5 Take-Aways from Disney World’s New Annual Pass Program

Walt Disney World will once again sell new annual passes on September 8, 2021, after being paused since the parks’ shut down in March 2020. On the 8th, the parks will debut a new set of annual pass options with new perks and prices.

Gone are the platinum, gold, and silver passes, along with weekday select, Epcot after 4, and any other special pass types. Say hello to Incred-Pass, Sorcerer Pass, Pirate Pass, and Pixie Dust Pass! You can view see an overview of the passes below, and view all the details on Disney’s site here.

With the logistics pretty self-explanatory, I want to highlight some (five) of my major take-aways for the new AP program:

A noticeable price increase

Passes definitely went up in price, though it’s hard to a straight comparison with the benefit changes and new names. Comparing Platinum Pass to Incredi-Pass you get an idea for the increase – it’s not too much but it’s noticeable. And not only are we paying more, but we’re getting less.

Using my own pass situation as an eample, my monthly payment for my Platinum pass will be the same as my monthly payment for a Sorcerer Pass (renewal rate). That would be not only a downgrade from no black outs to black outs over Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but I also lose PhotoPass downloads (more on that later). The highest tier pass does have the ability to hold 5 park pass reservations at a time as opposed to the three every pass type had before, but they are raising Platinum to that now too for those that don’t have to renew right away.

Non-Florida residents only have 1 option

This isn’t a super new thing, but if you’re not a Florida resident (or a DVC member) you only have option to one pass: Incredi-Pass. These folks only had access to buy Platinum or Platinum Plus (water parks included) before, but with the price increase this is garnering some more attention.

This move to me is a reminder that Disney wants to offer annual passes as a way to encourage local/in-state guests to visit during non-peak seasons. The annual pass program, with its block out dates, is set up to only let the bulk of passholders in during non-peak seasons and dates. If a non-Florida resident wants to be a passholder, they’re going to have to make a lot more trips to justify the cost versus just buying tickets.

PhotoPass is a $99 add-on, no longer included

Honestly, this is the part that hurts the most for me and many others. Having free downloads on PhotoPass was a huge perk of the old pass system, and it was available on multiple pass types (Gold and up). I even upgraded my once-Silver Pass to Gold within a month of first being a passholder to get this perk. This is the part that’s (with valid reason) drawing the most criticism – the price went up, but a major perk was taken away.

Truthfully, the $99 price tag to add PhotoPass to your pass for the year isn’t a bad deal. It’s comparable to the price ticket guests would pay for Memory Maker for a day or two on their vacation. Once the initial sticker shock wears off, I think we’ll see this more as a good deal. But as more and more things that used to be free become paid add-ons, it’s understandable why folks are upset!

More advance park reservations for existing passholders

On the flip side of the worst news, this is the best news for me and many others. In addition to the upper tier new passes getting increased park pass reservation limits, existing passholders on the Silver/Gold/Platinum system also get an increase from the limit of 3 we’ve lived with for the last year.

Gold and up passholders get up to 5 reservations at a time; Silver passholders get 4 starting September 8th.

Overall I’m not thrilled about everything but I’m also not surprised and they haven’t sent me running away either. Disneyland Keys and Genie+ news earlier this month primed us well for this news and we’re definitely seeing a trend when it comes Disney news and pricing. The parks are changing and we need to try to adapt the best we can. Honestly, I’m really just glad we kept free parking at Disney World (which we can’t say for many of the Magic Keys at Disneyland)!

Geoffrey

Thanks for reading! I'm an avid theme park fan, frequenting Disney World and Universal as an Orlando resident. I love sharing the latest news and tips to help you make the most of your next theme park vacation on a budget!