Hardscrabble Times in a Hard-Ticket (Disney) World

I really do love Walt Disney World. Although there are times when I seem a bit negative on the topic, it really is the main reason I am willing to remain a resident of Florida. I spent four years living in Tennessee, and I found that living so far from WDW was much like rehabbing through a 12-step program! As much as I dream of returning home to Texas, that charismatic giant mouse has me hooked. Realistically, it’s quite possible that I’m here for the long haul… and I suppose I can accept that… because I love Walt Disney World.

When I tend to get opinionated on WDW, my criticisms stem from an understanding and genuine respect for Walt Disney himself. Yep, I’m one of those WWWD (“What Would Walt Do”) types. If you have a grasp on the history of the parks, you know that Walt had certain ideals and goals. He also had pretty rigid concepts of what he did not want for his parks, his company, and his guests. Though I do understand inflation and successful business practices, I also absolutely believe that some current practices at WDW have gone a bit too far. 

To illustrate my point… let’s take a quick glance at a few numbers:

  1. In 1971, the general admission price to the Magic Kingdom was $3.50 (before individual attraction tickets, which still did not amount to much).

  2. By 2002 (when I started working as a Cast Member), the cost of a one-day, one-park admission was around $50.

  3. Today, a one-day, one-park admission will cost you just over $100 (with tax).

We could spend a while getting technical, and covering more years… and I understand that you can save a bit by getting multi-day, multi-park tickets (the goal), but let’s not pick nits. You see the point I’m demonstrating – yes? 

As Florida residents, WDW becomes a lot more “possible” with the options of seasonal passes, annual passes, and of course – the monthly payment options! With the annuals, parking is free, too… and of course, we’re not paying plane fare, etc. If I didn’t live here, I doubt I’d ever be here. I could not afford it! When I consider friends and family who have spent years saving fortunes for just a few days here, I have to admit… I think it’s rather sad. And anyone I know who is at all on a budget, always seems to be getting nervous by the last couple of days of their stay. Everything is more than they expected when planning. The dining plan options are dandy, and I propose them to anyone who will listen. BUT…

Is it just me, or does it seem that every time they find a way to offer us a deal, they come up with a way to get that savings back out of our wallet? Oh yes… I’m referring to the recent expansion of hard-ticket event offerings. 

What is a “hard-ticket event”? By honest definition, these are events that often require the parks to close earlier than usual (cutting the regular visitor day, but offering no discount for the cut). These events then require paying for a SECOND admission cost to be allowed entry during the event hours (usually 4-5 hours of time). At one time, this was pretty much limited to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) – and both events promised limited ticket sales for a lower-capacity event. 

When I worked MVMCP in 2002, tickets to that event were around $34 (advance purchase, ages 10 and up). I worked every night of the event, and the crowds were so low that I really did envy every guest I encountered. This year, ticket prices are not only higher ($67 on the lowest end), but as someone who has watched these events every year, I promise you… they raise that ticket limit every year. It’s no longer