by: guide4wdw – Collin

Disney Annual Pass: When Is It Worth The Money? 

The annual pass debate has been one that’s changed drastically over the years. For quite a while, the annual pass option was a bit of a hidden gem for Disney guests traveling for even average length stays. Unfortunately, with price hikes and changes along the way, it’s no longer the best option for the majority of guests. However, there are some rare cases that buying an Disney World annual pass can prove vastly beneficial. Personally, I am not currently an annual passholder but I have been on a few separate occasions in the past (more on that later). 
With that being said, if you are considering it or wondering if it’s even worth it in the first place or what the perks of the option really are, we’re taking a closer look at an honest breakdown of the options today. An annual pass isn’t something a majority of Disney parks guests will purchase so it tends to take a back seat to multi day tickets and other package options pushed in marketing campaigns and booking scenarios. An annual pass can save you a lot of money in the long run, but it’s all going to be based on your given scenario, travel patterns, and how you take advantage of the ways to save money with an annual pass. It isn’t for everyone, but if you want to learn more, look no further!

Upgrading At The End of Your Stay

If you’re booking a Disney trip in a package format, this is something you’ll want to consider during your vacation (particularly the last day or the first day). When purchasing a package, your ticket cancellation is somewhat “grandfathered in” to your overall package. So, instead of buying a non refundable stand alone ticket, if for any case you have to cancel your vacation your ticket remains refundable due to the overall package. However, in regard to annual passes, you can upgrade any ticket in a package to an annual pass if you do so before your stay ends. So, you have two best case scenario options. First, upgrade to an annual pass on the last day and decide throughout the week if it’s your best option. Second, upgrade your ticket on the first day of your stay and take full advantage of the discounts the annual pass offers on dining and shopping at select locations throughout your stay. For some, this could save you hundreds of dollars on a souvenir (or 20 souvenirs)  that return home with you. It’s not a massive discount but it is 10-20% at a fairly broad amount of locations across property. Something else that should be mentioned briefly is that there are tiers to annual passes so make sure you’re buying the correct one if you plan on upgrading. Here’s a closer look at the options currently listed on Disney’s site.      

Utilizing “Ticket Bridging”

If you’re not booking a stay at a discounted rate that may require you to buy a package to utilize the offer, there’s a fairly clever way to save a little money on Annual Pass purchases and it’s what’s called “Ticket Bridging.” While the term itself is a little misleading, you’re not necessarily stretching your ticket but rather stretching the value of the ticket purchased. To better explain the process, we have to dive a little deeper. 

To best utilize this practice, you make a valiant effort to find the most budget friendly ticket buying option you can from any third party authorized seller. Personally I recommend the Official Ticket Center not only because they help out the site but because they tend to have the best prices on multi day tickets that I’ve personally seen. Sometimes you may even catch a free upgrade when purchasing through them as well (for the best offers available currently see our Disney World Tickets 2018 article). 

However, the point of buying one of these third party tickets (just be careful who you buy from to guarantee authenticity) is to buy the initial ticket at a discounted rate. Then, in order to turn that ticket into an annual pass, you head to guest services at any park to upgrade the purchased ticket to an annual pass. Here’s the kicker to the whole situation. When you upgrade your ticket, Disney automatically gives you the face price of the ticket (before the discount you received from the third party seller) as a credit towards the annual pass purchase. For example, if you bought a 5 day ticket today on the current 5th day free ticket offer from the third party seller we mentioned, you would pay $443. If you bought that same ticketed amount of days from Disney you’d pay $473. So, when you go to upgrade you get the credit of $473 towards your annual pass upgrade saving you $30 per ticket. For a full family of four annual passes like ours, that’s a considerable $120 savings.

I will say this process is not the easiest one to accomplish because you do have to find a cast member that knows how to do it and the best way to do it to save you the most amount of money, but it is possible to do and one of the only ways to save money when buying an annual pass. Unfortunately I don’t believe this applies to local season tickets but I’m not local so I can’t verify that scenario one way or another.           

At What Point Is It Worth Upgrading?

This part of the puzzle can be a little difficult to determine, depending on how you vacation and what you are taking into consideration. On a solely price based analysis, if plan on spending more that 3 consecutive days in the parks on two separate trips within the same year, you’re better off buying an annual pass if you can afford to purchase it up front for your first vacation. The breakdown is as follows: 

  • Both 3 day trips at current prices (February 1st 2018 – may soon be changed with the yearly price hike) will work out to $371.69 on a non discounted ticket per trip. Add two trips together and you get $743.38 for both 3 day vacations combined if you intend to purchase the park hopper add-on option. 
  • For the sake of our example, we’ll include the park hopper option because the Annual Pass gives you those capabilities as well. 
  • If you move up to a 4 day ticket and plan on making two trips in the same year, the two trip combined ticket price jumps up to $905.26. 
  • When you compare that to an annual pass at $829.64 for the entire year, you save a considerable amount of money without even taking into account the in-park dining and merchandise discounts the annual pass gives you. 

Of course there are some exceptions to this rule and an unbelievable amount of different circumstances that may change the necessity or lack of necessity of an annual pass. If you’re a guest booking a 5 day trip and a 3 day trip in one year, an annual pass may still not be your best option. So, in all reality, the point I’m attempting to make with this analysis is that if you want to make the most of your spending on tickets, head to Disney’s ticket page (which I get nothing out of if you book through them – just to clarify) and make a few comparisons. Plug in your length of ticket considerations and then jump over to the annual pass section and compare prices. Something else to consider is that there is a renewal discount. It isn’t a huge cost savings but if you’re someone like me that tends to travel to the parks multiple times per year, year after year, it may help in making your decision. With all of that being said, I am not an annual passholder currently. Our travel dates for the year haven’t been conducive to the pass this year so I have not purchased one. However, that may change if I upgrade my March trip ticket to an annual pass.  

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Are The Discounts Worth It?

As we touched on above, annual pass holders do in fact receive discounts across property. Is it enough to convince most guests who travel to Disney World once or twice a year to buy a pass, probably not. If you’re one of those guests that shops a lot and takes an entirely extra suitcase to bring purchases back home in, it may be worth it to you in the long run. In all honesty, you’d have to by a lot of food and souvenirs at 10-20% off to make it worth it but there’s another discount that might make it completely worth it, resort discounts. The first year we bought an annual pass, we did so for that reason alone. Annual Passholder resort accommodation discounts can be pretty decent discounts. It may not be the best discount for every situation but its a pretty solid discount nonetheless. 

Your Thoughts and Opinions

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or you favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are! 

Ready to Plan?

Need help planning your vacation? Let our friends over at Destinations to Travel (FREE – no obligation quote request form below) help you out at no additional cost to you! Their services are free and a great way for you to help out the site at no extra cost to you! 

Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips, 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets, check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections!