Should Disney sell a planned itinerary?

Disney supposedly has cut its maximum capacity, but the new maximum still results in multi-hour waits for rides, up to a one-hour wait to get through security before even reaching the ticket booths, no way to get food without waiting in an epic line, etc.

We stayed at a hotel near Disney Springs in mid-March and would not have been able to go to Disney if we’d wanted to because all of the reservation slots had been taken. The guests who had planned months in advance and who did go to the hotel reported having a mediocre or bad experience. They paid extra for the Genie+ system that is supposed to enable getting on rides without waiting in line, but using the app was a huge hassle. We heard about some folks paying an out-of-park planner $1800 to manage their Disney app interactions and then text them with instructions for where to go.

Disney obviously has captured 100 percent of the market for people who want to plan their vacations three months in advance, including which rides they’ll do and where they’ll eat, etc. They also have an offering for people who have an extra $850 per hour to spend on a VIP guide. The guide can’t get guests into restaurants, however, as explained in my 2019 review of this experience. In that review, I posted the following idea:

Plainly the mobs are buying a lot of hotel rooms, food, and souvenirs. But I wonder why Disney doesn’t have “Crowd-hater Days” in each park to capture the market of people who would be willing to pay a lot more to have the 1990s experience. There are four core parks within Disney World. Why not say that every Monday through Thursday one of these parks will be designated “Crowd-hater” and tickets will be sold at whatever price it takes to keep max line length down to 15 minutes? If ticket prices were doubled, for example, I think Disney would actually make more money in ticket revenue since demand should not be cut by more than 50 percent. By using a high price to limit admission to only one park at a time they should still be able to keep all of their hotels filled (tourists who don’t value the less-crowded experience will still go to the other core parks and/or the water parks).

Apparently, Disney is never going to do this. So I have a new idea… a pre-planned itinerary that includes reserved meal stops. It will be like Genie+ except that the guest doesn’t have to plan, think, or do anything other than show up at the pre-planned times and pay for whatever is ordered at the meals. The Disney in-house expert figures out in which order all of the rides should be done so as to minimize walking time. I think that this could easily be sold for 2X the price of a regular park ticket plus Genie+ and the cost to Disney and impact on the park should be the same as if someone diligently used Genie+ as designed. Perhaps there is a risk of cannibalizing the VIP guide sales, in which case the price would have to be higher.

How crowded is Walt Disney World now that Americans don’t need to go to work? Disney Springs, which is essentially just an outdoor shopping mall, had 45-90-minute waits for tables at the various restaurants on a Wednesday night in mid-March. Then people would wait in line for another 45 minutes to get a generic ice cream from Ghirardelli. Here are the lines to check out of the Disney trinket shop with $40 T-shirts, to get some BBQ, and to go into a LEGO store that sells the same sets as the LEGO store in your local shopping mall:

The Road to Serfdom is dedicated to “socialists of all parties,” reflecting Hayek’s view that love of central planning is near-universal. Why not a centrally planned no-line Disney vacation?

10 thoughts on “Should Disney sell a planned itinerary?

  1. An ice cream sundae at the Ghirardelli square in San Francisco was part of our regular itinerary for showing visitors around the city. When we went to Disney Springs a bit before COVID, I looked at going to Ghirardelli and was shocked to discover it was more expensive in Disney Springs than in SF. I guess I thought being in Florida and being at Disney would balance each other out to match the typically-insane SF prices, but it was even worse.

    • RS: I have seen some articles pointing out that it is cheaper to fly to Paris and spend a few days at Disneyland Paris, including in the on-site hotel(s), than to go to Disney in Orlando.

  2. When we were there in December, we went to Disney Springs one evening hoping to get some nice dinner. We got there, looked at the crowd, turned around and left.

    On the other hand, paid Fastpass, aka Genie+, worked out fine (my wife managed it, lol).

  3. Is some of the crowd despite the admission limits due to reduced staffing levels such as experienced at many other service companies. retail counters, restaurants, etc.?

  4. It was a Soviet-era experience even before the pandemic. Why anyone bothers eludes me, just like Cory Doctorow’s inexplicable fascination with that mid century kitsch.

    • Well, it must be a cultural thing. Without passing any judgment (honestly), I do not “get” either Disney — we’ve been there once when my daughter was 12? and only visited Sea World — or baseball — it is probably conditioned by what you grew up with as a kid.

  5. For the past thirty years, I have lived w/i 100 miles of Walt Disney World and haven’t been back since I was 12 y/o on a family vacation from MA. Though did find myself stuck in traffic this weekend on US192 in Kissimmee on my way to visit spring breakers visiting staying at the colossal Westgate Resorts.

  6. I attended a pharma/biotech conference at the Disney World , I think it was at the Dolphin Hotel. A lot of professors brought their family along and just skipped most of the conference to go to Disney World with the kids. The conference cost like $1500 to attend, flight probably cost $500, then hotel probably $200 a night, So there’s your NIH/NSF money going to good use… I had flown in from Europe with some other European colleagues. They all were amazed about how fake everything was, e.g. the columns holding up the roof of the conference lobby was not made out of stone but hollow. I was not surprised as this was, after all, a theme park! But they found it funny.

    • Imagine how much could have been saved if the Germans had outsourced the reconstruction of Dresden to Disney!

      (Speaking of Dresden, let’s remember that Putin is a “war criminal”, but FDR and Churchill should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize for bombing Dresden and other German cities! FDR and Truman could have shared some humanitarian prizes for bombing Japanese cities, including with atomic weapons.)

  7. I marked it done several years ago when I overheard a breathless young visitor: “We saw France and Germany, and they were building China!”

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