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
Disney’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.
The 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
Other 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.