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There's a new way to shave travel costs if you're heading toDisney's (NYSE: DIS)Florida theme parks in the coming months. The family entertainment giant rolled out the 4-Park Magic Ticket earlier this week, giving visitors access to four days at Disney World for less than current multiday offerings for non-Florida residents.
The tickets may not seem cheap at first. Shelling out $279 may seem like a lot. However, it's a 14% discount to the regular four-day ticket that starts at $325. Both of the options allow access to just one park per day, though Disney does offer pricier "park hopper" tickets that include access to several parks in the same day. The passes expire within 14 days of when they are first used, something that typically isn't a problem for out-of-towners coming down for a week or so.
There are two big differences between the $279 4-Park Magic Ticket and the regular $325 four-day pass. Disney wouldn't mark its tickets down if there weren't some hoops to jump through. One big distinction is that the 4-Park Magic Ticket has blackout date restrictions. They are not valid during a 17-day stretch of the Christmas and New Year holiday season or a 12-day block in mid-April when schools typically let out for spring break. The new pass also expires on May 26 of next year.
However, the biggest difference between the 4-Park Magic Ticket and the conventional four-day ticket that costs $56 more is that the four days must be used in each of the four theme parks. You can't double up on Magic Kingdom. You can't avoid the construction zone that Disney's Hollywood Studios has become. It's brilliant that way. It's a Disney World sampler platter.
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Florida residents already have an even cheaper four-day ticket with a wider usage window, but it has far more restrictive blackout periods. The 4-Park Magic Ticket is going to appeal to those living outside of Florida looking to shave costs on what's already a pretty pricey vacation.
The ticket should also help spread crowds around. Limiting the ticket to a single day at the Magic Kingdom -- the world's most visited park with 20.5 million visitors last year according to Themed Entertainment Association -- is a shrewd call. None of Disney World's three other parks attract more than 12 million annual guests.
The new pass should also help guests explore parks that they have typically avoided. Those that have wrongfully dismissed Disney's Animal Kingdom as a glorified zoo or those waiting until next summer to visit when the Pandora: The World of Avatar expansion and Rivers of Light nighttime show are open won't have an excuse. Disney's Hollywood Studios may be an incomplete park until Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land open in a couple of years, but there's still some charm in the remaining pieces.
There's always a grander purpose to the rare Disney World discounts and not-so-rare admission hikes. The shift to increase one-day ticket prices during peak season and boosting rates for annual passes without blackout dates were moves to help smoothen seasonal attendance swings. The 4-Park Magic Ticket is a way to spread crowds across all of its parks, but it also should appeal to deal seekers willing to live with the restrictions to score the discount.
Disney may have gone too far with some of its previous moves, and those initiatives probably played a part in attendance declines at Disney World through the first half of this calendar year. However, with attendance bouncing back during the summer and momentum building again Disney's theme parks are no longer a near-term concern for investors in the media giant.
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