When it comes to planning for Walt Disney World or Disneyland, price increases have become a fact of life for the last decade. That has been exacerbated in the last year-plus, with ticket costs going up twice annually. Adding insult to injury, free FastPass+ was replaced by paid the Genie+ service–and recently switched to date-based pricing, which was another indirect increase.
It’s not just park admission or line-skipping costs. Walt Disney World and Disneyland have raised prices on pretty much everything. To start the new fiscal year in October, everything from Savi’s Workshop for Handbuilt Lightsabers to hundreds of menu items all around the parks & resorts at Walt Disney World went up.
Accordingly, “cheap prices” and “Disney Parks” may not seem like words that go together, but it’s true! This post covers the prices we recently paid for a number of things–including airfare, hotel, food, merchandise, and more–that were lower than what we paid back in 2019…
Before we delve into that, some context is necessary. For one, as much as fans hate to hear it, some of the price increases at Walt Disney World and Disneyland are understandable…at least to an extent. Pent-up demand has continued to fuel consumer spending, attendance has been strong on both coasts, and crowds have yet to abate.
Then there are Disney’s input costs. Inflation is running hot around the globe, with the United States hitting a four-decade high above 8% earlier this year. Wage growth has also been stronger due to the tightness of the labor market, although real wages (adjusted for inflation) have decreased slightly. However, not everywhere is being impacted equally.
Just as certain sectors and products have been disproportionately impacted within the United States–take the cost of bacon, eggs, and airfare, all of which are outpacing overall inflation–so too are Disney theme parks in different countries.
Understandably, one thing Americans who spend their money domestically don’t take into account is the strength of the U.S. dollar. Relative to other currencies, the dollar is incredibly strong–to an almost unprecedented degree. This in large part due to the Federal Reserve’s hawkish monetary policy stance in response to that same skyrocketing inflation.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when contrasting the U.S. dollar to the Japanese yen. In the last few months, the yen has fallen to levels last seen in 1990. Beyond that, the real effective exchange rate of the yen has hit its lowest level in 50 years. This is largely due to the divergent approaches between central banks in the United States and Japan.
When we traveled to Japan last month, the yen was hovering around the 148 level against the U.S. dollar, around a 32-year low. To put this into perspective for those are are unfamiliar with traveling to Japan or foreign currency, a good/normal rule of thumb is a 100:1 exchange rate.
This means that normally, you can simply move the decimal point over two places and have a rough approximation of the conversion rate (e.g. 100 yen = $1.00). More recently, the better rule of thumb is probably 150:1, or 150 yen = $1.00. As of this month, the exchange rate has dropped to the 136 level, which isn’t as good–but still great by modern standards.
On top of that, inflation is not nearly as bad in Japan. Thus far, inflation has topped out around 3.6% in Japan, putting it far below its G7 peers. To put that into perspective, the U.S. has exceeded 8%, Canada 7%, France 6%, Germany 8%, Italy 8.5%, and the United Kingdom 10%. (However, the timelines differ due to divergent monetary policy and fiscal stimulus approaches and it’s possible Japan has yet to peak as a result.)
There are a lot of likely current and historical explanations as to why inflation is lower in Japan, which are quite fascinating. To that point, I’d highly recommend watching this video, which covers why low inflation might sound great, but it’s not all rainbows and sunshine for the people of Japan.
That video is a worthwhile backdrop, and one that should make clear why it’s not fair to compare prices across economies divorced of greater context. Median wages and much more are all essential for understanding the disparity, all of which is beyond the scope of this post. However, none of that is particularly relevant to you as tourist who is simply looking to get the most bang for your buck and visit the #1 and #2 Disney theme parks in the world.
With all of that in mind, let’s look at the lower base prices at Tokyo Disneyland–which are made even more attractive for Americans when factoring in current exchange rates. (Note: this is as of December 13, 2022—we paid even less for the exact same items. If planning a trip for 2023, you might pay more or less still–it mostly depends on the Bank of Japan and U.S. Federal Reserve, so take your complaints up with Jerome Powell or Haruhiko Kuroda if any of this ends up changing.)
