When Does An Annual Pass Become More Cost Effective?
by Jack Marshall
There comes a time for many people when a single short visit to Walt Disney
World is not enough time to see and do all that you want to. Your thoughts turn towards an
extended trip or maybe even a return trip. Then you start thinking about the price of admission
to the parks.
Sometimes it is more cost effective to look at the overall picture. If you are
going to return to WDW within one year or are going to have an extended stay, it might be more
cost effective for you to consider purchasing an Annual Passport of some kind, but
not necessarily. You can check the types of annual passes and their entitlement here.
With Disney’s theme park tickets, doing an accurate comparison of value
between them and annual passes is subjective at best. The tickets are priced in so many tiers (Theme Park
Ticket, Park Hopper add on and/or Park Hopper Plus add on.) that it makes
generalizing impossible. The one thing about the tickets that does remain consistent is that the
longer the ticket you purchase, the less the per day park admission will be for you. How you plan to
use your admissions will have a large bearing on what’s best for you.
You will need to do the math for your own situation to find out whether an annual pass
is right for you. Prices for all the current ticketing options are listed on our
Ticket Chart page.
There are several things you should consider besides park admissions when factoring
in your best value. Things like the discounts and perks that annual pass holders are entitled to. They all get free
parking at all 4 theme parks worth $25 per day if you drive in from off site. There are also discounts on resort reservations (subject to availability), selected shopping, dining and recreational activities. The current list of annual pass discounts can be found on our Annual Pass Information and Benefits page. The more you can take advantage of these perks and discounts, the better value the annual pass becomes for you.
All annual pass holders are eligible to book reduced rate rooms at select Disney resorts
(based on availability) at various times throughout the year. It is not unheard of to save more money on
your room reservation alone than the annual pass costs.
Non-theme park admissions are another consideration. Having to purchase separate
single day admissions to the water parks will cost you $69.23 even if you have a Platinum annual pass. Park Hopper Plus tickets use plus options. That means that each visit you make to a water park, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, or Wide World of Sports will use up an option. If you go to two of them in a single day, you use two of your options. Go to three and use up three, etc. If you know that you or your family are frequent visitors to these places, then the Platinum Plus annual pass may be your better bet in the long run. You can come and go from every place as many times as you want on the same day and it won’t matter.
Do you find yourself eating at a lot of sit down restaurants and character meals at
the parks and resorts? If you do, then the ability of AP holders to purchase the Tables in Wonderland (TIW) card can mean large savings for you. Annual pass holders can get a TIW card for $150 and that card will save them 20% at most all sit down restaurants as well as at the food courts at the value resorts. NOTE: Using the TIW card will automatically add an 18% tip to the bill at any table service restaurant. See tablesinwonderland.com for more information
Are you a Disney Vacation Club member? If you are, you are eligible for the only
non-Florida resident/non-military discount that Disney offers on Annuals. DVC members can save $154.42 tax included on
the price of a Platinum Plus annual pass and $127.80 tax included on a Platinum annual pass. That savings alone can make an annual pass worth it to many folks.
Are you planning multiple trips to Disney within 12 months of each other? If you are and you plan on visiting the Disney theme parks more than 7 or 8 days total, then the Gold (only available to DVC Members and Florida Residents) or Platinum annual pass may be good for you…maybe! Plan on doing a lot of water parks during those trips? Or maybe an extended stay of a few days longer? Then the Platinum Plus may be best for you…maybe!
If you are not a Florida Resident or you do not own Disney Vacation Club, your choice is limited to the Platinum or Platinum Plus pass. But if you are eligible to buy the Gold or Silver, you can get a separate water park annual pass for $138.45 and you’ll have both theme park admissions and water park admissions and still pay less than the price of a Platinum Plus pass.
Do you wish to have the opportunity to drop into a theme park on your arrival day
for an hour or so without having to worry about burning a whole day from your ticket? Or maybe go into
a park on the morning that you are leaving for home just to soak up some “streetmosphere” to hold you
over until next trip? Then one of the annual passes may be right for you.
Free downloads of PhotoPass photos are now a benefit on the Gold and both Platinum passes. If you’re the kind of person that wants lots and lots of photos of your visit, this can save you a lot of money thus making the annual pass a much better bargain
On the other side of the coin, are you more likely to visit the Disney parks for
only 1 or 2 days on any one trip and do other off site entertainment other days? Or maybe you’re not
the “commando tourist” type and prefer to take a day or two off from the parks during your trip. If
these are more what you prefer on each trip, you will probably find that an annual pass isn’t right for you. You would be a candidate for regular multi-day theme park tickets.
You must also consider what you would get when you purchase a theme park ticket. A new Platinum annual pass with no blockout dates
runs $952.11 including tax. You can get a Theme Park 7 day ticket with Park Hopper Plus extras for under $600. That means you would get 7 days in the theme parks with park hopping ability as well as 7 Plus visits (which the Platinum annual pass doesn’t have) for at least $352.11 less than the Platinum annual pass. If your trip(s) will include about 10 days total in the theme parks, you may well want to consider the base 10 day ticket around $500. But if you plan on more than 10 days over multiple visits within the year, then an annual pass may work better than regular Theme Park tickets that will expire 14 days after first use on each trip.
If you want a ticket that has everything and you’re planning on multiple visits during a 12 month period, the Platinum Plus annual pass ($1058.61) which will expire in one year, gives you unlimited theme park admissions as well as unlimited admissions to the water parks, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course and Wide World of Sports.
And keep in mind that all Disney World annual passes can be renewed at about a 15% savings over the price of a brand new pass. That too will increase your savings in year two.
By now, you should realize that whether or not an annual pass of some type is the best value for
you is entirely subjective to the way you will be using it. What’s best for one person will likely not
be best for another. The most important advice we can offer is this: DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Plan out
how you are going to use your admissions before you buy the ticket. Take all your variables into
consideration. No one knows what’s best for you except you.