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4 Shocking Elements of Disney's HUGE Annual Passholder Price Hike

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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There are 25 comments.

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!

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

I was really hoping for some news about added benefits for annual pass holders. With the loss of Disney quest it would have been nice to see a generous discount for the holiday special event tickets. I would also not be surprised if the tiers soon have different abilities and time frames for making fast pass selections.

It would be REALLY helpful when talking about cost to put all the information there so that you can see how much the price increase is. You don't have any of the old prices on there. And you don't have the Epcot after 4 pass or the weekday select pass.

I think for Silver and below the price hike is easily acceptable because it includes parking now. With parking going up to $20 per visit this is a huge benefit and I predict quite a few people will downgrade their passes just because of this factor. It will be much easier to justify going to the park for a couple hours if you don't have to pay for parking anymore. The ones who really got hit are the full fledged annual pass holders depending on how much you value the photo pass.

I totally agree with you. We are local area retirees and enjoy our Weekday Select passes. In the past we have paid the parking fee, except for times when we are resort guests. We have never been bothered by the block out days, because we enjoy the parks during the wee when there are fewer people. Same with the weeks surrounding the holidays and the 8 weeks in the summer...too hot and too many people. We are happy with the addition of the free parking to our Weekday Select Pass, at a nominal price increase.

To me this is still a bargain. Even if you buy the Platinum+. You go eight times it pays for it self. I know if I lived in Florida I would go more then 8 days. I had the annual pass in 2012 and live in Massachusetts. We went three times in a calender year. Oct, Dec and Jan. We used those passes 25 times in those three vacations. If at today's prices I went to the MK it would be 2500 bucks. Tell me this is not the smart move.

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.

The included Photopass works well for the family that has one person buying an AP to get the discounted rooms, free parking, etc and was going to spend $160 on Photopass as well. But a family typically shares/links their photopass/memory maker. So as far as I can tell, there is no benefit for everyone in your family to have photopass on their AP.
I don't normally follow prices of APs though...do they always get bumped separately, or is it usually alongside normal park tickets?

with the new silver pass, is the park hop included?

With all passholders, there allowed unlimited entrance during non blackout dates.....which means they can visit as many parks in a day as they want.

This price hike is absurd. I can more than afford it, but I refuse to pay a lot more to get a lot less. Half of their parks are under construction, little to no new experiences this year, the loss of several attractions to add news ones... Disney is greedy and only going to cater to the upper class in a few more years. Mark my words. I spend thousands in the parks every year, but now my money will be better spent down the road at Universal (a resort constantly adding new, innovative, attractions while give you a great value)

One less person at Disney!

It would be nice if there was an option for family's that could have photo pass or not. Why would a family of four need four photo pass options? Really only one would work because the whole family would be in the photo at the same time. I understand the "premium" for photopass but after a family purchased one with photopass included, maybe get the other passes with a choice to have it or not.

I don't understand why a Disney oriented Facebook page would be so negative about what Disney is doing. I agree with the other comments that if you are a Florida resident it is still a good deal. We have the week day pass and will only be paying $3 more a month (each) and will now get free parking! As far as block out days...not a problem. We work around them. So stop being so negative and realize prices go up and Disney keeps building and remolding for our pleasure.

Just FYI, I was looking at the prices for the Fl Resident Silver pass and your article is incorrect, the actual price is now $414.29 according to disney's offical site. I think you might be showing the old seasonal pass price.

What upsets me is that the only time my sibling gets to visit me are during those peak times they are now going to black out to lower leveled pass holders, so I won't get to enjoy disney with him when he is here.

