How Disney World Annual Passes can save money (even if you only go once)

(Article last updated: October 16, 2018)

When you hear people mention buying a Disney World Annual Pass, you might think "I'm not going more than once this year - why would I need that?"

And it's true that financially it makes sense for anybody going more than 10 days or for people planning more than 1 trip in a 12 month period, but it also often makes sense for people going for shorter stays.

Here's why...

The discounts and perks that come with having an Annual Pass often make it worth the upgrade, especially when you consider that only 1 person in your family needs to have one to take advantage of the discounts.

Let's look at the numbers...

What exactly is a Disney World Annual Pass?

Annual Pass is the general term for Disney World tickets that last for 366 days versus those that last for a certain number of gate entrances or entitlements. There are actually several different types of Annual Passes available and they all have slightly different perks, benefits, and prices.

What does a Disney World Annual Pass cost?

There's no getting around it: an Annual Pass isn't cheap. If you live in Florida or if you are a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member, you are eligible for some discounts. Aside from upgrading a discounted ticket, you really can't save a lot of money purchasing an Annual Pass, but many people find that the additional perks and benefits associated with their Annual Pass offset the cost.

Here are the levels, prices, and benefits for each type of Annual Pass:

Disney World Annual Passes - prices and benefits

How do you purchase an Annual Pass?

Like with any ticket, it is recommended that you purchase your Disney World Annual Pass at least 30 days in advance (if you are staying offsite) or 60 days in advance (if you are staying on-property) so that you can book your FastPass+ reservations.

There are several ways you can purchase it:

  • in person at any Guest Relations or ticket location at Walt Disney World (note: you receive an activated Annual Pass instead of a voucher if purchased this way)
  • online through the Disney website
  • by calling Disney at (407) 939-7679

What is an Annual Pass voucher & where do I exchange it?

If you purchase your Annual Pass via any method other than in-person on Disney property, you will receive a voucher that you must redeem once you arrive.

You can link your voucher to your My Disney Experience account (the same way you can a ticket) so that you can make FastPass+ reservations. While it can be a hassle to redeem the voucher when you arrive, your ticket start date doesn't begin until you physically hand over the voucher and pick up your pass.

You can exchange your voucher at any Guest Relations or ticket location at Walt Disney World. This includes the Guest Relations windows at Disney Springs. Note: don't forget to take your photo ID with you when you redeem your voucher or purchase your Annual Pass.

You can not, however, exchange your voucher at your resort. This is important to note because if you book using an Annual Pass resort discount you may be asked to present your Annual Pass at check in, which means you'll need to exchange your voucher before you can do that.

Note: there are reports of Cast Members not asking to see the Annual Pass at check-in but Disney does state that you must present it so it is better to be prepared.

What about upgrading?

Upgrading a current Magic Your Way ticket is another option for getting an Annual Pass.

When you upgrade a ticket you receive credit for the full original purchase price, even if you've used part of the ticket. This means even if you don't decide until halfway through your trip that you want to upgrade you can still do that and not lose any of the value of what you already spent on your original ticket.

There are some quirks to be aware of, though:

  • If your original ticket is a Park Hopper Plus (formerly known as a "Magic Your Way with Park Hopper Plus - that's the ticket that lets you park hop plus gives you entry into the Disney Water Parks) and if you have used any of the entries into the water parks (either Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon) you can then ONLY upgrade your ticket to a Platinum Plus Annual Pass. If you haven't used any of the entitlements for the water parks, you can upgrade to either the cheaper Platinum or the more expensive Platinum Plus.
  • When you upgrade, the start date for your Annual Pass will be the first day you used your original ticket and NOT the day you upgraded.

What are the perks and benefits to Disney World Annual Passes?

Free on-site parking at the parks

Guests staying on-site also get free parking at the parks, but this allows Annual Passholders to park for free even if they're staying off-site. Savings: $25/day.

V.I.PASSHOLDER Support

Disney World Annual Passholders have access to dedicated support services. Annual Passholders can get help by calling (407)WDW-PASS, sending an email through the Annual Passholder Help Form, or by visiting the passholder benefit site.

Hotel discounts

Usually, about 2-4 months in advance, AP resort discounts are announced for up to 30% off on resort rooms.

You can always find the current AP resort discounts as well as information on what discounts were offered in the past on our guide to Disney World discounts.

Tip: if you hear of a new AP resort discount that you want to take advantage of, go ahead and book your reservation even if you don't have an Annual Pass. As long as you have one at check-in, you can use the discount.

Food discounts

For $150/year, if you have a Disney World Annual Pass you can join the Tables in Wonderland program which gives 20% off on food and beverages - including alcohol at many WDW dining locations, plus valet parking (which normally costs $33/day) is included.

The best part? Only 1 membership is needed for each group.

The Disney-owned restaurants onsite also frequently offer an Annual Pass discount on dining that ranges from 10-20% off. The restaurant list (as well as the meals offering discounts) can change, so be sure to double check when dining whether or not a discount is offered. It never hurts to ask!

Merchandise discounts

The standard discount for Annual Passholders is 10% off Disney merchandise; however, sometimes Disney will run a promotion which allows you to save up to 20% off of your eligible purchases.

Other discounts

Annual Passholders also have access to discounts on everything from movies at the AMC in Disney Springs to a round of golf to spa treatments.

These are just a few examples of the discounts that have been offered in the past so be sure to review your Annual Passholders benefit information to see what is currently being offered during your trip:

  • Sports & Recreation - discounts on things like golf, motorized boat rentals, bowling at Splitsville, bike rentals and miniature golf
  • Tours - 15% off tours is the normal discount. Some of the tours discounted are: Disney's Family Magic Tour (Magic Kingdom), Keys to the Kingdom (Magic Kingdom), Backstage Magic (Epcot), Wild Africa Trek (Animal Kingdom) plus many others.
  • Discounted party tickets - Passholders are often eligible for discounts on tickets for select nights of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
  • Spa treatments - several of the spas at the resorts offer 15% off their services to Annual Passholders

So when does it make sense to buy an Annual Pass?

By the time you do the math, it might make sense for you to upgrade 1 ticket in your group to one of the Disney World annual passes (especially with hotels - the price to upgrade can pay for itself in just a couple of nights at a Deluxe hotel).

Going by ticket prices alone - and not taking into account any of the other discounts - you can see the points where people break even or start to save money by purchasing an Annual Pass:

Disney World Annual Pass

But if you plan to access any of the other discounts (especially resort discounts), your savings might outweigh the cost of the Annual Pass much faster.

Lots of people focus on the Free Dining promotion but it's important to keep all options open when booking your trip. So the next time you hear about a new AP discount code that's been released, pay attention. It might work out to be your best option.

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