One final note before we begin the price rundown is that we are not suggesting that a trip to Japan is “cheap” or even something that anyone can do. These days, a trip to any Disney park is financially out of reach for most of the world’s population (so we should all be thankful 🙂 ). Our only point is that prices at the parks in Japan are cheaper relative to Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
We have pointed out in the past that these international trips don’t have to be as expensive as many people assume they are (see our Tips for Saving Money at Tokyo Disneyland post), and depending upon your party size, a trip to Tokyo may cost about the same or less than a vacation to Walt Disney World. In fairness, this is typically only true for those without multiple children, those who can travel during non-peak times, and live near a major international airport or can save miles for the trip. As with anything, your mileage may vary.
Airfare – Let’s start with getting there. This is actually the least interesting comparison, as airfare between the United States and Japan is roughly unchanged as compared to 2019. I’m including it mostly because flights are frequently viewed as the insurmountable obstacle for visiting Tokyo Disney Resort. If you search from a regional airport in West Virginia on Christmas Eve (returning on New Year’s Eve), you might conclude that all dates from all airports must cost $2,471 roundtrip. Of course, that’s not reflective of average flights costs, just as it wouldn’t be for airfare to Walt Disney World.
Our cost from Los Angeles was around $600 total, flying into Tokyo and out of Osaka. In perusing the calendar for January through October 2023, almost every date offers LAX to Tokyo round trip airfare in the $600 per person range. (I’ve already seen several sales bringing that down to ~$500 RT.) Use Google Flight Search or ITA Software’s flexible calendar feature to determine realistic/reasonable prices from your home airport. At the absolute maximum, the cost should be LAX-TYO + LAX-your home airport.
To be sure, this is definitely more expensive than the vast majority of tourists would pay to get to Walt Disney World. However, we will almost fully close that gap with our next booking…
Monorail Loop Hotel – For years, we’ve recommended visitors on a budget eschew the Disney-branded hotels in favor of the Tokyo Disney Resort Official Hotels that are on-site and offer monorail access to both parks (they’re technically within walking distance, but that’s not recommended). To draw a Walt Disney World comparison, these would be like putting the Swan & Dolphin in the Contemporary’s location.
We have stayed at every single one of these, but favor the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay or the Hilton Tokyo Bay. We usually book the latter since Sarah has Hilton Diamond Status, which gets us free upgrades, breakfast buffet, and concierge lounge access for meals. Even without that, we would say both of these hotels are Deluxe Resorts by Walt Disney World standards–so long as you get updated rooms. (If the two were priced exactly the same, I’d pick Hilton Tokyo Bay over the Contemporary as the superior hotel.)
Rack rates vary tremendously for these hotels, but you can expect to pay 20,000 yen per weeknight at one of the monorail loop hotels. In doing a range of sample searches, I see the Grand Nikko Tokyo Bay Maihama (that’s in the photo above with the monorail in the foreground), Hotel Okura, and other official on-site hotels costing $101-$128/night for many weeknights in early 2023.
Our after tax total for a 5-night stay at Hilton Tokyo Bay was 97,774 yen. That’s currently $723.12, or $144.60 per night.
This actually is not that great of a rate–we’ve paid as little as $99/night in the last 5 years, and $150/night is about average for weeknights. (And that was when the yen was much stronger.) Hotel prices throughout Japan currently seem higher in yen than normal–especially on weekends, which is likely due to delayed pent-up demand and government subsidies for domestic travel.
Park Tickets – As discussed in our Tokyo Disneyland Discount Ticket Tips for 2023, we had a difficult time buying tickets via the official Tokyo Disney Resort website due to 3-D Secure Authentication. Consequently, we highly recommend anyone with U.S. credit cards buy Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea park tickets as far in advance as possible from Klook. Due to the recent “Wakuwari” discount, all dates sold out prior to our visit.
As it turned out, Tokyo Disney Resort ended up releasing more tickets shortly before we arrived and we could’ve purchased them at the front entrance. (Those staying at the Disney-branded hotels can also buy them there.) That’s precisely what we did for our check-in day, buying a same-day Weeknight Passport.
Full single-day park tickets cost 7,900 yen to 9,400 yen for adults. That’s currently $58.43 to $69.52. Tokyo Disney Resort has not yet resumed sales of multi-day tickets or Annual Passes.
Baymax Curry – Served at the Center Street Coffee House, which is a table service restaurant (I’d liken it to the Plaza Restaurant at Walt Disney World–more on the casual side and lower-tier end of the spectrum) in World Bazaar.
