The price tag of a Disney World visit being high is no surprise to anyone. When you think about the expenses of traveling, tickets, lodging, and dining, it really adds up. Despite the already hefty cost of a regular Disney World trip, there are certain experiences within the parks that can significantly increase your expenses.
I have had the opportunity to explore a lot of what the parks have to offer during my numerous work visits to Disney World over the past decade. Along the way, I have come across some expensive adventures that are skippable and others that you might want to consider. Although it might be difficult to justify the cost of certain adventures, if it aligns with your budget, there are specific things at Disney World that are undeniably worth the extra expenditure. However, there is a catch. Not all of these adventures are suitable for everyone. Nonetheless, if they fit within your budget and cater to the interests of your group, these six pricey Disney World adventures could indeed be worth it.
1. Sojourning in Luxurious Disney World Accommodations
Disney World boasts an array of on-site hotels catering to every budget. The resort offerings range from Value and Moderate to Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts, with varying levels of theming and amenities for guests to savor.
Predictably, the most costly category consists of the Deluxe Resort hotels. Typically, these hotels offer an array of amenities, dining options, and prime locations unparalleled by any of the Walt Disney World hotels. The pricing can fluctuate based on the time of year and the specific hotel in question, but the rate for a standard room at a Disney World Deluxe hotel can vary from the $300s to thousands of dollars per night.
Why are they worth the expenditure, though? First and foremost, the location. If you plan to spend a substantial amount of time in a particular park, the convenience of being within a short walking distance or a quick Monorail ride away can significantly enhance your Disney experience. Particularly, the Magic Kingdom Resort hotels offer great accessibility, enabling you to hop on the Monorail and quickly get to your hotel.
Another reason to consider a Deluxe hotel is the added advantage of Extended Evening Hours. This exclusive perk is only available to guests at Deluxe hotels on select nights, granting an additional two hours in a designated park after its official closure. We have witnessed this being offered at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on specific nights, and it truly makes a noticeable difference in crowd levels and the extent to which you can enjoy the park.
2. Disney Genie+ and Expedited Lanes
At Disney World, you have the option to pay for expedited access, and it can often be a worthwhile expense. Disney provides two paid services that enable you to bypass the Standby line. You can opt for Disney Genie+, a service with a variable cost depending on the park and day of visit. It is a per person, per day service, allowing you to select rides throughout the day for which you can utilize a Lightning Lane in place of joining the Standby line. A Lightning Lane serves as Disney’s version of an accelerated line, providing a shorter wait time for attractions.
Moreover, there are specific rides at each park for which you can purchase an Individual Lightning Lane entry. Distinct from Disney Genie+, these are rides for which you can buy access separately, enabling you to pay a fixed cost per person to enjoy some of Disney’s most popular attractions (such as Rise of the Resistance, Flight of Passage, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind). These would only be worthwhile if you seek a guaranteed opportunity to experience a favorite attraction with minimal wait. Alternatively, you can try to enter the line at park opening, known as “rope drop,” in the hope of encountering a shorter wait.
Depending on the time of year you visit, you might find yourself waiting for well over an hour for some of Disney World’s most sought-after attractions. If your goal is to maximize your park experience, investing extra money in Disney Genie+ or an Individual Lightning Lane entry is the optimal approach. Just remember to strategize your ride plan in advance, as both Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes can be reserved on the day of your park booking, starting at 7 a.m. (no lounging around on park days!)
3. Securing a Backstage Tour
Disney World offers a variety of VIP and behind-the-scenes tours for visitors to take advantage of. Perhaps the most renowned is the VIP tour, which allows you and your group of up to 10 guests to explore the parks accompanied by a personal VIP tour guide who will tailor your day to your preferences. However, this perk comes with a hefty price tag—ranging between $450 and $900 per hour—thus making it a particularly expensive addition for a day in the parks and unlikely to fit within the budget of most visitors.
Nonetheless, the experiences that I highly recommend are the ones that grant you access to the inner workings of the parks. Examples of such experiences include the Wild Africa Trek, offering a privately guided tour through Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or the opportunity to dive into the enormous aquarium at EPCOT through the EPCOT Seas Adventures DiveQuest.
The prices for these experiences differ, ranging from $35 per person for the Caring With Giants tour to $219 per person for the EPCOT Seas Adventures DiveQuest. Nevertheless, for groups with teenagers or older children, these can be truly unique experiences that they wouldn’t be able to encounter elsewhere.
