Annual Pass Breakdown

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:

Pricing:

(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

Observations:

  • 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?

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
This entry was posted in Florida Attractions, Themepark Industry, Walt Disney World and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Annual Pass Breakdown

  1. Amy says:

    “You can however, only purchase one regular annual per party”

    Are you sure about that? You mean to say that in a family, only 1 member can purchase an AP- everyone else can only buy seasonal passes? Or am I just misunderstanding? Because I know that we’ve gotten APs, and my aunt & uncle have both gotten APs.

    • Jennifer says:

      I think he was suggesting that for the sake of one’s budget…you could decide to purchase just one annual pass for your family, in order to benefit from the parking and discounts. Not saying that Disney would only allow you to purchase one per group.

    • Katrina Theresa says:

      No, he means to save money, purchase one annual pass to pay for parking, and seasonals for the rest of your party (seasonals don’t get free parking).

  2. Kelly says:

    Amy: That’s correct. Say if you have a family of four, you know you’re not going to visit in the summer because of crowds and heat, but during the rest of the year, you’ll visit. So both kids and Mom gets a seasonal pass. Dad gets a full AP so they show his AP to the parking attendant to get full parking and then if they’re dining at an establishment that gets a discount for the AP, they can use Dad’s AP. The entire party does not need APs.

    (My parents live in FL, have APs. I’ll visit and get a park hopper, but if I go with them, the above applies.)

    And that’s only for Disney :) I don’t know how the other parks work.

    • Kurt Nelson says:

      Same can be done for Universal where they have passes that do or do not include parking. All Sea World passports include parking.
      Also, look at the per month for the seasonals: You really are not receiving a discount, but just not paying for the ~3 months of non-access.

  3. tom leo says:

    Ok here is my question. im a florida annual pass holder, and was told 2 different things by disney when it comes to pay 12 get 15 mos deal.

    one rep told me that if your pass expires before august 2010 you can get it, anotehr one told me i cannot.

    i purchased my pass in april 2010 and the promo for annual pass holders getting 15 mos for the price of 12 started in august. i’d relaly like the deal if possible. also, i keep hearing there are annual pass holder renewal discounts anyone know what they are?

  4. drich says:

    Remember, there isn’t an incentive for Disney to sell more annual passes, as they don’t pay for themselves in the long run from the park’s standpoint.

    Take Tokyo Disney as an example. There the AP is $700+(US), and the guest who have them spend lots of money in the parks. There are many more dining options than at any WDW or DLR park (with the possible exception of EPCOT), and people go to the parks specifically to eat. Because of the culture guests are going to also purchase gifts for others while they are in the park, so there will be merchandise sales as well.

    By contrast, the average American AP holder just goes to the park to ride the attractions. They typically don’t eat in the parks and they don’t buy merchandise. This has the effect of making the park more crowded while not increasing Disney’s revenues.

    The only way an AP benefits Disney is if the AP holder is bringing people with him or her who buy a day ticket, or they are the atypical guest like myself who still dines in the park and buys merchandise.

    I can’t speak for WDW, as I only get out there once or twice a year. However, with DLR it is frequently packed with APs to the point where City Hall gets complaints from the day ticket holders as to how crowded the park is.

    • JeffG says:

      What are you basing that analysis on? I find it rather hard to believe that Disney would continue to offer APs at all (much less promote them as heavily as they do) if what you posted is true. What possible reason would they have to continue offering something that brings in little or no revenue?

      • Kurt Nelson says:

        Jeff, you are right. APs are better customers than single day ticket holders. Why else would they have so many merchandise events? Also remember, if a park goes into phased closing, regular APs have full access to the park up until actual capacity is hit, long after the plain multiday and single day tickets are blocked from entering.

  5. Paul says:

    My suggestion is to purchase the AP for a child, if going through Disney. The difference in price between a seasonal & annual is cheaper for children, than adults. My wife & I have had seasonal passes for 8 years & my son has had an annual pass for 5 (He has been going to Disney regularly since he was 3 months old). Saved us about $50 per year. Sucks that they got rid of the different benefits for AP & seasonals. Only the parking difference made it worth it.

  6. I’m an AP WDW holder and love it. I don’t know how far you would want to scope down the resident deals. We are in Tampa and I know TONS of people who get the AP, and I’m guessing most of us wouldn’t get it if we had to pay the full rates. Though I wouldln’t go much further than whatever counties are more than 2 hours away.

    Drich-I think you are completely right about the AP holders at Disney. Everyone packs snacks and their lunches (or splits one quick-service meal among 2-3 people) and we don’t buy merchandise (I loved my b-day gift card though!). But we do bring in a lot of people who buy 1-2 day tickets (though probably not to justify all of our visits, lol).

    I also noticed that you didn’t break down the price for a 2 year 2 park Sea world/Busch Gardens pass. I did that earlier this week and I think it was right at $10, which would be $5/park/month.

  7. Nancy Coffey says:

    Ok, how do you access the AAA Diamond Lot? Can any AAA cardholder use the lot?
    This intrigues me!

  8. John Frost says:

    If you book through AAA and tell them you’ll be driving a car, you can get a diamond pass. Show that to the parking lot attendant when you arrive and they’ll direct you to the correct lot.

  9. Elaine says:

    Has anyone had this happen to them?
    My husband and I purcased FL residnt annual passes last Dec. from an official web site offer that gave 15 months for the price of 12. The salesman, Fisher, told us “yes, we were getting 15 months” for what we paid.
    We picked up the passes and they were for 12 months.
    Sent Disney copy of their web pages with the offer twice and both times received a phone call (notice, they don’t put anything down on paper) saying there was more to the offer but no explaining what that was.
    Elaine

Comments are closed.