Should You Buy a Disney Annual Pass?
How often do you visit Walt Disney World? Frequent guests to the Most Magical Place on Earth face a difficult decision. You have the option of buying admission tickets each time you visit, or you can purchase an Annual Pass. With the right pass, you may enter Walt Disney World theme parks as often as you like. Even with the cheapest pass, you can still visit most of the days on the annual calendar. Is buying an Annual Pass the right decision for you? Here’s a guide to help you choose.
The undeniable truth of a Disney theme park visit is that the cost of admission is only a fraction of your daily expenses. You’ll also spend money on food, souvenirs, hotel accommodations, and other miscellaneous travel expenses. Disney knows this, and they appreciate that the longer you stay onsite, the more money you’ll spend on the campus. For this reason, the company has good reason to incentivize you to stay.
The Annual Pass is a key part of this strategy. When you visit more, you spend more. It’s just math. Disney also understands that some visitors cannot make multiple trips to Central Florida in a calendar year (or even multiple years). Their aim for these guests is to get the visitors to stay for as long as possible during the one trip. The standard admission tickets are the way that Disney achieves this goal.
The Price of Admission
Have you ever studied the cost of admission tickets? Disney provides several options to customers. The ultimate goal of each one is the same, though. Disney prices you in to stay longer. The much ballyhooed recent price increase causes critics to miss this point. Yes, a single-day ticket costs more than $100 now, but who cares? You don’t want to spend one day at Walt Disney World. That would border on cruel.
To see and do everything at Walt Disney World, you’ll need a minimum of four days, one for each park. I personally recommend six- or seven-night vacations to friends. That’s the amount of time I feel is best to visit Orlando, and I even tell them to add another day if they want to visit Universal Studios, too. I’m a firm believer that pushing yourself at Disney will reduce your trip enjoyment.
Disney agrees with this philosophy. Their prices even reflect it. Yes, that one-day ticket is more than $100, but take a look at Disney’s official site. See how the price for seven days starts at $59.29? That’s cheaper than three single-day admission tickets! Now, other factors will come into play, which is why you should speak to an expert from Mickey Travels to learn all your ticket price options.
What you should take from this conversation right now is that seven days at Walt Disney World costs $415 per ticket, $490 if you get Park Hopper, a feature I recommend. The cost is $25 more for access to the various water parks, bringing the grand total to $515 for seven nights of a Disney vacation. So, I’m going to use that number as the baseline for the rest of this discussion.
The Annual Pass Options
The tl:dr for the rest of the article is that the answer just depends. The number of days that you can spend in Florida is the ultimate factor here. I can’t pretend to know that. I know people who live an hour-plane ride away from Orlando who cannot visit often. Meanwhile, I have several friends who live in the northern part of the United States who have spent a month at Disney over the past year. Factors like vacation days, school schedules, and airfare/transportation expenses come into play.
What I can say conclusively is that each extra day that you could potentially spend at Walt Disney World makes the Annual Pass a better value. Someone who can only visit for a week will not receive the same value. While some Annual Pass options exist for Florida residents, I’m going to assume that you don’t live in the area. Your options are the Platinum Pass and the Platinum Plus Pass. For the purpose of this discussion, I should note that I’m currently a Platinum Plus Pass owner, but I’ve had lower levels of Annual Passes until this year.
What’s the difference between the two primary passes? The main one is waterpark access. Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are both marvelous waterparks well worth your time. To access them, you’ll have to pay $100 more, though. The current cost for the “basic” Platinum Pass is $849 plus tax. The ultimate one, the Platinum Plus Pass, is $949 plus tax. And the sticker shock alone may have lost some of you. I get that. At a cost of $849, you’re talking about the equivalent of 12 days of standard park admission, give or take a bit.
The Pros of the Annual Pass
The logical conclusion is that you shouldn’t buy this kind of pass unless you plan to visit for at least 12 days. That seems accurate, but it’s not. You’ll find that the Annual Pass provides a few extra benefits. These should factor into your decision.
The first is that Disney recently implemented blackout dates for certain popular times on the annual calendar. To visit during Spring Break or the end-of-year holiday season, you’ll have to pay more for your tickets. Otherwise, you can’t get in the parks. The Platinum Passes have no blackout restrictions, though. They’re good every day of the year.
The next is that you’ll get free PhotoPass usage with your Annual Pass. What’s PhotoPass? I’ll write an article about it in the coming days, but the gist is simple. All of those photo ops that you see around Walt Disney World are free to PhotoPass users.
Cast members who are professional photographers will take pictures of you at various landmarks across the Disney campus. They’ll also capture unforgettable images of you with Disney characters. You can download all of these images for free off of MyDisneyExperience. Otherwise, the service would cost $169 plus tax per visit.
I cannot imagine a Disney trip without this feature, which means I automatically subtract $169 off the cost of the Annual Pass. I’d spend that money anyway. For me, it brings the cost of the basic Platinum Pass down to $680. Your mileage may vary. Should you agree, however, this benefit lowers the difference to the cost of roughly ten days of park admission.
The other pro is an important one for everyone, not just fans of great photographs. All versions of the Annual Pass come with park discount benefits. You’ll get at least 10 and sometimes 20 percent off the cost of merchandise at certain stores and restaurants. THIS is a huge deal. The only question about how much is whether you have the Disney Dining Plan during your trip. The restaurant discounts won’t help you when you already have your meals paid for. The store discounts matter either way, though. And since most people aren’t on the Disney Dining Plan, the savings benefits are 10 to 20 percent off of many things that you’ll buy during your trip.
How big a deal are these discounts? Let’s say that you spend $750 on food and $500 on merchandise during your trip. As long as you pick participating stores that provide the Annual Pass discount, you’ll save a minimum of $125 and a maximum of $250. Also, these discounts are available on ShopDisney.com, too. Anyone who buys a lot of items from the online Disney store will receive continued savings throughout the year.
Even at the lowest savings of $125, the cost of a Platinum Pass is now $555 compared to the $515 total mentioned early for a seven-day park admission. The breakeven point is now eight days at most and seven days for many. Frequent Disney shoppers will actually have a breakeven date of only six days. For them, the Annual Pass makes that much more sense.
What I would strongly suggest is that you do some math to decide on the Annual Pass. Decide how much you spend on food and merchandise during your trip. Check the list of stores and restaurants that offer the discounts. Assuming that you will shop and eat at these places, subtract the percentage savings from the cost of the Annual Pass.
Similarly, remove the $169 cost of PhotoPass (also called Memory Maker) from the cost if you would buy this service anyway. If you plan to visit twice, buying PhotoPass each time, subtract it twice. This service only lasts during your trip. You must purchase an additional one for a second trip. In such situations, the Annual Pass is that much better of a deal.
With the calculations performed, you have a strong idea about whether the Annual Pass is a good deal for you. If you’re still on the fence, contact a MickeyTravels expert to get their opinion on the subject. Whatever you decide, the mere fact that you’re thinking about an Annual Pass means that you’ll be visiting Walt Disney World a lot in the coming year. That’s wonderful news on its own, right?!
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