Disney World Annual Pass Complete Review (2019)

Getting an annual pass for Walt Disney World is one of the biggest decisions a Disney traveler can face. You’re looking at roughly $1200 a year right off the bat, plus the cost of the vacations you’ll have to plan to get value out of the pass.

In this post, we review the major types of Walt Disney World annual passes, discuss whether or not a Disney World annual pass is “worth it”, and discuss all the different perks you need to know when considering a Disney World annual pass.

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Types of Disney World Annual Passes & Prices

First, we’ll discuss the major types of Disney World annual passes. The prices for these are current as of the June 2019 price increase.

Disney Platinum Plus Pass

The Disney Platinum Plus Pass is the most extensive Walt Disney World annual pass available. You get:

  • access to all four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and both water parks every day of the year

  • access to Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course (no green fees) and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (event days only)

  • access to all your Photopass downloads during the life of the annual pass

  • up to 20% discount on select dining and merchandise

  • free standard theme park parking

The Disney Platinum Plus Pass costs $1,298.24 (includes tax) for adults and children. You can purchase all the Walt Disney World annual passes at Guest Services or online at Walt Disney World’s website.

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If you’re bi-coastal, you’ll want to consider the Disney Premier Passport, which is essentially a combined Disney Platinum Plus Pass in Walt Disney World and Disney Signature Plus Passport (annual pass) in Disneyland. The Disney Premier Passport costs $2099 plus tax (or about $2167).

Disney Platinum Pass

The Disney Platinum Pass is very similar to the Platinum Plus Pass, but without water park, Oak Trail Golf Course, and ESPN Wide World of Sports access. The Disney Platinum Pass costs $1,191.74 (includes tax) for adults and children.

That price difference is roughly $107, so we can run some quick math to see if the upgrade to “plus” is worth it. The major difference here will be water park access. Single day water park tickets cost $73 for adults. That means a mere single visit to each of the two water parks (on different days) in a year is just enough to justify the Platinum Plus pass.

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Oak Trail Golf Course Green Fees cost between $20 and $40. And honestly, I don’t really understand how the ESPN Wide World of Sports access perk works, but if you go there regularly and pay to be there, perhaps the Platinum Plus Pass would save you on that.

Florida Resident and Disney Vacation Club Annual Passes & Discounts

Florida residents and DVC members receive discounts on both the Platinum Pass and Platinum Plus Pass. There are also a wind range of passes available exclusively to Florida residents (and in some cases Disney Vacation Club members).

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We’re not going to break these down. There are seven of them, and whether they make sense for a given Florida resident is going to be so circumstantial it just isn’t worth the space to run all the numbers. You can learn everything you need to know about these passes (particularly their blockout dates, which are the most important feature) over on the Disney World annual pass webpage. Florida residents also have the ability to pay for some passes using a monthly payments plan.

Walt Disney World Annual Pass Renewal Discount

Renewing your annual pass usually comes with a discount. For the Platinum Pass, the renewal price is $1012.82 (about $179 off). For the Platinum Plus Pass, the renewal price is $1103.34 (about $195 off).

In most cases, it will make sense to seize the renewal discount, especially given the frequency of price increases. That said, if your schedule allows you to push your trips a few months each year, you might forgo the renewal and get a new annual pass. This requires thorough planning, though maybe not any more than is required to ensure you get value out of your annual pass.

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Ticket Bridging To Save On Your Walt Disney World Annual Pass

Ticket bridging is the process of upgrading a discounted Disney World ticket to an annual pass in order to save money on the annual pass.

The process basically works like this:

  1. Purchase a discounted Walt Disney World ticket

  2. Go to guest services during your trip to upgrade your ticket to an annual pass

  3. Guest services will work their Magic, and they’ll “credit” your annual pass purchase with the pre-discounted price of your ticket

  4. Pay the difference between the full value of your ticket and your annual pass

Confused? Let’s say you didn’t buy a discounted ticket. And let’s say you paid $200 for a ticket and an annual pass costs $1200. You can go to guest services at any point during your visit and pay $1000 to upgrade to an annual pass.