The Baymax Curry is described as sweet and mellow butter chicken curry and medium-spicy beef curry with chunks of beef. The heart-shaped potato that Baymax is holding is also cute. (That last sentence is verbatim from the description.) Everyone in our party ordered the Baymax Curry–it tasted as good as it is adorable.
The Baymax Curry costs ¥1,580. That’s currently $11.69.
Christmas Sweaters – As a native Michigander who lived in snowy states for the first 30 years of my life, I have an affinity for sweaters. That stopped making sense a while ago, as they’re less “appropriate” for day-to-day life in Orange County (Florida and California). Nevertheless, I still purchased three Christmas sweaters this year at Tokyo Disney Resort. I would’ve bought a fourth at Super Nintendo World, but it was a ‘simulated’ sweater that was actually a sweatshirt.
The cost of each sweater is ¥5,900. That’s currently $43.64 or approximately half the cost of a Spirit Jersey. (These were each $39 when I bought them, which is why I went wild and got 3 different ones. I kind of regret not also getting the blue version of the castle sweater above.)
Little Green Mochi and Personal Pan Pizza – Pan Galactic Pizza Port is the first pizza restaurant in the solar system, setting up shop as a counter service spot in Tomorrowland at Tokyo Disneyland. Manager Tony Solaroni operates the PZ-5000 fully automatic pizza machine and takes orders.
The sausage personal pan pizza is ¥740 and the little green mochi are ¥400. That’s currently a total of $8.43.
Lil’ Rin Rin Christmas Shoulder Bag – For the last couple of years, Tokyo Disneyland has had a line of holiday merchandise featuring Lil’ Rin Rin, who is named that for the sound of the bell attached to the tip of his pointed hat and looks like a cross between Mickey Mouse and a gnome.
Little else is known about this mischievous character, but he is believed to be a feared troll that roams the Nordic countryside between St. Lucia Day and Christmas. Feared for his (or her) ferocity, Lil’ Rin Rin emerges from his (or her) cave and only spares the households that leave bowls of porridge outdoors to appease the appetite of Lil’ Rin Rin. Japan famously loves devious and dark characters, so I assume Imagineering will confirm this backstory soon.
The Lil’ Rin Rin shoulder bag cost ¥2,900. That’s currently $21.45.
Disney Premier Access – We don’t want to be accused of cherry-picking examples to make our point, so it’s only fair to point out that paid FastPass has spread to Japan, and is available at popular rides and entertainment at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. The best comparison for this is Individual Lightning Lanes, as it’s available on an a la carte basis and costs ¥1,500 or ¥2,000 for each ride, and ¥2,500 for the new “Believe! Sea of Dreams” nighttime spectacular at Tokyo DisneySea.
We did not buy Premier Access for any attractions, instead using early mornings and late nights to knock everything out (including multiple rides on Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast) without much issue. However, we did purchase Premier Access once for “Believe! Sea of Dreams” at a current cost of $36.98 for the two of us.
Putting entertainment behind a paywall has been highly controversial among locals and TDR diehards, and I get that perspective. However, as an infrequent tourist who was dreading having to gamble on the lottery or camp out for hours, I was happy to have this option. I reserve the right to change that opinion if this spreads to other entertainment or sticks around once the ‘new entertainment smell’ wears off the nighttime spectacular at TDS.
Crazy for Curry – We ate curry several times this trip to Tokyo Disney Resort. Another such meal was at Hungry Bear Restaurant in Westernland, which is my favorite spot for curry in either park. I also love the cozy interior, which feels fitting for Christmas and is inviting on a cold night before Dreamlights.
The pork cutlet curry costs ¥1,100 and the chicken curry is ¥900. The Pistachio Cream & Pudding with Souvenir Cup cost ¥900. (We bought every variety of these–not for the dessert, but because the little cup is perfectly-sized for espresso, is dishwasher safe, and surprisingly high-quality.) The total current cost of this all is $21.45.
Crystal Palace Buffet – This grand buffet restaurant with a Victorian-era conservatory design offers a fine selection of delectable dishes. The three-domed glass building is a direct clone of the sit-down buffet restaurant in Magic Kingdom. The key differences are that no Winnie the Pooh characters are present, and the cuisine is better (in our opinion) at Tokyo Disneyland.
In addition to a variety of meats, sushi and seafood, Crystal Palace also has a formidable dessert lineup. The little green mochi are, to borrow a phrase from Joey, where we win our money back.
The Crystal Palace buffet costs 4,500 yen per adult, which is currently $33.28.
