Anyone with aspirations of visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando will know that this can be an incredibly expensive vacation. From the cost of tickets to hotels in the immediate vicinity to Disney World, you need to carefully budget before heading to the heart of Florida. But…did you know that it doesn’t need to be quite this expensive? That’s right, thanks to the Disney World annual pass, you can not only experience this collection of awesome theme parks for the ultimate family vacation, but you can also keep going back over a 12-month period to maximize the benefits.
We have been annual passholders since September 2018 and I will be perfectly honest, at first I was completely against this idea! Visiting Disney World once a year was perfectly sufficient in my opinion. Having never visited any of the Disney parks across the globe for the first 30+ years of my life, I honestly had no desire to keep returning on a frequent basis.
But Disney World really does have a way of making you come back time and time again, regardless of your initial impression of this place. And that is why the annual pass options at Disney World are undoubtedly the best way to maximize your experience in Orlando!
Disney World Annual Pass vs Individual Tickets
Let’s start with a few of the basic facts. Ok, the initial cost (see table below for a breakdown of current prices at the time of publication) may seem like a pretty large sum of money to pay upfront but after reading this post and seeing the HUGE savings, we are 100% convinced that you will agree this is the best approach to take. Dependent on how many people you have in your family, this can be an expensive initial cost.
|Disney Platinum Plus
**Additional special prices and options are available for Florida Residents and Disney Vacation Club Members. These prices are accurate as of 2019.
If you are fortunate to be a Florida resident, you can take advantage of the discounted annual pass rate. If not, there a couple of options available but in our opinion, the basic package is perfectly fine – yes, it’s still almost $900 but just take a moment to contemplate how much you would spend on one single trip to Disney World.
A single day pass without hopper option is minimum $109 (Magic Kingdom is more expensive) and that is only going to give you access to a single park. Add in the freedom (which I think most visitors, especially first-timers would want to take) of being able to “hop” between the four parks and the daily price drastically increases.
Ok, Disney World always promotes that the longer you stay and more days you purchase, the larger discount you will see but even for a 4 or 5 day ticket option, it’s still equivalent to around $85-90 per day!
Benefits of an Annual Pass
Up to this point, we have planted the seed that purchasing an annual pass at Disney World is a great option but you are probably wondering just how much money can you save? It’s a great question and I think the simplest answer is it really depends on how much you are willing to take advantage of the benefits.
Let’s take a look at a breakdown of the key benefits associated with Disney World annual passes. Please note, this is by no means an exhaustive list of benefits, rather it highlights a few key components that truly add value to this experience.
1. Ticket Price Savings
I highlighted this above but I think it’s worth reiterating that the moment you purchase an annual pass, the world is your oyster in terms of how much you can save on ticket prices. It’s as simple as this…the more times you visit during the 12 month period, the more money you are saving!
Location is going to play a big part in determining how frequent you can visit Disney World. If you live out of state but have access to an airport with convenient flights into Orlando, you can easily take weekend breaks to enjoy the best of Disney World. We have hopped on a flight after work on Friday, spent the day at Disney on Saturday and even Sunday morning before flying home late in the evening.
Take advantage of holidays. Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas…just a few of the main ones but they are all great times to be at Disney World! Ok, you need to be prepared for the crowds but come on, it’s Disney…there really never is a quiet time.
One of the major benefits of being an annual passholder is free daily parking at any of the theme parks. This is a massive cost saving because otherwise, you are looking at $25 per day which quickly adds up. I would argue that if you visit Disney on a pretty frequent basis during the 12-month period, you could almost pay for your annual pass in parking alone.
Aside from the cost savings, you can quickly breeze through the parking plaza after showing your annual pass and ID.
3. Shopping Discounts
Who visits Disney without adding a little retail therapy to their trip? I know we don’t! But the beauty of being an annual passholder is that you can pretty much guarantee there will be a discount available in the majority of stores in each of the four theme parks. But it doesn’t stop there…you can also take advantage of this at Disney Springs! Although there are a lot of things to do at Disney Springs, the number one attraction is undoubtedly shopping.
Whether you cannot help but fall in love with the selection on offer inside Magic Kingdom’s Emporium Shop or you are sold on a pair of those globally inspired magic ears from MouseGear at Epcot, you can be ready to check out with the knowledge that you will be saving a whopping 15% on every purchase!
Ok folks, I’m not going to lie, 15% at first doesn’t sound like much but it’s Disney we are talking about and prices are not exactly on the cheap side, so those discounts soon add up. Spend $100, which is done with relative ease inside any of Disney World’s stores and you save $15.