Now, let’s say you instead got that $200 ticket for $150. When you go to upgrade to an annual pass, Disney guest services will give you credit for the full $200 price of the ticket. So you’ll pay an additional $1000 to upgrade, getting an annual pass for a total of $1150, or $50 off.

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Your annual pass will be dated retroactive to the first date you used your park ticket, but your Photopass benefit will not be retroactive. I complained to Disney about this and they gave me access to my Photopass photos from my trip. We bridged in June 2018 successfully with no difficulty.

Is The Walt Disney World Platinum Pass Annual Pass Worth It?

For starters lets clarify this post isn’t about whether “Walt Disney World is worth it?” Here we’re just comparing the price of Walt Disney World park tickets to the cost of an annual pass. We leave it to you whether the experience is just “worth it” the begin with.

We’ll use $1,191.74, the price for the Platinum Pass, for this analysis. The above paragraphs cover whether it would be worth it to upgrade to a Platinum Plus Pass. Accordingly, our analysis below doesn’t touch on people who buy park hopper plus tickets or otherwise buy water park access.

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Two-Trippers Basically Break Even

Under Disney’s new pricing scheme, ticket prices vary based on start date. We’ll use some ticket prices from Undercover Tourist. They have five-day park hopper tickets for October 2019 at $509 per person.

As you can see, if you’re purchasing park hopper and taking two five-day trips each year (you’re a “two-tripper”), the case is close for getting an annual pass. Those trips run you a total of about $1018.

To make up for that $174 gap to the price of the Platinum Pass with AP discounts, you’d need to:

  • spend between $870 and $1740 on (select) dining and merchandise during your ten days

  • or save $25 with free parking seven times

  • or save $169 on Memory Maker (which provides access to your Photopass photos)

  • or some combination of the above

It’s pretty easy to cover that gap, and that’s using a baseline of relatively low ticket prices (October 2019). You can expect prices to increase over the next year, so its likely at least one of your trips will cost more even if you travel in off-season.

If at least one of your trips is in peak season instead of October, you’re saving another $100, and the gap between your two trips and your annual pass is around just $70.

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Without park hopper, the Platinum Pass is a slightly tougher sell for a two-tripper. Park hopper runs about $75 over a five-day trip, meaning your two trips will probably leave you with a pretty significant gap—over $200—to justify an annual pass.

But Wait! How Disney Wants You To See Things

Disney isn’t hiding the ball with these price points, they want you to do one of two things. First, they want every two-tripper to feel like your annual pass empowers you to spend more time at Walt Disney World in a year. This can mean staying more than four to five days a trip or adding a third trip.

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Disney’s real cash cow in Florida its its collection of Disney-operated hotels, and if Disney can get you to spend extra nights in their hotels in a year, they’re coming out on top.

Second, Disney wants you to view your annual pass as a multi-year investment. With the renewal discount, the average annual cost for a Platinum Pass over two years is about $1100. At that level, the case for the Platinum Pass is stronger. You win, saving on four trips over two years, and Disney wins, getting you to come four times in two years.

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If you fall into one of these two groups—you’ll fit more Disney into one year or you’re committed to multiple years of multiples trips—Disney had made it easy for you to decide to go ahead and buy that Platinum Pass.

Disney World Annual Pass Discounts

The Walt Disney World annual passes are advertised as having discounts of “up to 20%” on “select” dining and merchandise. You should always check the specifics at the Disney World website’s passholder benefits page, because restrictions apply, but here’s the short version.

Dining Discount Is Really 10% At Select Table Service Restaurants Excluding Alcohol

A quick scroll through the benefits page reveals that the 20% figure is barely ever available, 10% is really the standard, and most of the locations included are table service restaurants. Alcohol is excluded. Keep in mind you can roughly replicate this discount for free with the Chase Disney Visa card.

Those discount likely still price you out of getting value from the Disney dining plans, but if you are still interested in a dining plan, you can purchase one as part of a “ticketless package.” We suggest working with an agent when considering one of these packages.

