Disney Annual Pass Strategy & Hack: More Disney for Less Money!

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Disney Annual Pass Strategy for Saving Money

Disney and annual passes. Am I right?!? I mean they hook us with all of their great theming, rides and entertainment, but then they raise the price so high that we have to consider selling our organs just to pay for our “Disney Vacation”.

Of course “Disney Vacation” is a term we no longer use either, because that love of Disney has now turned into a need to visit multiple times per year. It no longer is a vacation, but rather a way of life. Or at least that is how it goes for some. But would you believe you can have your cake and eat it too….sort of! Let’s take a look at your Disney annual pass strategy and how you could save yourself some money and perhaps even get some more Disney along the way!

Disney Annual Pass Strategy
Disney’s Pop Century Resort in Walt Disney World.

Are Annual Passes Worth It?

Keep in mind that in the past year both Disneyland and Walt Disney World both dramatically increased the costs of both tickets and annual passes. To find out which option makes the most sense you should look at the ticket costs associated with any trips over the next year. Also try to calculate your annual pass savings on dining, etc., but be conservative.

Disney annual pass prices:

If you have decided an annual pass will make financial sense then you aren’t done yet. There are some other things you need to keep in mind as well. Hopefully my Disney annual pass strategy can help you take a bit of the sting out of those crazy high prices!

Subscription Plans Are Not Your Friend

Disney offers a monthly payment plan for annual passes to certain people on both coasts. Most California residents are eligible for the Disneyland monthly payment plan while Florida residents are eligible at Walt Disney World. Do these interest free plans make sense? I would argue they don’t for a lot of people.

If you’re the type of person who is going to the parks weekly then it doesn’t matter. Your monthly plan is fine. But if you visit 3-4 times per year as part of longer trips then you may want to consider dropping that payment plan and letting your pass expire.

Disney Annual Pass Strategy
An annual pass could mean more visits to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge!

Better Trip Planning Saves Money

If you plan your trips around the annual pass expiration, you can often let your pass expire for months until you need it again. Why would you want to pay every month if you aren’t going to use it? Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you visit Walt Disney World 4 times a year and have decided to get an annual pass. Your trip will start on June 1, so your pass will begin on that date. To keep it simple lets say you visit every 3 months. Trips 1-3 work as usual, but you should plan trip #4 for the week before your pass expires.

In this case your pass would expire on May 31, but you would have used it for all of your trips. You then wouldn’t be due back until September 1. If you follow this strategy then you wouldn’t need to pay for a pass for the months of June, July and August. In other words with the current cost of a Disney Platinum Pass being $1,119 that amounts to a savings of $279.75. 

Disney Annual Pass Strategy

Annual Pass Renewal Discount?

The scenario above is a simple one, but if you determine an annual pass is worth it for you, then some sort of schedule strategy will probably be in your best interest. Disney does sometimes offer discounts for renewing your annual pass, but it almost never will add up to the savings as shown above. If you multiply that savings across an entire family it is substantial. Heck, even letting a Walt Disney World Platinum Pass expire for a month would save a family of four $373!

Disney Annual Pass Strategy for Once A Year Visitors?

But what if you only visit once per year? In some cases it may actually make sense to get an annual pass then as well. While it will depend on the length of your trips, in some cases if you plan two or more visits in a year then an annual pass will make sense, especially if you are eligible for a discounted pass or you spend a lot on dining/merchandise.

Additionally you may also be able to give yourself a free trip/trips! By using a scheduling strategy of planning a trip on day 1 and then a trip just before the pass expires you can achieve your once per year trip and give yourself free admission the rest of that year as well. Perhaps you can talk yourself into another trip if you don’t have to pay for tickets!

Think Outside of the Box

The truth is there are tons of methods you can use to formulate your Disney annual pass strategy, but you should have one. Thinking outside of the box can result in tons of money saving ideas. Determine which passes you are eligible for and claim any and all discounts within your grasp. Then, be strategic with your trip planning and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish! More Disney for less money. Sounds good to me!

Do you employ my Disney annual pass strategy or do you save money another way? Share your Disney annual pass tips, tricks and strategies in the comments!

Shawn Coomerhttp://www.disneyhacks.com
I grew up an hour from Disneyland and spent most of my childhood at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. As I grew up my love of theme parks and Disney grew as did my love of travel. For the past 13 years I have circled the globe with my family for pennies on the dollar. I am an expert at travel hacking, saving money, family travel and of course Disney.

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  1. Any tips on upgrading a ticket to an annual pass? I have a ticket I got with points, and I can’t figure out how much it would cost me to upgrade. We’re only going once, but we’re a party of 8, so the discounts on food and shopping are the draw.

    • At either resort you can upgrade your ticket in the park app or at customer service. You’ll pay the difference between the cost of your ticket and the cost of the pass. If you do it in your app you can just use a credit card and then get it processed whenever you want at guest relations in any of the parks. It’s super easy and I did it at both Disneyland and Disney World this year.

  2. Julie, the ticket is worth the retail price on the day it was transferred to you, whether that was via a cash purchase or by some other legitimate means. (I’m not aware of a way currently to get tickets strictly with points.) If it’s a multi-day ticket you received earlier this year then it can be worth over $700 (e.g. for a 10 day park-hopper) . If it’s a couple of years older and for a shorter duration then it’s worth considerably less.

    The main thing to remember is you must trade up your ticket for an annual pass BEFORE it expires and before you use up all the days it’s valid for. Once you begin to use the ticket that gives you two weeks or less.

  3. The value that they use to calculate can be a mystery sometimes. Years ago I paid about $280 for some park hopper tickets to Disneyland through Orbitz. We went in for a day then converted to an Annual Pass before we left at customer service(?) and they said I had a value of $309 on the park hopper tickets and gave me a refund of $10ish for the annual pass. I’m not one to argue if they want to give me money back.

    One additional thing I used to do is buy discounted disney gift cards through Target with the red card and take those to buy the park hopper tickets, use them for a day or two on a weekend then convert them to a weekday only annual pass. Great when you have friends or relatives who want to go on a weekend. Sort of like getting the annual pass for 5% off. We did this same calendar timing above and that’s a great way to save money.

  4. @Danny Correct — the value is the RETAIL (list) price, not the discounted price you may have paid. For a while Orbitz was selling tickets at a discount.

    • In my experience this year and from talking with others, you sometimes get credit for an amount in between your discounted price and the full retail value. As in Disney can see it is a discounted ticket, but you get more value than what you actually paid. I have heard others say this too and my ticket was from Undercover Tourist. Just something to keep in mind. Any credit over what you paid is a win either way!

  5. What about having an annual pass at one park and using that discount to get a pass at another one? I recall there was some sort of magical pass that worked at more than one park? I.e. disneyland and disney world. Any other parks? I did not know.

  6. One thing that I haven’t been able to replicate is the backdoor way of cashback portals for Disney tickets. I saw one time that there was an orbitz cashback of 20% for Activities. Disneyland tickets actually qualified so I ended up purchasing the Disneyland 3 or 4 day park hopper. The nice thing was that I paid about $299 for it and got back about $60 through the portal. It was also perfect since we just used it for a day then converted the ticket to an annual pass. I haven’t seen these types of deals since then but I haven’t been checking on it as much.


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