How Being a Disney Passholder Changed our Vacations

How Being a Disney Passholder Changed our Vacations

For a couple of years now we’ve heard that being a Walt Disney World Season Passholder would save us money.  So, this past year, we finally took the leap. Mind you, we hear this sentiment about the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) as well and have yet to figure out that math. A Disney World Season Pass though is a little easier to break down and understand, but one of the most surprising things from having this extra tool in our arsenal of Disney tricks was how much it changed our vacations. And not in a way we would have guessed.

Disney World Season Pass 2024

What is a Disney World Season Pass? A Disney World Season Pass, or Disney Annual Pass, is simply a yearly membership that allows you access to all 4 Disney theme parks, for the duration of one year. Just like you would be a season pass holder at the Zoo or Orchestra, the Disney Season Pass is the same thing. As such, when you buy a Disney Season Pass you get access to all 4 Disney World theme parks, for one full year ( 365 days) from the date of your pass purchase. In addition to park entry to all 4 parks, you also get an array of discounts for being a passholder. Check out our post about the Disney World Annual Passholder Benefits for all the details. 

For awareness, there is no such thing as a Disney Family Annual Pass. While that would be lovely, to be able to include all the people in your regular travel party on a single Disney World Season Pass. That simply isn’t in existence. To that point, the Disney season pass options are typically based on your Florida residency, or not, and blackout dates. 

Annual Pass Program at Walt Disney World

Disney World Season Pass Cost

Let’s face it, the only reason people don’t become Disney World passholders is because it’s pretty darn expensive. In fact, it’s 3x as expensive as the Universal Studios Orlando Pass for out-of-state guests. Never mind the “Is having a Disney Season Pass Worth It” conversation. How are you justifying the cost of a Disney Season Pass in the first place? Okay, let’s talk about the Disney World Season Pass Price, and take it from there. While this post is more about how your Disney Vacation Changes as a Disney Season Passholder, it pays, literally, to know how much you need to spend to get the Disney Season Passholder lifestyle. Keep in mind, that just like Disney Plus or any streaming service, you don’t have to renew your Disney Season Pass every year. You can simply be strategic about it. So how much does a Disney World Season Pass Cost?

Disney Season Passholder Reservation Requirements 

Note that the reservation requirements are in place, and you can view reservation availability on the Disney Passholder Reservation Calendar. Previously you could just show up at Disney World anytime you wanted and walk into any of the four parks. That has changed. Disney Annual Passes for 2024 include Good to Go Days that do not require a reservation. so, keep tabs on the calendar for details. 

If you’re a Disney Annual Passholder, then even after the park pass reservations are lifted for resort vacationers on January 9, 2024, you will still need a Park Pass Reservation to enter any Disney Theme Park. As such, Disney has rolled out Good to Go Days, when Disney Season Passholders may enter the theme parks in 2024 without needing a park pass reservation. Though Blockout dates will continue to apply like they do today. The theme park reservation calendar, Annual Passholder admissions calendar and My Disney Experience app will show days that are good-to-go. The first Disney Annual Passholder Good to Go Days will be released on January 11, 2024 and then added periodically and may be released days or weeks in advance.

Disney Season Pass Details, Extras and Add-Ons

To make it clear, we want to share just a few things about the Disney Season Pass program, so that you’re not looking at these prices in confusion. 

  • A Disney Season Pass includes access to the 4 Disney World Parks; Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom.
  • A Disney Pass is required for Each Person in your family. Children Under 3 Years Old do not need a pass. 
  • Disney Season Pass prices for children ( under 3) and adults are the same, as below. 
  • Disney Water Parks ( Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach) ARE NOT INCLUDED in a Disney Season Pass. But, they can be added for $99 + tax for the year. Again, this is per individual pass. 
  • Disney PhotoPass Downloads ARE NOT INCLUDED in a Disney Season Pass. But, they can be added for $99 + tax for the year.
  • Annual Passes may be unavailable for purchase at any time. 

