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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 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 visit Disney World at about the same time every 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 additional savings on parking, dining, accommodations, 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
The price of a 2018 Platinum Annual Pass is $849 plus tax. This pass 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.
Many people buy an AP and plan to use it on two trips roughly one year apart. This is an excellent way to cut down on costs if you visit every year roughly around the same time. Two 5-day Park Hopper tickets would cost $1,000, so right out of the gate an AP would save you over $100.
For example, if you like to visit at the end of September (learn why it is one of my favorite times to visit in this post), plan a visit the last week in September one year. Since your AP will be good for a full 365 days, you can visit the second to last week in September of the following year and get two trips in on one annual pass.
There is potentially a TON of value from the additional benefits that come with an Annual Pass, as I will show you next. Even if you only plan on visiting once within a year, it might make sense to have just one person in your party upgrade to an AP just so you all have access to these perks.
Value of Disney World Annual Pass Benefits
Next, let’s look at the value of the benefits that are included with the three main annual passes.
Disney World Annual Pass PhotoPass Benefit
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 (such as this picture of our daughter with her favorite character, Flik).
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 almost a year apart your savings would increase to $338.
Disney World Annual Pass Parking Discount
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 $20 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 $100 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 $200 if you stretch your pass out over two trips!
Disney World Annual Pass Dining Discounts
Disney offered fantastic dining discounts in 2017 for Annual Pass holders. I saved up to 20% at many desirable quick service and table service restaurants, such as Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The AP discount is good for up to 8 people dining in the same party as the passholder.
The 20% discount was as good as the Tables in Wonderland discount and better than the DVC discounts usually offered, bringing even more value to an Annual Pass.
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 last year!
In 2018 dining discounts are mostly in the 10% range, though this could change at any time. See all of the dining discounts available to annual passholders here.
Disney World Annual Pass Merchandise Discounts
As an Annual Passholder, you will now 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 until further notice!
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.
If you like to stay at non-DVC resorts as part of your visit to Disney World, you’ll get additional savings on resort hotel stays with your Annual Pass.
The AP discounts are usually 5-10% 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.
If you want to get a room for your arrival night and not use points, the AP discount on resorts can really come in handy!
Disney World Annual Pass Park Ticket Discounts
Occasionally Disney has special offers on park tickets for guests of Annual Passholders. For example, this 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
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 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!