Up to 59 Million Families Suffer in Debt After Disney Vacation

in Disney Parks

disney world crowds on mothers day weekend, swarming cinderella castle.

Credit: Inside the Magic

There are millions of families in America that are going into debt to visit the happiest (or most magical) place on earth, Disney.

Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort
Credit: Inside The Magic

If you are planning a trip to the Disney parks, there are likely a few that will come to mind. Walt Disney World Resort is by far the biggest Disney park in the world. The land owned by Disney in Orlando is the size of San Francisco and with over 25 resorts, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as well as many other offerings that parents and their kids dream about. After watching Disney films, parades on TV, commercials, social media videos, and more, it is hard to ignore the desire that comes along with Disney.

The magic of walking down Main Street, U.S.A., finding that perfect churro, grabbing a Starbucks, sniffing that iconic Disney popcorn, and looking up at Cinderella Castle is a dream that many want to make reality, but how much does that dream cost?

The cost of visiting Disney World has increased dramatically over the recent years. From ticket prices to resort costs, food and drink prices on the rise, and Disney is not as affordable as it once was.


Space Mountain at sunset at Magic Kingdom
Credit: Disney

On 1 October 1971, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida admitted its first visitors. On that opening day, around 10,000 people paid the $3.50 admission fee, purchased a $4.25 coupon book valid for seven rides, and dined on hot dogs at 45 cents each. Now, getting into Magic Kingdom can run you up to $180.00 per person. If you want to use the Lightning Lane and skip longer waits with Disney Genie+, that is an additional cost as well.

As we recently reported, “The cost of tickets to Disneyland has increased 351% from $43 in 2000 to $194 in 2023 — more than quadrupling the cost of admission on the most expensive days in less than a quarter century.” So, overall, it is clear that visiting Disney World is tough even for the average family.

Winnie the Pooh covered in honey on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at Magic Kingdom
Credit: Disney

A recent study by the website LendingTree found that 18% of those who visited the parks in either Florida or California borrowed money for the chance to see Mickey and the gang. The study surveyed thousands of guests, and received some very shocking analysis.

Firstly, we learned that Disney’s popularity is extremely expansive. Of the 87% of Americans who’ve been to a theme park or amusement park, 74% have visited a Disney park. Lending Tree said, “Baby boomers ages 57 to 76 are the most likely generation to have been to a Disney park. Of the 88% of baby boomers who’ve been to a theme park, 83% have been to a Disney park. Comparatively, Gen Zers ages 18 to 25 are the least likely. Of the 83% who’ve been to a theme park, just 69% have been to a Disney park.”

For those who do not attend theme parks at all, cost is the number one reason.

As we stated, 18% of those who went to Disney had to go into debt to attend. In America, there are 331.9 million people, so if 18% of those people went to Disney but could not afford it, theoretically, there is a chance that about 59 million families could or have gone into debt for Disney. All of that being said, 71% of Disney attendees who went into debt say they don’t regret it. In fact, 4 in 5 (80%) say they’ll pay off their debt in six or fewer months.

Spaceship Earth in EPCOT
Credit: Lee (myfrozenlife), Flickr

Interestingly enough, the cost of having to survive while on vacation posed a bigger problem.

Those who went into debt say in-park food and beverage (56%) and admission costs (48%) were significantly more expensive than they originally thought or budgeted for. While Disney World advertises one-day, one-park ticket prices for as low as $109,  the LendingTree analysis found that this low price is only available for 20 days between November 2022 and October 2023. September has the cheapest average at $126.50, while December has the most expensive average at $149.03.

The report stated, “six-figure earners are more likely to go into Disney debt than any other income group — 26% of those earning $100,000 or more yearly have gone into debt for Disney. Disney goers earning between $35,000 and $49,999 are the least likely, at just 12%.”

Overall, the cost of Disney is seemingly only continuing to increase, but it seems that not even debt can keep guests away from the magic!

Would you go into debt to visit Walt Disney World Resort? 

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