My Walt Disney World Annual Pass expires in February. Starting this August, I will be living minutes from WDW and will have plenty of free time on the weekends. So I decided to go annual pass comparison shopping this weekend and came up with these observations:
(Florida Resident assumed when beneficial)
- Sea World Platinum Passport: 2 years, $429.95, monthly breakdown: $17.91, per park per month $1.99 (National) $4.47 (Florida)
- Sea World 1 park 1 year Passport: $99.95, monthly breakdown: $8.32
- Sea World 2 park, 1 year Passport: $149.95, monthly breakdown: $12.49, per park per month $6.25
- Universal Premier Pass: $289.99, monthly breakdown: $24.17, per park per month $12.08
- Universal Preferred Pass: $219.99, monthly breakdown: $18.33, per park per month $9.16
- Universal Power Pass (11.15 months): $139.99, monthly breakdown: $12.56, per park per month $6.28. +$14 parking per visit
- WDW Seasonal (8.78 month): $249, monthly breakdown: $28.37, per park per month $7.09. +$14 parking per visit.
- WDW Annual: $369, monthly breakdown: $30.75, per park per month $7.69
- WDW Premium: $489, monthly breakdown: $40.75, per park per month $5.82
- Throwing out the crippled Universal Power Pass and assuming you don’t make it out to Busch Gardens and Adventure Island, the best value annual passes are surprisingly the Disney ones at $5.82-$7.69 per park per month.
- The average valuation of access to a park per month is $7.46
- To get year round access to all 12 local parks, you would have to pay at minimum $6.48 per park per month, or $77.80 a month.
- Out of all of these passes, only the Preferred pass is available for renewal on a month to month basis. IE, if you purchase your first year at the flexpay monthly rate, your contract is for one year, after that it can be canceled any time.
- If you plan on more than 5 visits per year to Universal, the Universal Preferred pass is a better deal than the power because of parking. You can however, only purchase one preferred per party and use that pass for parking and discounts.
- If you plan on more than 8 visits per year to Disney, the WDW Annual pass is a better deal than the seasonal because of parking. You can however, only purchase one regular annual per party and use that pass for parking and discounts.
- Sea World’s Platinum Passport is the strange one of the group. It offers access to all Worlds of Adventure/Busch/Whoever- owns-them-at-this-time parks across the country, bringing the value to $1.99 per park per month, under half of the next closest competitor. But, 5 of the 9 parks included are strewn about the country. If you travel all over, this pass could be useful. It also has some of the best benefits of all the APs. Free parking everywhere, free PREFERRED parking in Orlando and Tampa, reserved seating at all Sea World Orlando shows plus the biggest Busch Gardens one, and ride again privileges on the 3 major Sea World Orlando rides and the 4 biggest Tampa Bay coasters are the benefits everyone can use. It also includes a one time 50% discount on a single day ticket (~$40), $10 off up to 6 tickets at a time anytime, and 10% off ALL food, beverage and merchandise locations.
Personally, this is the model I would like to see for the Disney World AP.
Originally, I saw Disney’s APs as a large premium over the other APs available. But after doing the per park breakdown, I realize Disney is ahead of both Sea World and Universal. Universal has been hurting for attendance the last few years and had been offering steep AP discounts, but I believe they started trimming back on those roughly spring of last year, or when Harry Potter land became one year out and Rip Ride/Rockit opened. Between Legoland and Harry Potter land, Disney is going to start seeing more visitors and locals switching over to what are perceived as better value APs. The Fantasyland expansion is still 2+ years out and is not visible from I-4 like Harry Potter land is.
I think Disney needs to take a page from Universal’s book and offer a way of purchasing APs by the month. Require APs to still be initially purchased with a year commitment, but allow renewing on a month to month basis afterward for $30 a month. Note, the current renewal price breaks down to $27.80 a month. As part of this increase, offer more AP benefits such as discounts at the in-park counter service restaurants or 2-for-1 fastpasses. Do the same with the premium, but at $40 a month and toss in Tables in Wonderland for free. Scope down the availability of the resident annual passes to Orange and neighboring counties only, similar to what Disneyland has done with their SoCal deals. Tweak the seasonal AP so that instead of always blocking out all 4 parks only block out the Magic Kingdom. Or allow access on blackout days after 5PM similar to what Universal does. These tweaks would encourage APs to spend more time per visit, therefore becoming more likely to buy food and generate revenue. Remember, unless the park is already at capacity, APs don’t really cost Disney any money to allow in as everything is already staffed.
Encourage the really local APs to hang out at the resorts, maybe include pool access for the premium APs off-season. Give them full access to the amenities at the Magic Kingdom resorts, if most locals are like me, they have never stayed at a Disney resort during the course of their residency. Offer boat rentals on an at-cost basis. The resorts have many great restaurants that have unused capacity for lunch. Give premium APs access to select extra magic hours. As is, the premium AP is pretty crippled, it is an extra $100 for access to two water parks and DisneyQuest. 4 parks is enough for most people already. Make it an extra $150 and make it truly a premium AP. Revamp the AAA Diamond lots to give premium APs access after 4PM. (Although the AAA Diamond lots are already open to the general public, you just have to know to drive to it)
Other than getting rid of the AP program, what are your ideas?