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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Category — zz. Even Geekier than Usual

Analysis of Disney World’s 2020 Ticket Price Increase

Earlier in February, Walt Disney World increased its ticket prices for 2020. Since then, I’ve spent most of my time on ticket prices getting my Disney World Tickets page and my color-coded Disney World ticket price calendar right.

In this post, I will be commenting on the level of increases, and also how they flow in the year.

2020 prices were first released in June 2019, and I always expected at least one more increase in 2020 prices—for two reasons.

  • First, for years now, Disney World has increased prices for the current year in the late winter, typically February, and
  • Second, the 2020 prices released in June of last year went up on average only about 2% compared to 2019 prices. Given recent patterns in price increases, there’s now way Disney World would have left this stand

2020 DISNEY WORLD TICKET PRICE INCREASES BY TICKET LENGTH

Base Disney World tickets can be bought for between one and ten days in the theme parks. With the February 2020 price increase, prices for longer tickets in 2020 increased substantially more than prices for shorter tickets. Shorter tickets went up on average less than 2%, while tickets seven days and longer went up 8.4% to 10.6%.

It’s easy to over-interpret this. For example, you could say that people wandering in for a quick sample of the new offerings in Galaxy’s Edge aren’t much penalized, but folks on a longer vacation trying to see all of Disney World bear an extra burden. This is absolutely true, but that does not mean it was Disney’s intent.

It was widely reported after the February ticket price increase that both the least and most expensive one day tickets did not change.

This is simultaneously true, trivial, and simple-minded. Hardly anyone buys one day tickets. What these tickets represent is the price anchor of longer tickets, whose prices are calculated as a proportion of the sum of the one day tickets covered by the usage period of the longer tickets.

What Disney essentially did for longer tickets was change the proportions used to calculate their prices. That let it get some positive PR from the simple-minded for not increasing the lowest and highest one day tickets–at which point the analytic savvy of most observers stopped–while also extracting substantially more value from folks committed to longer visits.

Two things remain generally true: because you are not penalized for adding days to a ticket (so long as you add such days before your last day of use) it never pays to overbuy your tickets. Buy the minimum ticket you think you night need, and only add more to it after you are in the parks and know you need your extra days.

Second, it remains true that the per day cost of longer tickets is almost always lower than that for shorter ones. So one longer visit is still largely much less expensive than two shorter visits.

Now let’s turn to how these price increases vary over the remainder of 2020.

2020 DISNEY WORLD TICKET PRICE INCREASES BY TICKET LENGTH AND DATE

This section includes two charts. The first one shows price increases by first day of eligible use for every ticket length—so it plots more than 3,000 percentage changes:

For many of you, there’s too much data plotted on the chart to see much information.

I tried to make up for this in the second chart, above, by grouping the average price increases of three sets of ticket lengths—one to four day tickets, which all saw less than 2% average increases; seven through ten day tickets, which all saw average increases of over 8%, and five and six day tickets, about in the middle of these other two.

One thing that distinctively stands out is that there is less variability in price changes after mid-July.  Visually, this means that the ups and down of the price increases cover less of the vertical space of the chart. Analytically, the standard deviation of price increases as a percentage of the mean during the same period is twice as high before July 15 than it is after July 15.

There’s at least two possible explanation for why we see lower variance after July 15.  One is that Disney–in its judgement–got relative prices among the dates closer to correct.  The other is that Disney does not have enough information now to make fine grained adjustments later in 2020 the way it has done earlier in the year–you can see example of these finer grained adjustments in May, for example.

Since–despite the advice of folks like me–most Disney World trips are planned three months out or closer, my vote is for the second explanation.  Note that this increases the odds of a second price increase, affecting these dates, perhaps in the summer when 2021 ticket prices are announced.

Remember that Disney’s date based ticket price model has two purposes.

