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When Is It Worth It To Buy A Disney World Annual Pass?

Learn the benefits of having Disney World Annual Pass and when it makes most sense to purchase one!


disney world annual passholder magnet

An annual pass is a Disney World lover’s dream come true… visit the parks as often as I want for a whole year?  Yes, please!

While a Disney World annual pass (AP) isn’t cheap, buying one might actually save you money depending on the situation.

Here’s a quick summary of several situations that might merit getting an Annual Pass:

  • You make a week-long trip at the same time each year
  • You want to make several short trips within a year 
  • You plan on buying PhotoPass for an upcoming trip
  • You want the AP discounts on accommodations, parking, dining, and merchandise

In this post, I’ll explain these benefits in detail and do the math on when it makes sense to take the leap and buy an annual pass (AP) at Disney World. On to the savings!

Disney World Annual Pass Cost

goofy on a disney world ticket

The pricing for Walt Disney World Annual Passes has changed over recent years. The current pricing for annual passes can be found  by following this link.

There are several different types of passes available. Florida residents have access to specific types of Annual Passes. Get more information on  passes for Florida residents here

Annual Passes To Save On Park Admission

Cinderella castle with fountain in front

Some people buy an Annual Pass and plan to use it on two trips roughly one year apart. This is can be excellent way to cut down on costs if you visit every year roughly around the same time.

With Disney having date-based ticket pricing you have to take a look at WHEN you visit to determine if this is a good strategy. 

Keep in mind that you’d have to adjust the dates of your trip some since the AP is only good through the same date the following year.

So if you started using it on the 28th of December one year, you’d have until the 28th of the following year. So while you can’t go for exactly the same week, if you are a little flexible you can save a bunch. 

But if you like to visit at the end of September (learn why it is one of my favorite times to visit in this post), the deal isn’t as sweet. The costs of tickets being less this time of year, you aren’t experiencing similar savings. 

But you get more than just park entry with a AP so this still might end up being a good deal!

Value of Disney World Annual Pass Benefits

Let’s look at the value of the benefits that are included with a Disney World Annual Pass:

Disney World Annual Pass PhotoPass Benefit

Disney character, Flick, hugging little girl

When you purchase a Annual Pass you will get unlimited PhotoPass downloads. If you purchase this option from Disney, it is called the Memory Maker package.

If you buy Memory Maker prior to your trip you will save money opposed to purchasing it while you are on your trip.  It is active for 45 days from purchase, so it can really only be used for one trip.

I have overall been very impressed with the quality of the PhotoPass pictures I have gotten. Some of them have become family favorites that we will treasure for years to come.

I’m sold on the benefit of having PhotoPass for any trip on which we spend extended time in the theme parks. So this benefit of an AP is worth it to me, especially if you are able to make multiple trips to the parks in one year!

Disney World Annual Pass Free Parking

Mater in front of Art of Animation Resort

If you are an Annual Passholder you’ll get free parking at all of the theme parks for the entire year.

If you stay at a hotel not on Disney property, you’ll rack up substantial savings with this benefit. With daily parking fees you will see instant savings, especially if you are visiting the parks multiple days and for multiple trips in a year!

Disney World Annual Pass Dining Discounts

Gourmet food on a white plate at Jiko Restaurant

Disney offers dining discounts in the range of 10%-20% for Annual Passholders. See all of the current dining discounts available to Annual Passholders here.

 The AP discount is good for up to 8 people dining in the same party as the Passholder.

I strategically planned to maximize the dining discounts that came with my AP, selecting restaurants that offered the best bang for my buck. I saved over $150 just in dining discounts with my AP that year!

Disney World Annual Pass Merchandise Discounts

Minnie Mouse merchandise in a Walt Disney World Gift Shop

As an Annual Passholder, you will get  10%-20% off merchandise in most places around Disney World.

I don’t buy a lot of merchandise on our multiple trips to Disney each year, but the savings add up quickly if you are someone who enjoys purchasing merchandise in the parks.

Resort Discounts

Little girl in front of 101 Dalmatians statue at All Star Movies Resort

You will get access to special Annual Passholder rates at Disney World resorts for an extra discount on resort reservations.

The AP discounts are usually better than any publicly available offer and sometimes offer different inventory.

Here are the current resort discounts for Annual Pass holders at Disney World.

You can add a Disney Dining Plan to a room booked with an AP discount – get my Disney Dining Plan tips here. 

Disney World Annual Pass Park Ticket Discounts

Fireworks at night over Cinderella's castle in Magic Kingdom

Occasionally Disney has special offers on park tickets for guests of Annual Passholders.

Passholders also get discounts on special ticketed events, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Passholders will also save on tickets to Disney water parks. 

Other Disney World Annual Pass Discounts

The additional discounts available to Passholders are always changing. They include discounts on tours, car rentals, golfing, spa and salon visits, and more. You can find the current additional discounts available here.

The value of the perks and benefits of the Annual Pass are definitely something to consider as you decide on whether or not to upgrade to an AP.

How To Save on a Disney World Annual Pass

Yellow Magic Band on a wrist

As I already mentioned, a Disney World Annual Pass is not cheap

However, I have a trick to save a significant amount off the price of an AP which is more than 10% of the cost. My tactic does take a few steps but I’m willing to take them to save money on park admission!

 

First, buy the Park Hopper ticket with the best discount from Undercover Tourist. I recommend a 6-day Park Hopper ticket, which saves you significant money off the gate price . It’s okay if you aren’t planning on spending six days in the parks on your upcoming trip… you are going to upgrade this ticket to an annual pass.

You can link this ticket to your My Disney Experience account then use it to enter the park at least one time. Then go to any ticket window or Guest Services (found inside every park) and ask to upgrade to an Annual Pass.

You will pay the difference between the gate price of your ticket and the pass, which means you will save money off your pass!

When you upgrade your ticket, you’ll have to pay the cost difference. You can do this with Disney gift cards, which you can easily get at a discount (learn how to get discount Disney gift cards in this post)!

By upgrading a discounted ticket from Undercover Tourist and using discounted Disney gift cards to pay the balance, you’ll save a significant amount off the AP price.

There are a few other discounts available for Annual Passes, all of which are explained in detail here on the Mousesavers site. 

Any questions about buying a Disney World Annual Pass? Please leave a comment below or send me a message on my Facebook page!

Walt Disney World Annual Pass When is it worth the cost pinterest image

Jennifer Long

Tuesday 26th of February 2019

If you wait to upgrade your ticket till you get to a park, can you book your room using the passholder rates?

Leah

Wednesday 27th of February 2019

Yes, as long as you have your AP when you check in you can pre-book passholder rates and upgrade your ticket when you arrive. There are a limited number of rooms available at the passholder rate so sometimes they are gone or the offer period is over by the time you arrive. You will have to do this through a travel agent or by calling Disney (407-W-DISNEY) since you won't be able to do it online without a current pass.

Margaret

Monday 18th of February 2019

Can a DVC member use the same strategy of upgrading at Guest Services to the Gold Pass in order to get the savings?

Leah

Tuesday 19th of February 2019

Hi Margaret! So I had to do some digging for this question... and I still couldn't find a clear answer. I suggest you call DVC Member Services and ask them if you can upgrade a park ticket to a discounted DVC AP in the parks. I would assume the answer would be yes, but I would want confirmation from MS before buying! Also, one thing to know is that the face value of the ticket can't be more than the cost of the AP... so if you can go ahead with the "ticket bridging" approach make sure you buy one that is less than the DVC AP you want!


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