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Although frequent Walt Disney World guests are no stranger to annual price hikes,  fans were truly shocked yesterday when Disney completely changed their annual pass pricing structure to include stricter “tiers” that offer either the same or less passholder benefits than the regular annual passes, but at much greater cost. Though there is quite a lot to unpack with all the changes that have been made to Walt Disney World's annual passholder program, here are the most surprising and outrageous elements of this program that we definitely didn’t see coming! 

Unsurprisingly, we’ll start with the price changes:

1. The Cost

Image: Michael Mandiberg, Flickr (license)

As mentioned previously Walt Disney World guests are conditioned to expect price hikes at certain times of the year, and 2015 was no different, with many anticipating the price changes via social media. However, instead of the expected small, incremental upcharge to pre-existing passes, annual passholders instead got four new pass tiers to choose from, all of which feature substantial price increases from comparable annual passes from 2014-2015. Here’s a rundown of all the new tiers:  

Silver tier 

Image: Disney

Florida residents $389

Florida resident renewal: $330

Non-FL resident: Not offered

Silver is most basic annual pass option, and is essentially a seasonal pass which includes admission to all four parks except on the following blackout dates: December 17–31, 2015; January 1, 2016; March 19–April 1, 2016; June 6–August 11, 2016; December 16–31, 2016; January 1–2, 2017. The only new benefit that this pass provides is, unlike the former seasonal pass, the silver-tiered pass includes complementary parking. However, you'll notice that the price is also substantially higher than the prevoious pass as well... 

Gold tier

Image: Disney

Florida residents & DVC Members: $549

Florida resident renewal: $466

Non-FL resident: Not offered 

Though the price of the gold-level annual pass is comparable to the 2014-2015 standard annual pass, this tier also includes blackout dates, including December 17–31, 2015; January 1, 2016; March 19–April 1, 2016; December 16–31, 2016; January 1–2, 2017. Though the number of blackout dates is less than the silver pass, guests who want access to Walt Disney World all year round will need to look at the following two most-expensive options..

Platinum tier:

Image: Disney

Florida residents & DVC Members: $649

Florida resident renewal: $549

Non-FL resident: $749 new, $635 renewal

Despite the sweeping price increases, if you want an annual pass that is comparable to the standard pass that was offered in previous years, the Platinum tier will be your best bet. Though Florida residents will be paying almost $100 more (and out of state guests will be squeezed even further), this pass is now the least expensive option for those who want 365 days of unrestricted Walt Disney World park access.

Platinum Plus tier:  

Image: Disney

Florida residents & DVC Members: $729

Florida resident renewal: $619

Non-FL resident: $829 new, $705 renewal

This annual pass is comparable to the highest level of Walt Disney World annual pass under the old system, and includes access to all four parks, the two water parks, the Oak Trail golf course and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. As you might expect, this pass also has no block out dates. Of course, this is the most expensive option, and is still costs more than the premium pass that was available previously. 

Image: Disney

Got all that? Even though there was a little bit of math involved under the old passholder system, this new tiered system is a lot more complicated. And of course, it is a lot more expensive, with rates for comparable passes going up by double digit percentages across the board.

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Comments

the passes at wdw are still cheaper than the new passes at Disneyland California. the did away with the premium annual pass like I have with no black out dates for $779 and replaced it with a pass that costs more than $1000. even the pass below that which has blackout dates costs about $849. sure there is the digital download and parking but that is a steep price hike.

Worth noting: Yes, Disney is steering Annual Passholders toward increasingly restrictive passes with more blockout dates than before. However, I think it's only half true to say that Disney is "pricing out some guests to ensure that those with more money to spend can enjoy the parks on busy days." That feeds a little too much into the whole "class warfare"/ "destroying the American dream" that fans like to moan about.

Sure, guests who can afford higher tier passes are given more access, like it or not. But the existence of those higher tiers isn't just so that those with more money can enjoy the parks more often. The root of it is to help day guests – people like me who get to visit once a year – to enjoy our days without clogged infrastructure, locals camping out for shows I have only one chance to see, and overrunning each park's few major attractions. So at the end of the day, Disney is re-balancing the scales to give a little more preference to families and guests who are making that once-in-a-lifetime trip. Which is a good thing in the end.

You know as a passholder I completely agree with you.. Black-out dates are necessary. I for one am not the type that will be at the parks during peak times. I love in Florida and I know I am not the one who knows better than to visit the parks during X-mas or New Years or even Easter and spring break.. What people need to realize is even with the price increase.. If you are an annual passholder and visit more than 2x a year it pays itself off.. Parking and Memory Maker included now.. Man that's awesome!

In reply to by Alvaro A. (not verified)

Agree 100%

Brian , i am sorry to say you are wrong. Disney executives have stated recently just that.. that they are admittedly catering to a higher income /wealth clientele and they make no bones about it-from a corporate standpoint, they feel this is in line with their fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders. The only truth about trying to get once a year families in is if you have lots and lots of money to spend.. then they are for the families. I do understand the reasoning. I do not like it, but this is corporate America, and this is simply the down side to obligations to shareholders

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