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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, April 3, 2016

When Does An Annual Pass Become "Worth It"?



A Williams Family Blog reader asked how many times in a year would someone have to go to Walt Disney World to make an Annual Pass worth the investment.  The answer of course, is mathematical, and not necessary about the number of times in a year, but the number of days of a visit or combined visits to Walt Disney World throughout the year.

What makes an Annual Pass “worth it”?

First, let’s do the math.  Annual Passes, for folks living outside of Florida, come in two categories—Platinum and Platinum Plus.  The big difference between the two is access to the water parks and golf courses.  We haven’t yet golfed at Walt Disney World, so that wasn’t the draw for us to go for the Plus—it was the water parks.  We knew we would be visiting Walt Disney World this coming summer and wanted to go to the water parks.  So, if we had purchased the Platinum, we could have either added on the water parks pass OR purchased daily tickets to the water parks at $60 per person plus tax.  Yeah, the math made the Plus pass a better deal even if we only visited each water park once!

Now, for the number of days when it comes to the math. . .  Walt Disney World ticket prices can be difficult to understand.  There is one ticket price for children ages 3-9 and another price for everyone 10 and up.  If a guest wants to purchase a one-day ticket, the price can vary from $97 to $114 depending if the guest is going during “value”, “regular”, or “peak” season as denoted by days on the calendar on the Walt Disney World web-site.  Then, if the guest wants a one-day ticket to Magic Kingdom, the price can go up to $124 for an adult and $118 for a child (3-9).  Add “park hopper”, the option to get entry into another theme park on that same day, and the one-day ticket price goes to $164 for 10 and up and $158 for a child (3-9). 

Walt Disney World wants guests to purchase multi-day tickets and offers discounts when adding more days to park tickets.  Also, the “season” or the days the guest is going to use the park ticket, no longer applies once a park ticket becomes 2-days or longer.  Again, add “park hopper” and the price of the ticket increases, regardless of how many days of park admission are purchased.

So, how many days of Walt Disney World theme park vacation over the course of the year does it take to make an Annual Pass worth it?  Well, one vacation of 10 days would not make it worth it as a 10 day Park Hopper ticket is $469 plus tax.  But, two vacations of 5 days over the course of a year may come close (just looking at the Platinum Plus)—a 5-day park hopper ticket is $409 plus tax with another $26 plus tax for water park entry.  Add Memory Maker to one or either of those trips and the Annual Pass definitely becomes more economical. 

Also remember that Walt Disney World typically has a ticket price increase in August so purchasing an Annual Pass prior to ticket price increases also insulates guests from absorbing those increased costs.

Now, that we’ve done the math, let’s talk about the other values of having an Annual Pass.

MagicBands—Yes, I know we get a set that we can customize for every trip, so this perk isn’t as much of a big deal.  But, we did get to link our Annual Passes to our My Disney Experience account—it was easy—and customize a set of MagicBands that included the Passholder sliders.

Photopass Downloads--This is definitely a benefit for us and potential savings.  We typically add a Photopass/Memory Maker product to our vacation packages so this saves us at least $149 per trip!

Discounts—Annual Passholders are offered discounts for dining, shopping, and other events.  When we made purchases during our most recent trip to Walt Disney World, and our first as Annual Passholders, we were given 10% discounts at most retail locations including the Lego Store.  Now, I will say the Disney Visa also offers the same discount at Disney Store retail locations, but the total amount must be at least $50.

The booklet that came with our passes also included other discount perks, such as discounted miniature golf—this one I know we will use!  As well as a list of dining locations at Walt Disney World that offer a 10% discount with the Annual Pass.  There is also a special Passholder telephone number to call with questions or assistance.

Having now taken a couple of different tours, we want to take more.  Having an Annual Pass gives us a 15% discount on various tours.  There are even special offers for Annual Passholders including discounted tickets to “hard ticket” events such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. 

There’s even a special Passholder Facebook page that announces events and discounts.

