Disneyland Magic Keys: Are they worth it?
If you’re a current Magic Keyholder or are thinking of becoming one, you’ve no doubt seen the drama about Magic Keys, both during their initial launch and their recent renewal snafus. And the main question on everyone’s mind is: are they worth it?
Some have decided that no, they’re not. The Disney magic is lost and the keys are simply too expensive for what they are. Others have decided that Disneyland is their happy place and nothing’s going to stop them, so yes they are. I, as a super frugal-minded person, also found myself asking that question when Magic Keys were first introduced in 2021. Not because I considered not getting a key, but because I really wanted to know: are they really worth the price you pay, after considering all the money you spend on merchandise, food, and experiences as a result of having your key? Or are you simply tricked into spending even more money than you otherwise would have because the key makes you think you’re saving money when really you’re not? I was also largely impacted by the reactions I often get from non-Disney-obsessed friends and family whose eyes widen as soon as I tell them how much my key costs. “You would spend $1000+ to go to Disneyland??” Was I really as foolish as they were implying I was? Or was I actually making a smart move? (all things considered. The smart move financially would probably be to not go to Disneyland at all…)
So, starting August 25, 2021, the day Magic Keys were first sold, and the day my partner and I activated our keys, I started keeping track of all of our Disneyland-related expenses for the full span of the keys’ lifetime (365 days). I wanted to see, given all of the purchases made as a result of having a Disneyland Magic Key, what did my costs add up to after a year, and how much savings did I really get?
My partner and I almost always visit the parks together and share a lot of the food we purchase, so because our purchases are pretty much intertwined all of the data considers both of the keys. We (I) have on occasion visited the parks separately so those are also considered.
The main categories that I wanted to track were Parking, Tickets, Experiences, Food, and Souvenirs.
Parking is always a big point of discussion for me because historically only the highest tier key has come with parking included in the cost of the key (there are now varying discounts on lower-tier keys where the highest tier comes with parking fully included). Many people debate whether the parking makes the cost worth it, and I fully believed that it would, so I wanted to confirm that by tracking it specifically this past year.
To track the cost of tickets, I checked the price for a park-hopper for each of the days we were visiting and considered that value the cost of admission for each visit.
Experiences are any “event” type activities that aren’t part of the other categories - in this case this encompasses my stay at the Disneyland Hotel for my birthday.
Food and souvenirs are pretty self-explanatory. These categories are where I predicted we would see the least amount of savings because not everything in these categories are eligible for discounts (specifically the food).
One year and 47 park visits later, and the results are in! In total, we were able to save over $20,000 in potential costs!
As expected, in the Tickets category we saved 100% of the costs. 47 park-hoppers for two people (most of the time) adds up to over $18,000 alone! We also saved 100% of the parking costs when we parked at Mickey & Friends during our park visits. The only exception to this was the parking expense from our stay at Disneyland Hotel. Because we needed an overnight stay, we paid for the parking at the hotel rather than using Mickey & Friends, which cost $35 for self-parking.
We were able to save almost 30% on our hotel stay by choosing dates where Magic Keyholders received a discount! Whenever possible, keep on the lookout for these discount dates, especially if your trip dates are flexible! We were able to get a club-level stay for the same cost as a standard stay on typical days, and let me tell you, that was so worth it.
As I had predicted, we saw the least amount of savings in Food, saving only 10% of our total expenses. Most of the time when we visit the parks, we get snacks like churros, beignets, cookie num nums, etc., and most of those aren’t eligible for Magic Key discounts. I could definitely see someone who eats at restaurants more regularly seeing lots of great savings in this area though! But by and large, I think this would be pretty typical for other park visitors as well since the snacks are such a popular go-to!
For souvenirs, like gifts, clothing, and so on, we saved in total around 18.8% of our expenses. This is pretty on-track with the Dream Key merchandise discount of 20% (the slight difference in percentage is due to sales tax).
So, for a grand total expense of $4954.46, we ended up saving $20,251.94! That means we only actually spent 25% of what we would have otherwise spent if we didn’t have our Keys.
The other aspect I wanted to discover using data was how many trips I needed to take to make the key “worth it,” a discussion so many of us have when we’re debating whether or not we should buy a key or what tier we should get. In 2021, the Dream Keys cost $1,399 each as an upfront cost, resulting in a $2,798 deficit on Day 1. With every visit, the deficit decreases, making the key “more worth it” the more you visit. So at what point did we finally make up for the initial cost of the key? This would, of course, differ for everyone depending on how much you would additionally spend per visit, but since we are considerably frugal, we made up the cost of our key in 8 visits! So the remaining 39 visits were just icing on the Mickey-shaped cake!
My number one favorite perk of having a key, specifically the Dream Key, is the parking! When we first got our key in August 2021, parking was $25. By November, parking had risen to $30. While other people were affected by this price increase, Dream Key holders were not, making the key even more valuable. I also really liked being able to use it whenever I wanted to visit even Downtown Disney when I didn’t have a park reservation. That made it super convenient!
Of course I also really enjoyed all the additional discounts on food and merchandise. While I didn’t get to use this perk quite as much, it’s definitely nice to have!
Now that our Dream Keys have expired, we upgraded to the new Inspire Keys ($1599 each), which has replaced the Dream Key. This continues to be the only tier that comes with parking fully included, but the other tiers now have discounts also!
With the new keys introduced in 2022, there’s also going to be the additional benefit of Photopass re-included (something they removed from the old annual passes) and a discount on Genie+; of course this also contributed to the increase in Magic Key prices.
Given that I’ve gone the entire year without using either Photopass or Genie+ I’m not sure how much use I’ll get out of these, but now that Photopass is back, I’ll definitely make use of that throughout my visits. And now that there’s a discount, I may consider giving Genie+ a try also!
If you’re on the fence about getting or renewing a Magic Key, or if you doubted whether or not it could really save you money, I hope this information could be of use to you! I wanted to use this opportunity to give you an idea of how much money you could save with a Magic Key, and how often you’d have to use it to really extract all the value you can out of them! As prices continue to increase, I’ll continue keeping a pulse on the value a Key can provide and how it compares to years prior. Hopefully we get some pretty interesting longitudinal data that’ll be fun to analyze!
Did you enjoy seeing this data and analysis? If you did, let me know!