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Merchandise Discount Is Usually 20%

The merchandise discount is much more generous than the dining discount, and it isn’t matched by the Chase Disney Visa card’s 10% discount. Mostly, if you’re looking to buy standard Disney merchandise in the parks, hotels, or Disney Springs, you’ll get 20% off.

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Special Event Ticket Discounts

Annual passes “exclude/activities events separately priced,” which means that they do not include ticketed events like the Halloween and Christmas parties. However, they can still get you discounts on these events.

For this year’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, annual passholders have access to a discount of about $5 on select dates.

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Annual Passholder Room Offers

Annual Passholders regularly have access to special Disney hotel offers. These usually have substantial overlap with publicly available discounts, with the annual passholder benefit being slightly expanded dates or an extra 5% off.

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It’s Always Worth Checking The Other Discounts

From 15% off most tours to $2 off select AMC movies at Disney Springs, there are a variety of other discounts available to Passholders. You’ll find these listed in the benefits page.

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Other Disney World Annual Pass Perks

Besides monetary perks, being an annual passholder comes with a range of other perks you need to know about. You’ll find a wide range of these advertised on the annual pass “specials” page of the Disney website. We’ll cover some major ones we like. (For an example of some short-notice perks, check out the summer 2019 Annual Pass specials.)

Exclusive Annual Passholder Merchandise

Annual passholders have access to exclusive “Annual Passholder” branded merchandise through Walt Disney World resort. Most commonly, this gear going to be found at the main stores of the Walt Disney World theme parks.

Annual Passholder Giveaways

Annual passholders often have access to free giveaways. A recent example of this the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, where annual passholders received a free magnet for visiting Epcot once and a free cutting board for visiting four times during the festival.

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Dedicated Annual Pass Entry Line

Annual passholders have a dedicated turnstile at the parks. This turnstile is usually not open in the morning for rope drop and will oftentimes have longer lines than the other turnstiles (though you at least hope APs should flow quickly through).

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Phased Closure Status

A perk that doesn’t get much attention is how annual passholders are treated on the busiest days of the year. This is not a listed perk because Disney’s policies on this aren’t fully public, but there is a consistent pattern we expect them to stick to.

When the parks get too busy, Disney begins closing them to certain guests. There are four phases of closures, and annual passholders are not blocked out of the parks until the fourth phase, which has only happened once in the last decade. When the fourth phase rolls around, no one may enter the parks, so annual passholders really get the best treatment of all guests on these rare days.

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Tables In Wonderland Access

Walt Disney World annual passholders have the option to purchase a Tables In Wonderland membership. Tables in Wonderland is a much more generous dining discount, offering 20% (actually 20%) at a range of eating and drinking establishments in Walt Disney World. The discount includes alcohol. Unfortunately, quick service options are still limited, though all the value resort food courts are included.

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Two adults with Platinum Passes and Tables in Wonderland will spend $2330 in their first year. Assuming a mix of one peak and one off-peak vacation, they’ll need to get about $385 from their Platinum Pass and Tables in Wonderland discounts to break even. That means spending $962 per person over nine days.

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Personally, we budget $100 per person, per day for our Disney World vacations. This includes little merchandise, but much quick service and much alcohol (unfortunately usually at excluded bars). Tables in Wonderland is a tough sell for us if we’re on a two-tripper schedule.

If your family leans toward table service meals, Tables in Wonderland is going to be much more worth it.

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VIPassholder Events

This year, Disney unveiled a new “VIPassholder” program, which included dedicated passholder nights at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. These were limited availability and given out on a first-come first-serve basis. So far, they don’t appear to be anything special.

Early RunDisney Registration

RunDisney events do still sell out, though not as quickly as they used to as prices have risen. We like early registration just because it completely removes the stress of booking.

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All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered

Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way.

Just starting out? Check out our Walt Disney World planning guide! If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.

When it comes time to book, we've got you covered with posts on how to book cheap flights, how to get the best deal on your Disney hotel, and where to find discount Disney World tickets. And of course everyone wants to know whether or not they should get a dining plan—check out our Complete Guide to Disney World Dining Plans!

Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.

Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon!

Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.