The Price Tag of Magic and Dreams: Comparing the Cost of a Disneyland Visit with Other Family Fun - Part 4 of 5

This series (links to all parts at end of article) addresses how people on limited entertainment budgets can decide which amusements to choose for their family entertainment. The parameters are to find diversions that please each individual member of the family while creating memorable fun for the family as a unit, and getting the most out of each dollar spent in the process. Previous installments broke down the costs for families to go out to the movies and to the baseball stadium. Parts 4 and 5 of this series will look at what it really costs to enjoy a day at Disneyland, and how to stretch that entertainment dollar at the park.

Family fun abounds at Disneyland. CC Lic: http://bit.ly/TO79Y
Family fun abounds at Disneyland. CC Lic: http://bit.ly/TO79Y | Source

On weekends, Disneyland is typically open from 8:00am to 12:00 Midnight, giving guests 16 hours in which to enjoy the park. As of Spring 2011, a one-day, one-park, non-discounted adult admission ticket costs $76 and tickets for kids ages 3 to 9 are $68 apiece. Taking an average of $72 per ticket spread out across all 16 hours, that comes to $4.50 per hour.

Assuming a Continental breakfast ($6 at Blue Ribbon Bakery), full lunch ($15 at Rancho del Zocalo), modest dinner ($11 at Redd Rocket's Pizza Port) and a snack ($3 Dole Whip at the Tiki Room Bar) are all part of the day's enjoyments, $35 would be a rough average for one day of park meals. Most visits to Disneyland also include bringing home a souvenir of some sort. Prices for souvenirs can range from $1.26 for a pressed penny to several hundred dollars or more for [original works of art] or other upscale purchases. For a family visit, assume an average of $23 per person for park memorabilia.

$72 (avg. ticket) + $35 (meals) + $23 (souvenirs) = $130

$130 divided by 16 hours = $8.13

Hourly cost for the Disneyland Experience: $8.13


Hidden Mickeys Can Be Found Just About Anywhere!!

These Creative Commons Hidden Mickey images CC Lic: http://bit.ly/TO79Y courtesy of
These Creative Commons Hidden Mickey images CC Lic: http://bit.ly/TO79Y courtesy of | Source

Include in your computations everything that's included in a Disneyland visit. It's more than the rides and attractions, especially when you endeavor to enrich your visit with attention to the many details of the park and its history. There's the beautiful scenery and landscaping, live and recorded music, street performances, interactions with walk-around characters, parades, fireworks, the thrill of little unexpected surprises and much more. It may be difficult to include those aspects in mathematical formulas, but important factors to weigh, nonetheless.

One very fun family activity to do at the park costs nothing at all: go on a Hidden Mickey safari. Disney Imagineers--the designers who create the attractions and the look of the theme park--intentionally hide silhouettes of Mickey Mouse's famous tri-circle face throughout the Disneyland Resort. These elements can be found in myriad places, from a shadow formed on a sail inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, to a vent hole located in a grid in front of the stage at Frontierland's Golden Horseshoe, to the arrangement of food served up on a plate. Seeking out these Hidden Mickeys throughout the park adds another dimension of fun, and puts most everyone on a level playing field, since there's no advantage to adults over kids (although, there might be a slight advantage of kids over adults, as they tend to notice details more, while adults tend to filter out erroneous information!).

When all of the entertainment value is taken into account, and the price outlay is amortized over months, years or decades of fond recollections, the actual price per hour can drop to literally pennies.

Granted, the entrance fee is pretty steep and can make it very difficult for families to visit the park, and the above figures don't include parking ($15 for cars or motorcycles, $20 for oversized cars and tractors/RVs without trailers, $25 for buses and tractors with trailers). Still, there are many ways to cut down on the cost of a visit to Disneyland.

Local residents can make use of Southern California passes and "Two-fers" when offered, and other discounts are available through automobile clubs and other outlets. If your family plans to spend a few days in the park, it's worth comparing the multi-day park-hopper passes with an Annual Pass, as the Annual Pass is sometimes a better deal, even if you never return the rest of the year.

Lots of savings tips and other trip advice can be found on fan-created Disney websites, such as the Disney Echo. Make the most of your time by planning in advance, and you'll reap more actual entertainment per hour. The final part in this series will offer suggestions on ways to save on that magical trip your family's been dreaming of.

© M.S. Ross - All Rights Reserved



Creative Play Time

When on family outings, have you created any games to play in addition to what's offered at your chosen entertainment venue? Inventing little challenges, trivia quizzes and other games not only helps pass the time spent waiting in lines, but adds to the dynamic of family bonding. What types of games do you play with your family while you're enjoying recreation time together? Share your ideas in the comments section below. 

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