The Disney World Annual Pass is a widely discussed topic among Disney fans and planners alike. The AP (as it’s often called) offers one full calendar year’s worth of entry to the Walt Disney World Theme Parks along with a variety of other in-park discounts and perks.
There are a couple of ticket options when purchasing an Annual Pass. The Platinum Pass, which gets you in to all four theme parks with no blackout dates or the Platinum Plus Pass, which gets you in to all four theme parks plus the two water parks, Disney’s Wide World of Sports and Oak Trail Golf Course. However with a price tag of $749 and $829 respectively, those interested in purchasing can’t help but wonder, “Is it really worth it?”
Let me start by saying that the answer is, it depends. The cost benefit largely depends on how often you visit the parks, with the rule of thumb being, if you spend more than 10 days a year in Disney World, then the Annual Pass is worth it.
With this in mind, there are some other aspects of the Pass to consider when determining if it’s right for you and your family. I’ve found that a breakdown of Disney Annual Pass pros and cons is the best way to make this decision, especially before making any sort of AP purchase.
More Relaxed Mentality
As I mentioned before, the main contributing factor to determining if the AP will be worth your money is if you plan to visit the parks more than 10 days out of the year. If you are planning to do this, chances are you will have plenty of time to do and see everything you want throughout the property.
This is one of the great perks to the Annual Pass. When you have the opportunity to visit so often, it takes away the urgency and some of the pressure to ride every ride and see every show, allowing you to have a much more relaxed vacation.
So if Space Mountain is completely packed or Frozen Ever After is back up to a record level 300 minute wait – no sweat. You know that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to return and hit those on another day. The ability to slow down and not worry about the lines or rides allows you to enjoy the parks in a whole new way, and possibly even experience elements of Disney World that you otherwise wouldn’t have time for.
Flexibility To Go When You Want
Along with a relaxed mentality is the ability and flexibility to travel to Disney World whenever you want. Of course, this is much easier for Florida residents, but if you live in the region or perhaps find that you have some extra vacation days from work, you could schedule in a quick trip to Disney World since the Pass is already taken care of.
You’ll often hear Florida residents talk about popping into Epcot for dinner or visiting the Magic Kingdom on a slow weekend. This is where the real beauty of the Annual Pass comes in. You can visit on any day you want or maybe take a weekend to stay at one of the resorts. Maybe you’d rather sleep in and lounge at the pool in the morning or try a restaurant at a different resort before heading to the parks in the afternoon. You won’t feel like you’re wasting the day or wasting your ticket since you can come and go as you please.
As an Annual Passholder, you’ll receive free parking, which is a savings of $20/day. If you stay at a Disney resort, parking is already free, but for those not staying on property the savings can be significant. Consider this – if you stay the minimum 10 days and choose an off-property hotel, that’s a total savings of $200 for the year.
Food and Merchandise Discounts
Many full service restaurants offer Annual Pass discounts, and while not all quick service locations do, it’s always worth asking. Passholders receive a 10-20% discount at select locations. The list of dining discount locations often changes, so be sure to check before you go. You can see a full list of Passholder dining discounts here.
Similarly, Passholders receive a 10-20% discount at merchandise locations in Disney Springs, Disney Golf Shops, and at Rainforest Cafe and Yak & Yeti Retail Village in Animal Kingdom.
Hotel and Other Discounts
Disney often offers special discounts on room rates for Passholders, though they vary greatly and are usually only for specific dates and resorts. The offers may or may not fit into your travel plans, and probably shouldn’t be the cornerstone of your decision making when purchasing an Annual Pass. However, the hotel discounts can be plus and I certainly consider them to be a pro. You can view Passholder room discounts here, or contact a Disney operator to see which discounts you are eligible for upon booking.
Annual Passholders also receive discounts on various other services such as Disney spas, golf, fishing, or recreation services. Discounts usually range from 10-15% and can be viewed here.
Water Park, Tour, and Event Discounts
The Annual Pass also includes discounts on certain tour experiences and events. You can receive discounts on day passes for both of Disney’s water parks as well as the AMC Theater in Disney Springs. Select in-park tours as well as Private VIP tours are up to 15% off. Select nights of ticketed events such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are discounted as well.
Tables In Wonderland
Formerly known as the Disney Dining Experience, Tables in Wonderland is a program offered only to Florida residents, Disney Vacation Club Members, and Annual Passholders. It provides a 20% discount at most full-service dining locations, including alcoholic beverages. A Tables in Wonderland membership card is good for parties up to 10 people and has a variety of other perks including complimentary resort parking when dining in a restaurant at that resort, theme park parking after 5:00 p.m. when dining in a restaurant at that park, reimbursement for theme park parking before 5:00 p.m. if you take your parking receipt and Tables in Wonderland card to Guest Services, invitations to special member-only events, free admission to Atlantic Dance Hall on the BoardWalk.
Really the only con is the cost. As I’ve mentioned, it’s worth it if you can make it to Disney World more than 10 days a year, but this comes with its own set of challenges (expenses). If you are a Florida resident, then this makes total sense since over the course of 12 months it should be pretty easy to find 10 days to make it to the parks. Additionally, there are some AP perks specifically for Florida residents.
Florida residents have more options than the standard Platinum and Platinum Plus Passes. You lucky folks have the option to purchase a Gold Pass, which includes all four parks but has some block-out dates (usually major holidays), a Silver Pass, which has more block-out dates (most of June through August), or a Weekday Pass, which has the same block-out dates as the Silver Pass and is only good to use Monday through Friday. You can also buy an Epcot After 4 Pass, which is exactly what it sounds like, and it has no block-out dates. Another nice perk for purchasing a Florida Resident pass is the option to finance the cost over the course of the 12 months.
If you don’t live in Florida, it can be bit more difficult to determine if the Annual Pass makes sense for you. In addition to finding 10 days out of the year to visit Disney, you will also be paying for 10 days’ worth of food, travel, and lodging on top of the cost of your Annual Pass. I know this sounds like a lot, but one of the best strategies for this is to plan to take two trips in the year and make sure they both fall within your Pass’ active dates. In other words, if you purchase your Annual Pass in June, you could take a 5+ day vacation in June of that year and take your next annual trip sometime before that Annual Pass expires, say in late May of the following year. Your overall travel costs will be spread out over (nearly) two years, and you will save money on ticket costs since you are traveling within the time frame of your Annual Pass. Not to mention all the money you’ll save with the AP discounts on both vacations.
Another option for out of town guests is to purchase one Annual Pass for one person in your party, then buy normal tickets for everyone else. The AP discounts of the single Passholder will apply to your entire party, which can give you substantial savings on your trip.
All of the benefits mentioned above are specifically for Walt Disney World Annual Passholders. Disneyland Resort offers a separate set of Annual Passes with their own perks. You can also purchase a Water Parks Annual Pass for entry into the two water parks during normal operating hours. Passes are good for 366 days from the point of activation, and can be renewed up to 60 days before or 30 days after they expire. There is a discount for renewing your pass within this 90 day time frame, however, if you wait past the 30 day expiration mark, you’ll lose the discount. All Passes can be renewed online, at a ticket window only, or by calling 407-560-PASS (407-560-7277).
There are many factors that affect if you will benefit from purchasing an Annual Pass when planning your Disney vacation. Let me know in the comments below some of your best tips or any other AP pros and cons.
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