By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





Category — p. News and Changes

Implications of Disney World’s New Date-Based Ticket Pricing

Disney World’s date-based ticketing system for theme park tickets came out yesterday, for all new tickets purchased from Disney, and for all tickets once authorized resellers like The Official Ticket Center run out of inventory of the old Magic Your Way tickets.

The new pricing approach is explained here. Basically, you pick a ticket type (for example, hopper or not) and a ticket length (e.g. six days). You can then see on a calendar the average price per ticket day for every day between now and December 16, 2019.

Here’s an example of the calendar for a seven day adult non-hopper ticket in February. What Disney shows is the rounded, pre-tax price for beginning the ability to use a seven day ticket on every day of the month, and every month through half of December 2019.

If you click a day (on Disney’s website, not here, you goober), you’ll see the un-rounded pre-tax price—for example, the period from February 8th through February 13th all shows a rounded number of $62, but if you click each day, you’ll actually find that the six “$62” days actually have four different prices. And don’t forget the 6.5% tax!

The effective price rises were not as devastating as some had feared, and for select dates and ticket lengths in January and February, prices actually went down a little bit. (Note that annual pass and parking prices went up as well). But my main point of curiosity was to understand how ticket prices varied over the course of the year, and how this might, or might not, change behavior—that is, when people go to Disney World.

To figure this out I used the rounded, pre-tax figures that Disney posted for 2019 for those ten and older, not using a park hopper—which gave me 3,500 data points. Lucky me, I then entered them all into a spreadsheet.

So take for example this screenshot of one day tickets for February. It’s interesting because it shows all four one day price levels (so far) for 2019—pre-tax they are $109, $114, $122, and $129.

Pay no attention to anyone who classes ticket prices into “value, regular, and peak”—they are missing a number, and moreover, I expect Disney to add a fifth one day price of over $130 as a “holiday” price for later December 2019. (The prices that came out today only went through December 16th—and no, that has nothing to do with the opening date of Galaxy’s Edge. Disney learned with Epcot not to set an opening date 15 months in advance…The famous line from Tishman about the too-early announced October 1, 1982 opening date of Epcot  was “It’s not the October 1 I have a problem with. It’s the 1982.”)

The average daily prices of longer tickets are related to the average pricing of the one day tickets available for the eligible periods the longer tickets encompass. It’s a little complicated, as while a one day ticket must be used exactly on the day selected, two and three day tickets have two additional days they can be used; tickets with four through seven days of park admission have three extra days, and tickets with eight to ten days have four extra days.

So for example a ten day ticket must be used by fourteen days after the start date you pick.

(Note that if you book your tickets as Park Hopper and More tickets, you get one more day, and if you book them as part of a Disney World package, your tickets will be valid for whichever is longer–these defaults, or the length of your hotel booking.)

Here’s a chart that graphs the average daily rounded price of a ten day ticket on the vertical axis compared to the average price of one day tickets over the fourteen days starting with the first day of the ten day ticket, on the horizontal axis.

As you can see, in general there are some pretty tight correlations between them, except for some tickets at the $49 level that overlap with $48 tickets—this comes from the anomalous pricing of June 30 one day tickets, which I can’t (yet) explain.

So anyhow I loaded all this stuff into a spreadsheet, and did some analysis of ticket prices by date.

  • The first takeaway is that there’s not a wild difference between the lowest and highest price over the course of 2019, for any ticket type. No ticket length’s highest rounded price is more than 9.5% higher than its average price; no ticket length’s lowest price is less than 7.8% of its average price. Differences in hotel seasonal pricing levels dwarf these date-based ticket pricing effects.
  • The second takeaway is how consistent these lower and upper percentages are across all ticket day lengths—I won’t publish these numbers as the errors created from my using rounded daily prices will dwarf their specifics, but the maximums and minimums as a percentage of average was very close across all ticket lengths.
  • The third takeaway is how well the ticket “price seasons” track to what you’d expect—at least when you get into the longer-length tickets. This can only be illustrated graphically.

This chart (which is not helpful, but which I include for completeness–the charts get better soon) shows the price of tickets as a percentage increase over the lowest price of that ticket type in 2019 for every ticket length and every start day.

Each colored line represents a different ticket length—so in this one, for example, the blue line that flies all over the damn place because of in particular weekend upcharges is the one day ticket price by date, and the well-behaved dark gold line is the more sedate 10 day ticket price by date. The ten day line is more sedate because, as discussed above, since it is affected by the one day prices of the 14 days beginning its first day of possible use, it averages out all “normal” weekend effects (as does any ticket whose use period is a multiple of seven days—we’ll come back to that).

