The cost of living it up in Disneyland

Photo by Brian McGowan

Returning to normality this year has meant overspending on things. Whatever it takes for a post-pandemic moment of joy, right? 

Barista made coffee, multiple streaming services and far-off holidays are things we seem happy to fork out for now, no matter the inflationary price hike.

So my biggest splash was a recent trip to the happiest place on earth, Disneyland, where even the always optimistic Mickey Mouse must be wondering if he can still afford those silky white gloves.

Disneyland is one of those bucket list activities for a lot of families, no matter the effort battling overzealous crowds, the intensity of California heatwaves or indeed the very high price to enter the park (a two-day park hopper for an adult equates to about $550 Aussie dollars right now!). Some things are just worth a little more. 

However, I will say on this most recent stroll down sunny Main Street, I was taken aback that our cost of living woes have somehow seeped into Fantasia, where not even a suspension of disbelief could make a plush Sorcerer Mickey toy feel like value for money. 

Now you don’t pay for a lot of things inside the Disney park as many readers would know, but you do pay with waiting-in-line currency, and that idle time might feel more costly in 2022 considering the current gate fee. So, each second in the seat of a ride truly represents a definitive spike in your joy, the thrill of rapid jolting notwithstanding. 

On top of this, most of the park’s food and drinks are now a little steeper than a trip down Splash Mountain, with a small soup and sandwich going for about US$14. That'd be a high price in Sydney, let alone in the US where these sorts of lunchtime basics typically cost peanuts. On that note, I actually purchased a bag of peanuts at a baseball game for about US$8 too, but that outing is for another day. 

Back to the theme park, where in Disney's other play area, California Adventure Park, cold beer is poured for about US$10 a mug. I've been outraged by this sort of pricepoint at beergardens along Sydney’s George Street, but in LA, where a huge population tends to drag costs down into fairer territory, I really felt some Donald Duck level rage brewing. 

Seasoned travellers will say these are tourist prices, what do you expect? Well, I didn't expect to pay $9.99 for a small plastic Mickey keyring inside the Disney store, nor did I think a vanilla shake in Downtown Disney would set me back $12. And yet, there I was, a dreamy adventurer in an ill-fitted hat wondering what spell might undo this predicament.

The higher cost of living is continually hard to avoid and as tourists we're bound to overpay for the privilege of a fun activity. So I get that all this really shouldn't be cause for complaint. But then again, making travel affordable seems like a fair trade off in the newly sanitised world, especially given that we’re forking out for everything else!

I guess we should just be happy that tourism is back, that we can still take time out from reality with some lightheartedness - even if the pockets of our oversized red shorts feel somewhat empty.

Is there any lesson here? Well, back home I was glad most of my bank statements were spared hefty ATM and foreign exchange fees because I planned ahead. So if you do have travel plans on the horizon, it’s a good idea to shop around on your travel money options and keep costs down.