Since Dutch has posted his alternate method of evaluating cost in the World, I thought I should post my findings. Below is the spreadsheet we discussed on last week's show:
Implicit in my analysis is the idea that you go to the World for the theme parks. Sure, there is great dining, pools, golfing, shopping, and so much else in the Disney World resort. But all of those things can be bought much more cheaply at other vacation destinations.
The point is, I approached those other expenses (hotel, flight, rental car, etc.) as sunk costs that you're paying for no matter where you vacation. Park tickets are the unique aspect of a trip to Disney World.
You'll see a lot of what you already know: the per-day cost of park tickets gets cheaper as you purchase more day, and that the hopper option less costly as you purchase more days.
More to the point, though, are the last three columns. Those numbers are the cost of the park ticket per minute of park time. Because the parks each have different operating hours at different times of the year, the unit cost of a park ticket actually goes down as the operating hours of the park get longer (i.e., during the busier seasons).*
So how is this useful? Well, I thought of this as a way to address two questions that keep coming up on MMOM. First, there's the decision of whether to use Disney Transportation, or to rent a car. One argument against the buses is that it takes longer to get from your hotel to a given park (not always necessarily true, but for the sake of argument). Let's say that driving from your hotel room at Port Orleans to Animal Kingdom saves 15 minutes.** At 10 cents per minute with 4 people, that's $6.00 worth of time that you saved by driving. Now let's say you're going to Whispering Canyon Cafe with 4 other people. That's going to be more savings.
Second, there's the decision to stay on property or off. There are plenty of perks of staying on property. Like Extra Magic Hours. When you're staying on property, that could mean as much as an extra 4 hours in a park. At 10 cents a minute for 4 people, that's $96! Not too bad, actually.
Of course, no model (especially one this simple) is perfect. But this is a simple little starting point to a much larger discussion. Let us know what you thing by e-mailing us at email@example.com.
*Of course, busier times also mean longer lines and slow travel within a park. The trick is find a balance between when maximizing available time and minimizing wait. But that's another show.
**Not actual numbers. If you want to try this exercise, go buy yourself the Unofficial Guide.