Few things are as exciting to a Walt Disney World fan than holding that Annual Pass in his or her hands for the very first time. Whether you’re local or not, the sudden realization that for the next 12 months you’ll be able to enter any Walt Disney World park freely at any time is nothing short of exhilarating.
Whether or not the Annual Pass actually makes sense from a straight days-planned-in-the-park perspective is easy enough to figure out – but it’s not the only thing that you can or should consider when deciding whether or not to take the AP plunge.
So today, let’s take a moment and run down just what you *should* consider when deciding whether or not the Annual Pass is the way to go.
15. The Basic Numbers
The often cited math as to whether an AP makes sense is that if you plan to spend a total of 10 or more days in the parks over the course of the year, from an apples to apples perspective it makes more sense to buy the annual pass. Those numbers are a bit more difficult to run in a straightforward way with seasonal pricing and other changes – so while the 10 day rule still makes some sense (especially in light of all of the other benefits that we’re about to discuss) if you’re just looking at the bare bones price you’d pay for an AP versus paying for individual trip visits, it makes sense just to plug your pass days into Disney’s planning website and see if the total for the year is more than an annual pass – and you can consider the various annual pass options and any discounts that you’d have available when making this comparison. For example, you will get a bit of a discount on the price of your annual pass if you’re a Florida resident or a DVC member.
14. It Effectively Includes the Hopper
Moreover, needless to say, if you have an annual pass you can park hop – or, in other words, visit more than one park each day. The cost of a day-to-day pass for a trip with this benefit is extra – generally $60 over the cost of your base package as of the date of this post – so if you plan to park hop be sure to factor this in when you run the numbers.
13. Free Parking
And while you’re running those numbers, if you plan to drive while at Disney rather than make use of park transportation, also be sure to factor in that parking at the theme parks is only free if you have an annual pass. Otherwise, plan for an additional $25/day (as of the date of this article) for standard parking at any Walt Disney World park.
12. Merchandise and Event Discounts
But the cost of normal day passes and parking aren’t the only factors when you’re running the numbers on potentially getting an annual pass. Also keep in mind that most Walt Disney World shops will give you a 20% discount (with a few Disney and 3rd party spots on property offering 10% or 15% instead) when you have an annual pass. So if you plan to purchase souvenirs – or are a local that just buys things in the parks from time to time – keep that savings in mind as well. Discounts often also extend to events like Walt Disney World on property tours and other experiences – not to mention many recreational activities and spa services.
11. Food Discounts
Also? That annual pass will get you 10% off food and non-alcoholic drinks at many, many restaurants on property. Sometimes Walt Disney World even runs specials that increase that discount to 20%, so keep an eye on the current perks.
10. Access to Tables in Wonderland
And if that 10% isn’t enough for you, frequent diners (and drinkers) at Walt Disney World are eligible to purchase the Table in Wonderland card. Tables in Wonderland is $150 a year for annual passholders as of the date of this article – and having it in hand will get you a whopping 20% off of your bill for food AND drink – alcoholic and non – at most on property table service restaurants. You can imagine how quickly that adds up. You can find more details and information on Tables in Wonderland at this link.
9. Room Discounts
Also keep an eye on special annual passholder rates for rooms throughout Walt Disney World when you are planning your trip. Disney will often offer special resort rates to annual passholders.
8. Free PhotoPass
This very big perk should not surprise anyone that follows me on social media, because we definitely make use of the free PhotoPass that comes with an annual pass at Disney. For a local, having this constant flow of pictures is amazing. I think I have more pictures of my kids at Disney from PhotoPass than were ever taken of me by anyone throughout my entire childhood.
You can seek out Magic Shots and other PhotoPass pictures throughout the parks and at character meet and greets. There’s even a studio in Disney Springs where you can do a walk up portrait session with your family. And needing PhotoPass is a no brainer for any runDisney event, as there are photographers throughout the course to capture the magic of every mile for you – and you’ll have access to every picture if you have PhotoPass through your AP.
If you otherwise plan to get all of your PhotoPass pictures during a trip (including any runDisney event) be sure to factor in the added cost of Memory Maker. As of the date of this article, this adds an additional $169 per trip if purchased in advance.
7. Special Events
Walt Disney World has also started offering annual passholder after hours events at the parks on certain nights throughout the year – sort of like an extra magic hours event that’s available only to AP holders (whether they’re staying on property or not).
6. Free Goodies
We all love a fun collectible, and there are definitely many available throughout the year to annual passholders. The parks – especially Epcot – have taken to creating special AP magnets for the various seasons and festivals.
And things like the Mickey cutting board are also available to annual passholders that visit events like the Food & Wine Festival a certain number of days.
5. Early Race Registration
If you’re a runDisney lover, you’ll get yourself early registration access to runDisney events if you’re an annual passholder. It’s a great way to take the stress out of registration and make sure that you’re going to have a spot at your chosen race…or races.
4. It Gets Cheaper – Once you take the plunge the first time, renewing the pass is cheaper. Under the current, longstanding offer, you can renew an existing annual pass from 60 days before to 30 days after your existing pass’s expiration for about 15% less than the original full cost. Note that regardless of when you renew, the new year long period begins to run on the expiration date of your existing pass.
3. The Temptation of More Visits
In part simply because we came so often, I’ve been an Annual Passholder since long before we were locals. And one of the magical things about having that park pass in hand at all times is that is makes those spontaneous trips (or spontaneous days, if you’re close enough) so deliciously tempting. When all that’s between you and a day at Epcot is a drive (no matter how long) and perhaps a hotel room, because the ticket is already paid for, those spontaneous trips really do end up happening more often. After all – the more use you get out of the pass the more you dilute the overall cost of it…right?!
2. It Changes Your Park Day
This isn’t going to apply to everyone because I understand that if you have limited time in the parks each year because of distance you still might very well rope drop to close to savor every possible minute…but still the ability to visit the parks whenever you want – or even just the knowledge that you could in theory, even if you’re far away – tends to change the tone of your park days. The gift of access often makes us more likely to stop and take in the details instead of running to the next attraction. There’s the freedom to stop in for an hour to try one snack or take in one show or just people watch for a bit. The joy of an AP is sometimes nothing more than the ability to stroll onto Main Street, U.S.A. for 20 minutes and sit on a bench with some popcorn without feeling like you should be doing more.
1. The Connection to Home
Okay…I know you shouldn’t make financial decisions on pure sentiment. Unless you can check off a bunch of the other potential reasons to purchase a Walt Disney World Annual Pass, this shouldn’t tip the balance. But if you love Disney then there is something undeniable that comes with having that card in your pocket that makes you feel like a part of this place.