  • First, it intends to use prices to incent people towards dates less in demand, and away from dates higher in demand
  • Second, it seeks to extract the extra value from high demand dates that’s on the table from those who go during high-demand periods anyway

Unless fine-grained visitation patterns are highly stable, these purposes present a strong case for multiple price changes over the course of the year, not the one (or rarely two) that we are used to at Walt Disney World.

Note that once you have bought your tickets, so long as you don’t make any later changes, you are free from the consequences of future price increases that would otherwise affect your dates.

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can set up your Disney World vacation for you, locking down your prices, including those of your park tickets.  Contact her using the form below!

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Analytic note. My percentage changes are based on comparing rounded per-day prices rather than complete-to-the-cents actual total prices—I do it this way because with more than 3,000 new prices to enter into my spreadsheet, it cuts data entry time by about 75%. This can add noise to the data at the level of 0.5% to 2% on any given data point, but the rounding errors it creates average out over the number of days I am looking at.

 

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February 23, 2020   No Comments

The Skyliner Price Premium: ~$60 Million in 2020

I’ve been curious as to what the premium might be for the Skyliner resorts in 2020–partly as a guide to what Disney sees the incremental value of the Skyliner to be, and partly to illuminate the question about whether bus service will continue at these resorts.

(The Skyliner resorts are Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Pop Century Resort, and Art of Animation Resort. These will all be served by a new gondola system that will connect them to two of Disney World’s theme parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. The formal opening of the Skyliner has been announced to be September 29. Disney’s new DVC offering, Disney’s Riviera Resort, will also be on the Skyliner when it opens in later December, but is has no material 2019 prices for comparison.)

I’ve heard glib lines about this on podcasts, e.g. that “the Skyliner resorts will be $10 to $20 more,” but no percentage increases, nor comparisons of the full year of 2020 vs 2019.

Because every year I do charts like the below (from 2020 Disney World Resort Hotel Price Seasons) I have daily price data for 2020 vs 2019 for standard view rooms at all the Skyliner resorts.

So from this data I can calculate what it would cost to stay every night of 2019 and 2020 in one of these rooms, and from that (adjusting for the 2020 leap year) figure average nightly costs over the year, and changes year to year in that number. (I’ve also checked most or all of the higher priced room options at these resorts (see the note at the bottom of the page) and they all follow the same pattern).

So here’s the basics:

  • Skyliner value resort Pop Century standard room average 2020 prices are up 20.1% compared to 2019, and increases at Skyliner value resort Art of Animation spaces are similar–Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms are up 19.6%, and Art of Animation Family Suites are up 18.9% for Lion King and Cars suites, and 19.2% for Nemo suites. Meanwhile, prices at the non-Skyliner All-Star value resorts are up “just” 6.5%. There was already a substantial price gap among these resorts, and after the disparate price increases, Little Mermaid rooms are now ~$80 more, on average, than All-Star rooms, and $40 more on average than Pop rooms.
  • Skyliner moderate resort Caribbean Beach standard rooms went up on average 20.7% for 2020 compared to 2019. Other room types had similar increases. Non-Skyliner moderates Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, and Port Orleans French Quarter went up 9.4%, 8.4% and 8.4% respectively. The price premium between the Port Orleans resorts and Caribbean Beach on average over 2020 has almost disappeared, and Coronado Springs is now on average about $20/night less than the other three traditional moderate resorts.

The total 365 day price increase for 2020 for the three Skyliner resorts at 100% occupancy is about 19.7% compared to 365 days in 2019, which translates into more* than $117 million.

If you just use the $117 million figure, and then deduct from it what the other values and moderates went up in total for 2020 (about 6.5% and 8.6%, respectively)—on the premise that without the Skyliner, the Skyliner resorts would have gone up about this much—then you get about $75.5 million.

If you take 15% of this off for occupancy being below 100%, then you get to about $64 million. If you take 10% more off for various discounts and deals across the year, then you get to $58 million. For the reasons explained in the note at the bottom of the page, I know I am actually low in my numbers at Caribbean Beach and Pop Century, so I round this up to $60 million.

