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Disney Debt: Nearly 20% of parkgoers rack up debt, but most have no regrets

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

As theme park ticket prices continue to rise, a recent study shows many parkgoers have gone into “Disney debt” to finance their vacation; however, most don’t regret spending the money.

Walt Disney World
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

LendingTree, an online financial services marketplace, recently conducted a survey to determine how much a Disney vacation impacts a family’s finances, and while 18% of Disney parkgoers have gone into debt to pay for their trip, 71% of them don’t regret it.

“It’s no secret that a trip to a Disney park is expensive, but it is a price that many Americans are willing to take on [as] some debt to pay,” said LendingTree’s Chief Credit Analyst Matt Schulz. “That speaks to the power of Disney and is also further proof of just how highly many of us value experiences and the memories that can come with them.”

Walt Disney World - Chewbacca

Of those who reported a Disney theme park vacation resulted in debt, 56% said in-park food and beverages were significantly more expensive than they initially thought or budgeted for, while 48% cited admission costs as the cause of their unplanned spending.

Disney Debt: Other Key Findings:

  • Of the 87% of Americans who’ve been to a theme park or amusement park, 74% have visited a Disney park.
  • Of the 13% of consumers who’ve never been to a theme park, nearly half of those (48%) said cost is the top reason for skipping the parks.
  • Fewer than one in five people surveyed (18%) told LendingTree they went into debt for one or more of these trips, but 80% of them say they’ll pay off their debt in six or fewer months.
  • Parents with children under 18 are most likely to incur Disney-related debt, with 30% saying a trip to the theme parks resulted in debt.
Walt Disney World - Droid Depot

Walt Disney World advertises one-day, one-park ticket prices for as low as $109, but LendingTree found this low price is only available for 20 days between November 2022 and October 2023. During that same period, the average cost for a one-day, one-park ticket at Walt Disney World is $141.74 – but that only gets you in the gate.

Walt Disney World

LendingTree cites analysis that calculated a baseline Disney World vacation for a family of four (two adults, one child 10+, and one child age three to nine) cost $5,731 in 2022 ($287 per person per night). That included flights, transportation to and from Walt Disney World, a five-night stay at Pop Century Resort, five-day tickets at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios (without Park Hopper, but with Genie+), and all meals at roughly the cost of the standard Disney dining plan, which was suspended during the pandemic.

“A Disney trip can be an experience that you and your family remember for the rest of your lives, and those are the types of things people are willing to go into debt for,” Schulz said. “You shouldn’t take on a debilitating amount of debt and you shouldn’t do it very often, but if you need to take on a few months of debt to afford that once-in-a-lifetime Disney trip, it can be OK.”

Walt Disney World

Methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,548 U.S. consumers ages 18 to 76 from Oct. 5-6, 2022. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. In addition, all responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

To calculate ticket costs, LendingTree analyzed the cost of one-day, one-park Walt Disney World tickets between November 2022 and October 2023. Prices were analyzed on the Walt Disney World website on Oct. 13, 2022.

Click here to view the full report.

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