Should you buy a Disney Annual Pass (AP)? Well… the short answer is maybe. I tend to lean towards the probably side of things, but in reality it does all come down to budgeting and how you plan to do Disney. There’s definitely nothing wrong with going to Disney on a regular ticket instead of an Annual Pass! I’ve gone on a regular pass more than on an Annual Pass. But having an Annual Pass sure does offer some cool perks.
As of the writing of this post, there are 3 different Walt Disney World Annual Pass tiers*: Platinum Plus, Platinum, and Gold. The Gold Pass is only available for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members and Florida residents. As best I can tell, that is one of only two differences between a Gold Pass and a Platinum Pass, with the other being a few blockout dates on the Gold Pass that are not on the Platinum Pass. DVC members and Florida residents also receive a discount on the Platinum and Platinum Plus Passes. Just one more check in the “why you should join DVC” column… just sayin’…
All the APs include:
- A complimentary MagicBand – I might or might not have a serious love of all things MagicBand. My goal is to collect all the colors, and then I think I will start working on themed bands (I want a Maleficent one!). So far I have yellow, orange, green, and pink in the new style, and purple, green, and pink in the old style.
- Theme park parking – which is a nonissue if you stay on property and use Disney transportation, but is still nice to include!
- Up to 20% off select merchandise & dining – unfortunately, the discount does not include alcoholic beverages unless specifically stated otherwise. Oh well, we can’t have everything!
- Disney PhotoPass downloads – this might be my favorite perk to an AP, because… pictures! I am all about the Disney pictures. Every trip, we take more and more PhotoPass pictures. All your ride photos are included – Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Splash Mountain, all of them! And if you participate in a runDisney event, they no longer use MarathonFoto… they use Disney PhotoPass. YASSS, ‘free’ race pictures!
- Park Hopper – that’s right, with an AP you can visit multiple parks per day. If you want to spend the day at Magic Kingdom but have Hollywood Studios dinner reservations, well, that’s no problem!
- One year admission to all 4 theme parks – yes, one solid year of Disney, all for one little pass. And, that year starts at the date of first use, not the date of purchase. I purchased an AP on July 27, 2016 but did not actually get down to Disney until October 9, 2016, so the clock on it started in October. The Gold Pass does have blockout dates, although honestly not that many, whereas the Platinum and Platinum Plus Passes have no blockout dates throughout the year.
- An exclusive Passholder line into the parks – okay, this one kind of makes me geek out. Seriously. A special line just for Passholders. I love feeling special!
In addition to all those fun perks across the board, the Platinum Plus Pass also includes admission to both Disney water parks, ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex, and Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course.
What about cost? I mean, we all know it isn’t exactly cheap to go to Disney, right? Can’t lie, the APs are all pretty pricey, but are they really that bad? I’ve got the numbers (all figures are tax included):
- Platinum Plus – $925.49 for general public, $595.34 for DVC members (this is a special promotion for this year only; usually the Platinum Plus Pass does not cost the same as a Gold Pass)
- Platinum – $829.64 for general public, $723.14 for DVC members
- Gold – $595.34
How does this compare to a single week at Disney? To really do an apples to apples comparison, you have to take the base ticket and add in Park Hopper and Memory Maker. Obviously you can go to Disney without either option, but since they’re automatically included in an Annual Pass it’s only fair to add them in to your non-AP ticket budget. So…. a 7 day ticket with Park Hopper and Memory Maker costs $685.53. For DVC, that is a no brainer… buy the AP, even if you only plan to go once! But for everyone else, it depends on if you plan to do a lot of shopping and dining (that 20% off will come in handy, especially if you are skipping DDP and paying out of pocket!).
However, if you plan to go twice in one 12 month period… hands down an AP is the best way to go. A 3-day ticket with Park Hopper and Memory Maker costs $540.69, which is over half the cost of a Platinum Plus Pass! That means if you go twice you will almost certainly pay more than the cost of any of the AP options. So obviously, if you think you’ll be going twice in a year, an AP makes perfect sense for you. The first time we got APs, we went in June and October of 2012, and March of 2013. Three trips all on one pass!
Personally, I want to always have an AP from now on. I don’t always go to Disney more than once per calendar year but I do if I can – and not having to pay for tickets really helps me to be able to swing that. I’m also Dis-geeky enough that I like using the AP only park entrance, or having the AP card to show for discounts, or getting a special Passholder MagicBand slider. I can’t tell you that you have to buy an Annual Pass to enjoy your Disney vacation, but I can tell you that for me the answer to “should you have an Annual Pass?” is a resounding “YES!”
*I said up-post that there are 3 tiers of WDW AP, and that is sort of true. There are 3 types of WDW-specific passes available to non-Florida residents, but there is also a Premier Pass that is valid at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and I believe there are other Florida-resident-only passes that I can’t access. I didn’t reference them above because I’m concentrating on WDW right now and don’t have as much information on Disneyland, and I’m not a Florida resident…