Okay, guys… calm down.  The newest price hike at Disneyland has gone live and people are freaking out again.  When they increased in May of 2014, I wrote a heartfelt message supporting them.  You can read that here if you want.  I still stand by what I wrote then.Sleeping_Beauty_Castle_(Disneyland_Explorer)

Today’s message is a bit more bittersweet.  Check out the numbers;

New Disneyland annual pass prices

Premier (Walt Disney World and Disneyland): $1,439

Signature Plus: $1,049 no blackout dates

Signature: $849 (excluding winter holiday)

(No more Premium passes, but if you currently have one, you can keep it until it expires.  After that, it will NOT be available for renewal)

Deluxe: $599

Southern California: $459 (renewals only)

SoCal Select: $329

Parking: $18

Parking addition to passes: $199 (renewals only)

Downtown Disney: $12 an hour, with 2 hours free, 2 hours extra with validation.

So okay.  I know some of you are like, “whatever man, magic comes at a price and I’m willing to fork it over to have my experience”.  Others are more of the mind, “wtHECK, Disney?? We barely scrape by to get in as it is!”  Both sides are valid, accurate and justified.

Here’s the way I see it;  a 1 day, park hopper ticket is $150.  That doesn’t include parking, which is $17 per day, nor does it include pictures which are $15 PER IMAGE to download.  For a family of four, the cost for a single day is $617, just for entrance to the park.  The new Signature Plus pass is $1049 for 365 day entrance, parking and unlimited Photo Pass downloads.

When you go 3+ times a month like our family does, your pass is still going to be paid for by the third month.  AND you get free photos!  Honestly, this is still a HUGE discount above purchasing a daily entrance pass and is completely worth it, in my opinion.  Considering I can pay the giant annual pass fee ONE TIME and then go to the park multiple times a month and spend ZERO dollars while we are there, packing food/snacks/treats, bringing our toys and our own glow-necklaces and bubble guns so no one is tempted to buy them there and refill the Starbucks card before we leave… we can literally go spend an entire day at both parks without spending more than $20 for extra water if we ran out or maybe a cake pop at the end of the night.  When we do that, WE are the ones benefiting from this deal, NOT Disneyland.  When we have no money in the bank but we have a full tank of gas and our passes, we can still go there and have an amazing day.  That is why it’s worth it.

That being said, just because I believe it’s still worth it, doesn’t mean I can afford it.  I have to consider my personal reality; that we might be done with Disneyland for a while after this.  For us with a family of four, these prices may just prevent us from being able to renew and with a 5 and 3 year old who have both pretty much spend their lives thus far knowing that Disneyland is THEIR land, the thought is honestly heartbreaking. Thankfully we just renewed 3 of our 4, so we have some time to think about it and come up with a plan.  It’s no question that I will be renewing my son’s pass in November with the new Deluxe pass.  The rest of us expire in August.

Does it make me angry?  Not at Disneyland.  I’ve always supported their price increases because I understand what it takes to run a park the way they do.  I was on the inside of the magic enough (having worked there for a while) to see how they run their business and what their available budget allows them to accomplish for their guests and it is worth it. And seriously, c’mon, they’re building STAR WARS LAND, people!! That’s no small thing!  It takes millions of dollars to pull that off, where do you think they’re going to get those dollars?  Every dollar you spend goes back into the magic they create for you.  It’s worth it, if you love it as much as we do.  It’s worth it, if it’s as much a part of your family tradition as Christmas and birthday cake, like it is for us.

But this unexpected increase might just be the end of the road, in spite of all that.  Not because I will protest and refuse to pay it, but because when you have to choose between groceries, school supplies, car maintenance or a Disney pass… There is something very wrong there and I need to get real.

Families like ours, who save all year to renew, are going to be the ones pushed out first and that is undeniably frustrating.  For the first time in so many years, I might find myself unable to get into Disneyland the same year they open the land my 5 year old is absolutely dying to see, a land that my Star Wars freak husband has been waiting his entire life to experience.  As a lower middle class family of four, I scrounge by teaching voice and selling things at the local consignment sales 2 times a year to save enough money to pay for my kid’s passes every year.  A few more hundred dollars is a long stretch for me, it’s not unthinkable, it’s not impossible, but it’s a stretch and I have bills.  Oh so many bills… and the more they increase the cost to just walk in the gate, the harder it is for me to justify.