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Walt Disney World Annual Pass Prices

Buying a Disney World Annual Pass means you get annual pass discounts on a variety of things including access to all four parks. 

Disney Season Pass Prices 2024

The Disney World Annual Pass Cost varies depending on a couple of factors. Some passes are only available to Florida Residents or Disney Vacation Club Members (DVC). Only one pass is available to Everyone Else. So, if you’re out of state there is only one Disney World Season Pass for out-of-state passholders.

How Much Does a Disney Season Pass Cost?

 If you’re a Florida Resident or a DVC member you have the option to take lower-priced passes. However, for all except the highest-cost Disney season pass, there are Disney Season Pass Blackout Dates. These dates vary depending on the type of pass you get below. Let’s dive into the Disney Season Pass Price for each kind of Pass at Disney World. Check out all the Disney World Annual Pass Options available on the Walt Disney World Website.  

Disney Pixie Dust Pass | Florida Residents ONLY

  • Disney Pixie Dust Pass: $439 + tax Or, $22 per month with 12 monthly payments and 0% APR after $205 down payment on the Florida Resident Monthly Payment Program 
    • Florida Residents Only
    • Admission to one or more Walt Disney World Resort theme parks on most weekdays during the year with an advance park reservation (reservations are limited and subject to availability)**
    • Blockout dates apply, including during peak and holiday periods—view blockout dates
    • Make and hold up to 3 theme park reservations at a time on a rolling basis². View current Annual Pass reservation availability
    • Passholders staying at Disney Resort hotels or other select hotels are eligible to make theme park reservations for each day of their Resort stay(s), in addition to holding 3 theme park reservations at a time
    • Standard theme park parking
    • Discounts on dining, merchandise and more*

Pirate Pass | Florida Residents ONLY

  • Disney Pirate Pass: $799 + tax Or, $54 per month with 12 monthly payments and 0% APR after $205 down payment with the Florida Resident Monthly Payment Program
    • Florida Residents Only
    • Admission to one or more Walt Disney World Resort theme parks on most days of the year with an advance park reservation (reservations are limited and subject to availability)**
    • Blockout dates apply, including during peak and holiday periods—view blockout dates
    • Make and hold up to 4 theme park reservations at a time on a rolling basis². View current Annual Pass reservation availability
    • Passholders staying at Disney Resort hotels or other select hotels are eligible to make theme park reservations for each day of their Resort stay(s), in addition to holding 4 theme park reservations at a time
    • Standard theme park parking
    • Discounts on dining, merchandise and more*

Sorcerer Pass | DVC Members or Florida Residents ONLY

  • Disney Sorcerer Pass: $999 + tax Or, $72 per month with 12 monthly payments and 0% APR after $205 down payment with the Florida Resident Monthly Payment Program
    • Eligible Disney Vacation Club Members⁶ or Florida Residents only
    • Admission to one or more Walt Disney World Resort theme parks on most days of the year with an advance theme park reservation (reservations are limited and subject to availability)**
    • Blockout dates apply, including select days during select holiday periods—view blockout dates
    • Make and hold up to 5 theme park reservations at a time on a rolling basis². View current Annual Pass reservation availability
    • Passholders staying at Disney Resort hotels or other select hotels are eligible to make theme park reservations for each day of their Resort stay(s), in addition to holding 5 theme park reservations at a time
    • Standard theme park parking
    • Discounts on dining, merchandise and more*

Incredi-Pass | All Other Guests

  • Disney Incredi-Pass: $1449 + tax Or, $112 per month with 12 monthly payments and 0% APR after $205 down payment on the Florida Resident Monthly Payment Program³
    • All Guests
    • Admission to one or more Walt Disney World Resort theme parks during the year with an advance reservation (reservations are limited and are subject to availability)**
    • No blockout dates apply
    • Make and hold up to 5 theme park reservations at a time on a rolling basis. View current Annual Pass reservation availability
    • Passholders staying at Disney Resort hotels or other select hotels are eligible to make theme park reservations for each day of their Resort stay(s), in addition to holding 5 theme park reservations at a time
    • Standard theme park parking
    • Discounts on dining, merchandise and more*

Disney Passholder Renewal

If you’re considering renewal of your Disney annual pass, then know that Disney season pass holders get a 15% discount upon renewal. We usually see this offered in the My Disney Experience App about a month before and after the Disney Pass Renewal date. So, if you choose to get a Disney Season pass, keep an eye out for that disney passholder discount on an annual basis. 

