Disney World Annual Passes – Post 2021 Changes
During the shutdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, Walt Disney World took the opportunity to review the ways in which it operates and tickets. This includes annual passes. Upon reopening, annual passes were not available for sale and there was a period of uncertainty about when they would return, or in what format. In October 2021, Walt Disney World launched their new annual pass system in tandem with the 50th Anniversary Celebration.
The previous annual pass system offered guests 8 different options. This included water parks only annual passes, and passes for entry after 4pm. The new system consists of only 4 passes, and there are new restrictions/limitations that did not exist prior to 2021.
Also keep in mind that guests must use the Disney World Park Pass Reservation system. See this article for all the rules. However, the short version is that you must have a park reservation to get admittance. If you plan to use your Park Hopper option, you’ll only need a park reservation for the first park, but not for the park(s) you’re hopping to. Park admittance to the park(s) you’re hopping to is not guaranteed. If the park has reached capacity for that day, you could be turned away.
Currently Disney has put a temporary hold on availability for all annual passes except the Disney Pixie Dust Pass. We’ll let you know when that changes.
Here are some facts at a glance regarding the new Disney World annual passes:
- There are 4 Annual Pass tiers
- Only 1 non-Florida Resident pass is available
- There are blackout dates on all but the most expensive pass
- Photo pass and water parks are added extras to allow guests to customize their passes
- Park reservations are required and limited to between 3 and 5 days at a time (unless you have a hotel reservation)
- Sales can be suspended at any point
The Disney World Annual Pass Tiers
Unlike the previous passes, whose names had some obvious connection to pricing, the new passes have totally unrelated names: Incredi, Sorcerer, Pirate and Pixie Dust. The only pass which is available to everyone is the Incredi-Pass.
We’ll show prices as of this writing but please note that they’re subject to change.
Incredi-Pass (Available to anyone)
This is the top tier pass, which is available for anyone to purchase.
- Price: $1,299 plus tax ($1,384.44 with sales tax).
- Blackout dates: 0
- Park Reservations allowed at one time: 5
As you might expect from the top tier pass, this is the only pass that does not have blackout dates. It also has the highest number of park reservations allowed at one time.
Sorcerer Pass (Available only for Florida residents and eligible Disney Vacation Club Members)
This second-tier pass is available to Florida Residents and eligible DVC members.
- Price: $899 plus tax ($957.44 with tax)
- Blackout dates: 18
- Park Reservations allowed at one time: 5
Though the Sorcerer Pass has the same number of reservations as the Incredi-pass, it does come with 18 days blackout days at Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Pirate Pass (Available only for Florida residents)
This is a Florida resident only pass that has a lot of black out days and less park reservations allowed.
- Price: $699 plus tax ($744.44 with tax)
- Blackout dates: 75
- Park Reservations allowed at one time: 4
It has blackout days across most holidays. (In 2021 it was Christmas, New Years, Martin Luther King Jr Day weekend, President’s Day weekend, the week of St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day weekend, 4th July weekend, Labor Day weekend, Columbus Day weekend and Thanksgiving).
Pixie Dust Pass (Available only for Florida residents)
The lowest priced pass available, it also comes with the lowest number of reservation days and the highest number of black out days.
- Price: $399 plus tax ($424.94 with tax)
- Blackout dates: 161
- Park Reservations allowed at one time: 3
The Pixie Dust pass has almost all weekends and holidays blacked out. This means almost 45% of the year has the pass blocked out.
Disney World Annual Pass Add-on Options
Unlike the previous annual passes the new pass pricing is very much a base price. There are various ways to top up an annual pass. This is a feature which Disney advertises as a way to tailor make passes to individual needs.
The Disney World Annual Pass add-ons include:
— Memory Maker: For $99 plus tax, this gives the pass holder the perks of Memory Maker for the life of the pass (i.e. until the end date or renewal).
PhotoPass includes professional quality photos (and some videos) of you and your party taken by Disney photographers in the parks. It also gives you discounts on prints and physical product purchases.
When you buy PhotoPass, you’re allowed to download all the Disney PhotoPass photos and videos you get during your trips. Consider that the pre-purchase price for Memory Maker for one day is $69 and $169 for all the days of one vacation. If you want the features of Memory Maker on more than one trip across the year, the add-on price makes it worth adding it to your annual pass.
