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When is it time to get an annual pass?

The concept of buying into an annual pass for Walt Disney World® Resort can seem daunting at first, especially if you aren’t a Central Florida local. Before contemplating whether the number of trips taken to Disney equates to the price of an annual pass, it’s essential to understand the different pass options and what the membership has to offer.

Annual Pass Options

Disney provides additional offers and payment options (including the ability to pay monthly) for annual pass holders who are either Florida residents or Disney Vacation Club Members. Previous annual pass holders also have the option to receive a discount if they renew their passes no later than 30 days after their previous passes’ expiration date. For everyone else, there are three separate types of annual passes, all at varying price points. It’s important to note that the discounts don’t necessarily guarantee a full 20 percent off at each location, but instead up to a maximum of 20 percent. Disney’s website has expanded details on what locations give what discounts, and you can always just ask a server or cast member at the restaurant or store you’re trying to use your discount at.

The Water Parks Annual Pass is the simplest and cheapest of the bunch. It offers a full year of admission to Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park during normal hours of operation. As of 2019’s rate announcements, the passes sit at $130 each. As with all of Walt Disney World’s passes and tickets, children under age three do not need a pass.

The Disney Platinum Pass offers a year’s admission to all four theme parks, the ability to change parks during the day, Disney PhotoPass downloads, up to 20 percent off select dining experiences, up to 20 percent  off on select merchandise (this also includes the Shop Disney Parks app and website) and standard parking at the theme parks. As of the 2019 rates, each pass costs $849.

The Disney Platinum Plus Pass offers all of the same benefits and discounts as the Disney Platinum Pass, as well as a year’s admission to both Disney water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Oak Trail Golf Course. As of the 2019 rates, each pass is $949.

What are blockout dates?

While at the time this post was written, the two theme park annual pass options have protection against blockout dates, previous annual passes have offered them before, and it is entirely possible future passes could include them. Blockout dates, when active, are listed on calendars online and are days that those pass holders cannot enter the parks. If blockout dates are put into effect, they can be expected to take place around holidays, peak travel times, and potentially the opening of new areas in the theme parks.

How much is the average set of tickets vs. an annual pass?

An annual pass isn’t typically intended for guests who want to experience Disney World once a year or less, but there are exceptions. In some rare cases, guests who go for a single, extended trip to Walt Disney World might find that the price of their individual tickets exceeds or come close to that of an annual pass. At that point, it’s worth picking one up just for the added discounts on dining and merchandise. All of the calculations below will be assuming no additional discounts apply to your tickets, and won’t factor in tax, which has to be paid on all ticket and annual pass purchases.

The decision-making process for the Water Parks Annual Pass is likely the simplest since it doesn’t include admission to the theme parks. For ages 3-9, a single one-day water park ticket is $59 before tax, while a one-day ticket for ages 10 and above is $65. For adults, just two visits to the water parks match the price for an annual pass, so any trips beyond that are essentially free. The water park equation gets trickier when you factor in standard theme park admission. If you’re only planning on visiting the other Disney World theme parks either no times or once a year, but still want to make multiple trips to the water parks, the price for the Water Parks Annual Pass justifies itself.

A five-day ticket with the Park Hopper Option, which allows you to visit multiple parks in the same day, will run a guest age 10 and above $470. Without park hopper, it’ll cost $395. On its own, taking two such trips in a single year would bring your total up to either $790 or $940, depending on whether you want Park Hopper or not. That pricing, if you’ll want the option to change parks during the day, is only $9 less than the Platinum Plus Pass. That doesn’t factor in the dining or merchandise discounts, which, as long as you’re spending any amount of money on food or souvenirs in the parks, will likely cover that $9 difference pretty easily. It also gives you access to ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Oak Trail Golf Course, which your standard park tickets would not.

On the other hand, assuming you’re staying five days on each of two trips, the Platinum Pass is only $59 more than the sum of both trips without Park Hopper and is $91 cheaper than outright taking two trips with Park Hopper. It doesn’t include admission to places other than the four theme parks, but it still includes PhotoPass for the entire year.

Memory Maker, or PhotoPass is, in a nutshell, a service that allows you to collect an unlimited number of photos by trained Disney PhotoPass photographers around the parks, at certain dining locations and on select attractions. With PhotoPass, you can add pictures to your account for 30 days and can download any of the pictures on your account that you want. Memory Maker is $169, so adding that to the cheaper park ticket price from before runs you $959. That’s more than the most expensive annual pass, and the annual pass gives you PhotoPass access for a year instead of just 30 days.

When should you purchase an annual pass?

So, the reason you came here: If you’re planning on visiting Walt Disney World® Resort two or more times a year for at least five days each, the annual pass will generally save you money as long as you’d normally get Memory Maker or Park Hopper. There’s understandably more debate if you’re staying for fewer days or don’t want any of the extra options on your tickets, so at that point, you’ll have to determine if the extra benefits are worth the increase in price.

The price of the Water Park Annual Pass also isn’t justified when combining with the Platinum Pass, so if you’re planning on attending both the theme parks and water parks more than once a year, it’s worth just upgrading to the Platinum Plus Pass. As mentioned previously, the Water Park Annual Pass is recommended for guests who intend to attend the theme parks only one time during the year or not at all, but still want to make it to the water parks at least twice.

As an additional reminder, if you’re looking to make a long-term commitment to an annual pass, there is a discount on the price so long as you renew within 30 days of expiration. Disney Vacation Club members also receive discounts on annual pass prices.

While by now you might have a good idea on whether or not an annual pass is a good fit for you, things get more difficult as you factor in additional options or alter the days you stay and the number of trips you take. As always, it’s highly recommended that you seek out a travel agent purchasing tickets or annual passes, even if your trip scenario matches the example used above.

If you’re sold on the idea on picking up an annual pass, it’s best to contact your agent to nail down any details or potential changes in pricing.

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