Are Disney's theme park annual passes a good deal?
Both the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts have been raising their annual pass prices aggressively over the past few years, especially so at Disneyland, where a no-blockout annual pass now costs more than $1,000 a year. For many fans, even the higher prices aren't too much to pay, as they continue to flock to the parks. But some are saying, "enough."
A recent Orlando Sentinel story compared declining attendance at the Walt Disney World Resort with increasing occupancy at the resort's hotels. (Yours truly is quoted.) One might think that the two figures would track together, but the increase in hotel occupancy suggests that the decline in Disney's attendance is being driven by people who do not stay on-site at the resort. Annual passholders are part of that crowd, and the Sentinel talked with some people who have dropped their APs.
In California, Disneyland stopped selling its Premium annual pass last year, forcing those passholders to decide between paying several hundred dollars more to upgrade to the no-blockout Signature Plus pass, or downgrading to a pass with blockout dates. One option was the Signature pass, which was priced only a few dollars more than the Premium and blocked out just the two weeks around the Christmas holiday. But anecdotal reports from fans suggest that many passholders opted to downgrade to the much more limited Deluxe pass, and some just dropped their APs altogether. While the crowds at Disneyland this summer didn't appear to be as down as much from last year as they were in Orlando, the parks still didn't seem as full as they were during the first summer of the Diamond Celebration last year... perhaps also due in part to fewer annual passholders holding no-blockout tickets this summer.
The opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter gave Southern Californians a new reason to consider one of Universal Studios Hollywood's new annual passes, while Knott's Berry Farm celebrated the 75th anniversary of its Ghost Town this year while continuing to offer its aggressively-priced season passes, which can be had for the year for about the price of just one monthly payment on Disneyland's Signature Plus AP.
Are those parks drawing former Disneyland passholders? Universal's attendance seemed to be up this summer compared with last year, while Knott's appeared to be about the same. Perhaps we'll get the answer when the annual industry attendance report comes out next spring.
Until then, let's pose the question to you. Are Disney's theme park annual passes a good deal for you? We're getting to the point in the year when Disney typically announces its annual pass prices for the next year. Is Disney providing enough value for you to renew (or consider) an annual pass? And if not, what do you need to see from the company to consider buying one?
And what about other theme park companies? Which parks do you think are providing the best annual pass value these days?
My Universal pass cost a fraction of what Disneyland now wants and
As someone who has had an annual pass for 12 years, I can proudly proclaim
If Knott's continues to up its game all around the park making Fiesta Village, the Boardwalk area, etc. up to the theming standards of Ghost Town, plus, finally, get a great Snoopy dark ride with holiday overlays, then they would really start to siphon off a lot of Disneyland annual passholders.
I've never seen them as being worth it, and even less so as the parks have become more crowded.
I think they still can be a good deal, but I think they are a good deal to fewer people. Let's take a look at a few scenarios where they remain valuable...
For me it's very simple, the fact the Disney company hasn't build a ride I care about for many years at WDW. Add the decline in service and the addition of costs and money pinching made me stop buying an annual pass. In comparison Universal Studios Orlando builded a lot of rides, made updates and added experiences I do care about and I bought their annual pass.
A few years ago, my wife and I purchased those gold Premier passes that allowed unlimited access to both Walt Disney World AND Disneyland. If I recall, they were around $799 apiece. My, how times have changed!
As an Orlando resident I have had a WEE pad 30th no blackout dates for the last 12 years. This year I was forced to downgrade to the option worth blackout dates around during break and Christmas. The idea of the significant price hike fit less did not sit well with me at first, however using the monthly payment system helped take the sting out of it. I have enjoyed the one peel they added, the included use of photo pass.
This appears to be more of a Disneyland issue than a Walt Disney World issue. Granted both are expensive, but Disneyland is unusually high!
I'm a Six Flags passholder.
I was a WDW AP holder (platinum, no block outs) for the last 4 years and I enjoyed many of those moments. Living one exit away from WDW also made this a huge convenience. Even back when I wasn't making as much money, I still pennied out for that pass. And then something happened internally. I realized over the last year that I wasn't going as much as I used to (twice a week before, now once every 3-4 months). I wasn't bored with WDW, and now I had the capital to spend and buy the things I wanted without budgeting, but I just stopped going so frequently. I began discovering other great things about Orlando and the surrounding area that fulfilled the same joys. Albeit, not theme park things, but still. At the time of my renewal, Hollywood Studios was under full construction, as was DAK (Animal Kingdom) with Avatar and getting the nightime experience ready; Magic Kingdom was always far too busy to brave, even on week days; and that left me EPCOT (my favorite park, besides DisneySea).
I live in Jacksonville, FL which is 2 hours away from WDW. This year we bought the WDW Platinum Pass. As a FL resident, the cost is $649/each for my wife and I. The reason we did it is mainly because our son is 2 and still counts as FREE. So we try to go roughly once a month, and in that case it is totally worth it. BUT, my biggest complaint is once our son turns 3, he costs THE SAME AS AN ADULT! That is insane! So sadly, this will probably be the only time we have an Annual Pass...until he is in Middle School or something and goes with friends too.
As a DVC member, we used to swear by the Annual Passes. We'd plan a year, buy the passes for the family, then head to WDW three or even four times that year - spending on dining plan and souvenirs each time. Now, given the price of tickets in general - not to mention the Annual Passes - we are honestly starting to struggle to justify the DVC membership at all.
I used to have Disneyland passes all the time. Even at the higher prices, it made a lot of sense for me, but mostly because I lived 20 minutes from the park. When you're that close, you can drop in for dinner on a weeknight.
Every APer knows, you only buy an AP if you can amortize the cost, so you come out 'well above' break-even.
