A trip to visit Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang can cost a pretty penny, so much so that some have gone into debt to make the journey.

A study from LendingTree, a financial website, surveyed 1,500 consumers and found that 18% had incurred debt during a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Parents with children younger than 18 are the most likely to take on the extra expense.

So how are people going into debt to visit the magical resort?

Researchers found that in-park dining options and ticket prices were more expensive than people initially thought or budgeted for. From November 2022 to October 2023, the average cost of a one-day, one-park ticket for visitors 10 and older will be $141.74.

However, that number could increase since the Florida-based resort implemented ticket price increases in December. Disneyland also did the same in October.

The Lending Tree study was published in November.

Based on an analysis conducted by Mouse Hacking, a Disney blog, the study also showed that a Disney World vacation for a family of four (including two adults, a child 10 or older, and one child between ages 3 and 9) cost $5,731 — or $287 per person per night — in 2022. 

This hefty price includes the following:

  • Flights
  • Transportation to and from Disney World
  • A five-night stay at Pop Century (a Disney World resort)
  • Five-day tickets without Park Hopper, but with Genie+ — a paid line-skipping service — at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios
  • All meals at roughly the cost of the standard Disney dining plan, which was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic

However, with inflation rates, that same family will spend $6,320 — or $316 per person per night — for the same trip in 2023.

“A Disney trip can be an experience that you and your family remember for the rest of your lives, and those are the types of things people are willing to go into debt for,” said Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst.

While the Lending Tree study found that 71% of those who spent a little too much at the parks don’t regret it — mainly because their debt will be paid off in six months or less — the majority of the 1,927 “self-described Disney World enthusiasts” surveyed by gambling site time2play back in September said the cost is killing the fun.

According to the survey, 68.3% of people said increases made it feel like the theme park has lost all its magic.

Disney enthusiasts polled by time2play also said by a large majority (66.9%) they felt they wouldn’t get a true Disney World experience if they didn’t pay for upgrades like Genie+, which lets users wait in shorter lines for some rides (“Lightning Lanes”). Genie+ is an extra $15 per person each day (though prices may vary), in addition to admission cost. Genie+ service doesn’t come complete with all Lightning Lanes, however. Guests must purchase even more lanes within the Genie app for full lane skipping.

“You shouldn’t take on a debilitating amount of debt, and you shouldn’t do it very often,” Schulz said. “But if you need to take on a few months of debt to afford that once-in-a-lifetime Disney trip, it can be OK.”