WOW! I did not know this was coming!!! - As a FL resident in Pensacola, I let my annual pass expire in March because I didn't think I would be going back for a full year - my partner in crime ie my daughter now has a full-time job teaching school and this summer her vacation plans are going to Italy to visit her husband in the Navy - but my oldest daughter has a conference coming up next week actually on Disney property so she invited me to babysit her two youngest - I went ahead and purchase a seasonal pass, because I usually stay on site, I NEVER go in the summer, our spring break is usually different than Orlando's, and I seldom get time off during Christmas anyway, so the extra money for the annual pass was strictly for parking and it wasn't worth it to me - so I got my new pass before the price hike, and I get free parking anyway - that's a win-win for me this year

Disney is indeed a greedy company. There are better ways of controlling traffic than to hike the prices. I for one am NOT one of those that has alot of money. I used to be a resident BEFORE they had the monthy deduction for an AP. I love Disney but can no longer afford to go. As a non res, i'd have to buy the platinum pass. How stupid is that? To go one or two days? And parking should always have been free. Really, where else are you going to park? Disney, build parking garages. Youd free up land to expand.

In February 2015 ticket prices went up across the board. The Platinum AP went up $80 then. Now 8 months later it popped up unannounced another $90, but includes photopass. As I purchase 5 passes to cover my wife and three daughters (5,7 & 9) I ask myself, why doesn't Disney offer/stick with a stand alone annual photopass option for those who want it, like SeaWorld and other parks vs tagging a surcharge on each AP. As a resort guest, through "My Experience", all magic bands in our party were synced and tied to any MemoryMaker photo pass purchased (at $169 in advance). To break even on the 5 extra pass surcharges, I'm prepaying the equivalent of 3 Memory maker packages - a minimum of 3 multiday visits to basicly break even.

The Disney system is literally getting to the point where larger (and smaller) families are getting taken to the cleaners for a single once in a lifetime family visit even at gate prices, much less a captive audience staying and eating on property. They do not cater well to family units greater than 4 bodies without paying a very high room premium, suite or multiple guest rooms.

I expected a little more from this page. Next time please take the alarmist voice out of your article and just give us the facts.

Yes, Disney instituted a tiered AP system that may preview the expected daily pass tier system.

Yes, if one must go to the parks the last two weeks of the year and the last two weeks of March a guest will pay a 50% premium.... NOTE, most AP holders tend to avoid these four weeks due to crowds today so this is not really a loss for the 99%.

Yes, one gets free parking and photo pass downloads for the duration of the pass... note to author, this is a benefit.

If the author wanted to editorialize, she could have summarized her story with the thoughts that the daily pass holder should look at this tiered system and possibly assume the daily pass system will mirror this system after the next price announcement. Not being an alarmist, that usually occurs in February (I believe) and if one is planning a stay in 2016 one may want to lock in today's admission media.

PhotPass downloads are great,. However it only applies to new annual passholders. Any current passholder cannot take advantage of this feature. We just got back from an 8 day vacation and the download was not free. A call to guest services confirmed for new passholders only

I don’t believe rationalizing the cost is the issue with the increase. If you go to the park allot the passes are certainly cheaper then daily tickets. The problem I have is the ethical principle of continuous rate increases over the years. The one this year perpetuates the money grab and until the customers take a stand it will continue to increase disproportionately with the cost of living.
I compared 2008 passes to 2015 passes and found a 32-45% increase in costs. I then compared my family income tax gross pay only rose 0.18% (yes, less than 1%) over the same period. How does ANY company justify that kind of rate increase. Did Disney staff get sizable increases in pay, I highly doubt it. How does the company justify the increase and expect their customers to just pony up? This is an ethical problem I have with Disney and can take the only action that may get thier attention which is to not buy their product. That is the ONLY leverage we as consumers have to stop this non-sense.
Sadly, I realized recently that allot of people who struggled and defaulted on loans back in 2008 are now able to get credit cards again as their 7 year credit rating forgiveness period has expired. I know the corporations know this to be true. There is money/credit to be taken from the public if you seen the right product. Unfortunately, I personally cannot morally or financially keep up with Disneys unfounded rate increases. So I am doing the only thing I can, not buying the product! I hope enough will take the same action and we will see if corporate America will take notice.

Someone mentioned the parks being under repair. Good point. There is very little to do at Hollywood Studios and lots of repairs going on at Epcot. Perhaps a price decrease would have been a better choice. This would give more people an opportunity to experience Disney and realize the value that an annual pass would provide. We are weekday holders and are very happy with the parking being provided now. Thanks.

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