A lot can change in 50 years! With Disney World celebrating its 50th anniversary, we’ve been feeling nostalgic and looking back at old times, and we’re constantly surprised by just how MUCH is different in the Most Magical Place on Earth these days!
From bygone rides and restaurants to new parks, new hotels, and new attractions, Disney World looks very different than it did in 1971. Oh and let’s not forget the MAJOR change in prices! Some of these “how it started, how it’s goings” might really surprise you!
One of the biggest and most visible changes over the past 50 years in Disney World is the EPIC change in cost. Granted, much of that comes with inevitable inflation, but it’s also the ever-increasing uptick in prices!
Certainly, you get what you pay for though. The increase in cost also comes with major advances in technology since 1971, which means cooler rides, more unique details, and more immersive experiences. For kicks and giggles, let’s look back and compare prices from 1971 to 2021! What a difference 50 years makes!
Cost of Admission
Brace yourself for this shock, because the cost of admission in 1971 was a whopping $3.50 for adults (that’s about $24 today) and just $1 for children (a whole $7 now!).
PLUS, to ride the rides, you needed to purchase a ticket to ride each attraction. Tickets were sold individually or in books (more on this below!). A standard 7 Adventure Book cost $4.50 and came with 7 tickets of varying value. Combined, with inflation today, that would be about $53 bucks for both. That’s still MUCH cheaper than the actual cost of admission today, which is $109 at the CHEAPEST.
Paying For Rides A La Carte
One of the biggest changes since 1971 is how guests PAID for the attractions they wanted to ride.
Back on opening day in Magic Kingdom, visitors had to pay for rides a la carte for additional fees. (Gee! Sounds…kinda…familiar, huh?) Or they could buy Adventure Books, as we mentioned, which bundled tickets with different ride options. In 1971, these were $4.50 for adults, and got you 7 tickets of different levels of rides. Additional tickets cost anywhere from 10 cents to 90 cents for adults. The most popular rides were E-tickets, costing 90 cents.
If we compare that to the most popular rides of today — meaning the ones you now have to pay per person to skip the stand-by queue, that would mean the likes of Rise of the Resistance, which is currently valued at $15 per person. That 90 cents back then would be about $6.50 today. Uhh…try doubling that and you’ll be closer to the current price!
One of the most obvious ways that Disney makes more money is via parking fees, which have also seen a pretty huge change over the last 50 years!
In 1971, the cost for all-day parking was a scant $0.50 cents! Today, the cost for all-day standard parking is $25. Oof! You could have parked for 50 DAYS straight at the ’71 rate before you’d hit ONE day today!
Wondering how much it cost to spend the night in Disney World back in 1971?
To give you an idea, let’s look at one of the three resort options at the time (Contemporary and Polynesian Village opened with Disney World on opening day. Fort Wilderness opened shortly after!). Room rates at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in 1971 were between $28-44 per night.
Today, room rates at the same hotel usually START at $600 and go up from there!
Though restaurants have changed dramatically since 1971 in Disney World, let’s pop open the time capsule and look at one of the OG Magic Kingdom restaurants to compare menu prices to today.
One of the opening day restaurants was Town Square Cafe, which has since been rebranded as Tony’s Town Square. In 1971, the cost for basic drinks like milk, coffee, hot tea, soft drinks, or iced tea was just $0.15-0.35 cents! Today, those same bevs go for $2.59-4.79!
For appetizers, bygone starters like chicken soup and seafood cocktail went for a mere $0.50-1.25, whereas today’s appetizers like Seasonal Soup, Fried Mozzarella, and Caprese Salad will cost you more like $9-12.
On the salad section, 1971 items like Seafood Louie and Chicken Salad Theodore cost $2.50-2.75, which has since skyrocketed to $12-18 for Caesar Salad or an Appetizer Garden Salad. Among the entrees, former options like Wieners a la Oscar (what is this!), Chopped Steak, and Crepes Jambalaya ranged from $1.15 to $2.60. Today, however, plates like Pizza Pie, Spaghetti, and Chicken Parmigiana will set you back $19-34!
Time for dessert! If you were ordering Bananas Foster or Cheesecake in 1971, it would have cost you $0.50-60 cents, but if you’re opting for Gelato, Italian Strawberry Shortcake, or Tiramisu today, it’ll be $7-9.
So overall, a comparable meal in 1971 could have cost you $7.55 on the absolute HIGH end (about $50 bucks with inflation today), while a similar feast in 2021 would go for the CONSIDERABLY more expensive fee of $77.79!
Got some downtime at your Disney resort? Back in the day, if you were looking to hone your inner Merida at the Fort Wilderness archery range, it would have cost $1 for 60 arrows.
Today? More like a base fee of $45.
If golf is more your speed, the green fee in 1971 was $10, while today’s green fee ranges from $29-35, which actually doesn’t seem THAT bad compared to the other price changes!
One huge component of a Disney World vacation, of course, starts and ends with airfare. Just like Disney World, the airline industry has changed pretty significantly over the past 50 years — and by “changed,” we mean “got more expensive.”
The average domestic airline fare in 1971 was $46.87, which adjusted for inflation would be about $310 today.
Today, the cost of a flight varies wildly, but you’d be lucky to snag airfare to Orlando for under $200, with prices increasing as high as $500-plus! Though about 300 bucks seems pretty on-par with what we’d expect today.
A Week in Disney in 1971 vs. A Week in Disney in 2021
Factoring in ALL this data and ALL these major price changes, let’s look at what a week’s vacation in 1971 would have cost compared to a week’s vacation today!
Assuming you were paying for parking and partaking in recreational activities and staying on-property, the cost for a Disney-tastic seven-day trip in 1971 could have cost $24.50 for admission, plus $40.25 for Adventure Books.
Parking would have been $3.50 for the week, and seven days at Disney’s Contemporary Resort could have been about $280.
Assuming you were enjoying a couple full meals a day in Disney World (we’re averaging here with those menu prices we do know!), that could have tallied up to around $105 for the week.
You probably only need a round or two of golf and/or archery, (sub in another recreational activity today if that’s not your jam!) so that would have been just $11, and then airfare to experience it all would be $46.87, adding up to a grand vacation total of $511.12! Not too bad, right?!
Not when you compare those same experiences to 2021! Assuming you’re not doing any Park Hopper or water park upgrades, that’ll cost you about $68 per day (the more days you stay, the lower the daily rate goes), for a total of $476.
Parking would set you back $175, and a room at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for a week could be as staggering as $5,465.25 on the LOW end!
If you were dining out at the same rate, that could be around $544.53!
For a little recreation, that could add on $80 or so, and then tack on $200 for airfare if you’re LUCKY.
So…the grand total for a week-long (and admittedly lavish) Disney World vacation in 2021 would be more like $6,940.78. That’s QUITE a far cry from the $511.12 we’d be spending 50 years ago! And this is just for ONE PERSON! If we look at inflation, that $511 would be the equivalent of about $3,388 today. So how much has the cost to visit Disney World increased overall?? Well, if that full sample trip is any indication, on top of inflation, Disney has about doubled the cost to visit the Most Magical Place on Earth over the last 50 years. Wow!
As you can see, a LOT has changed since 1971, which has us wistful for olden day prices…and suddenly craving what Wieners a la Oscar is! Thanks to Orlando Sentinal for their article with lots of the 1971 price info we shared here! Stay tuned for all the latest and greatest Disney World news!
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How expensive do you think Disney World will be in another 50 years? Let us know in the comments!