When should you buy a Disney World annual pass?

October 17, 2018, 3:12 PM · With Walt Disney World's new date-based pricing system for multi-day tickets going into effect this week, it is time to revisit that frequently asked question, "when should I skip the daily tickets and just buy an annual pass?"

Walt Disney World offers seven annual pass options, but only two of them are available to people who live outside Florida: the $894 Platinum Pass and the $994 Platinum Plus Pass, which also includes the water parks and Oak Trail golf course. With individual tickets available for as little as $52 a day, with a 10-day Park Hopper ticket, the Platinum Pass only becomes a "must buy" for people planning to visit Walt Disney World theme parks for more than 17 days in a 12-month period, if you do the simple arithmetic. (Platinum passes include park hopping, so the Park Hopper daily ticket is the "apples to apples" comparison.)

But you don't need to visit for that many days to make the Platinum Pass a better deal than buying multi-day tickets. Buying the Platinum Pass would be a cheaper choice for anyone visiting Disney for two multi-day trips of just four days or more in one 12-month period, given the new pricing structure. With parking, free Photopass downloads, and 20% discounts on select food and merchandise included with the AP, I would consider the annual pass over two three-day tickets, too.

So here's the trick: If you visit Walt Disney World every year or so, time your trips for consecutive years so that they fall within 12 months of each other and buy the annual pass.

Another factor to consider is whether you will be visiting the Disneyland Resort in California. If so, Disney offers a Premier Pass that includes admission to all parks on both coasts. At $1,579 plus tax, that pass is a $685 upgrade over the Platinum Pass, but just a $430 upgrade over Disneyland's no-blockout Signature Plus AP. With a Five-Day Park Hopper costing $370 at Disneyland, a Disney World passholder would need to make a couple of long trips to Disneyland to justify the Premier, but top-level Disneyland passholders should pull the trigger if they are considering visiting Walt Disney World just four or more days during the year.

If you live in Florida, the math justifying buying a Disney World annual pass gets more compelling, with passes starting at $289 for an Epcot After 4pm Pass, and a Weekday Select Pass for all parks available at $319, plus three more tiers of sometimes blocked-out passes from $439-$609 and the Platinum Pass for sale to residents for $749, or about $56 a month using Disney's monthly payment plan for local residents.

If you're a local, an AP becomes less a vacation decision and more of a lifestyle choice. With the AP you can drop in on the parks whenever you'd like — assuming you are not blocked out that day — making the parks a place to go for dinner or a few rides as well as a choice for day-long entertainment.

Even if all you are planning at Disney World is a single week-long "staycation," the Silver Pass costs less than a Four-day Park Hopper. If you want to visit during the summer and need the Gold Pass, springing for it allows you to drop in on the parks throughout almost all of the rest of the year for less than $100 more, plus you can spread the cost out over 12 months using the payment plan, which you cannot do with the daily tickets. In short, if you live in Central Florida and you're planning to visit the parks at all, consider an annual pass.

Have you bought a Disney annual pass? Please tell us in the comments about your experience and whether you'd recommend it to others.

Replies (5)

October 18, 2018 at 9:11 AM

We bought an annual pass for the World for the first time this year. We had planned on going twice for a week each time. We will end up going four times during our pass year. We had no idea about the additional significant discount on rooms they give during slow periods at the parks. With the savings on food, merchandise, PhotoPass, and rooms (albeit they give the discount on short notice), we will be getting four trips for the price of three. Of course this means they will be getting more of my money than I originally intended, but I do feel there is good value.

October 18, 2018 at 9:31 AM

So much of this article mirrors the reasons we chose the Premier Passport for both CA & FL. We live in CA and have had just the Disneyland Annual Pass due to living within a few hours of Anaheim. With a 5-day DisneyWorld trip next month and in August ‘19, the breakdown of costs for gate entry and savings on hotel rooms/shows made it the perfect fit.

October 18, 2018 at 9:39 AM

I've had an annual pass since February, and I believe it's worth every cent! With the amount of times I've been to the parks since February, I've already gotten my moneys worth.

October 18, 2018 at 11:42 AM

As a SoCal APer (the one that's not available for new purchases currently) we have looked at the Premier pass in the past when visiting WDW. We've learned that we would have to visit WDW twice in one pass year to make it worthwhile.

Looking ahead to 2019, we have been invited to join friends and family at WDW on 3 different occasions, so of course, the Premier pass is something we are interested in again.

However, after talking to Disneyland Guest Services, we cannot RENEW DOWN to the SoCal AP pass at the end of the year, which seems odd to me. So of course, this could become our last year as Disneyland AP holders.

The other down side, I'm sure all our SoCal AP friends will hate us for the Star Wars benefits I'm sure we would receive* as the top tier pass holders.

*First access to the heavily marked up private access tickets

October 18, 2018 at 12:27 PM

You should buy a Disney Annual pass for your family when you win the Mega Millions this weekend

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