Is a Disney Annual Pass Worth It?

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Disney balloons at Disney World
Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

Do you love Disney? Like really, really love it? Do you plan to head to Orlando several times in 2022 and 2023? You might be a prime candidate for a Disney Annual Pass. But, keeping in mind that it’s a major purchase, we’re going to walk you through annual passholder benefits and how much a Walt Disney World Annual Pass costs, so you can decide whether a Disney annual pass is worth it for you.

Can I Buy a Disney World Annual Pass Right Now?

You may be saying – “Wait! Pump the brakes. I thought you couldn’t get a Disney annual pass right now?” You would be correct. The Disney World website has currently paused the sale of annual passes. However, it is likely that the suspension of sales was because parks were filling up over the holidays and due to the 50th anniversary and Disney trying to control capacity.

Currently, only sales of select annual passes and renewals are taking place. Namely, the lowest tier Florida resident pass which applies blackout dates and restricts access during the busy holiday season. We expect to see new sales of annual passes resume in the first quarter of 2022. Originally many sites and social media accounts were forecasting them to start back up after the holidays. Personally, I think it will be at least February so that they have a chance to asses Omicron’s impact on their operations and assess cast member coverage.

Disney annual pass comparison chart
Disney has several annual pass options available but only one is geared towards non-Florida residents. Photo credit: Disney Screenshot

Types of Annual Passes at Walt Disney World

Disney introduced new annual passes in 2021 that debuted for sale on September 8th. There are actually 4 different types of park passes in the annual pass program. However, only one of them is available for all out of staters.

When Walt Disney World Resort reopened in 2021 after closing during the initial wave of the pandemic, several things were changed to control capacity. Guests visiting Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios need a theme park ticket as well as theme park reservations. This applies to annual passholders as well. You’ll see park reservations numbers in each pass; this is how many you can have maximum for each pass level.

Let’s run through the 4 annual pass options and who can purchase them.

Disney Pixie Dust Pass

This is the cheapest Disney annual pass, however it is only available for Florida residents with several caveats. For $399 plus tax you get access to the theme parks on most weekdays, however blockout dates do apply. You can make up to 3 theme park reservations at a time. If you are staying on property, you can make reservations for each day that you’re at a Walt Disney World Resort in addition to your 3 reservations.

Disney Pirate Pass

The next step up annual park pass is also for Florida residents. For $699 plus tax you can access the theme parks on most days (including weekends) but are still subject to some blockout dates. You can make up to 4 theme park reservations at a time. Or, if you’re staying on site, you can make a reservation for each day and an additional four.

Disney Sorcerer Pass

This is the most flexible of the passes for Florida residents. The Sorcerer Pass costs $899 plus tax. While there are some blockout dates they are pretty minimal, mostly during Thanksgiving and Christmas peak weeks. You can make up to 5 reservations at a time and the same resort rule applies where you can make additional reservations if you’re booked to stay on-property.

In addition, some Disney Vacation Club Members are eligible to purchase the Sorcerer Pass if they are eligible for Membership Extras regardless of residency. Basically this means they are a “blue card” DVC member (purchased 150 points directly from Disney or are grandfathered in). We’re not sure if we should call it blue screen since DVC membership cards are now virtual and not physical as of 1/1/2022.

Disney Incredi-Pass

This pass is the only option available to out of state purchasers who aren’t DVC blue card members. At $1299, it is definitely the most expensive Disney annual pass. It is also the only pass with no blackout dates. You can hold up to 5 park reservations at a time. If you have a hotel stay at a Walt Disney World resort hotel you can make one reservation for each day of your stay, plus an additional 5 reservations. So, for example, if you were staying March 1-3 and wanted to visit in April as well (but were staying off property), you could reserve three days plus an additional five because your theme park reservations on 3/1, 3/2 and 3/3 pair with a reservation at a Disney hotel and don’t count towards your 5.

As a Texas resident, this is the pass I had to purchase.

Bonus Reservations for Disney Annual Passholders

All 4 passes have access to a special perk called bonus reservations. These are dates for select Disney parks that are added to the calendar from time to time that passholders can book without it counting toward the 3, 4 or 5 reservations they are allowed (depending on pass type). This is basically a fancy way of saying “we don’t have as many people coming as we thought, so please come and spend your money.”

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When we visited in early December 2021, Magic Kingdom was 100% booked but a bonus reservation suddenly went out for EPCOT. The crowds at EPCOT were very low that day on our visit. Bonus reservation availability is a great indicator that the park being offered won’t be that crowded.

Waterparks can be a fun add on to your Disney annual pass. Photo credit: Tim Jones

Disney Annual Pass Add-Ons

You gotta love that Disney hustle. There are of course add-ons (translation: upsells that cost more) available. There are two annual pass add-ons at this time.

