Is a single day of theme park fun worth $120?
Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando both raised their single-day multi-park passes to a whopping $120 a day.
Disney World made the move first earlier this month, Universal followed suit, and the result is that a one-day adult pass (meaning 10 and up) at either of central Florida's largest theme park resorts is $85 to visit one park, or $120 for a pass allowing entrance to multiple parks.
Will people pay up? Well, some people certainly will. But more than anything, the goal of raising single-day passes to such exorbitant levels seems to be to make the discounts granted with multi-day passes look more enticing. The move especially makes sense for Disney, where the per-day admission price plummets the longer travelers hang around to hit the parks. As Theme Park Insider noted:
Once you've bought three days of theme park tickets at Disney, it costs just $9 to add a fourth day. Then it's just $8 to add each additional day beyond that, up to 10 days total.
The discounts obviously save money on admission, but travelers need to understand that the longer they're visiting Disney parks, the more they're likely to spend (and spend and spend) on Disney restaurants, lodging, character breakfasts, souvenirs, and the like.
In case you're wondering, SeaWorld Orlando admission is currently $72 for adults purchasing in advance online, and that includes entrance for a second day within a week of the first visit. (Granted, many people feel that one day at SeaWorld is enough.) Tickets for Legoland Florida, which opens in mid-October, are expected to be $65 for adults -- and unlike the other three parks, which charge adult rates for ages 10 and up, the "adult" cutoff at Legoland is 13. Visitors 12 and under pay $55.
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Bookworms rejoice! Harry Potter takes over London and New York
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" officially opened last Friday, bringing in about $169 million domestically and $307 million around the world in box office earnings for opening weekend alone. The appearance of 'Harry Potter' themed tours and displays has risen along with the popularity of the books and films. From the notable landmarks mentioned throughout the books to the props used in the movies, whether you call yourself a 'Potterholic' or just a part–time fan, these tours and exhibitions are worth checking out. Warner Bros. Studios London is currently renovating its Leavesden property, and starting in the spring of 2012, visitors will be able to tour actual sets used during the films, most notably for The Great Hall and Professor Dumbledore's office. The Making of Harry Potter, rumored to house a Harry Potter Museum and possibly a Harry Potter themed hotel, is located in Watford, about 20 miles outside of Central London. Until then, it's good to know there are other tours to keep us busy. For about $32, you can take the Harry Potter Walking Tour of London, a 2.5 hour stroll around "the real Diagon Alley," the entrance to "The Leaky Cauldron," and of course, a classic photo–op for you to try pushing your cart through the entrance at Platform nine and three–quarters. As part of this tour, you can also gain insight into the real–life London attractions brought to life in the books. The two–hour Harry Potter Black Taxi Tour of London offers many of the same perks and visits to attractions, but adds the luxury of a seat for about $82. Of course, most places featured in the movies are popular London attractions already. For instance, you can drop by the London Zoo, where Harry figured out he could communicate with snakes. Other public sites from the films include Christ Church College (many Hogwarts scenes were filmed here) and the Westminster Tube Station, used for scenes involving the Ministry of Magic. If you happen to be in the New York City area, stop by Harry Potter: The Exhibition at Discovery Times Square. This "limited engagement" is only around until September 5, and features over 200 props—from the Marauder's Map to Harry's wand and glasses—and costumes—including Hogwarts uniforms and Yule Ball attire—used by the actors in the movies. There's even a place for you to meet creatures from the movie—Buckbeak the Hippogriff and Aragog if you're curious—and try your hand at Quidditch. Tickets are $26 for adults, $23.50 for seniors over 65 and $19.50 for children ages 4–12. Discovery Times Square is open Sunday thru Wednesday from 9am to 8pm and Thursday thru Saturday from 9am to 9pm. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Where in the World Will Your Interests Take You? 5 U.S. Theme Parks Under $50 12 Mysterious Underground Tours
Orlando sting: $1 million worth of black market theme park tickets confiscated
Police in Orlando recently arrested 14 people and recovered more than $1 million of merchandise in an undercover investigation involving the illegal reselling of theme park tickets. The Orlando Sentinel reports that police busted 10 businesses located along busy U.S. Hwy. 192, which runs east-west through motel-heavy Kissimmee, just to the south of Walt Disney World. The businesses are being accused of illegal theme park ticket-resale schemes, and in total, 3,617 tickets worth more than $1 million were confiscated in the busts. The passes don't seem to be counterfeits. Instead, the tickets for WDW, SeaWorld, Universal, and other theme parks seem to consist of unused days remaining on multi-day passes. The vendors bought these passes for pennies on the dollar, and then resold them to theme park enthusiasts eager to pay less for admissions than the price at the gate. Such buying and reselling is against state law in Florida, but the vendors were operating fairly out in the open. What does this mean to tourists who might be interested in buying cut-rate tickets or selling passes with unused days on them? While no small-time buyers and sellers were arrested, it's not a good idea to get involved in the theme park ticket black market. One reason why is that the parks (Disney especially) have ramped up the use of fingerprint and biometric ID scanners: If you don't match the pass's original buyer, you can be denied admission, or staffers may ask to see ID. It's also difficult to verify if a black market pass will deliver as promised: A pass may have only one day (or no days) left on it, and you could have bought it believing it was valid for four days. And since the operations buying and reselling tickets are illegal, you don't have much legal recourse trying to get your money back. To avoid the stress, not to mention the possibility of getting ripped off, try saving money by using the many tips provided in the Disney stories linked to below. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: The Completely Obsessive, Absolutely Indispensable Guide to Disney World Confessions of a Disney Cast Member Trip Coach: Walt Disney World
How much would you pay to have Mickey take your family on vacation?