Disney Season Pass Monthly Payment Program

The Disney Season Pass Monthly Payment Program is only available to Florida residents with valid ID. Must be at least 18 years old to purchase under the monthly payment option. Subject to additional terms and conditions. Monthly payment amount based on remaining balance after one time payment of $205 at time of purchase. First monthly payment will be charged on day of purchase or shortly thereafter. Subject to restrictions, including an installment agreement, and change without notice.

And since Disney increases these prices often, always check the site to be sure of the current Disney Annual Pass price.

What do you get as a Disney World Annual Passholder Perks of Membership

Disney World Season Pass Benefits

Disney World Season Pass perks vary depending on the TYPE of Disney Season Pass you get. However, across the board, this is what you get when you get an annual pass at Walt Disney World.  

  • Admission to one or more Walt Disney World Resort theme parks during the year with an advance reservation (reservations are limited and are subject to availability)
  • Park Hopper Privileges across all 4 parks
  • Up to 5 Park Pass Reservations at a time (Through 2023. Park Pass Reservations are no longer required beginning Jan 9, 2024, for date-based tickets)
  • Up to 20% off at select dining locations
  • Up to 20% off select merchandise in-store or online at Shop Disney Parks
  • Standard theme park parking
  • 10% Disney Sports and Recreation
  • 15% off Tours
  • Annual Passholder Disney Guidebook
  • Official Annual Passholder Magnet
  • Ability to purchase Annual Passholder Special Event Merchandise
  • Free Annual Passholder Keepsake Gifts at Epcot Festivals
  • MagicMobile Wallet Customizations
  • Magical Extras
  • 15% off Disney Annual Pass Renewal

The Truth About Having a Disney World Season Pass

When thinking about a Disney season pass realize that you are just paying to get into a theme park for one year. Since it may be out of state for most of you, you would have to factor in things like transportation, number of family members, and how much time you can get off work to make these trips. All of these variables go into whether a Disney World pass would work for you. Is a Disney Annual Pass worth it for you and your family? Even if the money makes sense, check out all the things that changed as a result of being a Disney Passholder. 

What we learned most from this year of being an annual pass holder was that it ended up not really being about the money. Or making it “worth it” at all! And we are speaking from a place of strict budgeting here. Instead, it became about how different our Disney Vacations are when we have the Disney pass. Mind you we have never had the Disney season pass every year so it was great to see the differences between being a Disney Season Passholder and a regular Disney Vacationer.

Disney World Disney Season Pass

Does Having a Disney Pass Change Your Vacation?

YES. From our experience, yes, absolutely. A regular Disney vacationer often has strict planning, goals for each day, and a feeling of achievement at the end of a Disney trip for having done all their favorite things. A Disney Season Passholder approaches each Disney trip with a different mindset. The mindset of a Walt Disney World annual pass holder goes something like this. “Don’t worry about it, we’ll do it next time”, “Gosh, I hope I remember to ask if they take the AP discount( cause not all places do)”, “let’s sleep in”, “Why don’t we do a Disney resort day instead?”, “Geez it’s crowded”, “why don’t these people know how to use the MagicBand reader?” Not pretty, huh?

You Still Plan, but do you really need to?

One of the biggest changes was that as avid Disney planners, we like knowing what we’re doing when. But with a Disney pass, there is soooo much flexibility, you don’t need to lose sleep over it. 

