Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Up until the spring of 2020, there were a ton of benefits that you got for being a WDW Annual Pass holder against the steep price. With everything in the theme industry being shaken up right now, we will take a look at whether it is worth getting an annual pass for Walt Disney World right now?
Do You want to get a Walt Disney World Annual Pass? While the Disney platinum pass is a great deal in the long run, I do think that you need to visit multiple times to make it so. If you come once or twice, then it isn't worth it because you can't make money back from it that you would need.
The question you have to ask yourself is, what are the benefits you are looking for when it comes to an annual pass? Do you want to be able to visit multiple theme parks in one day? Are you looking for a way to save on merchandise and food when you are in the parks? Are you looking to be part of something exclusive and Disney related with benefits just for you as a member?
Park Hoping at Disney World
Park hopping tends to be one of the biggest reasons many people look to be a pass holder. This was originally an option that meant that you could visit all four theme parks on the same day and even the water parks if the pass was right. Today, however, some caveats mean that you can't just hop between two theme parks, and these restrictions impact this aspect of the pass.
Due to Florida's current situation and the united states in general, you can no longer hop between parks. Instead, Disney has gone to a reservation system as they have for their restaurants but the parks. In this, you select the number of people at your party and which park you want to go to on each day of your vacation. This impacts many parts of your vacation but is a real limit on the parking hoping ability. We have also seen that the parks' slots tend to be given first to resort guests, then day pass guests, and then annual pass holders, so not much advantage there.
The good news is that Disney announced that theme parking hoping would be returning in January of 2021. The system is worked so that you will be required to make a reservation to your first park, and then at two o'clock that day, you will be allowed to leave the first park and enter the second. The system itself sounds simple, and this is a big boost for the annual pass. The announcement did not say how many other parks you would be allowed to visit on a single day, but from the language, it sounds like they are just planning for guests to visit two parks in the beginning.
Now for right now, this has said that the second park will not require a reservation, and you should be allowed in as long as you went to the first park. I see them changing this in the future as I think that capacity will become a problem, and they will probably put a reservation system in for the second park. Capacity will be the underlying factor in this, but it will be something they have to consider when the parks get busy. That being said, being able to visit two parks will be a great advantage for AP members.
Discounts as a Disney Annual Passholder
There area number of discounts that are on offer when you become an annual pass holder for Walt Disney World. These discounts can be applied to dining in the theme parks and the hotels on Disney World property. The store discounts apply to most gift shops and mercantile around the property as well. The bonus of this is specific to each and can be a big help on your vacation.
The use of the dining discount is especially useful if you plan on eating on the property for most of your trip. The highest that your discount will go to will often be twenty percent, but your eating location will determine the actual number. A food court might be ten percent of the total, but a sit-down restaurant may be the maximum of twenty. This can be quite a bit of your total order depending on how much you spend at the restaurant. The key thing here is that you will want to let the server know at the begging of the meal, so they know to take the card for your discount at the end. Also, keep in mind that this does not include a tip, and you should give your server a tip for their hard work.
When it comes to the merchandise discount, it is very much the same system. Some locations will have a better discount rate than others. Because of this, you should ask a store cast member exactly what the discount rate is, so you know how much money you will be saving with your pass. Like I said before, the max is twenty percent, but it very well could be less depending on the store that you end up shopping in.
These discounts can save you hundreds throughout a vacation because of the way that the percentage works. Eating at a Disney restaurant can cost a couple hundred with a small party, and if you have a large gathering, it will cost more. With a ten percent discount on a two hundred dollar bill, you save twenty dollars. This doesn't sound like much, but the more you eat, the more the discount saves you over time. It might even help pay for things like drinks and the waiter's tip for the meal, which is nice.
Extra benefits of being a Walt Disney World pass holder.
Being a pass holder does give you quite a few benefits to list off, but they may or may not be relevant depending on what you do on your vacation. These bonuses range from photo pass to parking and are all designed to help you with time and fun on your vacation.
With the parking option, all platinum annual pass holders get standard theme park parking for free. This is a nice bonus if you drive a car to the resort, whether it is your own or it is a rental. It also saves you around twenty dollars for standard parking every time you go to the parks. This is only useful if you will be using a car though, if you don't want to use a car and will instead be using Disney transportation, this isn't an especially useful perk.
The next big perk is that the platinum annual pass grants you access to the Disney photo pass service. This allows you to download the photos that are taken by Disney photographers in the park, as well as the photos and videos that are taken on the rides in the park. These downloads can be customized with frames and effects. They can be downloaded for yourself, or you can send them to friends and family as gifts.
The last nice feature you get as a passing member is that there are usually several exclusive merchandises available to pass holders. This merch can be anything from t-shirts to a bumper sticker and everything in between. This merch is exclusive to pass holders, and it is a good way to know that you are part of a group.
In the same vein, as the merchandise is pass holder, only events are held in the parks. These are special events held either as an appreciation for the pass holder or when Disney is looking to test something new in the parks. Either way, this works out to be a great experience every time.
If you would like to see the available annual passes click here.
So, in the end, I think that the annual pass is a good choice if you will be visiting the parks multiple times a year. You should also know that it is a year when you purchase the annual pass that this timer starts, not the calendar year. All in all, if you can make multiple trips in that time, then the pass may very well be worth it for you.