On Sunday, Disney fans woke up to the news that Walt Disney World and Disneyland had announced a restructuring of its annual pass programs. Of course, prices have increased, but some of the benefits and the names of the passes have changed as well, which can be a bit confusing. Today, I’m sifting through the details because my family and I renew our Walt Disney World passes next month, so we have to decide which passes make sense for our use in the coming year. Perhaps my comparisons and reasoning will resonate with you, too.
First, know that these changes do not affect the Magic Your Way tickets — single and multi-day — that many visitors purchase. Next, the monthly payment option for annual passes still is only available to Florida residents.
Finally, the discount passholders receive for renewing each year has increased from 10 percent to 15 percent. And a cast member told me that the discount will be applied to passholders who have any pass in the current program and are moving to any pass in the new program. The discount is available 30 days before your pass’s expiration date and 30 days afterward. (If you renew in the 30 days after your expiration date and take the discount, the date stays the same, so it would make sense to renew beforehand. You always have the option to purchase a new annual pass if you miss the renewal window of 60 days but you will not receive the discount.)
My family and I have had Walt Disney World passes for more than a decade, and we have tried different combinations to best suit our needs. Currently, I have a Florida resident annual pass — with no blackout dates and parking included — and my husband and two children (who are considered Disney adults when it comes to pricing) have Florida resident seasonal passes, which have blackout dates at Christmas, Easter and most of the summer and do not include parking. We paid the renewal rate of $478.19 for my pass and the renewal rate of $297.14 each for my husband and two children in 2014. (Prices include tax.) So, our total cost this past year was $1,369.61.
The equivalent pass for me in the new system would be the Platinum Pass, which will cost $584.69 with my renewal discount and including tax. It offers the same benefits of admission to four theme parks with no blackout dates; parking and one complimentary MagicBand are included; PLUS the new benefit of unlimited downloads of Disney PhotoPass photos. Or, I have the option of switching to a new annual pass that offers similar benefits to what I have now: the Gold Pass. The Gold Pass is $496.29 with my renewal discount and including tax. The differences from what I have now are that it has blackout dates for two weeks at Christmas/New Year’s and two weeks at Easter/Spring Break, but I would gain unlimited downloads of photos from Disney’s PhotoPass. So, basically, am I willing to pay an extra $88.40 for the possibility that I might go into the parks by myself during the four blackout weeks? If I stick with the Gold Pass, I am paying an $18 annual increase over last year, which is pretty typical, but that is offset by the PhotoPass photos.
Or, I have a third option — downgrade to the same passes that the rest of my family has because at least one key benefit has been added. My other family members have the Florida resident seasonal pass, which is now called the Silver Pass. The renewal rate is $351.45 including tax. The benefits are the same as before — admission to four theme parks with blackout dates for two weeks at Christmas, two weeks at Easter and most of the summer. What’s new is that it now includes parking, which is a big deal when the rate just jumped to $20 per day for most vehicles. I guess that is what the $54.31 increase per ticket is offsetting.
So, if my family opts for the equivalent passes to what we have now, we will pay $269.43 more for the same privileges, plus Disney PhotoPass downloads, for the coming year. Although I do purchase Disney PhotoPass photos throughout the year, I don’t spend that much. However, price increases happen every year so I cannot wish away all of the $269.43. If I downgrade my pass to the Gold status, giving up admission during the four busiest weeks of the year and gaining PhotoPass downloads, I could save about $90, bringing our total annual increase to about $180. If I’m willing to give up summer entrance and PhotoPass downloads, as well, and settle for the Silver Pass, I could save about $233 on my own pass, bringing my family’s price increase to only about $36 for the year. For that $36, we would gain parking on each of the four passes.
What would you do?
Here’s another scenario to consider. Depending on our plans for summer, we sometimes buy Disney water park passes. It’s less expensive to purchase the Silver Pass (with renewal discount and tax) at $351.45 plus the Water Park Pass at $117.15 (new and including tax) for a total of $468.60. The Platinum Plus Pass, which includes 365 days admission to the four theme parks plus the water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports and Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course and more, is $776.39. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but it does show that you could select the options you would use for about $300 less. As locals, my family and I often find that we don’t go to the parks as much in the summer because of the crowds and Florida heat, so applying the money from an upgraded annual pass to a water park pass makes more sense for us.
What strategies do you have when it comes to purchasing Disney annual passes?
For complete information on Walt Disney World ticket prices, see the AllEars.Net chart.