So that’s my answer for the value Disney World will gain from the Skyliner resorts–about $60 million a year in new top line revenue.

You will find online a vast number of claims that “the Skyliner is being done to reduce bus costs, so don’t expect buses on these routes at these resorts after it opens.” Well, the revenue premium for the Skyliner would pay for on the order of 1,200 full time bus drivers. Since it takes by my back of the envelope estimates about 20 full time equivalent bus drivers to cover each of the three resorts’ Epcot and Hollywood Studios routes, I’m not entirely sure that the ROI of this project depends on eliminating bus service and 60 jobs.

But I suppose we will see. Disney World has shown remarkable propensity to nickel and dime on costs while implementing  vast price increases.

*At Art of Animation, I modeled all three bookable types, so my number here—just over $50 million–is pretty exact. At both Pop Century and Caribbean Beach, I multiplied the price increase for lowest cost rooms across all rooms of every bookable type. I did this because I don’t have a good source for the number of rooms in each class, especially for Caribbean Beach, which has eight bookable room types. (I did check cross a sample of price seasons for all bookable Pop rooms, and most bookable Caribbean Beach rooms, to confirm that they also saw a comparable ~20% price increase—they did.) The numbers for Pop (~$38 million) and Caribbean Beach (~$29 million) are thus low.

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can help you book–or avoid!–one of these Skyliner resorts. Contact her using the form below.

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July 30, 2019   5 Comments

Updated 2019 Disney World Crowd Forecasts and Week Rankings

I’ve just revised my 2019 Disney World Crowd Calendar,  and–because crowds are a big part of it–also my 2019 Disney World week rankings.

These revisions were based on two things—the partial opening of Star Wars on August 29, and my new information on actual 2019 fall breaks.

Weeks affected by forecast crowd level changes were those starting 8/24/19 (the week of the partial opening) through 10/26/19. The opening date for the rest of Galaxy’s Edge, once announced, may require me to revise the later among these, and the later weeks of 2019, yet another time.

The basic approach I take to crowd forecasting is Bayesian:

  • I use my knowledge of how crowds have varied over the course of the year to set my priors—I’ve been doing this for a decade now, so have a pretty good set of priors.
  • I then gather new, relevant, future-oriented information, apply judgment and parallel examples to it, and then as needed revise my priors.

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April 22, 2019   No Comments

Analytic Calendar of 2019 Disney World Ticket Prices

I’ve color coded the start dates of the various base ticket lengths in Disney World’s new date-based ticket pricing system to indicate less and more expensive ticket dates in 2019, beginning in April and compared to available prices the rest of 2019.  The prices I show are pre-tax, per ticket day, and rounded to the nearest dollar.

In what follows, basically

  • The more and the darker the green, the better
  • The more and the darker the red, the worse.

Dates with black text on a white background are everything else–you can think of them as “typical” or “average.” The technical details on how I color coded are at the end of the post.

APRIL AND MAY 2019 DISNEY WORLD TICKET PRICES

Larger.

April ticket prices peak for the popular spring break periods before and after Easter, and for the longer ticket lengths are red most of the month.

The first half of May shows much lower prices, and then prices start going up to cover the Memorial Day weekend, then go down to average levels after.

JUNE AND JULY 2019 DISNEY WORLD TICKET PRICES

Larger.

June ticket prices are largely average. July sees some higher prices for shorter tickets keyed to the Fourth of July, then a mix of average and slightly lower prices the rest of the month.

AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER 2019 DISNEY WORLD TICKET PRICES

Larger.

The first week of August has average ticket prices, then lower prices become more dominant.  September is filled with lower prices until late in the month.

OCTOBER 2019 DISNEY WORLD TICKET PRICES

Larger.

Except for the very shortest ticket lengths, which bounce around, October sees almost entirely average ticket prices.

NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER 2019 DISNEY WORLD TICKET PRICES

Larger.

Early November sees some curious higher ticket prices in the shorter tickets. After that, prices are largely average until they go up for Thanksgiving.