Remember that I said we could link our Annual Passes to our My Disney Experience account?  Well, now when we log in and check out prices or availability for future Walt Disney World Resort stays, we have access to Passholder prices and discounts for Walt Disney World Resorts!

Was it “worth it” for us?

Short answer—“Yes!”

When we made the investment of purchasing Annual Passes, we had a 4-day park hopper ticket for each of us—all over 10 years of age—so the price of that ticket was $394 per person plus tax.

Since we hadn’t used any of the days of those tickets, we were able to “upgrade” our tickets to Annual Passes, using the $394 per person towards the total for the passes.  Basically, we had almost half of the passes paid for when we arrived to do the upgrade.

I then used our Disney Visa Reward Dollars towards our Annual Pass purchase and was able to apply the refund for Memory Maker, which we had added to our package ($149) towards the purchase as well. 

Since we made the Annual Pass purchase at Guest Services at Disney Springs, they were able to attach the Passholder accounts to our current MagicBands that we had for the trip.  We didn’t lose any of our Fastpasses or Dining Reservations—those all transferred—as did the account we had set up for charging purposes if necessary.  Even our “Pin” number needed to use our Dining Plan credits transferred. 

We used our new Annual Passes for park entry and discounts when making purchases.  But even bigger savings is coming up!

One thing I checked on before purchasing Annual Passes was whether or not we would still be able to use our Travel Agent when making Walt Disney World travel arrangements.  The answer was “yes.”  We enjoy the service our travel agent provides as well as the AAA Explore More Rewards dollars that add up when we purchase vacations.  What our travel agent would need to do was to ask for “ticketless packages” when inquiring about resort reservations.

Even before we left for our BIG Birthday trip at the end of February, we had already made resort reservations for this summer.  Anticipating the Annual Passes, we were quoted a price for a “ticketless package” for 13 nights at Coronado Springs including the Basic Dining Plan for the three of us for slightly over $5,000—not including any flights although we had already gotten a great deal from Southwest for flights TO Orlando.  I put down the $200 deposit. 

When we returned from our February trip, it was time to firm up our plans.  13 nights changed to 11, Dining Plan stayed the same and with a Passholder discount, the price dropped to $3800 for our vacation.  Wow!  That was an incredible savings!  I called the Passholder line and asked the Cast Member to run the numbers for multiple resorts just to see what the better deals were.  He was happy to help, and even discovered that there was a PIN code linked to our name for a discount.  The best deal was the one we took!  We basically paid for the costs of the Annual Passes with the savings from this one trip.

So, Annual Passes are worth it for us!

There are still issues we need to overcome: 

For example, we have yet another reservation at Walt Disney World for later in the year.  We’re looking at two different times to stay and the Passholder discounts have not yet been released for either of those times—and most likely there won’t be discounts for one of those times.  So, I wait. . .  Instead of waiting to make the reservation, I go ahead and make the reservation including the deposit, know that I can change it depending on availability or cancel if necessary.

Fastpass+ selection:  As Annual Passholders we can log into our MDE account and make Fastpass+ selections for 30 days in advance regardless of whether or not we have a resort reservation.  I could make a Fastpass+ selection for tomorrow if I wanted!  But, I won’t be in the middle of the magic tomorrow, so I refrain.  When we DO have a resort reservation and it is linked to our MDE account, we can then make Fastpass+ selections 60 days ahead just like all other Walt Disney World Resort guests.

Renewing:  Will we?  Won’t we?  Annual Passes can be renewed on-line or in person and there is time to renew up to 30 days after the pass expires.  There are even discounts for renewing Annual Passes within that time frame.  We’ll be back to Orlando within that time frame!

The husband and I went for a walk yesterday afternoon and I told him that it may be difficult for me to enjoy breaks from work where we don’t have trips planned knowing that we have access to all that magic at our fingertips; that we would just need to get ourselves there.  He understood.  Can’t say I didn’t warn him!

Oh, and I need to make sure we pack the Passholder MagicBands!

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