Breakeven Point for WDW Annual Passes

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Now that the shock of the price increase on annual passes has set in, let’s look at the updated value of an annual pass. Besides the price, the biggest change to the annual pass is that Memory Maker photo downloads are now included. An advance purchase of Memory Maker currently costs $169. If you are a fan of Memory Maker, this is an awesome addition; if you’re not, it is just lipstick on a pig.

To keep things simple, I’m just going to compare the price of Magic Your Way tickets*, Memory Maker, and annual passes. Free parking, dining discounts, shopping discounts, and other benefits will be ignored in the calculations to keep things as simple as possible. (These are nice benefits, but they will end up being a small portion of your vacation budget.) To find the break-even point, we are going to look at how many trips would you have to take in order to make purchasing an annual pass less expensive than purchasing individual Magic Your Way tickets. Below are all the options for annual passes.

*Magic Your Way is the Disney-fied name for standard park tickets.

AP breakdown

Assumptions:

  • Prices are based on Disney’s official prices on October 7, 2015.
  • 1-day tickets have different prices depending on the park you are going to — I’m using $100 as an average price.
  • To simplify the analysis, we assume each visit will be the same length and that the same type of Magic Your Way ticket will be used.
  • I’m using the label “Deluxe” as a Magic Your Way ticket with Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More option.
  • Tax is not included, but will not have an effect on the analysis.

 Non-Florida Residents

If you don’t live in Florida and are not a DVC owner, you only have two annual pass options:

  1. Platinum Plus is the pass with all the bells and whistles. This pass would be similar to the Magic Your Way ticket with Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More option.
  2. Platinum has all four theme parks and park hopping. This pass would be similar to the Magic Your Way ticket with Park Hopper.

The tables below show the number of trips at the specific length you would need to break even. The three tables show the calculations based on how many times in the year you would buy Memory Maker(MM).

An example to help you read the chart: Say you are considering a new (non-renewal) Platinum Annual Pass. You plan on visiting Walt Disney World twice in the next year and are likely to purchase Memory Maker on one of those trips. You look at the table in the top section (for New Annual Pass) and at the middle table (Buy MM Once). Any row in which the number is less than 2 means that an Annual Pass would be worth it for you — which is likely because only two 1-day trips would cost less than the Annual Pass.

New Annual Pass vs. Hopper and Deluxe Magic Your Way Tickets
New Annual Pass vs. Hopper and Deluxe Magic Your Way Tickets
Renewal Annual Pass vs. Hopper and Deluxe Magic Your Way Tickets
Renewal Annual Pass vs. Hopper and Deluxe Magic Your Way Tickets

In short, if you go to Walt Disney World twice a year and buy Memory Maker, buy an annual pass. If you don’t buy Magic Maker and go on two trips of 5 or more days, buy an annual pass. If you go on three trips a year, buy an annual pass.

If you don’t park hop you can save money on Magic Your Way tickets. It’s natural to assume that if you don’t park hop, you don’t see value in the park hopping feature on the annual passes. This table shows only the breakeven point for the Platinum pass. As you can see, it will take slightly longer for non-park hopping visitors to reach the breakeven point.

Annual Pass vs. Base Magic Your Way Tickets
Platinum Annual Pass vs. Base Magic Your Way Tickets

Florida Residents and DVC Owners

Florida Residents and DVC owners have more options when purchasing an annual pass. If you can live with the limitations of the lower level passes, you can really save some money. For most options, the break-even point is one or two visits. Silver, Weekday, and After 4 passes are only for Florida residents.

FL AP vs MYW
Breakeven Point for Florida Residents and DVC Owners


A good resource is James’ recent blog post on maximizing the use of an annual pass. If the Memory Maker is the tipping point for your vacation, consider only getting an annual pass for one person in your family. If you opt to purchase Magic Your Way tickets, use the TouringPlans Lowest Price Ticket Calculator. When Disney inevitably increases the price of Magic Your Way tickets, I will update the tables.

