Disneyland is a Waste of Money

Fight me. Change my mind. Go ahead, make my day.

Listen, I get it. Your kids love all things Disney. And why wouldn’t they? Disney, as a megacorp, owns nearly every facet of modern entertainment that you can think of. All of their favorite kid shows, characters, superheroes, and toys are probably based on some form of Disney-ism.

K. loved going to Disneyland for two things: Halloween time, and Christmas time. Mostly the latter. The electric light parade was the highlight of her trip. In the late 2000’s / early 2010’s, we had our annual passes for a few years. We made good use of them. They were a couple hundred bucks back then. We had monthly payment plans and we had a handicap decal to use for parking.

disneyland haunted holiday mansion
I mean, it IS pretty neat, I’ll give you that.

She always had to have three things, and usually in this order: popcorn, a churro, and dole-whip. Sometimes a popcorn refill. These were unique to Disneyland, at the time. I mean the taste of them, not the food item itself. Lord knows they probably added some secret addictive chemicals that nobody could ever trace or prove.

Fast forward a few years to our last trip. Maybe we were growing out of it. Maybe people were getting less friendly. Maybe it was a warmer than usual day. Maybe the treats didn’t quite taste as breathtakingly delicious as we remembered. Maybe it was a combination of all those things. But as we tried to snag a bench seat for the parade — 3 hours before it starts, mind you — and we were assailed by a cranky middle aged woman who insisted that she’d reserved that bench for herself and her rabble… we just kinda looked at each other and realized: We were done.

And we never went back.

disneyland popcorn
Delicous MSG!

Now let’s look at the facts. I’ll use two resources for this break-down: TripSavvy and Costco. A one-day one-park ticket is over $150. So you say to yourself, okay, that’s not what most people are doing, right? Most people make a 2-day event out of it, at least. Fine. A 2-day park-hopper ticket is $280. Wow, not saving much are we? (Sure, you can navigate promo sales and off-days to save a few bucks, but it’s small-potatoes.)

And let’s not forget, if you don’t live locally (because let’s face it, the locals rarely go here anymore, because they realized long ago how much of a colossal rip-off it is), you’re getting a hotel. Good luck finding anything for less than $150/night close enough to make any sense. Or that doesn’t smell like cheap hookers and cheaper booze.

Oh, children are cheaper you say? Not really. For a kid — over 3, of course, because if you’re taking a baby or toddler to DLand, you’ve got bigger problems and god help you — you save maybe $6-7 on a ticket. Wow, and this is supposed to be a theme park built FOR kids and families. And they’re the ones driving the sales of all those crappy plastic souvenirs, at a 90% margin I might add, because they’re all produced by similarly aged child-slave-labor overseas.

disneyland churro
Authentically hand-rolled by Mexicans dressed uncomfortably in hot stuffy uniforms. Instead of your Mexican neighbors, who are actually really friendly and super cool, and you’d be much happier eating with them than the scum of the earth standing behind you in this line.

So let’s talk food again. If you actually plan on having a meal there, you’re already paying at least 25% above standard dining prices of comparable quality. It’s not as bad as freakin sporting events (I’m looking at you, $15 Bud Light at Dodger Stadium), but it’s not nothin. Oh, what about going outside the park to eat? Yeah no, forget about it. By the time you’ve trudged X miles back to your car, navigated the parking maze, and dealt with the always-crappy OC traffic, you’ve spent at least that much in gas and frustration. No, you’re better off just swallowing the in-park mark-up.

Alright, where does that leave us? Let’s say you’re a family of four, with two kids of appropriate age. 4 2-day hopper tickets puts you at about $1100. Hotel, $200. Food, let’s say about $20 per meal per person.. so about $350. Right, we’re up to $1650 before transportation.

Oh wait, PARKING. Duh. Oh this is rich — yet another thing that’s changed since I’ve been there. You now pay by the hour. (ish. I mean it’s a base-price and it’s limited to $65, so it’s not grotesque, but it’s still pretty horrible. You’re literally paying for the privilege of having your car close enough to the park to not die of heat exhaustion or dehydration — or criminal activity, for that matter — on your way to and from it.) So $65 for 2 days is another $130.

Let’s just round that sucker up to $1800 because we can (incidentals, snacks, whatever). Ah! Lest we forget, those crappy plastic souvenirs! How much do you love your kids? Well if you’re already doing this trip, it’s probably pretty significant. So what’s another $200 in treats and toys? Right?

For years they convinced you that this was THE ONLY PLACE IN THE WORLD you could get this crap. That and Hawaii. NOPE again!

