I mentioned in a previous post that our recent trip to Disneyland was our first occasion to try out the new PhotoPass Plus service that Disney has begun offering. I can say without hesitation that if you are headed to Disneyland for longer than 3 days, this is absolutely worth your money. If you prepay, it’s only $69.99 plus taxes and shipping, and you get an amazing amount of benefits. At Walt Disney World, it’s a little more complex, but I’ll explain.
The basics of the PhotoPass Plus are fairly straight forward, and makes you wonder why Disney has just now started rolling this out. For the one time price of pre-purchasing the PhotoPass Plus, you are given the ability to get digital copies of all your photos taken by PhotoPass photographers in the parks, just like the normal Photo CD, but the Plus option adds the on-ride photos as well as photo packages from character dining locations. This was what sold me on the value of this option. I have never understood the Photo CD, as I can get the photographers to take those photos with my camera and save a significant amount of money. But ride photos and character dining photos are another matter altogether.
There are two ways to get the PhotoPass Plus, either online before you arrive or in person at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. I advise you to pre-purchase, because it’s significantly cheaper. As I said, our Disneyland PhotoPass Plus was only $69.95. The Walt Disney World version is $169.95. That extra $100 is why I can’t say it’s the slam dunk bargain that the Disneyland version is. If you purchase after your arrival at the park, add $30 to each price, making it $99.95 at Disneyland and $199.95 at Walt Disney World.
Once you purchase, Disney will mail you a package with the materials you need for redeeming the pass in the parks. The package consists of a DVD case with a Disney Photo CD full of stock photography, an insert with a code for redeeming your Photo CD when you return home, and a voucher for the PhotoPass Plus lanyard to redeem when you arrive at the parks. Do not lose that voucher! It looks insignificant, but that is what you really paid for, so guard it tightly.
Upon arriving at the parks your first day, take that voucher to the PhotoPass redemption location and trade it for the lanyard that will become your best friend during your trip. It’s a nice lanyard with your PhotoPass card at the end of it, and holes punched to notify the cast members how long your pass is valid. Again, this is where the Walt Disney World version could become worth the price, because the pass can be valid for 14 days. If you are at Walt Disney World for a long trip with a large group, you can easily recoup the costs.
Then, throughout the rest of your trip, it’s easy to get photos. As opposed to the typical PhotoPass, which requires you to keep up with the card like your tickets and FastPasses, this pass is hanging around your neck. Simply give it to any PhotoPass photographer and they will take your picture and add it to the pass. We found throughout our visit that when the photographers saw that we were using the Plus, they tended to linger a little with us, and take more pictures than usual. One photographer we stopped in Cars Land followed us around Route 66 and took pictures wherever we asked, not just the typical backgrounds. That was a bonus that you can’t put a dollar figure on, because we have some truly unique shots.
At the ride photo locations, we typically had to split up, since my daughter was not a fan of thrill rides. With the PhotoPass Plus, that wasn’t a problem. We would do the child swap and exchange the lanyard after one group was finished. Then, we both remembered our photo number and had the cast member add both photos to the pass. If we had tried that normally, it would cost $14.95 per photo, but with the PhotoPass it was included. We ended up with 24 on ride photos that we never would have gotten otherwise, and got to have some fun with it, such as pretending to play cards on the Tower of Terror or playing princesses on Splash Mountain.
For Disney dining locations, the value is even better. At Ariel’s Grotto in Disney California Adventure, where my daughter just had to go, we got our picture with Ariel twice, and both photos were added to our pass. In addition, we received the print package of the photos, which would have cost $29.95. We also ate at Goofy’s Kitchen, and did the same thing there. Those two meals by themselves would have cost us nearly $60 for the photos. When you add up the meal photos and the on-ride photos, we got $420 worth of value from the PhotoPass Plus, before even factoring in the Photo CD and pictures taken out in the parks.
Once we arrived home, we eagerly logged on to the Disney PhotoPass website to view our photos. We ended up with 238 photos that were on our pass, including some random stock photos that Disney had thrown in according to the location. For example, included with our Cars Land family photos were some stunning stock photography images of the Cadillac Mountain Range. As you may know, once on the PhotoPass site, you can add borders, backgrounds, character signatures and other effects to the photos, as well as cropping them to focus on your family. This was a time consuming process, but it was so much fun!
Even better, we were able to keep the original photos as well as the ones we added graphics to, which left us with over 400 photos once we were all done playing around. At that point, we entered in the code from our Photo CD package we received before we left, and were able to instantly download all 400 photos to our hard drive. One quick backup later, we have all the photos to reminisce about our visit. You’re seeing a few of them here in this post.
All told, between the on-ride photos, the dining locations, the in-park photos, stock photography and CD, we ended up with $550 in value from our $69.95 investment. There is definitely an argument to be made that we would not have bought the on-ride photos, dining photos or stock photos if we hadn’t bought the PhotoPass Plus. I know for sure we would not have gone to Goofy’s Kitchen otherwise, but with the photo package, it was worth it. We would have gone to Ariel’s Grotto, though, and I’m relatively certain we would have ended up purchasing the photos for $29.95. We typically buy at least one ride photo as well, so our normal expenditure on a Disney trip is around $45 anyway. Look how much more we got for only $25 more!
Like I said earlier, this is an example from Disneyland. At Walt Disney World, with the PhotoPass photographers being much more plentiful, you could argue that there would be more opportunity and more value. Still, we stayed a week at Disneyland and I think we maximized the value we could get. I don’t see how we could have possibly gotten $100 more value out of the pass at Walt Disney World. However, if you’re a family that does a lot of character meals, buys on-ride photos and doesn’t take a ton of photos yourselves, it could be worth it.
That was my experience with PhotoPass+ at Disneyland, but what about you? Have any of you tried the PhotoPass Plus service at Walt Disney World? What did you think of it?