— Water Parks and Sports option: This is also $99 plus tax. This option offers access to:
- Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park (seasonal closures will apply).
- Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park (seasonal closures will apply).
- The golf courses at Oak Trail
- FootGolf at Disney’s Oak Trail
- Miniature Golf at Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland (you’re entitled to one round before 4pm)
- ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex.
A standard Water Park ticket costs around $69 so if you plan for more than one Water Park visit in the year, this add-on is a sound choice. Be sure to check for availability of these options before purchasing.
Benefits that come with your Disney World Annual Pass
All of the passes offer some benefits not available with standard tickets.
DISCOUNTS AND PERKS THAT ARE USUALLY OFFERED TO ANNUAL PASSHOLDERS INCLUDE:
- Room rate discounts: Offered at various times in various resorts, usually for up to 30% off rack room rates.
- Dining Discounts: Many Disney World restaurants (10-20% off)
- Option to buy Tables in Wonderland discount dining
- Disney dinner show discounts (usually 10%)
- Merchandise discounts: Available in some Disney stores (usually 10% and sometimes 20%)
- Disney tours discounts (usually 10-15% discount)
- Movie theater discount: Available at the theater in Disney Springs (currently $2 off)
- Bowling discount: Available at Splitsville in Disney Springs (currently %10)
- Disney’s special ticketed party discounts: Available for special events on select nights.
- Ferrytale Fireworks Cruise discount (10%)
- Water Park admission discounts (up to $16)
- Entertainment discounts: Includes discounts on entertainment like Mini Golf, bike rentals, fitness club/salon/massage, surry bikes, boat rentals, horse drawn carriages, fishing.
- Free parking: Free standard parking in the Disney World parks (at this writing saving you $25 a day)
- PhotoPass: Free unlimited downloads, only for some Annual Passes.
- Park entry when near capacity: Should parks start to reach “capacity” (the point at which Disney implements a phased closure policy) annual pass holders are one of the last groups to be denied entry, just before resort guests.
- Dedicated annual pass holder lines to enter the parks. These may or may not be shorter/quicker than regular lines.
- Special annual passholder events: Occasionally, throughout the year, Walt Disney World may hold passholder events.
- Special passholder merchandise: At most festivals, parties and/or events they tend to have passholder specific merchandise, which is only available with a current annual pass. In the past there have also been free merchandise giveaways (such as magnets, a glass or coasters) to commemorate events.
- Run Disney Registration: Annual pass holders can benefit from early registration at Run Disney events.
- Park Hopping: With all passes you can park hop (subject to hopping rules at the time) as long as you have a reservation to your first park, and capacity allows.
Park Reservations at Disney World
Park Pass reservations were introduced to control the crowd levels in a post pandemic park. Disney has since stated that the reservation system is to remain as a permanent feature. While Disney doesn’t publish their park capacity limits, it is likely there will be a gradual increase in the number of passes available each day as time goes by.
For details on how to use the Park Reservation System visit here.
At the time of writing, park hopping is permitted after 2pm, providing there is park capacity and a reservation has been used for a different park on the same day.
Park Reservation Limitations for Disney World Passholders
With the new annual passes, holders are able to book their allotted amount of passes (either 5, 4 or 3 days) at a time. The exception to this is if the passholder has a resort reservation. Then the passholder can book a Park Reservation for each day of their resort stay, and they can also make additional maximum number of Park reservations that their annual pass allows.
So, for example, if a Pixie Dust Passholder were to book a 6 night stay at a Disney hotel, they would be able to book 6 park passes plus 3 more park passes.
Suspension of Annual Pass Sales at Disney World
One of the restrictions post covid is that Disney is still limiting the number of people entering the parks on a daily basis. The Reservation system is one way in which Disney is able to do this. The other is to limit the amount of Annual Passes for sale. At any time, Disney reserves the right to suspend sales of any or all Annual Passes for any period of time. At the end of November 2021, less than two months after sales began, Disney suspended all sales of all passes, with the exception of the Pixie Dust Pass.
How to upgrade from a standard ticket to an Annual Pass
It is possible to use your existing park tickets in an exchange towards the cost of an annual pass. In effect you trade in your standard tickets, and the price is deducted from the price of the annual pass you opt to buy. The value of doing so is reviewed below, but the process is fairly simple. You must make sure that you upgrade before you leave the parks on the last day of your standard ticket, and you can do this at any Guest Relations location. Your annual pass will start on the first day you used your initial tickets, so you will want to make sure this is worthwhile (i.e. when you have more than one trip in a short space of time).
