In a bizarre price competition, Orlando’s two entertainment giants – Walt Disney World and Universal Studios – raised daily admission prices, but instead of trying to undercut each other to attract more tourists, it seems as if the highest priced one wins. Disney’s one-day ticket price hike of 4.7% – from $85 to $89 (plus tax) – beats Universal Studios’ week-old price increase by $1. (Ticket costs in separate FAQOrlando.com guide pages will be updated shortly.)
Neither park tries to price a one-day pass competitively. (If I remember my basic economics class, the usual rules of capitalism don’t apply as we work with an oligopoly.) Instead, each theme park giant hopes that an outrageous one-day ticket price will encourage more guests to opt for a multi-day pass that costs less per day, which by default siphons guests away from the competition. Harry Potter’s win is Mickey Mouse’s loss.
Disney and Universal tend to raise prices prior to the heavy summer tourist season, though Universal has historically waited about a week after Disney’s announcement. Empowered by high demand for Harry Potter, however, Universal is feeling a bit cocky and, for a few days, became the most expensive theme park in the world, charging $88. A few days later, however, Disney bested Universal by $1.
Prices on multi-day passes at both parks also went up, but generally by a smaller percentage. And since multi-day passes already offere a sizable discount on a per-day basis, the current price structure strongly encourages guests to pick either Universal or Disney for their entire stay. It’s a good deal for guests that stay for two weeks; guests here for just one week would be wise to spend one vacation at Universal and smaller Central Florida parks and then spend one entire week at Disney. (Yeah, that’s impossible. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I know we’re in Orlando for a week, but we just can’t see Cinderella this time because daddy can’t afford it.”)
Also see: Ticket prices: It’s all a game
Disney World prices
This remains complicated. Guests don’t just buy a ticket based on the number of days they wish to visit Disney parks. Disney also has a park-hopper option that allows you to visit more than one park in a single day. If that sounds good, you buy a pass for X number of days and then pay extra for the park hopper option. Or if you want to buy 10 days admission figuring that you’ll be returning and, overall, that’s the cheapest option, you must also pay another add-on to keep the days from expiring. However, with that in mind, here’s a glimpse of the recent price changes:
4-day pass: $256 – up 5.3% from $243 ($64 per day for an adult)
5-day pass: $268 – up 6.8% from $251 ($54 per day)
7-day pass: $288 – up 7.9% from $267 ($41 per day)
Park hopper option: $57 – up 3.6% from $55
If it makes out-of-state visitors feel any better, Disney’s Florida resident tickets saw the highest spike in price. A Seasonal pass that’s good year-round but bans visits over Christmas, Easter, and two months of the summer rose 11.1% to $299.
Universal Studios prices
With only two parks, Universal has less complicated pricing, though it’s equally strange.
1-day/1-park pass: $88 – up 3.5% from $85.
1-day/2-park pass: $123 – up 2.5% from $120
2-day/1-park (per day) pass: $140 – up 2.9% from $136
2-day/2-park pass: $160 – up 2.6% from $156 ($80 per day)
4-day/2-park pass: $180 – up 2.3% from $176 ($45 per day)
2-week unlimited (includes Wet ‘n Wild) pass: $200 – up 2.5% from $195 ($15 per day)
To save at least a small amount of money on Disney and Universal tickets, consider shopping online before arriving in Orlando. (Also see: 12 Orlando vacation discounts)