When It Makes Sense to Buy a Disney Annual Pass

Leah AlthiserDVC Owner Benefits, Vacation Planning Tips, Walt Disney World

An Annual Pass is a Disney World lover’s dream come true… visit the parks as often as I want for a whole year?  Yes, please!

While an AP isn’t cheap, buying one might actually save you money depending on several factors. In this post, I’ll do the math and explain when it makes sense to take the leap and buy an Annual Pass at Disney World.

Discounts on Annual Passes

First of all, there are some nice discounts available on APs for Disney Vacation Club members.

DVC members who bought directly from Disney (or resale prior to April 4th, 2016) can currently get a Platinum Plus Annual Pass for $559 plus tax. You must purchase your pass by January 3rd, 2018 to get this discount, but if you miss that deadline you can still get a Gold Annual Pass for the same price.

Here’s a breakdown of what you get with each of the three main types of APs:

  • Gold Pass: Only available to Florida residents and DVC members. Admission to all four theme parks on most days, excluding blackout dates (here are the blackout dates for 2018).
  • Platinum Pass: Admission to all four theme parks any day of the year.
  • Platinum Plus Pass: Admission to all four theme parks and both water parks any day of the year.

These three above passes also include free parking at the parks, free PhotoPass downloads, and discounts on dining, merchandise, hotels, and occasionally tickets for other guests.

There are other discounts on APs for Florida residents, all of which are explained in detail here on the Mousesavers site. 

Comparison to Standard Park Tickets

Annual Pass v Tickets

Let’s compare the cost of a regular park ticket to that of an Annual Pass. I’ll consider prices if you are eligible for DVC discounts and if you aren’t.

Currently, DVC members who have access to Membership Extras can get a 7-day park ticket starting at $370. This is a special ticket that allows the days to be used over the course of 6 months instead of the 14-day window of use for regular tickets.

The difference between this 7-day ticket and a Gold Annual Pass is $189. Even if you go to Disney World only once in a year, it may make sense to upgrade to an AP due to the additional perks (read on to learn how you can easily save at least $189 with an AP). You can purchase passes through the DVC membership site.

If you don’t get DVC discounts for Annual Passes, then the price of a Platinum Pass is $779 plus tax. A 7-day Park Hopper ticket is $485, so the difference between these two tickets is $284.

Many people buy an AP and plan to use it on two trips roughly one year apart. This is an excellent way to cut down on ticket costs if you visit every year roughly around the same time. Two 7-day Park Hoppers would cost $970, so an AP would save you over $200 per person over that cost.

There is potentially a great deal of value from the additional perks that come with an Annual Pass, as I will show you next. Even if you only plan on visiting once within a year, it might make sense to have just one person in your party upgrade to an AP just so you all have access to these perks.

Value of Additional Perks

Next, let’s look at the value of the perks that are included with the three main annual passes.

PhotoPass Benefit

Disney PhotoPass

Each pass includes unlimited PhotoPass downloads. If you purchase this option from Disney, it is called the “Memory Maker” package. It is active for 30 days from purchase, so it can really only be used for one trip.

If you buy Memory Maker at least 3 days before your trip, it costs $169 plus tax. If you want it immediately it costs $199.

I was really impressed with the quality of the PhotoPass pictures that I got with my annual pass this year. Some of them have become family favorites that we will treasure for years to come (such as this picture of our daughter with her favorite character, Flik).

I’m sold on the benefit of having PhotoPass for any trip on which we spend extended time in the theme parks. So this benefit of an AP is worth at least $169 to me.

Dining Discounts

Disney offered fantastic dining discounts in 2017 for Annual Pass holders. I saved up to 20% at many desirable quick service and table service restaurants, such as Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The AP discount is good for up to 8 people dining in the same party as the passholder.

The 20% discount was as good as the Tables in Wonderland discount and better than the DVC discounts usually offered, bringing even more value to an Annual Pass.

I strategically planned to maximize the dining discounts that came with my AP, selecting restaurants that offered the best bang for my buck. I estimate that I over $150 just in dining discounts with my AP last year!

Merchandise Discounts

As an Annual Passholder, you will now get 20% off merchandise in most places around Disney World. This was increased from 10% as part of the 45th anniversary celebration, but the 20% discount appears to be staying around until further notice!

I don’t buy a lot of merchandise on our multiple trips to Disney each year, but the 20% off savings adds up quickly. You’ll save $10 off every $50 in purchases at Disney, which could equal big savings for some folks.

Resort Discounts

Disney AP discounts

If you like to stay at non-DVC resorts as part of your visit to Disney World, you’ll get additional savings on resort hotel stays with your Annual Pass.

The AP discounts are usually 5-10% better than any publicly available offer and sometimes offer different inventory. I was able to find rooms at Disney Value resorts (such as All-Star Movies) for under $80 per night plus tax with my AP discount in 2017.

If you want to get a room for your arrival night and not use points, the AP discount on resorts can really come in handy!

Park Ticket Discounts

Disney AP discounts

Occasionally Disney has special offers on park tickets for guests of Annual Passholders. For example, this summer Passholders were able to buy one-day Park Hopper tickets for friends for only $79 each, a savings of over 40%.

Passholders also get discounts on special ticketed events, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. You’ll save up to $8 per ticket and you can buy discounted tickets for yourself and up to 3 guests.

Passholders will also save on tickets to Disney water parks. Currently, the savings is $4 per adult ticket.

Other Discounts

If you have an AP you’ll get to park for free at all Disney theme parks. This can save you the $20 per day parking fee if you stay off-property at any point. We took a short trip to Disney in early December and this perk saved us $60 since we stayed off-property.

The additional discounts available to Passholders are always changing. They include discounts on tours, car rentals, golfing, spa and salon visits, and more. You can find the current additional discounts available here.

Our Total Savings from Additional Perks

If you visit Disney frequently, the savings from AP benefits can add up quickly. Here is a breakdown of what I saved over the course of one year from my AP:

PhotoPass downloads: $169 (assuming I bought it only once)
Dining discounts: $150
Merchandise discounts: $20
Additional tickets discount: $24
Resort savings (over standard discount): $45
Parking discount: $60

Total savings: $468

As you can see, the additional benefits of my AP almost paid for my pass, without considering how much I saved on park admission. The value of these perks and benefits are definitely something to consider as you decide on whether or not to upgrade to an AP.

Any questions about Annual Passes for DVC members or the additional benefits of getting an AP? Join the discussion over at the ResalesDVC Facebook page!




About the Author

Leah Althiser

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Leah Crocker Althiser has more than 30 years experience planning visits to Walt Disney World. She writes about living a rich life on a budget and shares lots of Disney World planning advice on her blog, The Frugal South. She lives with her husband, daughter and flock of chickens near Durham, North Carolina. View More Posts By Leah