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Is a Walt Disney World Annual Pass Really Worth The Cost?

Do you visit Walt Disney World so much that you are thinking about getting an annual pass? Disney loves diehard fans, and the park’s planners do everything possible to entice fence-sitters to become annual pass owners. They provide two options for all guests plus an additional one for residents of Florida and members of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC). You may struggle in choosing which annual pass is right for you. Here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons of each one…and Walt Disney World annual passes in general.

The basics of the Walt Disney World annual pass

Image: DisneyDisney’s annual passes all provide the same primary benefit. You get to visit all four gates at Walt Disney World as many times as you like during a calendar year. Each pass also includes Park Hopper benefits, meaning that you can crisscross Disney’s Orlando campus all day, entering any park whenever you want. That’s true in theory anyway. In execution, a couple of loopholes exist, depending on which annual pass you buy.

Before we get into specifics of each pass, let me explain how the process works. Once you buy a Disney annual pass, it won’t activate immediately. You will start the clock on your 365 days of annual pass ownership on your first day at one of the parks. In other words, you can give a family member an annual pass for Christmas. That pass won’t activate on December 25th. Instead, the 365-day window begins on the next day that your family member tries to enter a Walt Disney World theme park. At that point, they’ll have to head to Guest Services and activate the annual pass.

Image: DisneyThe process is simple. You sign a form, you attach a form of payment to your account, and then you give a fingerprint/thumbprint. The last step is necessary so that you can enter the parks each time. You will use the same digit on the fingerprint scanner. Disney has this security measure in place to prevent guests from attempting to use the same annual pass.

Once a person has activated the annual pass, they can enter any park by using a fingerprint plus a Magic Band or pass holder card. Disney did add surge pricing in 2016, though. Simultaneously, the company added blackout dates to some of the annual passes. We’ll discuss that more in a moment.

Annual Pass benefits

Image: DisneyOther than park admission, the three annual passes have other benefits. All pass holders receive access to Disney’s PhotoPass services. In other words, you can ask Disney’s amazing photographers to take pictures of you at the various settings across the parks, resorts, and Disney Springs. All of these pictures will automatically upload to your My Disney Experience account via your Magic Band. The service even works on ride photos. Every memory of your Disney visit gets photographed for posterity’s sake.

You also get free parking at Walt Disney World, which is a huge benefit for frequent guests and Florida residents in particular. Pass holders also receive free Magic Bands (hey, they’re $13 each!) and a specialized email each month. Finally, many restaurants and merchandise stores onsite provide 10-20 percent discounts for annual pass holders. Those savings can really add up.

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There are 3 comments.

Silver does not offer Photo Pass downloads and Gold does.

Annual Passes definitely make sense if you plan to visit WDW a couple times a year or more as a non-Florida resident.

You can get a 4-day Park Hopper for $425 or a 10-day Park Hopper for $515.

But you can go for over 300 days for $780 or $870. And that also includes Memory Maker (a $170 value) and parking (a $20 per day per park value)

Even if you only went for 4 days in the Spring and 4 days in the Fall... you'd still be better off getting an Annual Pass when you consider the extra perks like photos, parking and other discounts.

I know people balk at the idea of $800 theme park passes... but look at what you get!

Sorry but this is not the best write up. It just basically lists the prices and benefits and blackout dates. Also there is a correction in that only the Gold and above passes include photopass. Silver and below do not.

You also forgot to mention that there is an Epcot after 4 pass as well as a separate water park pass and even a water park after 2 pass.

I always advise my fellow Florida residents to get an annual pass. The days of being able to just spontaneously go to Disney for the day are gone. The tickets are too expensive and the crowds too thick to do that anymore. At least with an annual pass you won't feel the need to do everything in a day or two. It's a much better way to Disney now. Also another tip is that Disney will let you upgrade your pass at anytime for the additional cost of the price difference. So if you don't know if you're going to want to go in the heat of the Summer just get a Silver pass then upgrade if you want to go. A couple caveats are that in that particular example you'll lose out on photopass benefits for that time you aren't Gold and your expiration date will always be the same.

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