4. Participating in Exclusive Holiday After Hours Events
Throughout the year, Disney World organizes a variety of after-hours events for guests. These events necessitate a separate ticket but allow you to explore the parks after their regular closing hours. Typically, they encompass special treats, reduced crowds, delightful entertainment, and more for your enjoyment.
Two of the most prominent separately ticketed events are Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. These seasonal events take place on specific evenings from August through December, each offering unique entertainment, culinary offerings, attraction overlays, and more.
The cost of tickets for these events varies based on the date, with prices reaching up to $199 per person per ticket on the most popular nights. Given the significant price, is it justifiable to spend more than you would for a regular ticket? If you are someone who revels in celebrating the holidays and would relish the special seasonal festivities, then the answer might very well be yes.
In addition to the exclusive entertainment, these holiday parties grant you access to the parks while they are still open to regular guests, providing ample time to make the most of your ticket. With lower crowds during the parties, you can also accomplish a lot during that timeframe. In fact, if you are purchasing separate tickets for each day, you might discover that the experiences during the holiday parties are sufficient, negating the need to visit the park during the day. It is important to note that these events usually take place in the evening and might not be ideal for younger children who have an early bedtime.
5. Delighting in Select Dining Experiences
Disney World offers an exceptional array of dining experiences that set it apart from your conventional theme park food options. While you can find typical fair-type food like chicken nuggets, corn dogs, and funnel cake, there are also exceptional dining experiences that you cannot afford to miss.
There is a spectrum of dining experiences available at Disney World, ranging from snacks and quick-service meals to premium dining experiences. Two types of meals that are highly likely to be worth the premium are character dining meals and signature dining experiences.
Character meals are fantastic for younger kids who adore Disney characters. The Crystal Palace buffetat Enchantment Kingdom is fantastic for admirers of Winnie the Pooh, while Akershus Royal Feast at EPCOT is ideal for enthusiasts of the Disney Princesses. Meals featuring characters typically have fixed menus or buffets, so you pay a specified price per individual regardless of what you consume. They offer an excellent opportunity to encounter beloved characters outside of the park. Having recently taken my daughter to Disney World for the first time, I can affirm that witnessing her joy upon meeting Pooh made every penny worthwhile.
Disney offers a variety of distinguished dining experiences to savor. Sit-down dining options can be found at the Deluxe hotels, some Moderate hotels, and each of the parks, offering choices such as à la carte menus, set menus, buffets, or family-style dining. Some of the most delightful meals I have ever had were at Disney World, such as Jiko at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and they were unquestionably worth the expense.
Beginning in January 2024, the Disney Dining Plan will be reintroduced to Disney World, making meal planning more economical. This prepaid meal package enables you to acquire meal credits that can be used at fast-food and/or sit-down eateries. It’s a worthwhile investment if you intend to relish the delectable cuisine at the Most Magical Place on Earth.
6. Acquiring a Disney World Annual Pass
A Disney World Annual Pass is an admission option that grants you access to the parks as often as you desire throughout the year. There are four distinct tiers: Disney Incredi-Pass, Disney Sorcerer Pass, Disney Pirate Pass, and Disney Pixie Dust Pass.
– The Disney Incredi-Pass, the priciest at $1,399, allows year-round entry with no blackout dates.
– The Disney Sorcerer Pass, priced at $969, is exclusively for Florida residents and Disney Vacation Club members and has limited blackout dates.
– The Disney Pirate Pass and Disney Pixie Dust Pass are both intended for Florida residents with more blackout dates. Florida residents can acquire the Disney Pirate Pass for $749 or the Disney Pixie Dust Pass for $399.
Annual Passes to Disney World are costly, but they can be justified if you plan to visit frequently enough to surpass the cost of regular tickets. If you’re only visiting for a few days in a year, the additional expense of an Annual Pass may not be justified. Reflect on how frequently you intend to visit Disney World in the upcoming year.
The Annual Pass includes complimentary standard theme park parking, as well as discounts on merchandise and dining. If the cost of an Annual Pass is less than that of tickets, you will save money by utilizing the Passholder discount within the parks. Additionally, if you intend to revisit Disney World the following year, you will have the option to renew your Annual Pass at a reduced renewal rate.
Regardless of your choice to indulge in, whether it’s overnight accommodations, dining, attractions, or special events, you will undoubtedly create enchanting and unforgettable moments for a lifetime. After all, it’s Disney World! What child wouldn’t cherish the precious opportunity to encounter ‘a whole new world,’ complete with all the grandeur?