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45% of parents go into debt to take children to Disney parks, survey finds

Parents of young children reported taking on an average of $1,983 in Disney-related debt.
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Posted at 11:20 AM, Jun 18, 2024

Parents are choosing to go into debt to give their children the Disney experience.

According to a survey of 2,000 people by LendingTree, 45% of parents who have taken their children under the age of 18 to a Disney park have gone into debt.

Those who have gone to a Disney park as adults or with their adult children were apparently far less likely to encounter debt. The survey found that just 16% of adults without children took on debt to go to Disney, and 10% of parents of adult children encountered debt for their Disney trip.

The LendingTree survey said that parents of young children took on an average of $1,983 in Disney-related debt.

Although these trips are costly, 59% of parents said the debt was worth it. Also, 90% said in the survey that it was a "treat."

The survey also indicated that 25% of those asked had not been to a Disney park. Of those who have not been, three out of five said it's too expensive.

Food costs sneak up on families

The LendingTree survey revealed that 65% of those with Disney debt say in-park food and beverages were significantly higher than they budgeted.

A new report from FinanceBuzz indicates that food prices at Walt Disney World have far exceeded inflation. The report found that concessions have gone up 61% in the last 10 years. General inflation, however, has only gone up 32%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, the cost of a low-end ticket has gone up 21% in the last 10 years, while a high-end ticket has surged 91% in the last decade, FinanceBuzz said.

Although food costs might be the one expense many Disney-goers struggle to afford, it is also one that provides some flexibility for travelers, according to LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz.

“One of the best ways to cut costs is to bring your own food and nonalcoholic drinks to the park,” Schulz said in a press release. “There are limits as to what you can bring, but packing snacks and refillable water bottles, for example, can make a real difference in the overall cost of your Disney experience.”

Disney parks allow visitors to bring outside food and nonalcoholic beverage items into the park for self-consumption, "Provided they are not in glass containers and do not require heating, reheating, processing, refrigeration or temperature control and do not have pungent odors."

Other tips for saving on vacation

While admission to theme parks, transportation, accommodations and food could combine for an expensive trip, Schulz said that by prioritizing what is important, it is possible to save.

“What matters most to you on a Disney trip doesn’t matter to someone else,” he said in a press release. “Some may splurge on a hotel and pack lunches. Others may just look for the lowest hotel rate but seek out the best dining. Spend the most on what gives you the most joy, and then be judicious spending elsewhere.”

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