More helpful is this chart, which tosses out one, two and three day tickets, and thus sees much less bouncing around.

But my favorite analytic tool is this chart, which shows four day, six day, eight day, and ten day tickets. I like this especially because it has two well-behaved lines—the 10 day line, as noted above, and the four day line (four day tickets get three extra days to use them, so the four day ticket with its seven day use period line also averages out normal weekend effects). The six and eight day lines add some gritty reality, and make the chart more broadly usable to my readers. This is the chart I expect travel agents to blow up and tape on their walls.

You can see pretty clearly in this chart the seasonal pricing over the course of the year, and it all makes immediate intuitive sense except July and perhaps late October-early November.

In January you see prices collapse from the 2018/2019 holiday season peaks (the holiday season in early 2019 extends to January 6th). Prices then ramp up for the period around President’s Day—long weekends begin on the Thursday before President’s Day, and many northeast school districts have the whole week of President Day off, and come to Disney World then—then slip back down until we see the first spring break peaks in later March.

Prices then go down again, and then, because of the late Easter in 2019, see a second spring break peak in later April. They roll back down in early May, but then build over the course of the month as they include Memorial Day weekend and summer rates.

The new Disney World tickets prices bump around more in the summer than I would have guessed. June 30, as I noted above, is an anomaly that affects the prices of tickets whose eligible dates include it. Perhaps Magic Kingdom is closing at 4p on June 30 for a blogger-only party that date? One day prices go up for the 4th of July, then down again on July 7, then up again on July 15—perhaps tying to South American winter breaks. Note that the effect on longer-length tickets of these changes begins before the actual date of the price increase, as its effects are averaged into the longer ticket.

Prices then go down over the course of August until they hit their second-lowest levels of the year late in the month, a pricing level that continues into late September. Prices then stairstep their way up into higher levels by the Columbus Day weekend, and stay largely at that level until we start seeing the effects of the Thanksgiving upcharges, which dominate later November, and, if you are pursuing a long ticket, start kicking in as soon November 12.

I would have expected to have seen more of a drop in late October and early November. If you look closely you can see such a drop in the shorter tickets, but it gets averaged away in the longer ones.

As you would expect, prices then drop in the lower-demand days just after Thanksgiving and in early December. Prices stop after December 16, but I would expect daily prices for later December 2019 to be on the order of $135—that is, about 5% more than December 2018.

The fact that your ticket price for longer tickets in particular will be influenced by an extra three or four days of eligibility for use will create some interesting questions for those booking their visit to end just before a price increase.

So for example, if you are buying a seven day ticket for a pre-President’s Day visit February 9th through the 15th, you could set your first eligible day as February 9th, pay $62/day, and be done with it. But you can visit the parks February 9th through the 15th with a ticket that has its first eligible day as February 6th, and pay just $59 a day—not a huge difference, but worth noting.

Another observation before I get to my big one is that “cost to add a day” has become complicated. Until now, the cost to add a day was straightforward—it cost for example $10 (pre tax, for consistency) to add an eighth day to a seven day ticket any time of the year.

Now, the cost of the eighth day is affected by the variable one day price not just of that eighth day but also of one more day, as seven to eight days is the break point for between three and four extra days to use your tickets. Depending on when in the year you add it, adding an eighth day will cost anywhere from next to nothing to $27.

On average over the year, adding a second day to a one day ticket costs about $100, adding a third day to a two day ticket $96, a fourth day $84, a fifth day $17, and a sixth through tenth days $10-$12 each. This average roughly follows the patterns of prior years. But date-based effects mean that your actual mileage to add a day will vary, A LOT.

Back to the beginning—my main curiosity on the new Disney World date based pricing was whether the differences between lower cost and higher cost vacations would be enough to drive people in big numbers out of lower-crowd days and into higher-crowd days.

But with variations of just +/- ~10% around average prices in 2019, and, as you can see on the charts, most dates seeing ticket prices between in the narrow range of 3% to 11% higher than the lowest of the year (for example, ~76% of the released prices for five day tickets in 2019 are between 3 and 11% higher than the lowest of the year, with about 12% of dates either above or below those levels), I just don’t see enough energy in these prices to have much effect on park date choices.

Yes, I do think more people will choose less expensive dates, and avoid more expensive ones, than when ticket prices did not vary by date, but not enough to profoundly shift the crowd patterning that we’ve seen over the past few years.

At least for 2019, and at least as long as the current set of prices remains in place, I see them as having more the effect of increasing Disney’s monetization of highly-demanded periods than materially shifting crowds away from them.

That said, Disney can change prices and offer 3,500 more data points for me to play with at any time, and likely will once it has better visibility into the opening date of Galaxy’s Edge, or simply has one of its moods.

