Questions About Disney’s Latest Annual Passholder Offer

by on October 14, 2016 27 Comments

Filed under: discounts, Recent News, Walt Disney World (FL)

If you ever thought about becoming an Annual Passholder, Walt Disney World’s recent announcement of new perks to celebrate its 45th anniversary provided additional incentives to take the plunge.

Annual Passholder Box

Annual Passholder MagicBands – © John Kivus

Guests who purchase or renew an annual pass between October 2, 2016 and January 3, 2017 will enjoy 13 months of admission to Walt Disney World. They’re also upping their game on discounts. Through September 30, 2017, Passholders will get 20 percent off of purchases as Disney owned-and-operated merchandise locations, up from the previous 10 percent discount.

As for dining, through September 30, 2017, Passholders will get 20 percent off the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages at 45 select theme park and resort hotel restaurants. The list includes restaurants in each park, along with the many of the Disney resort hotels. One welcome addition is 20 percent discounts at select counter service restaurants at the parks and Deluxe Resorts. Other table service restaurants continue to offer Passholders 10 percent discounts as they had previously.

Great news, but it leaves you with a decision to make in the next few months and some unanswered questions. To help you make the right call, here is some clarity on issues that weren’t made entirely clear by Disney’s announcement.

When do I have to activate my annual pass to get the 13-month offer?

This is important, because having to activate your Annual Pass by that January 3, 2017 date would probably be a deal-breaker for many of us. After getting a clarification from a cast member, the date restriction is clearly for the purchase of the Annual Pass and not the activation.

As long as you purchase your pass by January 3, 2017, you can activate it on any later date and still use it for 13 months. So if you plan on purchasing annual passes in the future, and can afford it, buying now would be wise to take advantage of the 13-month window.

What if I already purchased theme park tickets?

Walt Disney World guests can convert their theme park tickets into annual passes by paying the price difference. But Disney requires the conversion while actually visiting the resort. Walt Disney World does not currently upgrade your tickets by phone or online.

That means you’ll need to be visiting between now and January 3, 2017 to do the upgrade in person at a Disney ticket window or guest relations location. A few tips for upgrading tickets:

  • Unused tickets can be upgraded.
  • Tickets that have been used can be upgraded within 14 days of their first use, but must be upgraded before the end of the last day on the ticket.
  • If your ticket includes the Water Park Fun & More option, and any part of that option was used, you can only convert to the Platinum Plus Annual Pass.

Is a Tables In Wonderland purchase still worth it?

First, for the uninitiated, Tables In Wonderland provides a 20 percent discount on food and beverages (including alcohol) at more than 100 restaurants on Walt Disney World property. Florida residents can get a one-year membership for $175 and Disney Vacation Club members and Passholders pay $150.

I previously wrote a blog post looking at the math involved with figuring out the value of Tables In Wonderland. Basically, for those who already have access to dining discounts as a DVC member or a Passholder, it can pose a challenge to recoup the initial outlay to join Tables In Wonderland.

And in case you were wondering, no, Disney doesn’t allow you to stack one discount on top of another. If you have a Passholder discount and Tables In Wonderland, you can only use one of them at a time.

Even with the new 20 percent discount at 45 restaurants for Passholders, Tables In Wonderland does provide a few benefits. First, the TIW discount carries over to alcohol, while the Passholder discount excludes alcohol. Second, you can find the TIW discount at many more restaurants, including counter service locations at Value Resorts, where Passholders get zero discount. Membership also includes the perk of free valet parking at resorts.

In short, if you usually enjoy an adult beverage with your meal and you plan on doing a lot of dining on property, Tables In Wonderland could still pay off. But the calculations are becoming more complicated, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more Passholders take a pass on it this year.

What situations make an annual pass worthwhile?

Here’s where this 13-month offer can really pay dividends. If your family travels annually the same week, spring break for example, having an annual pass valid for 13 months gives you two years of vacations.

For example, a seven-day adult theme park ticket with the Park Hopper option is $467.54 with tax. A Disney Platinum Pass is $797.69 with tax. So for an additional outlay of around $330, you can take a second vacation a year later. The dangerous part is that you will also be tempted to take a third or fourth vacation during the time in between. It’s not necessarily a bad problem to have.

If you want to dig deeper into this topic, here’s a fantastic look at the breakeven point for Annual Passes. The analysis factors in Memory Maker downloads, which cost $149 for advance purchase or $169 when purchasing at the parks. The purchase of an annual pass now includes all those PhotoPass and ride photos. Note that the analysis predates the most recent price increases, but the general idea still holds.

In the case of just one trip, a single annual pass for one family member could still save money. In addition to the increased dining and merchandise discounts and Memory Maker, Annual Passholders also get free theme park parking and the opportunity for discounted rates at Disney Resort Hotels. So consider our earlier, weeklong trip scenario. If your total benefits exceed the $330 cost to upgrade to an annual pass, you can still come out ahead.

Posted on October 14, 2016

27 Responses to “Questions About Disney’s Latest Annual Passholder Offer”

  • The way that the discounts for the 45 “special” locations were described in the official release, it’s not at all clear that alcohol is excluded in the same way that it is for the “standard” annual pass discounts. For those locations, it simply says “20% off”, whereas for the various 10% and 15% discounts at other locations, it says that alcohol is excluded.
    That makes me think that alcohol is included for the 45 special locations – though only for the next 11 months.
    In the end, it’s all up to the CM who pushes the buttons at the register, but my sense it that for those who figure to eat at a lot of the list of 45, TiW may not be as big a benefit.

