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When it comes to WDW annual passes, membership definitely has its privileges

When it comes to WDW annual passes, membership definitely has its privileges

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While borrowing liberally from the folks at that green credit card company for the title of this article, the subject of today's article deals not with charging goods and services in countries around the globe but with saving you some green on your next Walt Disney World Vacation.

You might already be aware that Disney offers a yearly admission pass to the Walt Disney World resort. The Walt Disney World Annual Passport is offered in two flavors: regular and premium. With the regular Annual Passport offering its holder unlimited admission to the theme parks for 365 days from the date of activation. Premium Annual Passports add, at an additional cost, of course, unlimited admissions to the WDW water parks, Pleasure Island, Disney Quest, and Disney's Wide World of Sports. What might not be so familiar to you, perhaps, are the other benefits that come along with an Annual Passport purchase. We're going to examine some of these benefits and how they can save you quite a pile of cash on your WDW vacation.

First, and most dramatic, are the discounts offered on lodging at Disney's hotels and resorts to Annual Passholders. Available most days of the year except during peak times, these discounts will reduce the nightly cost of rooms at any WDW resort by 20% - 45%, depending on the season, resort, and demand. Annual Passholder (AP) rates are usually released by Disney anywhere from 2-6 months prior to the effective dates, and they are offered on a limited, space-available basis. That means that there are only so many rooms available with the AP discount, and once they're gone, they're gone.

Some of the other AP benefits that are often overlooked but can add up are:

- Free parking at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM, and Animal Kingdom lots. This benefit is now worth $8 per day with the new parking price increases.
- 25% discount on Cirque de Soleil tickets. This benefit is worth $19 for adults and $8 for children
- 10% lunch discounts at dining locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort. This discount will, of course, vary based on where, when, and how much you eat.
- 10%-20% discounts on dining anytime at selected Downtown Disney area restaurants. This can be of significant worth as some of these restaurants can be very pricey.
- 10%-15% discounts on merchandise at selected locations throughout the Downtown Disney area.
- 15% discounts on special Tours offered by Disney in the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom. This discount can be worth as much as $20 per tour, depending on the tour(s) chosen.
- 10%-50% discount on sporting activities such as golf, miniature golf, waterskiing, wakeboarding, parasailing, boat rentals, and race-car driving.
- 20% discount on car rentals at selected providers.

That's nice, you're saying to yourself, but how does it relate to me in cold, hard cash? To give you an example of exactly how the purchase of an Annual Passport can help you save a bundle on your vacation, let's take a look at the vacation plans for the fictional Morrow family.

Mr. Tom Morrow wants to take his family of 2 adults and 2 children, ages 6 and 4, to Walt Disney World for a week of fun this summer. He wants to stay at a moderate resort and have park admissions for his entire stay. He wants a rental car for the duration of the stay, lunch and dinner on property each day, a few souvenirs to take home, a round of miniature golf, a water mouse rental, a round of real golf for dad, a spa treatment for mom, and a performance at the Cirque du Soleil.

Option 1:
7-night vacation in June, lodging at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort with the Dream Maker package, which includes Ultimate Park Hopper passes for everyone.

Option 2:
7- night vacation in June, lodging at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort with the Annual Passholder rate. Premium Annual Passports included for everyone

Option 3:
7-night vacation in June, lodging at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort with the Annual Passholder rate. Regular Annual Passports included for everyone.

Options 4:
7-night vacation in June, lodging at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort with the Annual Passholder rate. One regular Annual Passport for one adult (to qualify for the discount) and 7-Day Park Hopper Plus passes for everyone else.

 
Option 1
Option 2
Option 3
Option 4
Lodging
$2,493.40
$578.00
$578.00
$578.00
Park Admissions
$0.00
$1,966.00
$1,493.14
$1,351.50
Car rental - 1 week
$167.52
$136.48
$136.48
$136.48
Parking
$56.00
$0.00
$0.00
$0.00
Meals
$875.00
$755.50
$755.50
$755.50
Souvenirs
$250.00
$218.75
$218.75
$218.75
Miniature Golf
$38.34
$19.17
$19.17
$19.17
Water Mouse Rental
$42.00
$35.70
$35.70
$35.70
Golf
$104.81
$71.69
$71.69
$71.69
Spa Treatment
$99.24
$89.31
$89.31
$89.31
Cirque de Soleil tickets
$247.08
$197.16
$197.16
$197.16
Grand Total
$4,383.39
$4,067.76
$3,594.90
$3,453.26

As you can see, the Morrow family could save anywhere from $315 to over $800 on the price of their vacation if they chose to purchase Annual Passports and take advantage of the discounts available to them.

Now here's where it gets even better and the AP benefits really start to kick in. Let's say that Tom and the little missus, Mae Betu, want to get away for a little second honeymooning at WDW later in the year. Suppose they want to spend 4 nights at the Wilderness Lodge in early December, and that they chose either option 1 or option 2 above so they both have Annual Passports. They don't want to miniature golf or the water mouse without the kids, they don't want to see Cirque du Soleil again, but they do want to include a couple of tours that they could not do last time with the kids along. Tom, a steam train fanatic, wants to take the "Magic Behind Our Steam Trains" tour in the Magic Kingdom, while Mae Betu really wants to swim with the fish at the "Epcot Seas Aqua Tour" offered at the Living Seas pavilion. We'll compare the rates again using Disney's Dream Maker package for the regular rates.

 
Regular Rate
AP rates
Lodging
$2,493.40
$691.30
Park Admissions
$0.00
$0.00
Car rental - 5 days
$160.71
$130.04
Parking
$56.00
$0.00
Meals
$400.00
$360.00
Souvenirs
$150.00
$127.50
Golf
$104.81
$71.69
Spa Treatment
$99.24
$89.31
Tours
$296.80
$236.93
Grand Total
$3,760.96
$1,706.77

The Morrows just got an additional vacation on the cheap because they had the advantage of not paying for park admissions for this second trip using their Annual Passports.

Of course, everyone's circumstances are going to be different, and we're not trying to cover all of the possibilities in this short article. The "break-even" point for buying Annual Passports versus the Dream Maker packages offered by Disney versus regular Park Hopper tickets varies from person to person and even from day to day depending on package discounts that might be available. The easiest way to determine if an Annual Passport is best for you is to contact a travel agent that specializes in Disney travel.

So, as you can see, membership in Disney's Annual Passport program does indeed have its benefits. Enough so that it's worth all of the confused stares, blank looks, and sarcastic snickers you get when you tell folks that you are an Annual Passholder even though you might live thousands of miles from the parks!

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