With all the focus on the late 2019 open of Galaxy’s Edge, we sometimes forget that 2020 will be the year of Star Wars. I see 2019 date based pricing as a way to test the effect of +/- 10% price changes on crowds, and for Disney to use its learning from that to figure out how to use 2020 prices to really push people into lower crowd times, so that Star Wars waits don’t exceed 24 hours… Expect to see much sharper price differences in 2020.

All the data is in a spreadsheet that you can download by clicking the link. And the long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can help you book–or avoid–any date! Contact her using the form below!


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October 17, 2018   7 Comments

The Re-Imagined Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort emerged (mostly) last week from an almost 18 month long construction project, and is now once more a great choice among Disney’s moderate resorts.

Highlights of the re-imagined Caribbean Beach include

  • The shift of the main entrance from Buena Vista Drive to Victory Way, near Jamaica
  • The abandonment of the Custom House (and its bus stop), with all check-in and concierge service moved to the much more central and convenient Old Port Royal area
  • The loss of nine accommodations buildings, a bus stop—and 576 rooms—in the old Barbados section and the more distant part of Martinique, reducing the resorts’ capacity by more than 25%–meaning popular amenities, like the wonderful Fuentes del Morrow pool, have fewer guests competing for them.
  • The renaming of the old, confusingly named (especially for the dyslexic, like me) Trinidad South and Trinidad North, to Barbados and plain old Trinidad.
  • A complete redo of the bar, dining options, and gift shop. The needs for each of these has been served by so-so temporary replacement over the last 18 months, but that’s now over, and Caribbean Beach is back to being a full-service resort. The early reviews of the brand-new waterside table service venue, Sebastian’s Bistro, have been astonishing.
  • In addition, the opening of an all-new counter service venue in Trinidad, deeply changing the attractiveness of this more isolated village.

Still to come at Caribbean Beach is the Disney Skyliner, a gondola that will connect the resort with Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios later this year. The station will be just south of Jamaica, and across from Trinidad, making these villages more attractive places to stay (Jamaica is already a great choice) after it opens.

I’ll have more to say and show about Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort after my next stay here—my tenth—over the Veterans Day weekend.

But in the meantime, I’ve fully updated my review of Caribbean Beach, which begins here and include all the following pages:

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can book you into Caribbean Beach–or any other Disney World hotel.  Contact her using the form below:

 

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October 14, 2018   1 Comment

Dining at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, see this.)

After a lengthy refurb, permanent dining options reopened at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort in early October 2018.

I’ll have much more to say–and more of my usual lousy photos–after my next stay at Caribbean Beach, in early November.

But in the meantime, here’s the scoop.

(C) Disney

–The all-new waterside table service venue Sebastian’s Bistro is open for lunch and dinner. The menu is here.

(c) Disney

–There are two quick service options in Old Port Royale.  One of them, the Centertown Market (menu here), somewhat inexplicably is open only for lunch and dinner–at least so far. The other, Centertown Grab and Go (menu), is open all day.

(c) Disney

–The bar, Banana Cabana, has re-opened by the pool. I’m getting mixed reports on food here, but the official menu shows none.

The lack–so far–of lunch at Centertown Market is a bit of a mystery. The Spyglass Grill in Trinidad (formerly Trinidad South) is an alternative for freshly made food, but is a hike from most of Caribbean Beach, especially Aruba and Martinique. And it seems as though the “The Island Markets“–widely distributed minor grab and go venues that opened during the refurb–remain open.

I am hoping that I will soon be able to report that Centertown is open for lunch–likely at the same time as the Island Markets close.

Anyway, come back in November for more on the new offerings. See below for details on the other dining options at Caribbean Beach!

THE ISLAND MARKETS

“Island Markets” are in three (or maybe two) converted rooms—one each in Martinique (2509), Jamaica (4308), and Aruba (5524). (The first two digits of the room number indicate the building number.) Note that the Martinique one is no longer marked on the map–I’ll double check that on my visit.

They offer

… ice cream (above, in the box at left), pastries, coffee and tea, cereals and pop tarts (with a microwave above)…

… drinks, yogurt, fruit, salads, sandwiches and wraps…

… and refillable mugs, bananas, and snacks.

A couple of closer looks at the salad side of the cold case…

…and the sandwich and wrap side.

The wraps/sandwich/fruit/salad choices are thin, and have sold out at times by early evening.

Regardless, the offerings of these spaces work better for snacks and for breakfast supplies than they do as a place to grab lunch or a light dinner—unless you are thinking very light.

The Island Markets are open from 7a-10p.