    • by Robert Blaszkiewicz on October 15, 2016, at 12:04 pm EDT

      Here’s the wording from Disney’s announcement, which seems pretty clear to me: “And starting today, all year in honor of our 45th, Walt Disney World passholders will receive 20 percent off the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages at 45 participating theme park and resort hotel restaurants.”

  • What about the Premiere pass (for DL & WDW)? Would you get 13 months at WDW and 12 at DL?

    • by Robert Blaszkiewicz on October 15, 2016, at 12:42 pm EDT

      Just spoke to a cast member, who got the information direct from the tickets department. Premier passes can only be purchased in person at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. If you purchase it in Florida, you can get 13 months on both coasts, but if you purchase it in California, you don’t get the 13-month offer. As with the other passes, the purchase must be made by Jan. 3.

  • Doe the Premier pass qualify for the 13 month offer?

    • by Robert Blaszkiewicz on October 15, 2016, at 11:53 am EDT

      The only restriction specified by Disney is that the offer is not valid on water park annual passes, but when you click the offer, the Premier Pass is not one of the options. I’m calling to get some clarification.

      • by Robert Blaszkiewicz on October 15, 2016, at 12:40 pm EDT

        Just spoke to a cast member, who got the information direct from the tickets department. Premier passes can only be purchased in person. If you purchase it in Florida, you can get 13 months on both coasts, but if you purchase it in California, you don’t get the 13-month offer. As with the other passes, the purchase must be made by Jan. 3.

  • If I already purchased a gold annual pass that is not activated prior to October 2, that is in my Disney experience account, can I still buy one of these 13-month passes? It would mean having two inactivated passes for a little while and having to make sure that the right pass is activated depending on how my trips are timed. Will Disney allow multiple inactivated passes, especially if they are loaded to my Disney experience account?

    • by Robert Blaszkiewicz on October 15, 2016, at 11:59 am EDT

      I don’t believe that would be a problem. If it is, you can call Disney and have them unlink one of the unused passes from your My Disney Experience account. Then you should be all good with the one pass and can link back the other pass at a later date.

  • I am a current AP holder, but it expires in March, can I still purchase a new AP to activate in late 2017 or 2018 and still get the 13 months?

    • by Robert Blaszkiewicz on October 15, 2016, at 11:55 am EDT

      Yes, as long as your purchase the new AP by January 3, you can activate it at a later date and have the 13-month offer

  • Can these passes be purchased at undercover tourist or do you have to purchase directly from Disney

    • I’ve never seen annual passes offered by Undercover Tourist. Can’t remember seeing them from *any* third-party vendor. (Unless you count that guy sitting under the umbrella in front of his car on 192. He must have connections.)

  • I just upgraded a 6-day Park Hopper to a Gold Annual Pass. I had bought the ticket from The Official Ticket Center at a discount off of Disney’s price. When I asked the price to upgrade, the lady at Epcot’s Guest Services counter was going to charge me the difference between the Annual Pass price and what I had actually paid. I mentioned price bridging, she asked her Supervisor, and the supervisor said that they would bridge the price. So, if you get someone who doesn’t understand price bridging, be sure to ask for a supervisor. I think the initial lady was a trainee.

    I had also bought Memory Maker well in advance. I asked if they could deactivate MM so I could use it at some point in the future, when I didn’t have an annual pass. She said “Why don’t we just refund it to you.” Wow! I didn’t expect that at all. So for me, the Annual Pass cost me $125 to upgrade but then I got a $149 refund on Memory Maker, for a net refund of $24. How could I NOT upgrade.

  • If you have a current active annual pass but are not renewing it will the 20% discounts still be valid or do you need purchase a new pass to get this? Our annual passes expire at the start of February 2017 and are going once more using these passes in January 2017.

  • If I already purchased an annual pass months ago, but don’t plan on activating it until December, would I qualify for the extra month?

    • by Robert Blaszkiewicz on October 16, 2016, at 1:10 am EDT

      No, the purchase has to be between October 2, 2016 and January 3, 2017. If the 13 months is important to you, you can purchase another annual pass and save the one purchased earlier for a future year.

    • I bought APs in August, activated them this week, and the CM was able to give us the 13 months. She said some passes let her do it and some do not. Ours were Plati

      • Platinum Plus, I meant to say. Not sure if that had anything to do with it; CM didn’t seem to know what pattern was for being able to do 13 months. So it’s worth asking about when you activate if you don’t want to or can’t buy an extra set to get 13 months.

  • Our annual passes expired 9/24 so we can still renew with a 15% discount. If we renew do the passes start immediately after the date the last ones expired or can we hold off on activating until a later date?

  • To be clear, the 13 month clock begins from the moment of activation versus the date of purchasing the pass, correct?

    • by Robert Blaszkiewicz on October 17, 2016, at 1:35 am EDT

      That is correct, 13 months from the moment of activation. Our next trip is July, so we’ll be buying soon, but waiting to activate until July so that our passes are good through the following summer.

  • Would the dining discount apply to dining packages at participating restaurants? I am specifically wondering about the Candlelight Processional dining package.