The first third of December has largely average prices, and then ticket prices start going up for the holidays, hitting their highest levels of the year in the last third of the month.

TECHNICAL DETAILS OF COLOR CODING

  • The lowest of the 9 months April-December for that ticket length have green fill and bolded black text
  • Ticket prices approximately in the bottom 10% have green fill and black text
  • Ticket prices approximately in the next lowest 10% have a lighter green fill and black text
  • The next approximately 10% of higher price level dates has white fill and green text
  • Dates with prices approximately in the 70th to 80th percentile have white fill and red text
  • Prices approximately in the 80th to 90th percentile have a light red fill and black text
  • Prices  in roughly the top 10% for the year have a darker red fill and black text
  • The highest price of the year for that ticket type has darker red fill and bold black text
  • Every other price in between has black text and white fill.

Note that all my work is based on the rounded prices Disney published and are pre-tax. As a result, the “10%” breaks are not exact.

 

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October 23, 2018   6 Comments

Updated Disney World 2019 Price Seasons

Yesterday I published my updated material on Walt Disney World resort prices in 2019, based on my sampling (and analysis) of more than 3,200 individual hotel/date/price combinations.

The purpose of this site is to help people make better choices in their Disney World vacations, either from direct advice or from providing the facts and letting people make their own decision from them.

Disney resort hotel prices matter because the exact same room can cost 75% more depending on what nights you stay in it.

To help guide people around this without getting into the more than 30,000 individual pieces of data, my 2019 Disney World price seasons material first is a sample of half of Disney World’s hotels, and second analyzes and depicts only the least expensive room types within them.

I then show the results in two ways: charts that smooth out the changing prices by averaging prices over a seven night stay, and “invented” (I’ll return to this in a minute) “price seasons” that give a broad sense of how expensive a room is during different parts of the year. In my “seasons” I always express prices as how much higher they are than the lowest prices for that room that year.

In this post I want to explain a little about why I do it this way—and where the seasons came from. But if you don’t care and just want to see the results, go here; if you want to see every single data point, go to MouseSavers.com here.

NIGHTLY ROOM RATES

Here’s a chart of the actual rates by night in 2019 of a standard view rooms at Disney’s Beach Club resort. Note that I have truncated the lower axis at $450/night to make the patterns more readable.

While you’ll note some consistency over periods (this is where “price seasons” comes in), there’s a lot of wiggles in the line. This comes from all the different prices during the week that Disney now charges, as well as various holiday weekend upcharges.

The net is 38 different prices for the same room over the course of 2019. In this chart, I have a straight line across for each of the 38 prices:

…and in the chart below, I show the distribution of prices for this room. More than half of the nights of the year, you can get this room for $550 or less, but 20% of the nights of the year you will pay prices of $600 or much more (all my prices include tax).

To make these price shifts a little easier to understand, I smooth them out. My smoothing approach is to average prices over seven nights—the check in night, and six more. This is what I display on my 2019 Disney World price seasons page. I pick seven nights to map to the set of prices that vary over the week but are the same the next week characteristic of many Disney World price seasons.

This chart shows the smoothed line (in orange) on top of the actual prices in blue. I believe that this type of smoothing makes it much easier to interpret what prices you will run into for any check in date.

DISNEY WORLD PRICE SEASONS

Disney World used to group and label periods of the year into resort “price seasons.” The traditional price season calendar would have a day or two of peak season in early January coming out of the holidays, then shift into value season, then peak again for Presidents Day week, then regular season, then a mix of regular and peak during spring break before Easter, then Easter season, in years with an early Easter some more peak seasons, then regular season, then summer season, etc.

Last year, Disney stopped labeling the parts of the year into price seasons, and added more distinct price points over the course of the year. For 2019 it continued to abandon the “season” labeling concept, and added even more distinct prices. (I’ll publish more on 2018 vs. 2019 resort prices later this summer.)