Adventures by Disney, the Mouse's escorted tour brand, has eliminated its lower-priced Gateway Collection for 2012. The Gateway Collection was launched last year as a handful of itineraries priced between 15 and 30 percent below regular Adventures by Disney tours, with more free time built in. But apparently, families are willing to pay, and get, a little more to travel the world the Disney way. The Gateway Collection "probably created more confusion than it did good," said Josh D'Amaro, vice president of Adventures by Disney. Indeed, the Gateway tours were one of three options offered by Adventures by Disney, which in addition to its standard tours also sells a Signature Collection of tours, departures that are upgraded with more luxurious accommodations, gifts, special evening entertainment and spa treatments. For next year, there will be only one Signature itinerary to Italy and the rest will be standard Adventures by Disney tours. But without the lower cost Gateway Collection, the question is, how much of a premium are families willing to pay to have one of the world's most recognized brands take them on vacation? Well, first off children under the age of 12 do pay slightly less. So, for instance, Adventures by Disney's 10-day Egypt vacation ranges from between $5,699 and $7,079 per adult, and between $5,409 and $6,739 per child. The nine-day Peru vacation ranges from $3,079 and $3,729 per adult, and between $2,929 and $3,549 per child. To take your family on an eight-day Grand Canyon tour with your family will cost from $3,029 to $3,719 for adults, and from $2,879 to $3,529 for children. For comparison, Trafalgar's 11-day Enchanting Canyonlands Family Experience tour for 2012 ranges from $2,429 to $2,479 per person. The itineraries are different in length and scope, so it's not fair to directly compare the two, but this is just to get a sense of Adventures by Disney's pricing. Scott Liljenquist, co-owner of Draper, Utah-based Mouseketrips, a Disney travel specialist, said that the Adventures by Disney tours, unlike the more accessible theme parks, are "definitely a premium, high-end product." But, he noted, families book the trips because of the strength of the Disney brand and because they have a sense that "everything will be taken care of" while they're on their trip. Is that the Disney difference? Would you trust Disney to take your family on vacation? Let us know. As for 2012 destinations, Adventures by Disney is also adding to its lineup a 10-day Greek Odyssey itinerary that includes Athens, Santorini and Crete, and an eight-day Esprit de France itinerary with stops in Paris, Normandy and the Loire Valley. More from Budget Travel: Cruise news: Disney Cruise Line expands into NYC Reserve Disney rides before ever leaving home? The Completely Obsessive Absolutely Indispensable Guide to Disney World
Disney is bringing Avatar to life in its parks
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is teaming up with James Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment to create theme park attractions based on the blockbuster film Avatar, a move seen by many as Disney's answer to Universal Orlando's popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened last summer. Disney is partnering with Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau to create Avatar-themed lands, with the construction of the first such land expected to begin by 2013 within the Animal Kingdom park at Walt Disney World in Florida. Robb Alvey of Themeparkreview.com noted that the Avatar land could give a much-needed boost to the Animal Kingdom park — the sci-fi action film generated $2.8 billion at the worldwide box office when it was released in 2009 and it has two sequels that will bow in 2014 and 2015. But, he said, "Harry Potter was a proven reliable film franchise. Avatar's had one film…What if the next two films come out and they just don't do well? That would be my biggest concern." That said, "If those next two movies do just as good as the first one, then Disney made their best decision since Star Wars and Indiana Jones," said Alvey. "But it's definitely more of a gamble." Indeed, aside from those two previous exceptions, Disney doesn't generally create attractions based on films it doesn't fully own. The agreement with Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment gives Disney exclusive global theme park rights to the Avatar franchise and allows Disney to build additional Avatar themed lands at other Disney parks. Alvey said he expects the new land to feature at least one major attraction, "something that will blow people away," in addition to one or two more minor attractions and a themed restaurant. "The images and visuals in that film are stunning. The land will have to match those visuals … I would definitely expect something cutting edge," said Alvey. Cameron, Landau and the Lightstorm Entertainment group will serve as creative consultants on the projects, partnering with the Walt Disney Imagineering team in the design and development of the Avatar lands. "Avatar created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we'll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before," Cameron said in a statement. "Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and give park goers the chance to see, hear, and touch the world of Avatar with an unprecedented sense of reality." More from Budget Travel: Walt Disney World's 'largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history' is in the works Reserve Disney rides before ever leaving home? Photos: The Indispensable Guide to Disney World