 

I’ve done some deconstruction of the tiered pricing for Floridians and DVC owners. Based on new pass prices, and the days that are unique to each pricing level. Here is the breakdown for each level:

Pass Type Value Per Day Ratio with Platimum Days
Platinum $3.33 1.00
Gold $2.39 0.72
Silver Weekend $1.67 0.50
Silver Weekdays $1.36 0.41

AP Venn Diagram

Steve Bloom

By helping TouringPlans.com continue to reach the most accurate crowd level predictions, Steve finally found a way to meld his training in statistical analysis with a lifelong passion for Disney. He first visited the Magic Kingdom in 1972, just a few months after it opened. Now he enjoys frequent trips with his two kids. At age four his son insisted on wearing cowboy boots to reach the height requirement for Test Track, and his daughter believes that a smoked turkey leg and Dole Whip make a perfectly balanced meal. Even though she doesn't quite get it, Steve's wife is supportive of his Disney activities.

37 thoughts on “Breakeven Point for WDW Annual Passes

  • October 8, 2015 at 8:18 am
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    This is great information!

    It would be nice if we could get a calculator where we could put in how many trips of how long we intend to take in a year, and be told what our best option is. Even better would be to hook it up to the trip planner. Give me an option to tell the system if I have a pass and when it expires and have it give me advice on what to buy and where based on the trips I’ve told it about 🙂

  • October 8, 2015 at 9:36 am
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    The next time we go to WDW it will be for three weeks and we will not be staying in a Disney resort. We will be doing other parks as well as Disney so will not have to pay the $20 parking every day. WDW tickets for 2016 bought from the UK have a Memory Maker attached to them and we can buy 21 day tickets for all 6 WDW parks for approximately $487. A platinum pass would be $749 which is $262 more than the 21 day ticket. So I need to work out how many times we would actually visit the 4 main WDW parks and save the £20 parking fee plus how much we would save on food and drink in WDW (4 of us are intending to “drink around the world” at Epcot one day – won’t need car parking on that day as we won’t be driving) and how much shopping will we be doing? AND – the big question – will we return to WDW within the following 12 months. I am thinking if we don’t return within the year I just might possibly break even – but will be better off if we do return within the year with the platinum pass.
    Just realised that tax may not have been added to the premium pass prices above (and tax is included in the UK price) so its looking like it is not going to be the best option for us unless I know for definite that we will return within the year.

  • October 8, 2015 at 9:58 am
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    The problem is if you are a family of 4 or 5 or 6, etc. You would only have to buy MM once for each trip, now if you have an annual pass, you are paying for memory maker 4 times with a family of 4, 5 times with a family of 5, etc, when if you would take 2 or 3 trips a year you would have only paid for it 2 or 3 times. So the number of people in your family needs to be factored into these calculations.

    • October 8, 2015 at 10:02 am
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      I thought about the same thing, so I looked at the “buy MM twice” chart for me and then switched my attention over to the “don’t by MM” chart for the other 2 folks in my family, just to get an idea of the math.

    • October 8, 2015 at 10:51 am
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      There is a strategy of buying one annual pass for the party to get free parking, discounts, and now Memory Maker. It may be an interesting analysis to look at the cost benefit of one annual pass for party of X size vs all annual passes.

      • October 8, 2015 at 11:01 am
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        To use the tables above for the buying one annual pass analysis. Use the “Don’t Buy MM” table to see if you meet the breakeven point for the rest of the travel party.

  • October 8, 2015 at 10:00 am
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    When I say that this is the most useful blog article I’ve ever read in my life, I’m probably still underselling it. My hubby and I were just debating whether we would renew our annual passes and these charts speak to the fact that it’s still worth it for us. You’ve saved me from having to crunch a lot of numbers and for that I say thank you from the bottom of my math-hating soul.

  • October 8, 2015 at 10:11 am
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    Can you do the same thing for Disneyland and California Adventure?

  • October 8, 2015 at 11:19 am
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    I’ve read about the AP changes a lot of places and listened to podcasts as well. After all of this I’m still a bit unsure of something. Are we sure that “Disney PhotoPass downloads” means Memory Maker ($199 or $169 in advance) and not just Photo Downloads ($14.95)?

    • October 8, 2015 at 2:03 pm
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      Each photo is $14.95 to download. Memory Maker is unlimited photo downloads for one set price. You will get unlimited photo downloads with your annual pass.

