Please note: all prices and information below were verified as of the date of original publication, and are subject to change.
Today we are going to answer a question we get…a lot. In fact, we get this question so much that we are going to answer it in its own article instead of in our monthly Casual Runner Mailbag. It goes a little something like this…
“I runDisney, so should I buy a Walt Disney World Annual Pass instead of buying park tickets as I go?”
While this question may seem simple, the answer both is and is not. There are a couple of factors you should consider:
1) How many Walt Disney World runDisney races do you plan on running in a 365 day period? WDW Annual Passes are measured by the date of their first use, not by calendar years.
2) Do you plan on making any non-running WDW trips in that year? In other words, how many times a year will you really end up visiting WDW?
Ok, see, not so bad. Let’s get started
The current price for the Disney Platinum Pass is $749 + tax ($649 for Florida Resident/Disney Vacation Club). This includes unlimited admission to all 4 WDW theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios), free parking, park hopping, Memory Maker, advance purchase opportunities for runDisney events, and other discounts on WDW hotels, merchandise, experiences/tours, and food.
You can upgrade to the Disney Platinum Plus Pass ($829 + tax; or $749 + tax for Florida Resident/Disney Vacation Club). Doing so would add water park access and golf course benefits to your AP.
To keep things simple, lets use the Platinum, non-Florida resident AP pass cost of $749 + tax. If you think you are going to spend more than $749 on WDW park tickets in a year, you may want to go ahead and buy an AP. You will end up saving more money in the long run once you start using the other benefits and discounts that come with your Annual Pass.
Let’s compare that $749 (plus tax) to buying your WDW park tickets as you go…
I’m Only Going Once In A Year
If you will only go to WDW once in a 365 day period, just go ahead and forgo the AP. Why? Because the most expensive ticket Disney offers is the 10 day ticket with park hopping and water parks, and for an adult it costs $455 + tax. You would have to really work hard to make the other AP benefits and discounts make up for the $749 + tax purchase price.
A 4 day adult WDW park ticket costs $305 + tax. So, if you were going to go twice a year for 4 park days on each trip, you would only end up paying $610 + tax, which is UNDER the $749 threshold for the AP. However, this does not include park hopping. If that is important to you, adding the park hopping option raises the price to $369 + tax for the 4 days, which would change the cost of 2 trips in a year $738 +tax. So, if you want to park hop, the math says the AP costs more, but only by $11, so you may want to go ahead and get it to save money when using the other benefits and discounts. See how easy that was?
5 Park Day Trip
A 5 day adult WDW park ticket costs $315 + tax. So, if you were going to go twice a year for 5 park days on each trip, you would only end up paying $630 + tax, which is UNDER the $749 threshold for the AP. However, this does not include park hopping. If that is important to you, adding the park hopping option raises the price to $379 + tax for the 5 days, which would change the cost of 2 trips in a year $758 +tax. So, if you want to park hop, the math says you SHOULD get the AP to save money and get the other benefits and discounts.
We go a lot
A 3 day adult base ticket costs $275 + tax, so, the math says that if you are going to make 3 visits of 3 or more park days in length each time, go ahead and get the AP.
I take lots of short trips.
Lets throw a little wrinkle in your planning. WDW has a simple strategy to their ticket pricing: the more park days you buy for any given trip, the more you pay per day. So, the most expensive days are the first and second on any given ticket. A 1 day Magic Kingdom Ticket (no hopper) costs $105 + tax, and a 1 day ticket for any of the other parks (no hopper) costs $99 + tax. So, if you want to visit 1 day at a time, more than 7 times a year, go with the AP. If not, buy as you go.
Similarly, 2 day adult tickets cost $192 + tax (no hopper) and $242 + tax (park hopper). Doing the math, if you do 3 or less 2 day visits each year, it will be less money to pay as you go. If you make 4 or more 2 days visits per year, you will save money with an AP.
A Note About Parking
If you prefer to stay on property when you go to WDW or do not rent a car, the AP free parking benefits will not do you any good. However, if you like staying off-property and rent a car, the current Disney parking prices ($20/day) will add up fast, and may make buying the AP worthwhile for you, for at least one of the people in your travel party.
Some Other Facts You Should Know
– WDW APs are only good at the Florida theme parks, and are not valid for entry at any other Disney parks.
– WDW APs do not include any park entry benefits or discounts for friends or family.
– There are no family Annual Passes, each family member or member of a travelling party must have his or her own park admission.
Memory Maker currently costs $59 for 1 day, $169 for 30 days, or $149 for 30 days if you purchase it in advance.
Frankly, I only ever purchased the Disney Photo Pass on one trip, and it was a week long trip with 11 family members. Given the high price of the product, I saw it as a good value on this trip, but when it came to shorter trips with smaller travel groups, I did not see the value in it.
In 2016 WDW upgraded the AP to INCLUDE Memory Maker, and now we are all over it and find it to be an enjoyable addition to our WDW touring plans. So it can be a good add-on value to consider when you are decided whether to purchase an AP.
Be advised, Memory Maker and Photo Pass does not apply to runDisney race pictures, as those are taken by MarathonPhoto, not Disney Photo Pass photographers. But post-race pictures with your favorite characters and park icons are fair game!
Beware of Ticket Scams
We will leave you with this warning. WDW controls its tickets very closely. There are very few legitimate ticket discount sellers, and those who are legitimate do not offer significant discounts. While they can save you money, it will not be a enough to make or break you.
If you do see great prices advertised online or next to a gas station on International Drive, be ware. Better yet, run! If the deal seems too good to be true, it is. Every year stories pop up on the news about locals arrested in WDW ticket scams. If you get caught in one of these, you may end up throwing away a lot of money on worthless tickets. So, protect yourself and stick to buying tickets either directly from WDW or from authorized ticket sellers.
Be sure to check out some of our other great runDisney articles, include ways to save using the Disney Vacation Account, what you should know before you runDisney, and what it takes to ride every ride in WDW in a single day.
We hope this helps! If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask us, our contact information is below.
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