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THE FREESTYLE COKE MACHINES

Refillable mugs can be refilled in freestyle coke machines—where you get to design your own drink, like my favorite, peach Sprite.

These machines are available in one or two buildings in each village, replacing in those buildings the old-style Coke machines—which remain in the rest of the buildings. Find the right building, then follow the signs for Ice and Vending.

Buildings with the freestyle machines are marked on the resort map.

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THE SPYGLASS GRILL

The Spyglass Grill (full review here) opened in Trinidad in March 2018.

It offers an interesting and well-received, though limited, menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It does not have a lot of capacity, and is a bit of a hike from areas outside of Trinidad.

But it’s a handy option for those staying in the otherwise distant-from-food Pirate Rooms in Trinidad.

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IN-ROOM DELIVERY OF PIZZA AND SUCH

Another option is ordering off of the limited delivery menu, which features, pizza, wings and such. The menu (click to enlarge):

I’ve never had delivery pizza at Disney World. I tried to order one on my June visit, but a lizard-drowner of a storm meant everyone was sheltering in their rooms and ordering pizza, so after 15 minutes on hold I gave up and got a salad from an Island Market instead.

This option is available from 4p till midnight. Don’t use the dining plan for these options–way too many credits will be charged.

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THE VENDING MACHINE IN THE QUIET POOL LAUNDRIES

Finally, a post on the disboards Caribbean Beach thread reminded me that there’s a vending snack machine in the quiet pool laundry rooms!

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THE MAIN FUENTES DEL MORRO POOL AT DISNEY’S CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

This review continues here.

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October 12, 2018   2 Comments

Disney Armed Forces Salute Renewed; Dining to Open at Caribbean Beach Next Week

ARMED FORCES SALUTE RENEWED FOR 2019

Late last week my buddy Steve Bell reported that the Disney Military Salute has been renewed for 2019, and eligible dates (not all the block-out dates are out yet) extend well into December 2019, to December 19, 2019, similar to the 2018 salute.

The long duration of eligible dates in 2019 was a bit of a surprise, as there was a school of thought that an early end (e.g. September 30) would create more room for full-paying Star Wars folk once it opens in late fall 2019.

So either DIsney is intentionally not giving away it’s Star Wars opening date through the timing of this dela; by late fall opening of Galaxy’s it really means late fall (one definition of fall has it ending December 21, 2019); or–and this is perhaps most likely–one part of DIsney is not talking to the other.

As always, the best source of info on the Armed Forces Salute deal–the best Disney World deal out there, serving the best set of people in the world–is available on Steve’s MilitaryDisneyTips.com.  Start with his info on the Armed Forces Salute renewal for 2019 here.

CARIBBEAN BEACH DINING TO OPEN OCTOBER 8

Multiple sites are reporting that our long dining nightmare at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort will be coming to an end next week. While I have not yet seen anything official from Disney, lunch and dinner reservations at the new waterside table service, Sebastian’s Bistro, are available beginning October 8.

Other changes that may or may not happen then are the reopening of a redone gift shop and counter service area, the shift of check-in from the Custom House to the same main central building in Centertown where the gift shop and counter service will be found, and the shift of the entrance road from Buena Vista Drive to Victory Way.

Also reported is that Trinidad South will be changing its name to Barbados, and Trinidad North to simply Trinidad. In the longer term this name change, if it happens, will be a great move, especially for the dyslexic like me, but in the short term it will replace one set of confusions with another.

 

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October 3, 2018   No Comments

New Disney World Deals for 2019

Several new Disney World deals for 2019 came out this morning, of which the two most important are a room rate deal (covered on this page) and a Play, Stay and Dine Offer which I will cover later.

The new room rate deal is complicated:

  • It covers most periods between January 1 and February 14, 2019 and February 17 and April 27 2019
  • However, during the first period (until February 14) at the value and moderate resorts, only the Sunday-Thursday night parts of your trip will be discounted–you can still stay on Fridays and Saturdays, but with no discount.
  • At most resorts, stays during either period will be discounted more if they are booked by January 2, 2019

As always, there’s a limited inventory of rooms available, and not all resorts or room types are included.

VALUE RESORTS 2019 ROOM RATE DEAL

No resort is totally excluded, but at Art of Animation, as usual only Family Suites are included. Discounts are limited to Sunday through Thursday nights until 2/14, and are higher if you book by 1/2/2019.

MODERATE RESORTS 2019 ROOM RATE DEAL

No moderates are excluded, but the deal is less valuable at Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter. You’ll face the same patterns as at the value resorts–no discounts on Friday and Saturday nights through February 14, and better deals (except at the Port Orleans Resorts) if you book by January 2, 2019.

