By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Prices and Value at Disney World in 2013, Continued

By Dave Shute

(This is the second page of this article on prices and value at Walt Disney World in 2013. For the first page, see this.)


Prices for Disney World’s resort hotels have also gone up in 2013—but, relatively speaking, when the additional value these hotels will offer is factored in, only a teeny bit compared to the massive 2013 dining plan and ticket price increases.

Moreover, I think that the timing of the January cutbacks in Extra Magic Hours—evening Extra Magic Hours, traditionally 3 hours, are shifting to 2—is less of a takeaway than it is a signal of when NextGen will kick in…and that NextGen will add value to being a Disney World hotel guest much more than the loss of an hour of evening EMH will take away value.

(Note that Disney has already tested, this summer, the effect of reducing operating and Extra Magic Hours—more on this widely unnoticed test below.)

The combined effect is that Disney World resort hotels, all in, and even with the EMH cutbacks, should be a much better value in 2013 than in 2012.

We should get a further hint about this soon.

The Disney Park blog used an unusual word for the Fantasyland expansion— it mentioned “previews.” I may be mis-remembering, but in the past, visiting a ride before official opening has been called a “soft-open,” and has not been advertised as a “preview,”, much less communicated with a date.

But for new Fantasyland, things are different—the official open has been set for 12/6, and previews are to begin 11/19.

I suspect Disney is using this language of “previews” so that it can schedule these previews using NextGen technology and processes, as a first step towards testing the whole NextGen system.

Moreover, I expect booked Disney World resort hotel guests to be among the first to be offered a chance to book these previews…


As noted here, 2013 value resort prices (with Pop Century standing as the example) have gone up 7.5%, moderate resort prices (Caribbean Beach example) 3.5%, and deluxe resort prices (Polynesian example) 3.0%.

Except for the value resorts, these price increases are much lower than the increases in ticket and dining plan prices noted on the first page of this article.

Moreover, there’s been some real increases in value in the Disney World hotels:

  • Wireless internet is now free in all the Disney World hotels
  • All the value resorts now have mini-fridges included in their price—which almost totally makes up for their overall price increase
  • By 2013, all the traditional moderates except Caribbean Beach will have queen beds.

What’s up with all this? I think a couple of things.

  • First, I’m thinking that Disney some time ago identified a value for money issue with its hotels—particularly the moderates.
  • Second, I think that as it has shifted its NextGen initiative—allowing guests to reserve FASTPASSES ahead of time from home, and thereby substantially reduce waits in the parks—from being focused on its owned and operated hotels to being available in some form to all comers, it has realized that NextGen will not be enough to close the value gap, and hence it has focused on additional ways to enhance the value of its hotels. (See this Orlando Sentinel article for more on its hotel value enhancement efforts.)
  • Finally, I think Disney World will still reserve some special NextGen privileges to its own hotel guests—though I’m not sure yet what they are. They could be more FASTPASSES available daily to hotel guests than the general public, or an earlier window to make such FASTPASS reservations (just as Disney World resort hotel guest now get in effect a ten-day jump on dining reservations)

Moreover, I think Disney World will start making these added special privileges available by early 2013…and that’s why evening EMH are being cut back…because NextGen will sufficiently increase hotel value that that last hour simply isn’t needed as a perk any more…


The January EMH cutbacks were commented on by almost everyone.

But while many have noted that summer 2012 has had fewer 1a Magic Kingdom closings than in prior years, no one—that I’ve noticed—has connected the dots by comparing operating and extra magic hours offerings between 2012 and 2011.

For the 21 days beginning the first Sunday after the 4th of July, the Magic Kingdom had 6% fewer operating hours in 2012 than in 2011, and 12.5% fewer Extra Magic Hours.

This equates to a loss of about half a day of Magic Kingdom capacity per week. Every minute of the operating hour loss occurring after 11p, with an average loss per night of just under an hour, and Monday, Wednesday and Saturday nights the most heavily affected.

And on Extra Magic Hours—each of the 2011 weeks had Tuesday morning EMH at the Magic Kingdom, and none of the 2012 weeks did.

And the Magic Kingdom did not only offered a shorter schedule—it offered a more balanced one, in that with the cut of operating hours after 11p, but only one night either year with a close before 11p, one night was much more like the next.

(Put mathematically, the standard deviation of regular operating hours as a percent of mean operating hours over the 21 days was almost 5% in 2011, but only 2/3 of that—3.1%–in 2012.)

What’s going on here? My guess is that it’s an experiment on the impact of shorter and less varied operating hours on guest satisfaction…


Traditionally, variations in standard operating hours, and the timing within the week of extra magic hours, have served two very different purposes: offering more capacity to days that are “naturally” busy, and drawing people to parks on days they are “naturally” slow.

Longer hours and Extra Magic Hours offerings help add capacity to days Disney expects to be busy.

Think Sundays and Mondays, traditionally the busiest days at the Magic Kingdom.

Sundays at the Magic Kingdom almost always have evening EMH (and when it doesn’t, it’s Monday) and Mondays almost always have regular operating hours as long or longer than any other day of the week.

The other thing that extra Magic Hours and longer operating hours can do is pull people into a park on a day traffic would otherwise be light, by enhancing its attractiveness.

Here think of Thursdays at the Magic Kingdom. For those arriving at Disney World over the weekend and seeing every park, or most of the parks for a day and the Magic Kingdom for two, Thursday is the natural day for a break—or to go to Universal.

So pretty much every week of the year, at the Magic Kingdom, Thursdays have longer operating hours than most days except Sundays and Mondays, are more likely to have evening parades and fireworks than other later-week days, and almost always have morning Extra Magic Hours.


But note that all of this is a function of “natural” patterns as governed by arrival dates (i.e., weekends) and the relative interest of the various parks (i.e., Magic Kingdom as the highest priority.)

Disney’s NextGen program will give guests the ability to schedule FASTPASSEs from home months in advance.

But it also gives Disney the ability to “nudge” people away from one park, and toward another, by varying the amount of FASTPASSES available by day. This means that on a weekly basis, more ride capacity can be utilized, and on a daily basis, that operating hours can be both shorter and more consistent day to day.

Using NextGen to level out and balance demand across the week—for example, by offering a family more NextGen FASTPASSES at Magic Kingdom on less “naturally” popular days and fewer on more “naturally” popular days—can allow Disney to reduce variability in operating hours across the week, which cuts its costs a bit and its staffing complexity a lot, all the while—if things work out—increasing guest satisfaction.

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1 comment

1 sam rag { 01.25.15 at 9:15 pm }

It is often touted as “the happiest place on earth,” but those who visited Disneyland following an unannounced increase in admission costs on Sunday said they were less than happy about the new prices.

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