Each of these two options will add-on $99 plus tax. The Water Park and Sports option will get you into Disney’s two waterparks for the year: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. With the Disney Photo Pass Downloads Option, you’ll have access to digital downloads of Photo Pass pictures and a discount on physical prints. This option used to be included in the annual pass price and has now been carved out at an additional charge. One thing to note is that you really only need to add the PhotoPass to one family member per group on My Disney Experience since it will pull images for your whole party.

Learn more about how PhotoPass works here.

I added both options onto my Incredi-Pass. In the long run I knew I wanted the pictures and a one day waterpark ticket costs $69 dollars making the break even less than two visits.

dumplings at animal kingdom
One annual pass benefit at Disney? Food discounts. Photo credit: John Vanda

Annual Passholder Benefits To Consider

One of the fun parts of being an Annual Passholder is that there are some extra perks available to you. For me, a deciding factor in my calculations was free standard theme park parking. With Disney’s complimentary airport Magical Express service ending on 12/31/21, I knew that I’d be considering a wider range of hotels when heading to Walt Disney World.

While passholders do get discounts on Disney resort hotels from time to time during the year, huge deals can be found offsite. But then paying for parking adds up. Not if you’re an annual passholder. I’ll save $25 a day on parking in Disney lots.

One other passholder perk is discounted dining, merchandise and experiences. Dining and merchandise discounts range from 10-20%. Experience discounts range from $2 off movie discounts at Disney Springs to 20% off bowling at Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Disney Springs. Check out the full list of discounts here.

Annual Passholders Can Park Hop

A big perk that factors in for some guests is park hopping. When you buy a standard Disney theme park ticket, you need to pay extra to park hop. Annual passholders can park hop after 2pm, pending on availability.

How Many Times Do You Have to Visit Disney to Make an Annual Pass Worth It?

Realistically, most folks are looking at the bottom line when thinking about a Disney Annual Pass. The number of times you need to visit to at least break even will vary. You need to remember that traditionally admission costs vary from day to day. Weekends cost more than weekdays. Peak times and holidays cost more than a random September week. I’m just going to use my own example.

I purchased an Incredi-pass. The cost is $1299 so roughly $1380 after tax. For now, let’s forget that I added on the Water Parks and PhotoPass options because we want to look solidly at theme park cost. A one day single park ticket to Walt Disney World starts at $109. Realistically though the $109 tickets are really only in late August and September so $119 is more commonly seen as the lowest number.

What Our Visit Cost vs. an Annual Pass

We visited in early December. My tickets for our 4 days would have been $485.82 plus tax for 1 park only tickets. With tax, my total would have been $517.40. At that cost I’d only have to go to Disney 12 days in one year to break even. But that’s on a single day ticket. The annual pass gives me the power to park hop. If you plan to park hop on most visits, that value goes up. A park hopper pass for 4 days would be $570.82 plus tax. At that price, I’d break even at 10 days.

The big takeaway here is if you’re headed to Disney from out of state at a high traffic/high cost time it can pay to look at the Incredi-Pass in particular. Over Christmas, at higher ticket prices, it takes 8 days to pay off the pass. Add in possible hotel discounts, dining discounts and free parking at the theme parks and you could end up saving money in the long run.

remy's ratatouille adventure mouse cars in epcot's france
Disney annual pass holders get the chance to preview new rides before they open to the general public. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

How Does Disney Genie+ Work with the Annual Pass?

I’d answer this one “Yes,…BUT.” Basically it can be imperfect. At this time, Genie+ can only be added on for annual passholders the day of your visit. That window starts at midnight, so in theory you should be able to go into My Disney Experience and be able to add it anytime. That’s only true if you don’t have a mixed account where Genie+ was purchased on others’ tickets.

I have a Disney Annual Pass. My kids do not. I traveled with my two girls and I purchased them theme park tickets that included Genie+. Because they were managed by my My Disney Experience account, it wouldn’t allow me to add Genie+ because it “thought” we already had it. Because of this I couldn’t purchase Genie+ until I selected a ride time to book and it recognized one member of our party (me) hadn’t paid for Genie+ yet. It was truly irritating because by the time I completed the purchase, the initial times I had chosen were no longer available.

I am assuming that this would not be an issue if no one on your account had Genie+ already on their tickets. Then you’d just purchase for everyone after midnight.

There is some buzz around potentially making Genie+ an add-on option for annual passes. We will update if that happens.

To learn more about Disney Genie+ and how it works check out this post.

Should I Get a Disney Annual Pass? Can I Upgrade My Disney Tickets?

Here’s the deal…

In the end, only you can assess the intersection of your love for Disney World, your ability to travel there, your financial situation and make that decision. Once annual pass sales resume, there is one alternate option to purchasing an annual pass right out of the gate. If you have a Disney trip planned you can upgrade to an annual pass while you are there before your ticket entitlement runs out. Basically, this means before the last day. Complimentary tickets, special event tickets and waterpark tickets are not eligible for upgrades.

Just keep in mind that if you wait to upgrade and pass sales are paused during your vacation, you won’t be able to upgrade.

Read More: Planning Your Walt Disney World Vacation

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