I never went to Disneyland in California (the happiest place on Earth) but I’ve been to Disney World in Florida twice (the most magical place on Earth).

What struck me after having gone to Disney World as a kid then returning 30 years later as an adult bringing my own children was how it hadn’t seemed to change a bit. From Cinderella’s castle to the “downtown” to the facades of the stores and rides, everything was identical to my memory.

What has changed is the cost. You might as well call it “the priciest place on Earth” these days. A survey by LendingTree just came out that shows many parents are going into serious debt just to make their kids happy.

45% in fact.

In a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers, 45% of people with children under 18 had to go into debt for their Disney stay. Among all park attendees, children and no children, 24% are going into debt. That’s a 33% increase in just two years.

What’s mostly driving it?

Obviously, ultimately, it’s all of it. 65% though cite the cost of food and beverage as particularly difficult to handle. 48% said transportation costs took them by surprise. 47% said accommodations were causing debt.

The average amount of debt parents are going into is $1,983.

I was talking with a co-worker who said she just paid $1,400 for an annual pass for her 3-year-old child, which she described as “insane.” She said that gained entrance to all four parks for a whole year and gave a 10% discount on dining and merchandise. Still, for her the only reason that much money makes sense is her and her husband go three weeks a year.

“For so many parents, taking their kids to Disney is a rite of passage, something they remember fondly from their youth and want to experience with their kids,” LendingTree’s chief credit analyst Matt Schulz recognizes in a statement. “Because of those feelings, they’re often willing to take on debt to get there.”

Does Shultz offer any advice for cash-strapped parents on how to make things cheaper? “One of the best ways to cut costs is to bring your own food and nonalcoholic drinks to the park,” he said. “There are limits as to what you can bring, but packing snacks and refillable water bottles, for example, can make a real difference in the overall cost of your Disney experience.”

Sure, yet it doesn’t feel quite like a vacation then.

If there’s any good news in all this it’s the fact that among those who had to go into debt due the Disney experience 59% say they have no regrets.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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