These Disney World Perks Used to Be Free, Here’s What They Cost Today

It is no secret that the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation is higher than ever, with the latest price increases affecting everything from character dining experiences to Disney Genie+, and so much more.

At the same time, reports estimate that the Resort’s attendance has fallen behind Universal Orlando (with the exception of Magic Kingdom Park), but this could be due to the company’s initiatives of capping attendance while offering a better (and more expensive) experience to fewer Guests who are willing to pay.

Characters / Cinderella Castle - 50th Anniversary

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (Credit: Disney)

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Of course, many Disney fans are feeling the fatigue from price increases and the concern that the middle class has effectively been priced out of a Walt Disney World vacation. And whether or not you agree with this sentiment entirely, it is difficult to argue with the numbers when we calculated what the current cost is for Disney experiences that used to be free….

To keep everything consistent, we compared costs across the board assuming a four-day trip to Walt Disney World for two adults and two children (ages 3-9, but we’ll assume they are tall enough for all attractions).

Credit: Disney


When FastPass made its official debut in 1999, one of the major perks of the service was that it was complimentary (or rather, included in the price of your theme park ticket.) While the program changed significantly with the introduction of FastPass+ in 2013, and even with some Guests feeling that they were able to get less out of the then-new system than the original paper FastPasses, it remained free to use.

FastPasses were made temporarily unavailable when the Walt Disney World Resort reopened during the pandemic. With capacity limits and staffing shortages at the time, not offering FastPass made sense, as lines were short and the system was not needed like it was prior to the closure. In October 2021, however, the change that many Guests had been fearing for years finally took place when Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes were launched, officially replacing the free FastPass system.

Our fictional family of four would spend $240-400 for Genie+, plus $244-272 for one ride on each attraction currently listed as an Individual Lightning Lane purchase, based on new variable pricing we’ve seen so far. In total, they would spend $484-672 for Disney Genie+/Individual Lightning Lanes, vs. $0 for FastPass+.


Credit: Disney

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MagicBands (with Resort reservation)

When MagicBands debuted in 2014, one of the most exciting perks of the new Disney Parks accessory was that Guests staying at Disney Resorts would receive complimentary Bands. Guests were able to request the color of their standard MagicBand through My Disney Experience to have their bands arrive at their home before they departed for their trip (it was important to get them at home since they would be used to check in for Disney’s Magical Express, but we’ll cover that in a bit.)

Disney eventually introduced the option for Guests to order specialty MagicBands themed to various Park attractions, characters, and more for an added cost, alongside the same (free) solid-colored bands. In 2021, the company announced the end of complimentary MagicBands for Guests with Resort reservations. Today MagicBands for our family of four would cost roughly $80 for select versions of the standard MagicBand to $184 for select designs of MagicBand+. (There are some designer and limited-edition Bands that would exceed these costs, but pricing varies and we do not believe most Guests are buying those for their whole family, so we’ll stop at $45.99 for our hypothetical family.)


Credit: Disney Tips

Disney’s Magical Express

One major loss in terms of complimentary services in recent years was Disney’s Magical Express, which was discontinued at the beginning of 2022. In the past, the service (which was operated by Mears in collaboration with Disney) offered free motorcoach transportation between the Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World Resort hotels.

Mears Connect is the ‘official’ replacement for Disney’s Magical Express, as it is the same product run by the same company. This service (with stops at other Resorts, similar to the previous system) would cost our family $118 roundtrip. The Sunshine Flyer, which offers similar motorcoach transport in a much more themed experience would come in at $104 for round-trip tickets for our family of four.


Credit: Disney

Resort Parking

If our family were to take their own car (or rent a car) to visit Walt Disney World, they would be met with parking fees at their Resort. To make things complicated, parking costs vary by Resort type, at $15 per night for Value Resorts, $20 per night for Moderate Resorts, and $25 per night for Deluxe Resorts.

These parking fees only apply to overnight Guests, so if you park at a different Resort just to do some shopping or grab lunch or dinner, you would not need to pay. Assuming our family of four is spending four nights in a Disney Resort, however, their parking costs would range from $60-100.


