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

on March 27, 2018

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When is it worth it to buy an Disney World Annual Pass? The answer might surprise you! #disneyworld #travelplanning

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, or
  • You want to make several short trips within a year, or 
  • You plan on buying PhotoPass for an upcoming trip, or
  • 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. I’ll even show you how to save 10% off the cost of an annual pass in two easy steps. On to the savings!

Disney World Annual Pass Cost

When is it worth it to buy an Disney World Annual Pass? The answer might surprise you! #disneyworld #travelplanning

The current price of a Disney World Annual Pass is $1,119 plus tax. This price represents a big increase from the previous price of $849 (which was in effect until June 18th, 2019).

This is the cost for what’s called a “Platinum” pass. It gets you unlimited admission to all four Walt Disney World theme parks (with park hopping and no blackout dates), free parking at the parks, and many more discounts and benefits.

You can also buy the “Platinum Plus” pass for $1,219+ tax which also gets you unlimited admission to the Disney World water parks, ESPN, and miniature golf. 

Florida residents and DVC members have access to other types of Annual Passes. Get more information on passes for DVC members here and passes for Florida residents here

Annual Passes To Save On Park Admission

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’s move to date-based ticket pricing (get the details here), you have to take a look at WHEN you visit to determine if this is a good strategy. 

During the week between Christmas and New Years, an adult 5-day Park Hopper tickets costs $690. So two years of these tickets would cost $1380 and you’d save $261 just on the cost of your tickets by purchasing an AP! 

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. A 5-day Park Hopper ticket then costs $525, so two would be $1050 which is less than the cost of an Annual Pass. 

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

When is it worth it to buy an Disney World Annual Pass? The answer might surprise you! #disneyworld #travelplanning

When you purchase a Platinum 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 at least 3 days before your trip, it costs $169 plus tax. If you want it immediately it costs $199.  It is active for 30 days from purchase, so it can really only be used for one trip.

I was really impressed with the quality of the PhotoPass pictures that I got with my annual pass this year. 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 at least $169 to me. If you used it over two trips your savings would increase to $338.

Disney World Annual Pass Free Parking

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. Parking is $25 per day at the theme parks (it is free if you are staying at a Disney resort). So on a five-day trip, you’d save $125 just on parking with your pass.

If you have an off-property timeshare or visit every year and stay off-property, the parking savings could easily be over $250 if you stretch your pass out over two trips!

Disney World Annual Pass Dining Discounts

When is it worth it to buy an Disney World Annual Pass? The answer might surprise you! #disneyworld #travelplanning

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.

In 2019 dining discounts are mostly in the 10% range, though this could change at any time. 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

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

This was increased from 10% as part of the 45th anniversary celebration, but the 20% discount appears to be staying around for a while!

I don’t buy a lot of merchandise on our multiple trips to Disney each year, but the 20% off savings adds up quickly. You’ll save $10 off every $50 in purchases at Disney, which could equal big savings for some folks.

Resort Discounts

When is it worth it to buy an Disney World Annual Pass? The answer might surprise you! #disneyworld #travelplanning

You will get access to special Annual Passholder rates at Disney World resorts for up to 40% off room-only reservations. 

The AP discounts are usually 10% better than any publicly available offer and sometimes offer different inventory.

I was able to find rooms at Disney Value resorts (such as All-Star Movies) for under $80 per night plus tax with my AP discount in 2017!

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

When is it worth it to buy an Disney World Annual Pass? The answer might surprise you! #disneyworld #travelplanning

Occasionally Disney has special offers on park tickets for guests of Annual Passholders. For example, last summer Passholders were able to buy one-day Park Hopper tickets for friends for only $79 each, a savings of over 40%.

Passholders also get discounts on special ticketed events, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. You’ll save up to $8 per ticket and you can buy discounted tickets for yourself and up to 3 guests.

Passholders will also save on tickets to Disney water parks. Currently, the savings is $4 per adult ticket.

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.

Our Total Savings from Additional Benefits

If you visit Disney frequently, the savings from AP benefits can add up quickly. Here is a breakdown of what I saved over the course of one year from my AP:

PhotoPass downloads: $169 (assuming I bought it only once)
Dining discounts: $150
Merchandise discounts: $20
Additional tickets discount: $24
Resort savings (over standard discount): $45
Parking discount: $60

Total savings: $468

As you can see, the additional benefits of my AP almost paid for my pass, without considering how much I saved on park admission. The value of these perks and benefits 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

When is it worth it to buy an Disney World Annual Pass? The answer might surprise you! #disneyworld #travelplanning

As I already mentioned, a Disney World Annual Pass is not cheap. Prices rose again this year and a Platinum Annual Pass is now $849 plus tax (up from $779 in 2017). The Platinum Plus Pass (which gets you into the water parks in addition to the theme parks) is $949.

However, I have a trick to save $90 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. Currently, this is a 6-day Park Hopper ticket, which saves you $68 off the gate price (save an extra $5 and opt for E-Ticket Delivery). 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 $68 off your pass!

Important Note: If you buy a Park Hopper Plus ticket, you will ONLY be allowed to upgrade to a Platinum Plus pass. Don’t buy one of these tickets to save a little more only to find you’ll have to pay an extra $100 for your AP!

When you upgrade your ticket, you’ll have to pay the $369 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 $90 (or more) off the AP price.

There are a few other discounts available on APs. DVC members who bought directly from Disney (or resale prior to April 4th, 2016) can currently get a Gold Annual Pass for $559 plus tax. There are discounts on APs for Florida residents, 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!

When to buy a Disney World Annual Pass! How to decide if an AP is right for you at Walt Disney World. #disneyworldap #disneyannualpass #disneyworldtipsandtricks #disneyworldpassbenefits #disneyAP

4 Comments

  • Margaret

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

    February 18, 2019 at 1:59 pm Reply
    • Leah

      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!

      February 19, 2019 at 4:31 pm Reply
  • Jennifer Long

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

    February 26, 2019 at 8:04 pm Reply
    • Leah

      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.

      February 27, 2019 at 6:30 am Reply

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