But you can still see price seasons, if you look closely enough.

See the chart, where I have used colored boxes to group prices into seasons (ignoring holiday weekend upcharges), keeping the same color when the numbers remain the same. I have then labeled these with the traditional names—although my labels don’t always correspond to those used by MouseSavers.com.

The first box in January, in light orange, is the value season. Then we have a sequence of peak (red) and regular (orange), culminating in the Easter season in yellow. A distinct season then opens, which I call regular 2. After that are two distinct summer seasons, then the value season reappears in late August and early September.

Things then get a little confusing, but based on both this and the same charts for other deluxes, I basically see a sequence of regular variants (in blue and green) that I call regular 3, regular 4, and regular 5, alternating with the Fall season (grey) in between, interrupted by the Thanksgiving upcharge in black. Later in December peak season returns, and then we skyrocket off into the holiday seasons.

This then is the set of seasonal labels I use in my text descriptions of the 2019 Disney World resort price seasons.

The values and moderates continue to operate to a different seasonal calendar then the deluxes between July and Thanksgiving but I did the exact same graphical analysis to uncover their seasons. Here’s an example of one of the moderates:

…and of one of the values:

If this is all too confusing, my travel agent partner Kelly can help you book during a lower-cost period.  Contact her by using the form below.

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June 25, 2018   No Comments

End of Summer 2018 Crowds at Walt Disney World

This site’s Disney World crowd calendars always show crowds dropping off in later August.

For example, in 2018, crowd rankings go from 8/high-minus at the end of July/beginning of August down to 2/lower in early September.

This page both explain how that comes about and also reviews how the site’s crowd calendars are built.

END OF SUMMER 2018 CROWDS AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

The highest-crowd periods at Walt Disney World all have one thing in common: they are convenient times for parents to take their kids to Orlando. That is, they are times that kids are out of school and that parents traditionally can take off of work.

What’s not so clear until you do the numbers is that actual school vacation dates are much more varied than you’d think.  And there’s no good source you can go to that explains what all these varied dates are.

So usually every year about this time one of my nieces goes to hundreds of school district websites and captures all the key vacation dates for the upcoming academic year.

(This time of year because you’d be surprised many districts don’t put their calendars up for the upcoming year until June, even late June–looking at you, New Jersey…)

This year we collected data on 274 school districts with 15.33 million kids–about a third of the US school-age population. These include the 100 largest school districts in the U.S., plus 170+ more of the next largest school districts mostly in the more highly-populated states east of the Mississippi–that is, the states from which in particular Walt Disney World draws its visitors.

I then create a database that shows based on district enrollment every kid who is off on every date, and weight each district based on that district’s state’s proportion of total US visits to this website (because Disney won’t tell me actual visitation by state!). See the image above for a screenshot example.

Finally, I calculate percentage of total weighted kids on break by date and use that to inform the crowd calendars.

Above are the results of this for when kids go back to school in 2018.

So you can see that

  • Kids don’t start going back to school in real numbers until Wednesday 8/8
  • More than a third are back in school by 8/15
  • About half  are back in school by Thursday 8/23 and
  • More than 70% are back in school before Labor Day (noted in red)

In 2018, pretty much all kids are back in school by the Thursday after Labor Day.

Moreover, vacation patterns typically don’t have people returning from their vacation the night before school begins, so the effect of these back-to-school dates is offset into earlier August by around a week.

Thus, in the 2018 crowd calendar, the week of 7/28 and 8/4 are rated 8/high-minus crowds, the week of 8/11 7/moderate+ crowds, the week of 8/18 6/moderate crowds, and the week of 8/25 3/low crowds.

As I turn to revising my draft 2019 crowd calendar, I’m also adjusting for some small shifts based on co-author Josh’s work on easyWDW.com. In retrospect, in the summer of 2018, the week beginning  8/11 should be an 8/ high-minus, 8/18 should be a 5 moderate-minus, and 8/25 a 2/lower.

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June 16, 2018   11 Comments