Determining if it’s worth it to upgrade to an Annual Pass – Value for the money – US Dollars
Calculating whether an annual pass is value for money will depend on that ever so tricky thing – “Disney Math”. This can be quite a complex calculation. There are so many different factors to consider when trying to calculate the true value, and therefore any cost savings. There are lots of changeable factors to take into account as well. It comes down to which Annual Pass benefits you plan to use, and how many days you plan to be in the parks.
In the meantime, keep in mind that if you are staying off site (and driving) for 10 days or more, then the annual pass becomes the cheaper option due to the free parking.
For more details on how to determine if it’s worth it for you, check out the article called Why an Annual Pass Can Save You Money (Even On One Trip!)
Value for money – for UK residents
For UK guests the old Platinum Plus pass offered all the features of the UK “Ultimate tickets” (which also no longer exists). UK tickets have always been an extremely good value, compared to the US tickets. A 7- day Ultimate ticket has cost around the same as a 2 day hopper with memory maker and water sports (all of which are included in the UK 7-day ticket for “free”).
With the new annual pass options, plus the new UK options (the only change is the cessation of the 21-day ticket and the introduction of seasonal pricing) and the added complication of Genie+ (Disney’s new paid “skip the line” type pass) this becomes a very complicated decision.
Below we outline the breakdown of how/why we have come to the answer we have. But if you find this a little confusing or simply aren’t interested in the workings here’s our conclusion:
The new annual pass is not a better value than the new UK tickets.
In order to start the comparison, the first thing to do is to work out if you want the same perks you get on the UK ticket. In order to compare like for like, we will assume that this is the case, and this adds $198 plus tax to the cost of the Incredi-Pass. This brings your Incredi-Pass total to about $1595. With an exchange rate of $1.3 to the pound (the exchange rate at the time of writing) this equates to around £1227.
Now the next part gets a little tricky, because the UK tickets now have 3 tiers of pricing. We will base our calculations on the highest rate (£549 for 14 days). If this was the only factor, you would need to visit Walt Disney World 3 times (or 31 days) in 12 months to get the benefit of the pass, based on ticket price only. If you are going at a mid or low season (which is most of the year except Christmas and Thanksgiving) you would need to stay even longer to see a saving.
Consider Genie+ when trying to decide what to buy.
Things aren’t that simple however, as we now need to consider Genie+ in case you decide you wish to use this service. To add this to your 14 day ticket costs £96, bringing your ticket to £646. This averages £46 or $60 a day). To add Genie+ to your trip for 14 days on an annual pass would cost $226 or £171, brining your annual pass to £1398 for a 14 day trip (or £99 a day) To get the annual pass to a lower cost per day, you would need to visit for at least 34 days in the life of the pass if using Genie+ every day with your Incredi-Pass. Again, if you are not staying during the peak season, this would increase the number of days to in excess of 35 days.
Now obviously, you will save money if you don’t use Genie+ every day, but this would also be true if you chose to buy a UK ticket without Genie+ and add it on the days you wanted. There are so many combinations in this scenario that we are working on an all or nothing basis for the purposes of ease.
Parking is a consideration.
Lastly, if you stay off site, you may be interested in the free parking you gain with an annual pass. To break even on parking, you would need to stay for more than 27 days to pay less for your annual pass than a UK ticket with Parking. It’s a little trickier to do this calculation with Genie+, because with the annual pass you pay per day, not a fixed amount. If you take the $25 saving for free parking, but add the $15.90 for Genie+, you would need to stay off site for more than 64 days in the life of the pass to make a saving based off the parking alone.
Ultimately, what this all means is that unless you are likely to make more than 3 trips, or a total of 34 days plus in a 12-month period, it is unlikely that an annual pass will save you money. This may be sad news for those who like the perk of not having to factor in parking money into spending money, the dedicated entrance line or the free gifts. But you would need to do a lot of shopping to break even (bearing in mind the customs limits on returning to the UK!)
If we have learnt anything over the past 2 years it is that things can change very quickly, and Disney is no exception to this. Things may change in the future, but for now a UK ticket seems to be the best option for the majority of UK guests.
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