Another benefit that we found at Epcot is that inside each of the World Showcase pavilions, you can enjoy this same 15% discount in all of the smaller stores, which frequently have merchandise specific to that destination. If you love to travel as much as we do, you will quickly be filling your shopping bags with Epcot gear!
And then there is the magic of Disney Springs! Your adventure in and around Disney World simply isn’t complete without a visit to this eclectic outdoor entertainment complex. You can rely on your passholder discount to come in handy as you visit iconic restaurants, delectable sweet treats such as Ghirardelli and boutique shops.
4. Dining Discounts
When you visit Disney World, enjoying the myriad of dining available is part of the experience. Don’t worry, your annual pass will come in handy as you can save anywhere from 10-20% on your dining experience.
All four parks offer substantial discounts at most restaurants and a visit to Disney Springs will also lead to savings. In fact, many of the highest discounts can be found at the restaurants in Disney Springs e.g. Joffrey’s Tea and Coffee; House of Blues Restaurant and Bar, etc.
For those of you visiting Disney World and staying on property, many of the resort’s restaurants offer at least 10% discount – again, it may not sound like much but if you are enjoying a fine dining experience, every dollar counts!
One of the best discounts that you can enjoy is at the Be Our Guest restaurant at Magic Kingdom. It may only be 10% but when you are paying $60 per adult, if you are visiting with a large party/family, this is a saving that everyone will appreciate (please note, it is only valid for 4 people – the passholder and 3 additional guests but regardless, that’s a potential savings of around $24).
5. Epcot Festival Experiences
Epcot is definitely my favorite park at Disney World. Heather may suggest Magic Kingdom but almost every visit to Disney World leads to us spending time at Epcot. Perhaps it’s the amazing World Showcase and the myriad of experiences you can enjoy in each of the pavilions or perhaps it’s because there is always something new going on each time you visit.
If you have never been fortunate enough to visit Epcot, this park is renowned for being home to a number of festivals that take place throughout the year. The main benefit of these is that they are not just one-day events, rather they last for several weeks (and in some cases months) and visitors can enjoy them on numerous occasions. As annual passholders, you can enjoy additional benefits at each of these festivals.
Here is a quick overview of the different festivals:
- International Festival of the Arts (January to February)
- International Flower and Garden Festival (February to June)
- International Food and Wine Festival (August to November)
- International Festival of the Holidays (November to December)
During each of these festivals, passholders can head inside MouseGear and collect a magnet. In addition to the “free” souvenir magnet, passholders can purchase specific festival merchandise and again, the discount mentioned above is still valid on all these items.
$900…it’s a lot of money I know. But anyone that has visited Disney World or had aspirations to visit will know that this experience isn’t cheap. Here are a few hard facts that we can establish from this.
- If you visit any of the Disney World theme parks in Orlando at least 8 days a year, it’s beneficial to purchase the annual pass! In fact, you could probably visit less and with the additional discounts from parking, shopping and dining, you will see an immediate savings.
- I haven’t mentioned this above because we have yet to experience this but you can REALLY maximize the benefits and discounts during the second year. Renewal of your annual pass leads to major savings during year two. A discount is offered to annual passholders to “renew” and you can take advantage of this offer up to 30 days after your pass expires.
- Visiting Disney World as an annual passholder is a completely different experience. The first couple of times we visited Disney, we felt like we had to spend all day and experience as much as possible to really maximize the cost of purchasing day (or even multi-day) tickets. If you read our post on experiencing Disney World in one day, you will know what it was like! Now that we are an annual passholder, we can visit for just a few hours and not feel obligated to stay all day.
We attempted to keep track of the savings but honestly, there are so many of them that it makes it incredibly difficult to keep track of everything. Our number one tip also when visiting any of the parks or any store/experience at Disney Springs is to ask if there is a discount for being a passholder – they can only say no! We have been pleasantly surprised on several occasions to receive a discount without knowing about it.
Whether a Disney World annual pass is the right option for you is solely dependent on your travel plans and desire to visit Disney over the next 12 months. For us, we purchased these passes with plenty of trepidation but only after you take the plunge do you realize that it’s a no-brainer.
On a personal level, we are still contemplating whether to take advantage of year two…if I was a betting man (I haven’t told Heather yet), I would say we will purchase them again but let’s wait and see! We hope you are inspired to take advantage of the magical Disney World experience that awaits.