We now have a grand total of about $2000. And that’s not including any travel from your home to the park itself! If you’re already here in SoCal, you probably make that kind of drive on a regular basis, no biggie. If you’re a tourist, flying in from somewhere.. well first off, add another hotel night or two, depending on how exhausted and degenerate you want to appear in front of your fellow passengers.. and then the airfare itself of course. So all told that could put you at $3k or more; if you’re coming in from overseas, $5k easily.

And all this for what. Really, what? What is so goddamn special about this place? You go stand in lines for hours to see people in costumes acting like these cartoon characters from a bygone era, or if you’re lucky, a semi-contemporary hero or heroine of modern lore, just so they can take a picture with your brat and send them on their way. And more lines, more hours, to ride all these beat-up broken-down rides that used to be a marvel of modern engineering.

Sure, yeah they’re building and rebuilding and opening lots of cool new attractions. Fine. They’re still nothing special. Hell, Vegas rebuilds entire casinos more often than Disney revamps a ride or pushes out a novel new attraction.

Look, I realize I’m a 35-year-old man. My opinions about these things have changed. I’m obviously no longer a kid, I no longer have that childlike wonder and fascination and excitement for these stories and characters that once defined my formative years. Not arguing that. I’m saying that your kids, the current generation, would simply be better served by something more tangible, more fascinating, and more goddamn reasonably priced.

Think about it. You’re really going to spend what amounts to most people’s monthly paycheck, on a 2 day amusement park trip? Really?!? I guaran-damn-tee you that your kids won’t appreciate it as much as you want them to. And you’ll be freakin miserable, nearly the entire time. Don’t believe me? Ask someone who’s done it. Ask someone who’s seen the dregs of humanity among those not-quite-shining-streets of colorful caricatures and playful pretend-lands. They’ll tell you the same.

sleeping toddler in a stroller at disneyland
Let’s be honest, we’d all prefer to be this guy, not the struggling parents who are running on 3 hours sleep and 3 too many cups of caffeine just to “get through this day”.

If you value your sanity, and your hard-earned money.. Take it elsewhere. Take it to the Discovery Cube in Santa Ana (or similar science museums that exist in most places), where your kids can actually LEARN stuff. Take it to the local fair, where real local people are trying to earn a little cash by selling unique, handmade jewelry or craft-wares or art. Take it and save it for college or trade-school. Take the kids camping, fishing, hiking, rafting, climbing, horseback riding, dirt-biking (when they’re old enough obviously), etc.

Yeah, all that stuff costs money too. But not nearly as much as Disneycrap. And it’ll make a helluva lot better memories.

Maybe I’m biased. Maybe I’m privileged. I mean, we went to Disneyland when I was kid, probably just once. It was probably pretty expensive, for the time. Could I tell you much about it? Nope. I have exponentially better memories from the many years we spent camping together in the woods and mountains of our great state’s national parks.

in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks
Just Google “John Muir quotes”. ❤

Is that my point? Just get outside more? Kinda. I mean it’s certainly better for you. But no, my point is much more pragmatic than that. Economical, even.

My point is that Disney, with the billions and billions of dollars they make from all of their combined corporate conglomerations of capitalism at its worst–

(and don’t start with me on capitalism; I’m not against it fundamentally, but the abuse of it has led to some pretty epically horrific stuff in our time, but again, NOT in the scope of this post.)

–anyway, with what some people have taken to phrasing as that “they have more money than God” (hyperbole for the sake of emphasis) — Disney could literally afford to cut all those prices that we’ve talked about down by tenfold, and still not lose a cent. (Let’s face it, they could afford to make it all FREE, but that’s asking for a logistical nightmare.) Would such extreme price-cuts pose an organizational problem? Sure; obviously, the cheaper it is, the more people would line up to shove their grubby little minions in the gates. That’s perfectly solvable.

But again, why bother? I mean if people were reasonable, rational, mentally stable, level-headed, common-sensed, logically-minded, practical, pragmatic, responsible, financially intelligent, productive members of society… well good lord, we’d be living in a goddamn paradise wouldn’t we? But also, said people would take one look at the economics of a typical DLand vacation and scoff derisively, chortle and eye-roll to the Nth degree, at the sheer absurdity of it all.

Anyway. That’s all I have to say for now. Apologies this went long-winded. It just makes me angry, sometimes, how much stupidity we put up with in our society. And how much abuse of power, privilege, and money, that we just stand idly by and watch, even approve of and participate in.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Marvel movie to watch.

Hey, at least I didn’t pay for it. =P

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