The price of a vacation to Disney World continues to go up. One way to possibly lower the price, especially if you are a frequent guest, is to get a Disney World annual pass. Will an annual pass work for your family?  What are the benefits of an annual pass, and are they worth it?

This article will break it all down, reveal exactly when you might consider an annual pass and when you should NOT consider an annual pass.  So we are clear, this article is for all Disney World lovers that live outside the state of Florida.  Those fortunate in-state residents get incredible deals on their annual passes, and this article will not apply to them!

Types of Annual Passes

There are two different types of annual passes that we will discuss today. This article will not be discussing the Florida resident annual pass, or the DVC annual pass pricing. You can currently buy a Disney Platinum Pass, or a Disney Platinum Plus Pass.

Disney Platinum Pass

The Platinum Pass is the standard pass that you’ll buy. The price is currently $894.00 per year. This is the pass that we will spend the most time talking about today. Below are the benefits that come from getting a Platinum Pass:

  1. Admission to all 4 theme parks throughout the year, with no blockout dates.

  2. Park hopper pass, so you can go to up to 4 different parks on the same day.

  3. Up to 20% off dining at many Disney restaurants

  4. Up to 20% off souvenirs and merchandise in Disney stores and online.

  5. Standard theme park parking.

  6. Discounts on Disney resorts

One note is that the 20% off dining is a bit misleading. If you go to the Disney website and look, the vast majority of restaurants only give you 10% off. That’s the number we will use when we make calculations. The current percentages are listed on Disney’s website

Disney Platinum Plus Pass

This pass has all the features of the Platinum pass, with a few added benefits. The price is $994.00 per year. So for 100 extra dollars, here is what you can get:

  1. Admission to 2 Disney water parks

  2. Admission to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

  3. Green Fees for Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course.

Cost Analysis of the Annual Pass Perks

In order to figure out if the annual pass will save you money, you need to understand how much you spend on a Disney vacation. You’ll need to get out a sheet of paper, or open a spreadsheet and be realistic about what your family spends on the following items. In this article, we’ll break down each item, and give you realistic numbers to help you calculate your cost savings.

Souvenirs

On a recent week-long trip to Disney World, we spent an embarrassing $880.00 on souvenirs and merchandise. In my defense, 350 of that was a special spa treatment! (which would have a 15% discount for AP holders). If I were to use the conservative 15% on all items, that would mean we would have saved $132 dollars.

If you have been to Disney World in the last few years, you may have the portfolio in your email that shows an itemized listing of every item you purchased. Let’s imagine that we didn’t buy a spa treatment (we’ve never done that before!). That would mean that we’d spend around 500 dollars on souvenirs. At 15%, that’s 75 dollars in savings. Obviously this isn’t enough to cover the cost, but it is a factor.

Dining

If you are doing the Dining plan, this section may not apply to you. But if you are not, you can save a LOT of money on dining. Most of the nicer Disney restaurants have dinner prices that will be well over 100 dollars for a family of 4, if no approaching 200. Getting 10% off of those restaurants can save you a lot of money.

A good rule of thumb is that an adult will spend about $50 dollars a day on food if they just eat counter service meals. If you add in table-service meals and alcohol, that number could balloon to 100. For the purposes of this exercise, we’re going to stick with the family of 4 and assume $1400 dollars for the week for food.

That means that you would save around $140.00 per week in food costs, just by having ONE annual pass.

Parking

An annual pass allows you to park at the theme parks for free. Parking is usually $25.00 a day. That means that with a 7-day pass, you could save up to $175.00 just in parking costs! But this only applies to guests who are not staying onsite. Onsite resort guests get to park at the theme parks for free.

If you are flying in and using Disney transportation, this perk won’t affect you. If you are staying onsite at a Disney resort, this perk won’t apply to you either. But if you enjoy staying at local AirBNB’s or Orlando-area hotels, you can save a lot of money with this discount.

Water Parks/Golfing

Platinum Plus, which gives you the ability to golf and attend water parks, is 100.00 per year. For my family, it’s not worth it. We never go to the water parks, and I don’t go to Disney World to golf.

But if you do golf, the 9-hole walking course that comes with this annual pass costs $29.00 for green fees. So if one person in your family golfs every day, they may want to get a Platinum plus pass.

Water park tickets are $69.00 a day. So in order to pay for itself, you’d need to go to the water park twice a year and then you’d save money.

