What's out: Disney World. What's in: Public parks.


Disney World (and I can't believe I'm writing this) was once the ultimate family destination for many of my friends. I can specifically enumerate examples of friends for whom a Disney World vacation was such an important life event, they planned future childbearing and other major personal decisions around the family trip -- and, what's more, planned the trip more than a year in advance. Disney World has been, for many families, truly a signal that they've arrived as consumers of American culture.

For this year already, 10% fewer families have arrived. Disney earnings, released a few weeks ago, indicated that visits to its iconic amusement parks were down 10% this year. And, indeed, the stock has been depressed as investors expect "Armageddon at the parks." The fact is that families strapped for cash to heat their homes and buy groceries are probably going to avoid the indulgent and expensive family vacations. The coming credit card meltdown is sure to put a dent in families' ability to use credit card points for "Disney Rewards," as well as reducing the main way many people finance their magical vacations. And these days? Conspicuous consumption is over; and enjoying your family is coming back.

If Disney World is out, public parks are in.