A Complete History of Disney World’s Annual Passes

Annual Passes haven’t always been a thing in Disney World.

Disney World Annual Pass

Disney Parks originally opened using a ticket book system, but that eventually changed. The Annual Passes we know now are quite different from the original way they debuted, so let’s get into the history of it!

History of the Annual Pass

Just like when Disneyland opened in 1955, Disney World originally used a ticket book system, which gave guests several ways to visit the parks. While general admission would get you into the park with access to shops and restaurants, rides were available with four to five levels of tickets (A-E). This ticketing system lasted in Disney World from 1971 to 1982.

Old Disney World ticket book.

In 1982, EPCOT opened, and both Disney World and Disneyland transitioned to a totally new system. It operated as a passport system that allowed guests to purchase one ticket for access to a park and rides, which is still in place today. The unfortunate thing is that guests were not happy about the general admission ticket being abolished, as it was a cheap option for people who didn’t necessarily care about rides. Parents and grandparents would often just pay general admission, and then buy ticket books for the kids — much like they were accustomed to from traveling carnivals that visited their hometowns.

Epcot on Opening Day

The Annual Passport officially debuted in Disney World in September 1982, and the original system granted passholders access to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT for one year. At the time of the debut, the Annual Passport cost $100 for adults$93 for juniors (12-17), and $80 for children (3-10). If you were in the Magic Kingdom Club, which was a marketing opportunity for corporations and large companies to enter employees into this membership program, you could also get a discount.

1989 Annual Passport

Now let’s move forward through time!

Read more about how Annual Passes have changed over time here.

Through 2020/Before COVID-19

Beginning in 1983, changes and price increases hit the Disney World Annual Passport. In 1984, the junior pass was eliminated and the child pass was changed to ages 3-12, and in 1985 a $30 annual pass was introduced for the River Country Water Park. In 1986, this was changed to a River Country/Discovery Island add-on, and the strictly River Country annual pass increased to $45.

River Country Water Park

In 1989, several openings changed things again. Disney/MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Typhoon Lagoon, and Pleasure Island opened, and Annual Passes increased to $160 to $180 depending on a few factors. Disney also added a new Magic Kingdom Club pass for Florida resident members, valid for the months of January, May, and September.

At that time, a pass for Typhoon Lagoon cost $75 and a pass for Pleasure Island cost $25.

Disney/MGM Studios

By the year 2000, the Annual Passport base price was over $300 as Disney World continued to expand with Blizzard Beach, Wide World of Sports Complex, DisneyQuest, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Later in the 2000s, the Premier Passport was introduced, giving passholders entrance to both Disney World and Disneyland.

Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom

In 2015, Disney overhauled the Annual Pass program and introduced four new pass options – Platinum, Platinum Plus, Gold, and Silver. Florida resident passes were introduced in 2018, including the Theme Park Select Pass and the Florida Resident Add-Ons.

Annual Pass

But everything changed after 2020.

Read about the evolution of the Disney Parks Annual Pass here.

After 2020/COVID-19

After 18 months of suspended Annual Pass sales, Disney changed the Annual Pass program again, introducing four new passes: Incredi-Pass, Sorcerer Pass, Pirate Pass, and Pixie Dust Pass. These passes removed a few perks and changed eligibility, with only one pass now available to non-Florida residents.

Disney World Annual Pass Magnet

The Incredi-Pass is the only pass available to non-Florida residents, and it costs $1,299 with no option to make monthly payments. The Sorcerer Pass costs $899 and it’s available to Florida residents and Disney Vacation Club Members, while the Pirate and Pixie Passes are $699 and $399 respectively, and only Florida residents can purchase them.

Orange Bird Magnet

In terms of perks, PhotoPass is no longer included with Disney World Annual Passes — it’s now a $99 add-on. But Park Hopping, parking, dining and shopping discounts, and a few other discounts are still included.

Annual Passholder entrance at EPCOT

Because of the Park Pass Reservation System, Disney World Annual Passes include varying limits for passholders. For example, Incredi-Pass and Sorcerer Passholders can reserve up to 5 Disney Park reservations at a time, while Pirate Passholders are limited to 4 reservations, and Pixie Passholders can make 3 reservations. And like the previous versions of Annual Passes, blockout dates vary with each pass tier.

You can upgrade that pass!

After being available for a brief time in 2021, sales of three of the passes were suspended, and only the Pixie Dust Pass is currently available for purchase. We don’t know when the other passes will be available, but we’re keeping our eyes peeled for any more changes or updates!

And there you have it! The history of Disney World Annual Passes. Disneyland is a TOTALLY different story — so maybe we’ll take you there next. Keep following AllEars for more Disney history!

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One Reply to “A Complete History of Disney World’s Annual Passes”

  1. I don’t foresee annual passes being sold again with the exception of the Florida specific ones. I expect those with passes will continue to be able to renew for at least a few years and then at some point they may go away for good.

    My wife and I have had annual passes since 2006 or so with at least one of us having an active one to always be able to capitalize on the AP discounts. Occasionally depending on trip plans we would let one pass expire and then buy a new one upon arrival. This minimized cost avoided wasted months of not using them. When COVID struck and we knew we could not or would not go, I cancelled passes figuring I just repurchase when things returned to normal. Of course I found you could not, but I did buy on minute one last September to make sure we were not without them. I don’t foresee ever not renewing again for fear that once they lapse you will not be able to purchase them again. Though with the economy tanking that might change.

    I’ll add that we do go to WDW a lot but we stay at the their hotels, eat at their restaurants and buy a lot of stuff. We contribute at least as much as the average tourists and we rarely go on Holidays and never in Summer. I know of others who cheap out by avoiding spending any money on property.