A Walt Disney World Annual Pass is a coveted thing.  Depending on the level of pass you purchase, it’s an invitation to experience the Magic whenever you want, as much as you want.  That’s a pretty heady and tempting prospect for any Disney lover.  But that magic comes with a price, dearie, and you need to do some Disney Math to figure out if the pass will be cost effective.

An annual pass to Walt Disney World is your key to all the magic, but it doesn't come cheap. Here are a few things to consider before you make the purchase.

An Annual Pass to Walt Disney World is a pretty thing. But it comes at a pretty price. Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive TravelingMom

Is A Walt Disney World Annual Pass Right For You?

My annual pass to Walt Disney World is expiring soon and I find myself reflecting on the value of that expense.  I saved up for quite a while to get my annual pass last year.  I tucked away cash here and there until I was ready to make the purchase.

This wasn’t a spontaneous or impulsive purchase. I just don’t have that much disposable cash lying around.  I’m guessing most other families don’t, either, so I’ll lay out as many pros and cons of the pass as possible to help you make the best decision you can for your family.

An annual pass to Walt Disney World is your key to all the magic, but it doesn't come cheap. Here are a few things to consider before you make the purchase.

All the magic Walt Disney World has to offer can be yours with an annual pass! Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive TravelingMom

Pick Your Pass

Check out the pass options and see the price tag for your preferred pass.  The pass I chose was the Disney Platinum Pass, which is currently $750.  That’s for children and adults, age 3 and up.  Gulp.  There are higher end options and less-perks options, but the Platinum Pass is the most popular for non-Florida residents.  This pass offered open admission to all four theme parks with no blackout dates.  Other perks: free parking at the theme parks and 10% off select dining and merchandise.  It also includes unlimited Photo Pass downloads and offers of resort discounts available to AP holders only.

TravelingMom Tip:  For this year, passes are including a 20% discount off select dining and merchandise.  

Determine your travel style to see if a WDW Annual Pass is right for you.

Are you spontaneous or a serious planner? Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive TravelingMom

What’s Your Travel Style?

How close do you live to the parks?  Are you the type to take spontaneous trips there?  Do you only plan one trip a year but make it a big blowout?  Do you fly or road trip?

Ask yourself these questions.  There are several pass options for Florida residents, but for the sake of making this post simple, I’m focusing on the residents of the other 49 states.  As a Georgia resident, I can be at the parks in seven hours.  I’m not the type to take spontaneous trips but I have taken several weekend trips.  Do you live farther away but have airline connections?  Do you travel with credit card points?  If you find it easy and relatively inexpensive to get to Walt Disney World and you believe you will take advantage of that several times a year, read on.  If you believe that you will really go only once in the 12 months of your pass, you can stop right here.  The annual pass is probably not for you.

An annual pass to Walt Disney World is your key to all the magic, but it doesn't come cheap. Here are a few things to consider before you make the purchase.

Will you need an Annual Pass for everyone? Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive TravelingMom

One or Many?

Are you purchasing one just for yourself or are you buying for the whole family?  Maybe purchasing just for the adults but not the kids?  Will you mostly be traveling solo or a mix of solo and family travel?

If you are going to bring your kids each time, you still might want to consider purchasing the annual pass for at least one adult if your kids are ages 0-9.  Infants to age 2 are free while tickets for kids ages 3-9 are slightly discounted. If at least one adult in your party has the annual pass and is the person who is handing over the credit card for purchases, your whole party will still get the benefit of their access to resort discounts as well as dining and merchandise discounts.  You’ll get all the PhotoPass pictures of the family linked in your account, too.

An annual pass to Walt Disney World is your key to all the magic, but it doesn't come cheap. Here are a few things to consider before you make the purchase.

Having unlimited PhotoPass downloads is a great perk!

Will You Use The Perks?

Let’s look at what’s included with your pass, other than park admission.

  • Free Theme Park parking:  If you are staying offsite, this is handy.  If you’re staying at a WDW resort, all guests get free parking.
  • Discounts on resort stays:  These offers are random and subjective.  Several times a year WDW releases special offers for annual passholders on resort stays, but not all discounts are created equal.  The timing of your trip as well as the level of your accommodations are taken into account to determine your discount.  Sometimes staying offsite is cheaper than a WDW resort even with an AP discount.
  • Discount on select dining and merchandise: As noted above, my discount was 10% but they have raised the discount to 20% in honor of Walt Disney World’s 45th anniversary.  The discount is not available resort-wide so keep in mind how much you would actually get to employ it.  If you purchase a lot of souvenirs and/or are the type to eat in a lot of the resort table-service restaurants, you could see a big savings.  If you are over souvenirs and eat mostly counter-service, this discount may not be a big deal to you.
  • Free PhotoPass downloads:  This is a relatively new perk.  All the pictures any of the Disney photographers take of you on WDW property are yours to download for free as an annual pass holder.  If you are all about those photo ops, this is a really great benefit.

Do The Disney Math

Let’s see if that AP worked out for me financially.  The purchase price is $750.00.  I went to WDW a whopping six times in the 12 months of my pass.  I only took kids two of those times because the other times were either runDisney race weekends or some kind of business or conference weekend.  Most of those trips would have required me to purchase a 3 day park ticket if I didn’t have the annual pass.  I’m a park hopper kind of gal, so I have to factor that extra price in.  To purchase tickets for each of my trips, it would have cost me a total of $1,540.00.

Clearly, I made the right decision financially.  I knew that I had all those trips planned; I didn’t take them just because I had the annual pass.  The fact that I did make use of the dining and merchandise discounts as well as stopped for every PhotoPass photographer that I could ham it up for was just icing on my Disney cupcake.  I made that pass holler.

To Renew Or Not

Am I renewing my pass?  Sadly, I’m not.  My live-in Financial Manager has requested that I jump on a Disney Diet (not the good kind with Dole Whips and Mickey Bars) and I don’t have any trips planned in the next 12 months.  Even if I end up going, I doubt it would be often enough to make the pass work out as well as it did this year.  If you know that you will go several times per year, do the math for yourself.

TravelingMom Tip:  This year, when you purchase your pass by January 3, 2017 you will get 13 months for the price of 12!  Also important to remember is that you don’t have to activate your pass until your first visit.  Your 13 months of Magic won’t start until your pass is activated.

A Walt Disney World Annual Pass is an amazing thing, but it isn't cheap. There are a lot of factors in deciding if the purchase is going to be worth it for you and your family. TravelingMom can help you make that decision!

The decision to purchase a Walt Disney World Annual Pass is a big one. We can help make an informed choice! Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive TravelingMom