  • Since you can now go to any park you like, whenever you like throughout the year the urgency, importance and frantic feelings go away.
  • Not everywhere takes the AP discount, so if you’re factoring that savings into your plan, be sure to check for the list of places it’s accepted. Saving that 20% on dinner or at the gift shop however is always amazing to see in print though, so it’s always worth asking.
  • Your days may start later than normal because everything will still be there whenever you decide to wake up. This is not necessarily a great part of the mindset to have. Mainly because right around 10-11 a.m. is when everyone else is trying to get to the parks. So the busses will be crowded, the lines longer and you will have missed that lovely time of the morning in the parks between 8-10 am when fewer people are there.

You May Get Too Familiar with the Parks

  • Resort days are an attempt to vary up the routine of just going to the four parks for the length of your vacation, as the parks are included in the pass. And since you don’t actually need an annual pass to hang out at a Disney resort. The pass gives you the freedom to “waste” a day if you want.
  • Evenings and weekends are always crowded.  And the holidays are crowded always. As a Disney annual pass holder, you’ve seen the parks throughout the entire year, so you’re hyper-aware of the crowds. And which level of Disney crowds you like best.
  • And yes, there will be times when you can’t figure out what’s holding up the line. You’ll stand there wondering why you have to wait, and people may annoy you. But again, this is primarily because your level of Disney expertise has skyrocketed since becoming a pass holder. Be patient.

Disney Season Pass

Our Disney Vacation Planning Changed

One of the completely unexpected parts of handing over 1400 dollars to the House of Mouse for our Disney Season Pass was that our Vacation planning changed. Why? Well, because if we were gearing up to visit Disney several times a year we no longer needed to wake up at 6 a.m. when the Disney Dining Reservations are live for our vacation dates. ( Yes, we do this.) If you don’t get in a restaurant this time, we’ll get it next time. 

Essentially we had just figured if we miss something this time around, we’ll get it next time around. This includes rides on TRON, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the coveted Space 220 Restaurant Reservation we waited on for months. We would buy Genie+ sometimes to get through the lines of rides, faster. But it wasn’t necessary. The stuff not on our bucket lists wouldn’t really have lines anyway or need a reservation so if we missed a key dinner, we could find an alternative.

Our Daily Disney Experience Changed

It’s important to have a plan for Days at Disney World. This Disney World Pass also allowed us a little more freedom to try things we may not try. As in things we weren’t sure we’d actually like. We’ve been trying to talk ourselves into seeing Country Bears and The American Adventure for years! But even as iconic Disney attractions, we have never taken the time to do either. While this sounds strange, we are great proponents of research and bucket lists with only the must-do, must-see, and must-eat things. We want it practically perfect every time. And we don’t want to waste money on anything not great.

But this often leaves us only doing the best things and not really wanting to “waste” time on the potentially sub-par( but also enjoyable) things. It also leaves us fairly harried. Adamant about making our Disney vacation perfect. With an annual pass in tow, we were able to waste as much time as we wanted exploring and trying out new things. And we spend time on the Plaza Garden lawn every time we visit now, definitely, something we would have not done when we only had one annual trip a year.

dumbo at walt disney world

We Park Hopped More Than We Thought

Prior to this year, we had made an annual trip every year to Disney for the last couple of years. We looked forward to this sabbatical and would think about it all year long; which restaurants we wanted to try, which rides to ride, which resorts to visit. One thing, however, never changed from year to year; we’d only visit one park each day. Even as a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder we still always recommend the one-day-one park model. The park hopper option was always an extra cost and one we didn’t feel necessary. Truthfully we thought, why bother? If we’re at Magic Kingdom we don’t want to leave and get on a bus and go to another park.

But The Ability to Park Hop Freely changed our Disney Planning

This impacted our planning immensely. Everyone knows NOT to go to Magic Kingdom or Epcot on the weekends.  So, instead, we’d shove those parks into the weekdays. And then of course we’d have to factor in when the fireworks were, the parades, the extra magic hours, etc. Multiple Excel sheets were needed during the planning process and while we do love the planning, we sell Disney Vacation Planners after all, the Disney season pass completely took away this need. With the park hopper built into the pass we could go to Magic Kingdom on a Saturday and then if it got too crowded, go to Hollywood Studios instead.

