Thinking about Disney Annual Passes? Read this First

  • November 29, 2017

Do you love Disney but aren’t sure if a Disney Annual Passport is right for you? Are you wondering if getting an annual pass is worth the hefty cost?

Last year we decided to forego buying a lot of Christmas and birthday gifts and instead purchased Disney Annual Passports for our family for the year. We were hesitant to do it because we worried that we wouldn’t use the passes enough to make it worth it. We wondered if we would get sick of going and driving the hour to Anaheim. I am happy to say that we have had the best experience this year. However, I don’t think getting Disney passes is for everyone.

This post explores some of our experiences as annual Disneyland Passport holders. I did this post in a Q&A style based on all the questions we’ve received from friends and family. By the way, if you are interested in some Disney tips — check out this post I did on 10 Insider Tips for Disneyland.

Insider Tips to Disneyland

How much does it cost to become an annual passport holder?

The cost varies pretty wildly. There’s the cost of the annual pass, but there’s also the cost of parking (unless you get the pass that includes it), and of course the food and other goodies. Sadly, Disneyland just discontinued our Southern California Deluxe Annual Passes that we got for $469 per person. However, if you are a SoCal resident you can still purchase an annual pass for $339, but you cannot visit on weekends, holidays or the summer. If you have more to spend, the next level is $619 for a Disney Deluxe Passport. This passport is nice because it is open on weekends and has fewer blackout dates. For the full list of Annual Passports click this link:

In terms of other costs — Disneyland parking is $20 a day. We found a cheaper place to park for $15 at the Anaheim GardenWalk – its about a 15 minute walk into the park.

Food and other expenses – This is variable. To save on costs most of the time we brought our own food and snacks. One great thing we did was tell our family about the passes. Last Christmas we received Disney gift cards and it was awesome for purchasing beer and wine and other food.

My estimate is that we’ve spent between $2,500 and $3,000 on Disney this year between the passes, parking and food and drinks. So roughly 125-150$ every time we go.

How many times did you go?

I don’t know the exact count, but we went close to 20 times. We actually ended up going far more than we expected because we had so much fun every time we went.

Did you get sick of it?

We didn’t get sick of it, but our kids definitely got spoiled after a while. We would ask them, “Hey do you guys want to go to Disney on Friday??” Thinking we would get an excited “yes!!” — but after several months there were times they would say, “nah”. I mean really, who says “nah” to going to Disneyland? (Especially if you’re under the age of 8 years old) Having the summer blocked out in hindsight is probably a good thing. After a few months of going nearly weekly we didn’t go for July/August and when the blackout lifted were ready to go again. I thought I would get tired of it, but every time we went we found new things to do and see.

What are your favorite things about having Disney Annual Passports?

There are so many things we love about having our Disney Annual Passports. I love the flexibility to go for an afternoon, or morning without the pressure to stay all day. When you have passes you are more free to do things like watch shows that if you have a day pass you don’t have time for. I love seeing the park decorated for the different seasons and holidays and the shows and parades.  Most of all I love the 1-1 time we spent as a family without the distractions of phones, TV, etc. Its also an awesome way to get lots of exercise. It sounds silly but we once walked 15 miles.

What do you dislike about having passes?

The blackout dates can be somewhat inconvenient. I think especially now that they discontinued the pass we have that allows you to go on Sunday’s it could be significantly more difficult to go within the open dates if you got the cheaper SoCal pass. There also is some pressure you feel to use the pass as much as possible. There was a period of time where our daughter decided she didn’t like several of the rides and it definitely made it not as fun when we couldn’t go on some of our favorite rides. Overall, I love having annual passes and I’m so glad we did it.

Who should get passes?

I think if you love Disney and you live in Orange County, getting a  Disney Annual Passport is a no-brainer, which is probably why there is more than a million (estimated) annual passport holders. For people in North LA, San Diego and other places that require an hour plus drive, you need to be ok with dealing with traffic, and making the longer trek.  I don’t know Florida very well, but I assume its the same for people who live in Orlando vs. towns further away. The passes worked really well for us because my husband and I have flexible jobs and we work from home. We took advantage and did a lot of Friday afternoon Disney days. It would definitely have been more challenging to use our passes if we didn’t have this flexibility.

Who should not get passes?

Obviously everyone has to decide this for themselves. If you dislike crowds, don’t get a Disney Annual Passport. I personally like going on rides — especially the more adult rides like Space Mountain, Indiana Jones and Guardians of the Galaxy. If my children did not like these rides or wouldn’t ride them, and only wanted to go on the smaller kiddie rides, personally I would tire of Disneyland. The best part of Disney has been experiencing the thrill of the rides with our kids.

10 Insider Tips for Disneyland, California

Are you going to renew?

With all of our love for Disney, we are not renewing our Disney Annual Passports this year. I’m sad about it, but we are planning to renew again for 2019 when Star Wars land opens. We thought it would be good to have a year to miss Disney and get excited for passes again. This year I’m also going to try and do a lot of new and fun local things on weekends to replace our Disney time such as overnight camping trips, and exploring nearby parks, towns and museums.

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