Tokyo Disney Resort Hooded Sweatshirt – This is one of my favorite sweatshirts of all time–it’s comfortable and shockingly high-quality for the price, which has always been a bargain. I’ve bought two other versions of it in the past, and opted for the refreshed blue version this time.
This hoodie is 3,800 yen. That’s currently $28.10.
Gaston’s Feast – Since our last trip to Tokyo Disneyland, the park’s large expansion project has finished, with the Beauty and the Beast area (and more) opening. So of course we had to eat everything on the menu at La Taverne de Gaston. Pictured here is the sausage ‘big bite’ croissant, french toast/grilled cheese sandwich, sweet mousse, hunter’s pie, and apple-caramel churro.
Total cost of everything above is 3,200 yen, or $23.67. Next time, I’ll get two of the sandwich and the hunter’s pie instead.
Coffee Mugs – On our flight back from Japan, each of our carry-ons were about 50% mugs and cups. We bought a wide variety of options at Tokyo Disney Resort, Nakano Broadway, Kyoto antique shops, and Starbucks throughout Japan.
As for the mugs above, the two on the left have heat-activated effects and all four have tactile, dimensional designs. All of them are microwave and dishwasher safe.
These 4 mugs were a total of 2,800 yen–currently $20.71.
Suffice to say, it’s a great time for Americans to visit Japan if you want to take advantage of our stronger currency and greater purchasing power. To some extent, that should remain true in 2023, making Tokyo Disney Resort an attractive destination on paper. Of course, this assumes you’re able to score reasonable airfare, are comfortable traveling internationally, and have the desire to visit Japan.
It’s probably obvious to regular readers, but we are huge fans of Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. For years, we’ve been imploring diehard Disney fans to visit these parks, which are our two favorite theme parks in the world. They are a breath of fresh air for Walt Disney World fans who have become disillusioned with price increases and all the nickel & diming. (A few years ago, we wrote “Want to Recapture the Disney Magic? Visit Japan,” which underscores all of this.)
With that said, Tokyo Disney Resort isn’t perfect–especially not right now. Japan is at least a year behind the United States in its reopening process (for lack of a better term). Societal attitudes, expectations, and lingering health safety theater reflects all of this. Plexiglass dividers and face masks are ubiquitous, staffing shortages and venue closures are still common. Entertainment and other offerings are still scaled back at Tokyo Disney Resort, even as government travel subsidies drive demand higher. (In this and other regards, our Christmas 2022 trip felt very much like U.S. travel in Spring 2021.)
Our hope is that a lot of this will be rolled back or otherwise resolved by Spring 2023 when Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th Anniversary kicks off. Realistically, the after-effects will probably linger for several years. Walt Disney World and Disneyland are still in recovery mode, a process that has taken over a full year longer than expected. It could be a similar scenario in Japan–the aging population certainly compounds matters, and immigration is another issue. (To be sure, the United States has a similar dynamic, but we’re a decade or more away from it being as pronounced here as it is in Japan.)
Ultimately, we are very much looking forward to returning to Japan in Spring 2023, and would recommend it to first-timers and repeat visitors alike at that point. Tokyo Disney Resort not firing on all cylinders is still something special, especially at an effective discount due to the weak yen and strong dollar. At Tokyo Disney Resort, you’ll enjoy multiple parades per day (including Dreamlights, Disney’s best night parade by far), seasonal celebrations are included with admission, and prices are less expensive and more fair.
If you’re a Walt Disney World fan who has become disenchanted with the Florida parks, there is no better way to recapture that lost magic than by visiting Tokyo Disney Resort. Seriously. The only downside is that it’ll forever change the way you view every other theme park.
Planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Trip Planning Guide! For more specifics, our TDR Hotel Rankings & Reviews page covers accommodations. Our Restaurant Reviews detail where to dine & snack. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money post. Our What to Pack for Disney post takes a unique look at clever items to take. Venturing elsewhere in Japan? Consult our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan and City Guide to Tokyo, Japan.
Have you visited Japan since the border reopened? What was your experience with the strong dollar and weak yen? Even if you visited pre-closure, what did you feel about the value proposition of Tokyo Disney Resort? Pleased with the bang-for-buck you got out of the trip? Excited to experience Tokyo Disney Resort in the coming years? Are you delaying your first visit to maximize seeing ‘new stuff’ or moving it forward to avoid the crowds? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!