DISNEY has been accused of alienating its core middle-class customer base with steep price hikes at its parks, making a trip to the "happiest place on earth" an unattainable dream for the average family.
For a family of four, a trip to one of Disney's US theme parks will now set them back an average of $6,033 – and that's without considering airfare, transportation costs, snacks, parking, and other inevitable add-ons.
The hefty price tag comes despite Disney scaling back much of its "magic" amid the pandemic, including canceling its world-famous daily firework displays and character meet-and-greets because of social distancing.
But rather than slashing prices to compensate for the subdued experience, costs have actually continued to climb, with hotel rooms in some instances costing nearly $800 per night, and a sandwich inside the park going for as high as $100.
For a family of four to spend five days at Disney World, park tickets alone would cost $2,316, Insider reported.
Additionally, a four-night stay at one of the park's budget hotels would cost $2,617, and the lowest family dining plan carries a price of $1,100.
The $6,033 price tag does not include any add-on experiences or extra in-park costs, meaning a vacation would likely come in at a significantly higher cost overall.
Disney – once a staple holiday destination for middle-class American families – has now, as a result, been accused of pricing out its loyal customers in pursuit of more affluent guests.
The average annual income in America now stands at $68,703 – or $5,725 each month – with typical monthly expenditures reaching $5,100 per month.
This means it would take around three years for a family on average income to be able to afford the trip, if they were able to save at least $200 each month.
For any families earning less than $61,000 per year, or the estimated 34 million living below the poverty line, a vacation at the Magic Kingdom is almost completely unfeasible.
Worse still, Disney World has continued to increase its ticket prices at about double the rate of inflation over the last decade.
When Walt Disney World first opened its gates in 1971, a ticket cost $3.50 – the equivalent to about $23 today.
However, the cost of a single-day ticket has far outpaced the rate of inflation, now costing between $109 and $224 – depending on when you travel and the ticket option you select.
A report by The Wall Street Journal said the price hike comes as an effort to compete with Universal Studios, which opened its immensely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2016.
"Disney does not like to lose – not just lose, Disney doesn't even like to compete. Disney wants to dominate its competition," Robert Niles, founder of Theme Park Insider, said.
Once inside the park, families also face steep food prices, with a meal at one of Disney's most popular restaurants costing $62, and a churro costing $6.19.
An angered visitor, Jessica Sarver, told Insider back in May that food prices inside the park were "outrageous."
She said when she visited Disney World in March, she "paid nearly $5 for a bottle of water," adding, "And for three people to eat dinner cost us about $120 to $130 a night."
Another Disney regular, Nancy Babb, told the outlet that Disney's supposed "value" hotels are too expensive for her family.
"We've been going to Disney every year for years," she said. "This last time, none of the hotels in Disney World were affordable enough for my family of five, so we had to stay off-property."
Having shuttered for the vast majority of the pandemic, Disney reopened the doors to its parks in April.
The prolonged shutdown is estimated to have cost the entertainment giant's parks between $20 million and $30 million in lost revenue each day.
But since reopening, Disney has focused its attention on premium add-ons, Insider reports.
Wealthy visitors can pay a Disney tour guide to take them through alternative entrances of popular attractions, skipping the lines.
Costs for the VIP service start at $425 per hour, with a seven-hour minimum booking required.
Visitors can also now pay an extra $60 to obtain a higher score on the park's new Spider-Man ride.
Meanwhile, the park's new Pym Test Kitchen, located on the Avengers Campus, offers a supersized sandwich on its menu that costs $100.
The huge sandwich, which is slated to feed between six and eight, contains salami, ham, and sun-dried tomatoes on focaccia bread.
Families across the nation now say they're likely to be put off by Disney's prices, following hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
A survey carried out by Business Insider earlier this month found that more than half of the 1,086 respondents surveyed said they believed a vacation at Disney was too expensive "in general" to warrant a trip.
Another 32 percent of participants, who have children, said that while they would like to visit one of Disney's parks they can't actually afford to.
Interestingly though, respondents earning between $50,000 and $74,999 per year were seemingly the most eager to visit Disney, with the second-largest group coming as those who earn between $25,000 and $49,999 per year.
But when it came to participants who said they earn more than $75,000 per year, only 109 respondents said they "definitely" or "probably" would visit – despite being the group most able to afford a trip.
It seems that for some the prospect of a dream family vacation at a Disney resort is still priceless, despite the financial strain it may take on their pursestrings.
Mom Kelly Reichert told Insider that the "high price" Disney charges is worth it to her family because of the "magic" they experience inside its gates.
Reichert told the outlet she and her husband have been nearly every year since they married two decades ago.
She says they penny-pinch, use funds from their tax returns or make a trip to Disney their four children's Christmas present to make the vacation a reality.
"We have sacrificed other purchases throughout the years to make our Disney trip happen," she said.
As the pandemic slows, and ahead of what is tipped to be a summer of rampant travel, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disneyland Hotel are undergoing discounts of up to 25 percent at the moment to encourage thrill-seekers through its doors.
The discounts will begin on July 5 and apply for guests booking between September 16 through to October 3, 2021.
A spokesperson for the company has not yet returned a US Sun request for comment.
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