So, some might say, “well, you don’t deserve to go anyway if you can’t afford the pass” but I think about back when the park opened and a wise man declared, ““To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”  Back in 1955, that meant each ticket was just a few cents and a whole book to ride them all was a few dollars.  What is that compared to now?  Let’s take a look…

Ticket-Level Cost in 1955 What It Would Cost in 2015**
A-Ticket $.10 $.87
B-Ticket $.20 $1.74
C-Ticket $.30 $2.62
8-Ticket Book* $2.50 $21.80

Even if you pull that up into this year’s cost equivalent, the price increase is nowhere near comparable and you can see that Disney has made the decision to change the rules.  This happy place is no longer for “all”.  It’s for those who can spend a large sum of money just to walk in and that is nowhere near everyone.  In fact, the people who can truly afford this without having to sacrifice something else, are pretty much in the minority in California, especially since the crash of 2007.  The number of Californians on some form of public assistance rises every month.  From Covered California to Welfare, to Wic and CalFresh, Unemployment, SNAP or Disability, California has been declared the “Welfare State” with the highest number of families and individuals on some form of public assistance just to get by.

Disneyland is no longer everyone’s land.  Disneyland is the land for those who didn’t lose their homes or their livelihoods when the market crashed, for those who live in a dual income or at least a single, six figure or above income bracket.  The rest of us… well, we should want to do better, right?

Should I put my kids in daycare and go back to work so I can afford the luxury of taking them to Disneyland?  Where does the line get drawn?  When does magic become an unnecessary, financial burden and when is it no longer okay to fight to be part of that experience?

Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is.  Disneyland is important, but it’s not food.  It’s memories that are the mortar of our family’s foundation, but it’s not our home.  I don’t hate Disneyland for increasing their prices.  I just wish I could afford them.  I don’t begrudge them the increase, I just wish I didn’t have to pay it and you can better believe I will do all I can to make it happen before I give up next year when the renewals are due.  Honestly, if there were ANYthing to complain about here, it’s that I pay so darn much for parking but still get diverted to another lot half the time a 20 minute walk away with two toddlers who have to pee.  Every time we get sent to another lot it takes us an hour from the time we get to the intersection of Ball and Disneyland Drive to the main gate to walk in. If they could fix THAT problem, I’d be on board with paying extra for it.  Or how about this; make the people who DON’T pay extra on their passes for parking park in THOSE lots and give the structure to those who do.  ??  (sorry, mini rant over now…)

I have had an annual pass since my 17th birthday.  For 21 years, I have never not been able to get in.  I used to go to the park when I had bad days, sad days, when life was hard and I needed a break.  I went alone, with friends, I went every week and sometimes more, just to get a coffee and do my homework in New Orleans Square.  It was my ONE place, my happy place, and as I grew and had a family, it only got more important.

My husband and I shared our first date there.  We spent our honeymoon there.  My son’s first trip was to see Santa when he was 3 weeks old and became our first photo as a family.  My daughter was nearly born there, as I went into labor and had to be escorted out in a wheel chair to the hospital.  Three weeks later, we were back with our new baby to share her with the first aid attendant who helped me.  The photo of our first family portrait as a complete family was my three week old daughter’s first trip to the park, in front of the castle and it’s now proudly displayed on my wall in canvas.  Nearly every family tradition we have revolves around Disney in some way.  Spending each birthday at the park, every holiday from Easter to Christmas, Halloween, especially…  We go at least a few times a month no matter what time of year.  We were there last Monday and I’m pretty sure we are going again today, even though it’s raining.  If we get priced out, I’ll be hurt.  Personally, deeply, hurt.  But I will also understand because the magic they are going to create is going to be astounding and one day we will get to see it again.

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In the mean time, maybe it’s time to spend a few years doing other things like the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Science Cube, the San Diego Zoo, THE OCEAN, MOUNTAINS and travel… and all of this will come just in time for Harry Potter World to open in Universal Studios Hollywood.  We will have other places to see, new magic to explore and we will be fine.  Yes, I’m doing my best to convince myself.  No, at the moment, I don’t really believe it.  We still have some time before this will really affect us, so in the mean time, we will drink in the magic and try our best to figure out if we can pull it off again next year… or if maybe it’s just time to find a new brand of magic for a while.

What are your thoughts?

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