Important reminders

With the souvenirs and the dining, only one person in the family needs an annual pass. We calculated 250 dollars in savings for souvenirs and dining. That makes the price of ONE annual pass much more viable. But if you’re considering an annual pass for your entire family, those perks don’t have as much value. A family of 4 would spend $3,576 on annual passes. The 250 dollars makes a huge dent in 894, but it doesn’t make a big dent in a 3500 dollar expense.

By far, the biggest way to pay for an annual pass is through park admission. That’s the part that we’ll now focus on.

Cost Analysis of Annual Pass Ticket Prices and Resort Savings

A 7-day Disney pass with a park hopper costs $544.00. As you can see, going to Disney World once a year for 7 days will not make it cost effective to purchase an annual pass. The AP costs 894 dollars, so you’d spend 350 dollars more than you’d need to.

But do you go to Disney World every year? If so, then an annual pass will save you money if you attend Disney World for 7 days, twice in an 11 month period.

So if we imagine that you typically go in the summer, you could go in August one year, and then July the next. Then you’d be ahead by almost $200 dollars per ticket! So attending Disney World twice a year is KEY if you’re thinking about getting an annual pass. If you go more than twice, it’s an absolute no-brainer.

These savings would mean that you could buy every family member an annual pass, and save up to $800 dollars on park tickets alone. Then if you add in the other discounts, you’d see a significant reduction in the price of the 2 vacations. Let’s break this down.

Annual Pass Savings for TWO 7-day WDW vacations for a family of 4:

Ticket Prices - $800.00
Souvenirs - $150.00
Dining - $280.00

Total Savings - $1,130.00

As you can see, if you go to Disney every year, you can save a lot of money by getting Annual passes by going twice in 11 months. After you’ve used your annual pass on two vacations, you’d then buy a new one the following year and ensure that you followed the same rules as above, spacing your vacations 11 months apart.

Annual Pass Savings on Disney Resorts

There’s one other perk that we haven’t discussed. You can save a lot of money on Disney resorts. But I wanted to keep this section separate, because many guests don’t stay onsite. Disney resorts are more expensive, so it’s not really a perk for the large number of guests that don’t stay onsite. But for those who do, this can actually help you to pay for the cost of an annual pass over just ONE visit.

Disney usually runs specials for annual passholders. As an example, in 2019 there is one special going on for annual passholders in April-June. Passholders can get a discount of up to 40% on some deluxe hotels.

As an example, for the Boardwalk Inn, ticket prices are usually around $450.00 per night. So you could save up to $1,260 dollars on your resort stay!

But there’s a downside. You can’t combine packages. That same room is available to all guests at a 25% discount for the same room in May. That means that what you’re really saving is about 472.50.

How to Make an Annual Pass work for ONE vacation

Throughout this article, it’s become clear that you’d never want to buy annual passes for your entire family if you’re only going on on vacation to Disney. It would take 2 vacations in a 12-month period for you to get value. But if you are only going to Disney once, there is a way to make it work.

The way this works is to only buy one adult annual pass. With that pass, you can get all the dining, souvenir, parking and resort discounts for your entire family of 4.

Here’s how the math work, and we’re going to use totals that we calculated from earlier up the page.

Tickets - $544.00
Souvenirs - $75.00
Dining - $140.00
Deluxe Resort - $472.00

Total - $1,231.
Cost of annual Pass - $844.00

Total Savings - $387.00

So using the above numbers, if you are planning a 7-day pass, you are planning to buy souvenirs and eat Disney food, and you’re going to stay in a Deluxe resort, you could save yourself $387.00 by buying an annual pass for ONE person.

Is it worth it? In this scenario, yes.

But is this the cheapest way to do a one-week Disney vacation? Not necessarily. For example, sometimes Disney has free dining in the fall. You would not be able to combine that free dining discount with an annual passholder resort discount. If you were taking advantage of the free dining, you may actually cost yourself more by trying to use an annual pass discount!

In Conclusion

This is a lot to take in. Let’s simplify things. My recommendation is:

Only buy an Annual Pass if you are going to visit Disney twice in one 12-month period. There are ways to make it work if you’re only coming for one year, but they can get rather complicated and may end up costing you money.

If you ABSOLUTELY want to find the absolute cheapest way to do Disney World for the time period in which you’re vacationing, please contact us and we can help you!