hours to physically wear me out before the rest of the trip
We went once as I felt guilty that we “deprived” our son of the experience.
We (the tree of us) spent the entire trip comparing Disneyworld attractions to the real places we had visited. For example, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride looks a little bit like El Morro.
Silently, husband and I kept thinking “this is costing HOW much?”
For an entertaining podcast about the business of Disney, check out The Dis Unplugged. It’s hosted by men who own a travel agency specializing in Disney travel. Their observations on Disney business practices are funny.
It’s a racket that benefits from no capacity increases vs modest population growth each year
Great business, lousy experience
Hopefully Augustine learns to wish for something else after this visit and it’s out of his system
You have choices in life. I did maybe 5 times of Disney while my kids were at different ages and that was worth every penny I spent. The memories they had will be with them forever. Now that they are teenagers, Disney won’t be appealing anymore. However, we had the same type of discussion last week about going to a NFL game in town. For our family of 4, it is easily a $1500 investment for a 3 hour of entertainment. Tickets are very expensive so even if you seat far you will pay at least $250 per ticket. Add $50 for parking plus some food and drinks at the stadium and voila!! You spend $1500 like that. We actually agreed that money would be better spent in a trip so watched the game on the TV. Choices!!!!
Pretty bad advice. Spirit? Frontier? “get there early and pack light”? C’mon. That sounds like a complete nightmare. Traveling on a budget carrier is not worth cost savings of any magnitude. If you want to say that a vacation to a “real” place is worthwile and a good alternative to Disneyland, fine. Just don’t pretend it can be done for the same price (for a local). I’m not a diehard Disneyland fan, but I still find it can be fun and worth the cost. Actually, if we could get ticket prices up to about $500 per person, per park, I think we might get crowds under control.
Went to Magic Kingdom for the day in 2012. $100 for one ticket then. but $5 off for being a Florida resident. I was surprised the discount was so meager. No reason to return.
In college I knew some Mouse employees or had friends who were friends with Cast Members. I would get in for free and we would leave and go to Sonic for lunch. I love Slash Mountain as much as the next guy but I almost feel bad for people getting fleeced for thousands of dollars to have their kid take a photo with Daffy.
If you have to show your kids then just do one day at Disneyland, leave for lunch and don’t stay at a hotel in the area. Even better take LA Metro line 460 to avoid paying for parking.
It ranks to me as one of the singular most horrid destinations or reason to travel. Right up there with Machine Gun America, which is close by. Not that I have been to Machine Gun America, but I can only imagine.
If Disneyland is considered “travel” than it’s clear our education system is failing. There is nothing happy there. Just a money grab and a disgusting dumbing down of society.
For less overall cost parents can take their children to Washington DC for a week and enjoy the most amazing experience, much of it free. Educational, fun, a beautiful environment, and one that they will remember for years. Just one example.
I have to agree with most of the other posters here. The argument I hear in favor of Disney is that the joy the kids feel is real even if the experience is fake. My rebuttal to that is always that kids can feel just as much real joy in a real place… So why not go there? I want to raise my kids to think that Paris and Thailand and the Serengeti are magical, and thus we have no need for Disney’s fake magic. My in-laws (in their 60’s) went to Japan for two weeks a few years ago and saved a day specifically for Tokyo Disney (to be fair, they’ve been to Japan several times, but still…). I just don’t get it.
I’ve been to Disneyland several times when I was younger, back in the “good old days.” My parents took me there along with some friends for my 5th birthday back in 1967. In Junior High School, back in 1975, my class went to Disneyland on a field trip and the rides were still classified by rides and there were individual tickets for each ride with “E” tickets being the most expensive for the most popular and scariest rides. Last time I went to Disneyland was sometime in the summer of 1987 when prices were still, in my opinion, reasonable. I would be interested in seeing what Disneyland is like now along with the California Adventure park but I have no desire to spend over hundred dollars just to gain admission to spend most of my time in queue for rides or perhaps pay an exorbitant price on top of the exorbitant price for admission (and possibly parking).
I view Vegas in the same way – overpriced, overcrowded, and full of people I don’t want to be around. Nothing more than a poorly executed ruse. Both are examples of American excess, consumption, and greed. My brother in law commented a few years back about how “it must be nice to go to Europe twice a year”. He nearly had a meltdown when I explained that flights were $600, Airbnb in Lyon was $125 a night, and we ate and drank like kings for $250 a day. His 5 day family trip to Disney was over $6,000 in comparison.
In the public school where we used to live, several of the teachers used Disney stuff as a teaching tool. The second we heard that, we made the decision to send our son to private school. It’s all just so . . . pedestrian.
Just went to Disney Land yesterday… My wife and I both wish we had taken our kids somewhere else instead. From the very beginning mile long walk from the parking garage because Disney decided not to operate the shuttles; to the very end when we waited in line for 75 mins for our decided last ride just to have the ride break down right as we’re at the gate to get on. I thoroughly dislike that place. Overpriced, over packed, and over rated. This was at Disney adventure park. Oh and had to walk another mile to get back to our car too. We all really tried to make the best of it and we feel like we enjoyed ourselves because of that but…never going back
Matthew – not sure if your son is into LEGO, but my son and I went to legoland Carlsbad in the middle of the week and the longest we waited in a line was like 4 minutes. A couple of the rides we just stayed on and rode a second time. There’s that Tapestry (Hilton) hotel right across the street and you just walk to the park.
Spend less money on going to the park and more money on LEGO
Good suggestion. You know I’m a packrat and still had all my Legos (pirates and M-Tron space) from when I was a kid. Augustine loves them.
If your family has to have a theme park vacation, Hit up Cedar Point or Magic Mountain for some real shit, not the vastly overrated rides in any Disney park. Hell even Busch Gardens in Tampa is a much better visit with real rides and has zoo-like displays.
For those who can handle it, Flashgitz and Disney:
I went back when Eastern Airlines was the official airline and I needed E tickets to get on the good stuff.
Options to Disney? Dollyworld is exotic and quirky in its own way. Google “alternatives to Disney”. One close by me is Massanutten. I can even stay for free if I sit through a timeshare presentation (I get out early by just mentioning I’m going to buy on the secondary market. I get my gifts handed to me and out the door.)
If you can make it to Poland, consider Zatorland.