Disneyland and Disney World are both magical places—but it takes a lot of money to enjoy that magic. While there are plenty of ways to save money on a trip, Disney is a master of marketing strategy, so make sure you don’t fall for any of their tricks. Keep an eye out for these techniques the next time you book a Disney vacation.
Gift Shop Exit
While this isn’t a marketing trick exclusive to Disney, you’ll see this ploy at their parks most often. After all, what other company can create enough merchandise to fill humongous gift shops alongside dozens of attractions? The idea here is simple—fill someone with wonder and joy after experiencing entertainment (such as a ride or attraction), and then present them with a way of keeping that feeling in their life for a little bit longer.
Disney World has 150 individual shops and stores within its four main theme parks alone. In fact, there are 264 shops if you include Disney Springs and Disney’s Boardwalk area, which adds up to a grand total of 303 on the entire property.
Sometimes, Disney makes a special bounceback offer to guests as they reach the end of their stay, which would allow them to get a substantial discount on their next trip.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, there are a couple of reasons to be wary of this marketing ploy. First, you would have to book your next trip before leaving the resort in order to claim the discount. Even if you weren’t planning a repeat trip, after seeing the compelling discount, you might just change your mind! Second, Disney is playing with your emotions, taking advantage of you as you prepare to depart from a fun experience. You’ve just had an incredible trip to Disneyland or Disney World, you’re super sad to be leaving, and all of a sudden, you’re presented with the perfect reason to start planning your next trip right away.
Now, these discounts can be a great resource if you’re already planning another trip, but make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons: falling for a manipulative marketing strategy doesn’t count as one!
Disney vacation packages usually include your park tickets, hotel stay, and (sometimes) dining options. Although booking everything together sounds good, you are actually not guaranteed to save anything at all unless a deal is explicitly stated. For example, Disney World gives guests the option to book everything at once. It’s convenient, but you’ll still be paying full price for it all unless you see deals publicly shared.
However, Disney is almost always showcasing some sort of deal, so you should never have to pay full price for your entire vacation. So how exactly is Disney tricking people into spending more money when they’re offering a deal that saves you money? The answer lies in how they market their discounts. If you take a look at most Disney World vacation packages, you’ll see that the offer listed is usually for something like a 6-day and 7-night trip. But if you read more closely into the deal, you’ll see that the offer is only valid for trips as short as 2 or 3 nights. You can absolutely use the offer on shorter trips, but since Disney markets these offers for longer trips, many people think they need to book a longer trip in order to get the deal.
Disney Vacation Club
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is Disney’s adaptation of a timeshare program. Basically, members pay a yearly fee that allows them to rent vacation points that can be redeemed at participating resorts (or other Disney experiences) on a flexible schedule.
DVC salespeople are masters of their craft. The program is presented as a way to visit Disney resorts every year with your unique budget taken into account, along with exclusive offers and discounts not available to everyone else. Like any other timeshare, the catch is that you’re locking yourself into a contract—in this case, a 50-year contract. So if you know you’re going to take a Disney vacation every year for the next 50 years, go for it. But keep in mind that no matter how great this “deal” sounds, it’s a huge financial commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Ticket Discounts (for Longer Stays)
If Disney’s number one tagline is “The Happiest Place on Earth,” number two should be “The Longer You Stay, the Less You Pay, per Day!” The latter refers to their ticket sales—the more tickets you buy, the cheaper each ticket will be. But the bottom line is that the more tickets you buy, the more money you will spend. If you’re already planning on taking a longer trip, though, by all means, take advantage of this system.
However, if you’re thinking that you might as well take the deal if it only costs $100 or more for two extra days in the parks, realize that two more park tickets doesn’t just mean two more park tickets: It also means two more days of food and merchandise costs as well as two more nights in a hotel. Remember, Disney’s goal is to prolong your stay in order to make you spend more, so offering some great discounts on park tickets ultimately works in their favor (not necessarily yours).