We often had days split between two parks with a small break in between at a resort for lunch. This too felt weird. What previously felt like a big waste of time suddenly felt a little like freedom. When Magic Kingdom closed early we could go to Hollywood Studios or Epcot to finish out the evening and vice versa. While I don’t think we’d purchase the park hopper on a regular vacation, in years where we have the Annual Pass, we will surely take advantage of this perk.

walt disney world hub grass

We Built in More Downtime at Disney

We are huge fans of the hub grass in the Plaza Garden at Magic Kingdom. It’s close proximity to the castle, bathrooms, Starbucks, and gift shops. This makes it the perfect place to sit and relax for a minute. And we’re always looking for Places at Walt Disney World to Take a Break. As a bonus, you get to see the castle show, glimpse the parades, and trolley shows, and even hear the dapper dans. Apart from totally looking like an insider when you’re just sitting and hanging out while everyone else is rushing around trying to do things, the hub grass also offers the best spots for cute castle photos 

Not being tied to a very tight schedule and o.k. about missing a fast pass here and there we chose to sit and make crafts at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We took the boat to Wilderness Lodge to browse the gift shop there. And we often hang out on the beach with a dole whip at The Polynesian. We love to watch the street show at Hollywood Studios too. It was suddenly okay to just be hanging out. This was a completely new feeling for us this year. Being on a very tight Disney Vacation budget, we are sometimes preoccupied with getting our money’s worth and less preoccupied with just having a nice time, aka…being on a vacation where you actually relax.

disney down time disney relax

Everything Was Less Stressful

Surely you know what I’m talking about here. You’re at Disney. You paid god knows how much for this super magical vacation for your family. And you’ve been waiting 40 minutes for the bus to bring you to the parks. No one likes waiting in lines. It’s even harder to handle when you’re secretly calculating how much money was wasted to stand around at the bus stop for an hour. And while we didn’t love waiting for the bus or standing in long lines at security we also knew that it really didn’t matter. We didn’t need to be upset about it. No one can control the buses or the crowds.  And there would be other days or trips where there would be shorter lines, fewer people, and buses arriving “on time”.

disney annual pass holders perks

We were no longer buying the Disney Vacation Package

The Disney Vacation Package is required for certain promotions, like resort offers, and Disney Free Dining. Since we like taking advantage of the free dining when it comes around this meant that in order to get the offer we needed a package. So we’d technically have to buy a few nights at a Disney resort to qualify for certain promotions. And then the rest of the nights were AP discounted nights. Definitely call if you’re an Annual Passholder and hoping to get the special promotions. Our workaround for this has been to just buy the vacation package. An annual pass always trumps package tickets. This means that at the end of your vacation you would technically still have however many tickets on your account from your package. That could later be used or traded in as credit on your next annual pass. 

We Got to Experience Disney Annual Pass Perks and Special Previews

A favorite perk of the AP lifestyle was that you get your own special line to swipe in magic bands at the front gates. These lines were most of the time shorter than the regular lines. But not on weekends. We also got Passholder Previews, which meant we were invited to see anything new that opened in the parks. BEFORE the public was allowed. Of course, these previews may not be open to all passholders. And being out of state, sometimes hard to take advantage of. Being able to roam Pandora before it opened with only 100 other people at a time was fairly magical. Especially seeing that now wait times are almost 3 hours for Fight of Passage and there are still shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.

pandora disney passholder preview

Should you Be A Walt Disney World Annual Passholder?

For us, we visited Walt Disney World seven times this past year. So, it was totally worth it. But we also knew that was the plan going into the investment. Whatever your reasons for considering a Season  Pass at Walt Disney World just remember that it’s less about the money and more about how you plan to use it during the year. 

being a walt disney passholder what to know

Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website | + posts

Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.


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