DELUXE RESORTS 2019 ROOM RATE DEAL

No deluxe is excluded, nor do they have Friday/Saturday night exclusions from the deal, but you will find not as good a discount at the Polynesian Village, Contemporary Resort, and Wilderness Lodge. Except at these three, discounts are better if you book by January 2.

DISNEY VACATION CLUB RESORTS 2019 ROOM RATE DEAL

At the DVC resorts, the Villas at the Grand Floridian and Bay Lake Tower are excluded, and at the Polynesian Village, only the Studios are in the deal.

Moreover, the Polynesian studios are at a lower discount.

Like at the deluxes, there are no Friday/Saturday night exclusions from the deal. Except at the Polynesian, discounts are better if you book by January 2.

HOW TO BOOK THERE DISNEY WORLD DEALS

Full reviews of each of the resort options begin here.

Disney World’s page on this deal is here.  You can find the other deals that came out today here (scroll down to find the ones with a 2019 date).

Today’s set of deals for 2019 is complicated, especially for families aiming at a value resort. The long-standing travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can figure out and book the best deal for you. Contact her by using the form below:


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September 26, 2018   No Comments

Date-Based Ticket Pricing Soon to Launch at Disney World

As has been expected for some time, Disney World yesterday announced that theme park tickets purchased October 16 or after will have varying prices based on the start date of the ticket.

The prices themselves were not announced—that’s expected on the 16th itself, although rumors, some accurate, will come out before then. Many were confused by apparent prices being used in an explanatory video—even though every image in that video had material like the following:

The way it will work is that ticket purchasers first select a ticket form or type.*

You choose from among the current ticket types:  “regular” one park per day tickets, “hopper” tickets that allow visiting different parks in the same day (multiple visits in a day to one park are covered by “regular” tickets), or “hopper plus” tickets that also include pre-paid admission to the minor parks (waterparks, mini-golf, etc.).

The next choice you make is how many park days.

With these two choices in hand, you then pick your first possible day of use from a calendar that shows average daily prices by start day for a ticket of the already-selected form and number of days.

With a date clicked, the cost per day is highlighted…

…and the system will then show the total cost of the tickets…

…and also the days the tickets are eligible to be used.

Except for one day tickets, these tickets have eligibility ranges greater than the actual number of park days that can be used. Two and three day tickets have two extra calendar days they might be used; tickets with four through seven days of park admission have three extra days, and tickets with eight to ten days have four extra days.

This allows guests some flexibility for off days, visits to other Orlando attractions, or for working around family, illness, or weather issues. It also allows, I would guess, for a bit of start-day arbitrage for guests who are willing to give up some flexibility.**

For guests with calendar flexibility, the system will also let you seek low cost days…

…and for those who want to lock into a set of tickets and not worry yet about start dates, an option to pay more for flexible dates will also be available. This option also provides the longest date range of eligible use—fourteen days—regardless of the actual number of days in the ticket.

Disney has two intentions behind this change.

  • One is to shift guests from higher-wait periods to lower wait ones, thereby increasing the satisfaction of the shifted guests (though not that of those who had already planned to go those dates because they held the promise of be see lower crowds)
  • The second is to extract more value from those who, regardless of pricing, choose the more popular dates

Both these have already been in place at Disney World in some fashion for years. Resort prices have worked this way from time out of memory. And over the last three years, Disney World has restructured the prices of its various types of annual passes to shift many people into lower-cost pass options that block out many of the most popular dates—resulting, for example, in starkly lower summer waits the past three summers.

The new approach to date-based pricing is much less complicated than many had feared it would be. Yes, you need to pick a date or pay a premium for flexible dates—but you always have had to pick a date; this new approach will simply incent that choice to even earlier. And yes, you will pay higher prices for some dates than others, even if you have no real choice in your dates—but this has also always been true for hotel prices.

The impact on park waits is still to be seen, and will be partly shaped by the actual price differences among dates. Higher price differences will level out crowds across the year to some as-yet unquantifiable extent, making formerly bad dates better and formerly good dates worse, although the impact is yet to be seen and good daily planning will still pay off quite a bit. Lower price differences will have less impact on the flow of crowds across the year.

 

*All screenshots are from Disney’s video here.

**For example, say you plan to be in the parks for three days, on exact dates—e.g. February 3 through February 5. The two extra calendar days your ticket can be used on a three day ticket means your start dates could be February 1, February 2, or February 3. If you are willing to give up the option to use your tickets on February 6 or February 7, then picking February 1 or 2 as your start day, rather than February 3, in some scenarios might save you some money.

 

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September 25, 2018   13 Comments