A WDW annual pass gives you entry into all four parks for an entire year. It can save you money, but the savings will all depend on how you use it. Briefly, here are the perks of having an annual pass:
1. Free parking.
2. Discounts in certain Disney stores on property, primarily at Downtown Disney.
3. Discounts at a limited number of restaurants, usually around $20. This includes certain World Showcase restaurants during lunch.
4. Admission to certain passholder-only events, such as store openings or soft openings for new attractions.
5. Room-only discounts, which are generally 2 – 5 percent better than general public discounts. One benefit of these discounts is that they don’t tend to have a “book by” date, so you can get them (if they’re available) on shorter notice as long as they fall within the proper timeframe. I recently found this out when I cancelled a reservation I thought I no longer needed, only to change my mind later that day. I couldn’t get it back because it had to be booked by August 14th. I figured I would be staying off site since there were no other general public discounts until I remembered that I could still use an AP discount for that time period.
One bit of caution: If you’re buying an AP for the discounts, don’t do it. They are a nice perk, but they are never guaranteed and AP room discounts can go very quickly (which is why following a site like Mousesavers is a good idea). Whether or not you buy an AP should be based on how often you’ll visit the parks. You need an annual pass if:
1. You’re visiting the parks more than ten days on your trip. Remember that Disney park tickets are only good for ten days. After that, you’ll need to buy an another ticket even if it’s only for one day. Since tickets are loaded on the front end–i.e., they cost more for the first few days and only a few bucks a day after that–you’ll save if you buy an annual pass.
2. You are taking one long vacation (more than 4 days) and one shorter vacation in a given year. That two day visit to the parks will cost you almost as much as a five-day ticket. Combined, they’ll equal an annual pass.
3. You can stagger your yearly vacations. So say you buy an AP on June 15th. This is when you take your yearly vacation. Next year you’ll schedule your vacation time a bit earlier so that you can get in two trips.
Buying an AP requires a leap of faith, a belief that you’ll be able to visit more than once a year. In these difficult economic times, that can be a bit scary. But if you can get past that, it can be a good way to save a bit of money on your next vacation.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about upgrading your regular park tickets to an annual pass.