by: guide4wdw – Collin

The Unique Benefits of Becoming a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder That Tend to Get Overlooked 

Like many of the more frequent visiting Disney World fans, we aren’t local but at the same time we are Annual Passholders. However, I tend to get asked why? To really answer that question, there’s only one obvious answer and that’s cost, but in an entirely different way there are far more benefits to being a WDW AP (Annual Passholder) that simply the cost savings associated with the pass itself. 
In all reality, unless you’re making more that one trip to Walt Dinsey World each year and staying at least 4 days on each stay, you’re better off not buying an annual pass. If you are one of those guests that tours for an extended amount of time or books multiple trips to the parks each year, the obvious option from a cost perspective is the annual pass. At an average of around $488 for a 4 day park hopper ticket, if you make two trips it easily ends up costing you more that the $894 Platinum Pass. In this year alone, we’ll easily get our moneys worth out of the ticket in our first two trips of the year. Essentially our June trip will be “free” in the sense that we have already saved more that we spent on the original AP purchase compared to multiple tickets for our length of stay. 

The Overlooked Mindset 

With that being said, that really isn’t the key benefit of the annual pass I want to focus on today and it’s not the benefit the title of this article implies as “overlooked.” The overlooked hidden gem of the annual pass purchase is the perceived availability of time and flexibility. It’s somewhat difficult to explain in words but when you finally break down and buy the pass, it feels like there’s no longer a limitation to your vacation. You don’t feel like you’re bound by the limited nature of the days on your ticket and that applies to not only a realistic time equation but a perceived thought process as well. In the literal realm, you dont feel bad for paying for an entire extra day to head to the parks for a few hours on your arrival day, and again you don’t feel obligated to hang around the resort or head to Disney Springs on your departure day if you book an afternoon flight. You don’t have to worry about formulating the ever present cost benefit analysis when booking your trip as a result, and at the same time you don’t feel bound to the parks every minute every day.
If you don’t manage to ride an attraction you wanted on a particular day of your stay, you don’t really worry about it because you know you’ll be back sooner rather that later and you can hit that attraction on a different trip. A lot of this equation and perceived benefits are a mental thing in all reality, but there’s an inherent value in the new perspective the annual pass helps develop. 
In many ways, when you don’t feel “tethered” to the parks to make the most of your ticket purchase price, you open yourself up to so many new and unique opportunities and a far more laid back style of Disney vacation. If you want to go back to the pool for a few hours, or want to sit around at the Boardwalk and simply enjoy the view, or even head over and play some miniature golf, you don’t think about it as being “lost park time” but rather as something new to explore. 

The More “Literal” Benefits   

The annual pass does certainly accompany some very real benefits as well that are more stated and what’s actually written in the annual pass holder packet that many expect as well. The discount on select shopping and dining alone (up to 20% off) is a huge difference maker and an incredible way to really make the most of the initial money you sacrificed to buy the pass in the first place. If you’re local, and even if you’re not, 20% off on a variety of different things can add up incredibly quickly. Essentially, the more you’re in the parks, the more the perceived value of the actual discounts will work in your favor. 

Additionally, the free PhotoPass service is something I entirely overlooked myself for so many years. Typically, I’m always the one behind the camera as I do quite a bit of Disney parks photography, but it’s always nice to have the option to get in a family picture, participate in a “magic shot” and simply reap the benefit of something you paid nothing extra for (well obviously you paid for it in a round about way). If you’re a big fan of “in-park” photos, this perk alone can save you $169 if you buy it ahead of time and $199 if you were to buy it in the parks for each stay you book. Personally, this type of a service is something I’d pass on as a typical resort guest but I do have to say that I’m impressed with photopass time and time again. It’s an added benefit that I never expected to use but find myself using more and more frequently. 
Last but certainly not least you get free parking at the parks and in my opinion it tends to make parking at other resorts you’d like to visit during your stay (obviously not as an overnight guest) a bit easier to accomplish without a dining reservation. Obviously, being an annual passholder isn’t going to get the overnight resort parking fee waived but it does tend to help at the parking gates when you simply want to visit a resort to walk around or explore a little bit of the property.   

The Reality of It All 

I know it’s easy to look at a $894 price tag as a non-local and think that the price is insane, but when you really think about it it’s one of the better values in Walt Disney World entertainment. Essentially your annual pass cost is equivalent to buying access to the parks for 8 days on two separate weeks. Not only does an annual pass cost less that those two ticketed stays, but it also accompanies an insane amount of benefits, access to the parks for 365 days and a perceived freedom to visit anytime you want to visit the parks. 

For example, say you find yourself in Orlando for a business meeting. You may only have a few hours of free time during the event and may not want to buy a full day ticket to WDW to enjoy those few hours. If I had already bought an annual pass in that situation, you better believe I’d be headed to the parks! If I had to buy a $109 one day ticket for that same frame of time, there’s no chance I’d spend that much money. 

Obviously that’s an example that will apply to a very limited audience, but nonetheless it shows the perceived value of the unlimited nature of the annual pass and the benefits that you’ll never find on a pamphlet in the parks. 

The Full Story 

For about two years we put off buying an annual pass. It was one of the worst mistakes we could have made from a cost perspective. Last year we didn’t expect to visit the parks 3 times for a week at a time, but in the long run we could have saved ourselves nearly a thousand dollars if we would have just bought an annual pass during our first stay of the year. 

Buying an annual pass is one of those things that it’s easier to tell other people to buy that it is to convince yourself to buy, especially when you’re not 100 percent positive when you’re going to make it back down to the parks. There’s no denying that for a reasonably sized family of four adults (how we travel most of the time) buying four annual passes is definitely not a decision to take lightly considering the total purchase price is well over $1600. In the end, if you think you’re going to book multiple trips and reasonably sure of being in the parks for at least two separate trips in the next 365 days, buy the annual pass if you have the funds available to do so. If you really want to maximize your useful days of the pass, book your vacation as a package with standard tickets. When you arrive at your resort, head to the concierge or to a guest services location at any park and ask to upgrade your ticket. In doing so your activation date will be the first day of your existing ticket and you will be able to apply that tickets purchase price towards your annual pass purchase. It’s a fairly straight forward process but can help spread out the costs a bit more and maximize your usable timeframe of the days your annual pass will be active. If you wait until the end of your stay to upgrade, it will only hurt you because the upgrade will only apply from the first day of your existing ticket. Essentially you would just be forgoing the discounts you could have used as an annual passholder during your stay. 

Your Thoughts

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 your 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 here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

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Ready to Plan?

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 and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way!