I've been waiting for my kid to be old enough to enjoy the height restriction rides before I buy my Disneyland Annual Pass, but just recently, Universal Studios Hollywood Annual Passes went WAY DOWN in price. Unadvertised, but sold through my company's employee discount program, I can buy a USH Annual Pass for $109. I get 12 months with some weekend and July/August blockout dates. This is a much better deal than at USH's own website ($119 for 6 months - Season Pass). So I will likely delay buying a Disneyland AP for another year. They are way too expensive and I really don't see the value.
I have the Platinum Florida resident annual pass, and it cost nowhere near $1000.00. I pay less than $60.00 a month. No blackout dates, both water parks & free golf on Oak Trail. I use it 4 or 5 times a year, for around a week at a time. So yes, it is a great deal.
We have had passes the last few years but Seems like Disney is getting more and more greedy... used to be that. Lack out dates were there to offer better options to nonew pass holders during peak times...but this year despite the fact that my family of 3 paid a small fortune for the seasonal passes we had...werected were actually sent a letter saying goes for an additional 170.00 EACHneed would be "allowed" to come during the summer....it's really not worth it ..we pay so much and everytime we go...even with fast passes....not so enjoyable anymore ..... very sadifferent what has become of what used to be the happiest place on earth...they are turning people off
Disney's pass system needs a major overhaul. The parks, especially at Disneyland are just too crowded too often to justify the price they charge. For Disneyland they should really switch to season passes instead of all the various annual passes. Have a Season Season pass for January through May, Summer for June through August, and Fall for September through December. Charge the same rate for all three and an additional optional single fee for parking so people who carpool or get to the park another way don't pay. This way locals will likely get the Spring and or Fall passes when the park is less busy, and wouldn't get a summer pass because it's when the park is the most crowded, and because it offers the worst value. People who get the Summer pass would be people who don't feel they can't miss going to Disneyland for a few months, and those who visit frequently during summer vacation.
My girlfriend and I are Orlando residents, and we like to keep a pass in our wallets. 3 months ago, when or WDW APs expired, we decided to try Universal Orlando instead. 2 weekends ago, on Friday (and Saturday), UO closed both of their parks from 9pm-11:30pm and allowed ONLY pre-registered APs into the parks to experience the "big" rides (Superhero Island, Kong/Jurassic, Hogsmeade, train, London/Diagon Alley). I can't even imagine Disney doing something like that.
I wonder what walt himself would say if he knew the prices of disney tickets are today? And what they pay there employees? It's a rip off to charge these prices and once you get in the park people are ripped off again with the prices they charge for food and a sin for what they charged for a flipping bottle of water!!! Im a florida resident and still tickets are too expensive...but reason they keep getting away with such high priced tickets,food,water,hotel stays? Because tourist and non tourist keep paying these ridiculous prices! No thanks not for me I won't be one paying those prices so that the big wigs get fatter pay checks while paying their employees so little!! Have fun to the ones who love to get ripped off and pay such ridiculous prices !!! ??
As a current WDW passholder, I think the parks did offer a good value last year. I basically was paying $10 a week per person for my APs. However, the frequent cutbacks (less turnstyles, shortened attraction hours, no parade at Magic Kingdom) combined with most of Hollywood Studios being a construction zone has made me decide to put off renewing for several years (if ever).
"Is Disney providing enough value for you to renew (or consider) an annual pass?"
We just dropped ours. We would drive down to Florida for 2 weeks in tha fall, and for a week in the winter. With the changes in pin trading, it is no longer worth it to go to the event. They also bundled the photo pass in increasing the price by about $100 per person.
I lived in Orlando for ten years, and had a Disney World AP for the last 4-5 of them. I usually went 2-3 times each month, for lunch or dinner, and just to walk around. If I experienced an attraction, it was a positive, but I'd been so many times that the rides aren't why I go, but rather, the atmosphere.
We live in S Florida and have had annual passes for years.. the price now is too high and we will be downsizing to the Epcot after 4 pass
I think the rumored "DCA only" AP is to soften the blow of yet another outrageous AP price hike, yet to be announced. Back to your question: no, the Disneyland AP prices are not worth it, with so many attractions closed: the entire length of the railroad, Mark Twain, Columbia, Tom Sawyer Island/Pirates Lair, and the removal of the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ and petting zoo (a lot of families enjoyed that area, and felt they got value with the BBQ). And to echo what so many have complained about - there hasn't been a new ride in DL in over a decade-right? It's pathetic and ridiculous. Add to that my biggest gripe is the rundown and depressing Tomorrowland. It looks like an abandoned amusement park from the 1970's. What urks me even more is the cheap Star Wars-ification of TL with the meet and greet in the old Innoventions building (add some new carpet and dark paint on the walls wow), the old Space Mountain with the tile flooring from the 1970's mall, and the worst is the hanging of the SW flags and fancy strobe lights on the abandoned People Mover track. I consider it an insult as a long standing AP holder. I find myself at DCA about 90% of the time, the park looks well kept, and has new attractions. The Imagineers did an amazing job with all of the Grizzly areas and queues, Cars Land, the pier and Buena Vista street. Even their dining is a substantial cut above the dining offered in DL. DL is not worth the current AP price, or the upcoming AP price, I think I've made my case. And what's with the no name brand ketchup and mustard packets - what's next Shasta soda to replace Coke??
We live about an hour from WDW and all the theme parks in Orlando. We were looking at doing an AP for Busch Gardens/Sea World. We're holding off for a few years on WDW because even though we enjoy the parks, we feel that the value isn't there right now. Paying around 1700$ for my family and still having blackout dates. Sorry Disney, but until a bunch of new stuff opens up or the kids are able to ride everything, I just don't think the cost is worth it.
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