We are a month into Disneyland's latest annual passport innovation... so how is the Disney Flex Pass working out?
Disneyland introduced the Disney Flex Pass last month as its fifth annual pass option, joining the Signature Plus, Signature, Deluxe, and Southern California Select APs. (A Southern California annual pass remains available for renewals but not for new sales.) The Disney Flex Pass costs $599, making it the second-least expensive pass, ahead of the $399 SoCal Select.
The "Flex" in the Disney Flex Pass is its reservation feature, which can make it work like other AP levels. Like the $399 SoCal Select, the Disney Flex Pass is valid on most weekdays during the school year. And like the $1,149 Signature AP, the Disney Flex Pass is only officially blocked out for a couple of weeks around Christmas. For all other days, you can get into the parks if you make a reservation to use your pass on that day — a unique feature among Disneyland's annual passes. Passholders can make their reservations through the Disneyland app or website.
Disneyland introduced the Disney Flex Pass as part of its ongoing effort to balance attendance levels at the parks. The reservation system allows Disney to control the number of guests visiting the park with this pass on days when attendance might approach a park's capacity. Disney allows Flex pass holders to make a reservation up to 30 days in advance and to hold two reservations at a time.
That does not mean you can visit only twice in a 30-day period, however. When Disneyland introduced the pass, I said that the trick with this pass would be balance making your reservations far enough in advance that can you get the specific days you want with churning your reservations quickly so that you can visit as many days as possible. If you successfully could make a reservation for today on every day, conceivably you could get into the parks with a Disney Flex Pass on as many days as someone who bought the $1,149 Signature AP.
What no one knew at the time was how often days would "sell out," preventing Disney Flex Pass holders from being able to reserve them. Now, with a month of experience with this pass, we are getting an idea of how often Flex passes are getting blocked.
The answer? Not often at all. So far, only one day has ever ended up "selling out" for Disney Flex Pass reservations. That's the Fourth of July at Disneyland.
The Disney Flex Pass allows you to make reservations for one or both of the Disneyland theme parks, giving you Park Hopping privileges if you choose the two-park option. Obviously, that's the way to go... if you can. But if you are willing to reserve just Disney California Adventure, as of now you still can get into that park on July 4 with the Disney Flex Pass. (You can see current blockout dates for all passes and available reservation dates for the Flex pass on Disneyland's website.)
Disneyland is not allowing passholders to downgrade from a Deluxe, Signature or Signature Plus AP to the Flex, though it will allow SoCal Select passholders to upgrade. As the year proceeds, if a significant number of passholders switch to the Disney Flex Pass as their other passes expire, increased demand might start closing more dates. But for now, for Disneyland visitors willing to jump through the hoop of making reservations, the Disney Flex Pass is giving its passholders more date availability than the $200-higher-priced Deluxe pass and pretty much the same as the Signature pass that costs almost twice as much.
So why would anyone pay $550 more for a Signature pass? Well, there is the guarantee of date availability and the convenience of not having to mess with reservations. But the big reasons to pay more for the Signature are parking and discounts.
The Signature Annual Passport includes free theme park parking at the Disneyland Resort — which costs $25 a day otherwise. Since you no longer can add a parking benefit to Disneyland APs that do not come with it, that's a significant consideration for someone who plans to use an AP frequently. The Signature pass also includes increased food and beverage discounts: 15% instead of 10% — plus double the discount on merchandise: 20% instead of 10%.
Still, the Disney Flex Pass would be a more affordable option for someone who did not need those benefits. If you aren't driving to the park and don't spend much, if any, money while you are there, why not save $550 to get in on as many days?
So who fits that description? Easy — children do.
If Mom or Dad has a Signature pass that includes parking for the family car and they're paying for the meals and souvenirs anyway, why not just get the kids the Disney Flex Pass and save on their admissions? Disneyland long has charged the same price to adults and children for its annual passports, but with the Disney Flex Pass, it's finally offering what effectively serves as the "kids price" for a Signature Annual Passport... assuming Mom or Dad is willing to make the effort to play the reservation game for their kids.
Anyway, just some thoughts to consider if you are in the market for a Disneyland annual pass.
And if you decide that multi-day tickets are a better deal for you, please remember that we offer discounted theme park tickets to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on our Disneyland tickets page!
[Full disclosure: Disneyland provided me with a Disney Flex Pass at no charge to try out the system. But I also have a Signature Plus pass that I paid for myself, so I already could have gotten in on any day using that.]Tweet
This is an interesting way of looking at it. However, purchasing the Flex Pass as a "kids" ticket is potentially taking a gamble that guests would then be stuck with for a full year. While the availability of flex reservations might be easy to come by right now, there's no guarantee that will be the case 8-12 months down the road. Not only would that decrease the perceived value of the Flex Pass, but it would subsequently decrease the value of the more expensive Signature Pass - what parent is going to leave their kids at home for a day at Disneyland when there are no available reservations for their Flex Pass children?
What sounds like a good idea right now is unlikely to last. Disney is notorious for changing rules and terms on the fly, and have proven that year after year. When they hear about guests taking advantage of a loophole or unwritten "discount", they are quick to close it and alter the rules to their financial advantage. Let's not forget that families with APs have been splitting their tiers for years (WDW APs just got a serious wakeup call when the prices for the highest tiered passes were raised over 20%), so giving kids lower tiered passes while their parents purchased top tiers for parking, food & merchandise discounts, and special event access is not a new concept. However, the Flex Pass itself is a new product, and with that I would expect Disney to continuously tinker with it to figure out where the "sweet spot" is in terms of reservation availability and price. There's also no telling whether Disney would limit/restrict what reservations Flex Pass holders can see if they are visiting too often for the company's liking. All of Disney's computer reservation systems are HUGE data gathering operations, and Disney already uses those data to the company's (and sometimes the guest's) benefit, but can use those data in more shrewd ways to deter/frustrate the guest.
Personally, I would only purchase a Flex Pass as a "hedge" product and see how it works through the first year. Just remember caveat emptor.
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I've been sporadically checking the 'Reservation Unavailable' days for the Flex Pass, and it seemed to change, some days when I checked, it was other days besides July 4. So if a day is open, does that mean that you could make a reservation the 'day of' and go that day? I think you answered that, but I just want a confirmation.
Yes, I can see if the number of Flex passholders grows, reservations will be taken up. But you would think that, right off the bat, some days would be too crowded to allow for additional people making reservations. For an example, I would think that July 3 would normally be too crowded with just the regular guests and passholders. Are they allowing for a certain number of Flex reservations?