Credit: Disney

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PhotoPass Downloads (for Annual Passholders)

Last fall, Disney removed a major perk for new Annual Passholders: Complimentary PhotoPass downloads. In years past, Guests with Annual Passes were able to download all PhotoPass pictures from their My Disney Experience account at no added cost, however, in 2021 this service became an add-on priced at $99 per pass.

If your family happens to have Annual Passes, you would want only to purchase one of these add-ons as photos will be shared between linked accounts so the entire family doesn’t need to purchase them. Disney’s website is sneaky, though. If you select the PhotoPass option when purchasing a pass, it will apply to all of the passes in your cart with no option to select just one. To get around this, be sure to purchase one pass in a separate transaction (if you are able to purchase an Annual Pass that is, as most sales of new passes are still paused.)

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“Plastic Cheese” & Toppings Bars

Disney’s hot “plastic cheese” sauce is more delicious than you might expect, and it could also cost more than you might think. This point may seem petty in comparison to everything else on this list, but these little costs do add up!

Years ago, hot cheese sauce was available in a complimentary self-service area at several Walt Disney World quick-service restaurants. Following an incident where a child burned themselves while pouring sauce, Disney moved the popular topping behind the counter where it now costs $1. We’ll say our family of four spent $4 total on cheese sauce during their trip between corn dog nuggets from Casey’s Corner and cheese to go with a Mickey pretzel. (As an aside, if you order a Mickey pretzel and are near a restaurant that has hot cheese sauce, it is worth the walk, wait, and price to stop for hot cheese sauce rather than the pre-packed cheese at Disney pretzel carts.)

Toppings bars may be more of a pandemic removal than a price-gouging measure, but the reality is Guests used to find complimentary toppings for burgers and sandwiches in multiple quick-service restaurants. Of course, some Guests did take advantage of this and use the toppings bar to create free salads, but others just appreciated the ability to finish off their sandwich exactly how they like it.

Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn & Cafe in the Magic Kingdom used to be home to what was perhaps Disney’s most well-known toppings bar as it included all the traditional fixings plus salsa and guacamole, all included with the cost of your meal. Across Walt Disney World, toppings can be added to your order by Cast Members behind the counter while the self-serve areas remain unavailable, but guacamole will cost you $2. For argument’s sake, we’ll say our family of four paid for one side of guacamole during their trip.

Extra Magic Hours

Our final item is a tricky one because it doesn’t really have a clear alternative. It could, however, prompt Guests to opt for more expensive accommodations.

In the before times, Extra Magic Hours allowed Disney Resort Guests to enter the Parks one hour earlier and stay after close up to three hours later (with parks and hours varying by day of the week and the time of year). Now, all Disney Resort Guests can enter the theme parks a half hour early each morning, but only Guests staying at Deluxe Resorts can stay an additional two offers after closing (on select dates).

On top of the Extended Evening Theme Park Hours benefit, Guests staying at Deluxe Resorts will have an additional opportunity to join the virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind after 6:00 p.m. on dates that the Park has extended evening hours. This means Guests who opt to stay at a Deluxe Resort get two extra hours in the Park, and can (at least in theory) ride EPCOT’s newest attraction three times (assuming they successfully use the virtual queue and an Individual Lightning Lane earlier in the day, along with re-joining the virtual queue later.)

It is difficult to put a number on how much more this would cost our fictional family if they opted for a Deluxe Resort instead, so we won’t include it in our final tally, but it is certainly a possibility that a family who normally stays at a Moderate Resort would move up to a Deluxe for the extra perks.

The Grand Total

According to our calculations, our family of four is now spending $673-961 depending on the date with variable pricing for Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, which MagicBands and airport ground transportation they go with (or if they drive themselves and pay for parking). Add an extra $99 if they have Annual Passes and add on PhotoPass downloads for one pass. Ouch.

What do you think? Is it still worth it to add-in these extra costs to your trip, or are you changing the way you do Walt Disney World (or going somewhere else entirely)?

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."