I’m going to Disney World in September with my younger sister and her family. Other than one afternoon spent at the Magic Kingdom more than twenty years ago, I’ve not been before. Like everyone else, the Disney Corporation is hurting these days. They've been offering all sorts of specials and discounted plans to entice visitors to holiday at the Happiest Place on Earth.
We signed up for their free dining plan, which includes two meals a day plus two snacks for each member in the group. In order to take advantage of this deal you have to book an on-resort hotel for at least 5 consecutive nights with at least a one-day park pass. The visit has to take place between August 16th and October 3 of 2009, an historically slow period for Disney as the weather can be dicey and the kids are newly back in school. It will be nice to have everything paid for in advance and not have to worry about the cost of the meals. If you’ve ever taken a look at a Disney menu, the onsite restaurants are quite expensive and eating can really add up over the course of the week. All in all, we got a pretty good deal and are excited about our trip.
We’ve been doing a lot of research in order to ensure things go smoothly and that we make the best use of our time. I’ve had a few surprises. Very few of Disney’s properties offer Wi-Fi, there is a charge for wired internet access, the value resorts don’t offer coffee makers in the rooms and a little fridge costs $10 a night. I haven’t stayed in a hotel or motel in years that didn’t have a coffee maker in the room and charging $10 a night for a refrigerator that can be purchased at Wal-Mart for $100 seems excessive, especially at an expensive destination like Disney. The biggest surprise for me though, was the absence of free Wi-Fi. It never occurred to me that such a forward thinking place as Disney wouldn’t have park-wide wireless internet access. Wired internet, where offered, runs about $10 a day. The All-Star Music Resort family suite in which we are staying has a rack rate of $184 a night. Charging us for Internet access on top of that seems excessive.
I’ve been listening to the WDW Today podcast everyday while I workout and heard an interesting little factoid the other day. Evidently Disney employs people whose job is to stand at the various exits and count the number of bags people carry out; an indicator that guests are spending money in the parks. Although, thanks to the various deals and discounts being offered, the parks are full of people, they aren’t spending a lot of additional money. “Bag counts” are way down. In other words, people are still going to Disney but they are watching their pennies and not doing a lot of shopping in the Disney stores; a big source of revenue for the company.
The MouseSavers Newsletter recently reported that Disney has been quietly raising prices on all sorts of things inside the park in an effort to increase their revenue stream. The cost to rent a stroller within the park has risen 100% since 2005. Even with a pre-payment discount, renting a double-stroller for a week will cost you $189, more than the cost of many rental cars! In the restaurants, Disney has increased prices and reduced the amount of food you receive in return. A reduction in portion size is not a bad thing on its own but, combined with higher prices and fewer choices; I don’t think Disney had our health in mind when they made the change!
The Disney Corporation has reportedly laid off approximately 1900 employees, about 1400 at the Disney World Resort. Profits are down at Disney, as they are everywhere, and they are struggling to weather the economy in a business that is the very definition of that “extra”, which people are trimming from their budgets. Although I’m griping just a bit, I hope Disney can hold it together. It really is a fun place to visit and I’m looking forward to going.
Do you have a big vacation planned this year or are you sticking closer to home? What effect has the economy had on your plans?