Should you buy an Annual Pass for your next Disney World trip?

If you plan on visiting Disney World more than once a year, an annual pass might be the way to go. Non-Florida residents pay around $650 for unlimited access to all four parks and free parking, but they also get resort and merchandise discounts throughout much of the year. Of course, the one problem with having an annual pass is that while it can save you money, the opposite is also true: It can make going to Disney more often than you probably should make perfect sense!

Here’s who an annual pass works for:

1. You take at least three short trips, for a total of 10 park days. Because of the way ticket are priced more expensive on the front end, even if you go just three short weekends a year, your pass will have you come out ahead.

2. You go once a year but you can space out your trips to use your pass twice. So say you go February 1, 2013 and that’s when your pass starts. Your 2014 vacation would be sometime at the end of January, getting in all those last few days on your pass

3. You don’t intend to participate in promotions like free dining. Keep in mind that discounts like free dining require you to purchase a 2-day park ticket for everyone in your party. Having an annual pass doesn’t preclude purchasing a 2-day ticket, of course, but it does mean you have to keep that ticket until you upgrade your pass or you can use it in the future. If you don’t mind that financial outlay, it’s not an issue.

4. You’re taking one long family trip and one short “grownup weekend” and you use the hopper option. Again, just as in scenario 1 above, your pass will pay for itself.

The one reason I don’t recommend buying an annual pass is for the discounts. Sure, they’re nice. Getting 10% off merchandise at most locations helps. But room discounts for passholders at Walt Disney World are rarely no better than general public discounts, although sometimes they cover periods when general public discounts are blacked out. You’ll want to shop around and compare when you buy your pass if you’re using possible discounts as part of your reasoning. I think of discounts associated with my annual pass as an extra bonus, not part of the rationale for buying a pass.

How did you do the math on your annual pass? Or did you do the math and decide it didn’t work for you?

7 thoughts on “Should you buy an Annual Pass for your next Disney World trip?”

  1. We used the DVC discount to get PAP’s. Two-1 week trips, 11 months apart as you mentioned, came out cheaper then park hoppers. There are a few additional benefits to having them.
    More cash upfront, but my next trip will only require the outlay of airfare and food.

    Since we had passes, and had some airline vouchers, we even snuck in a quick birthday trip for a few nights at a value resort.

  2. So glad for this article. I was under the impression you had to be a Florida resident to be able to buy a yearly pass. This gives us an option we can discuss. We are not doing the dining plan anymore because it is so hard to get into some of the restaurants.

  3. Still undecided if we will upgrade on our July trip. Airfare has gone way up and it takes us 14 hours to drive which adds 2 days of travel (and time off of work) for us. The park hopper cost is probably where we save our money with the annual pass. Adding it on to the four of us for is $200 alone. It just kills me to pay that much for an annual pass for 3 and five year old.

  4. Just read the rules(annual pass holders) and it said all benefits will cease on Dec 31 2013. In your sample you mentioned a Feb 2013 to Feb 2014 as doable. Am I missing something?

  5. We went in 2009, spending 15 days in the area. The annual pass made good sense for that long a vacation, as it freed up the decision making processes… Shall we go today or not? Which park? We go to a park, it’s noon, and we find we’re tired already by lunch, so go “home” and stay there since we are not “wasting” half a day’s ticket. And we culminated the anniversary trip with a day that we started in Animal Kingdom at the openning, left and went to Hollywood Studios, home for lunch, back to start the afternoon at Epcon, and finished the evening with fireworks at Magic Kingdom. WIthout the annual passes’ ease of entry/parking/hopping/etc. it would’ve been a headache getting our four shots all in one day in front of the tree, hat, sphere and castle! Being there just as a couple helped, as well… but then again, we’re little kids when we get there, regardless of our actual ages!!

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