      • October 9, 2015 at 11:06 am
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        I see. That makes more sense now. I’ve only used the old PhotoPass advance purchase once and never MM so I wasn’t sure on those details. Thanks for letting me know.

  • October 8, 2015 at 1:38 pm
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    If only one pass holder has the MM though, that one will be the only one focused on in ride photos right? The MM won’t link across every family members band so if they’re in a different row than you or even a different attraction you’d only get the primary member’s photo correct?

    • October 8, 2015 at 2:21 pm
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      I’m not sure whether it would grab everybody you’re linked with or just the primary, but you could always just scan your Magic Band at the kiosk on your way out of the ride to be sure it associates with your account.

    • October 8, 2015 at 10:59 pm
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      On most rides with photos, it uses the magic band. It doesn’t matter if you have MM or not. We have never gotten MM, but every trip with Magic Bands all family members showed up in my MDX photo link. They are linked to my account though. For instance, my husband and son rode Space Mountain without me, and their pic showed up in my photo link. I could have purchased the pictures individually. Even pics taken by photographers will show up.

    • October 9, 2015 at 4:57 am
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      Generally if you take the share my photos with my friends box on My Disney Experiance (and you friends do the same) then the person who bought Memory Maker can download the others photos.
      How this works with the AP entitlement is not clear, but it could be the same as MM.

      • October 10, 2015 at 10:57 am
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        The fine print says it does not work with Friends and Family.

  • October 8, 2015 at 2:33 pm
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    I just renewed my annual pass in July so luckily I don’t have to make a decision on which pass to go with for awhile, but just want to make sure I understand how this works…

    I’m a FL resident and have what used to be called just the “Annual Pass”. When I renew next year, can I choose any of the pass options and get the renewal price? For example, can I downgrade to the Silver pass and pay only $330? Or do I pay $389 since it’s the first time I’m getting the Silver pass?

    Let’s say that I start by getting the Silver pass but then I decide later that I want to upgrade to the Platinum pass because I want to go to the parks during the block out dates. Can I do this? Assuming that I get the Silver pass at the renewal price, what would I pay to upgrade? The price difference between $330 and $549? Or the price difference between $330 and $649?

    Thank you so much!

    • October 8, 2015 at 5:15 pm
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      I don’t know about the upgrading part, but I got an email from Disney when the price increase was announced that said we could renew for ANY of the pass options since they had changed. So YES, if that is to be taken at face value you can pay the renewal price for whatever pass suits your fancy.

  • October 8, 2015 at 9:45 pm
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    Thank you so much!! This info is really helpful!

  • October 8, 2015 at 9:46 pm
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    Thank you for this extremely useful blog post!

  • October 9, 2015 at 11:54 am
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    We had memory maker last year and only one person is linked up to it so it is no different to only one person having the annual pass. With MM you just have to decide who should be the person linked up.

  • October 9, 2015 at 1:28 pm
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    Here’s some Mickey Math to put the price increase in perspective. We bought two annual passes last year (expire Nov. this year) for $1350 total. We used those passes for 28 days in the parks. So our cost/day for the passes was $48.21. Parking for each of those days would have been $17/day (we NEVER stay onsite, so we would have to pay parking without the annual pass), so we can subtract that, to get $31.21/day, and divide by 2 to get $15.61/day/person for park entry.

    Two new Platinum passes (the closest equivalent to the passes we had this year) would cost us $1595 total. If we were to use the passes for the same number of days, it would come out to $56.96/day with parking. Subtracting parking (now $20/day) and dividing by 2 gives $18.48/day/person, or an increase of a whopping $2.88/day/person, or $5.75/day total for both of us.

    However, it looks worse when you look at the percentage increase. That’s about an 18.5% increase/person/day over last year. Pretty big.

    Of course, if you use your passes fewer days, your increase will be more, and if you use them more days, your daily increase will be less.

    • October 9, 2015 at 1:43 pm
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      I thought for sure parking at the theme parks was included with the AP previously. I had one that expired in October of 2014 and when I had car service, like Uber and Lyft but not them, take me to Epcot from the convention center I just showed my AP and they let us through the parking plaza. The same thing happened when I used Uber in November of 2014 but my driver had an AP and showed it at the parking plaza.

      Am I dreaming? Was it my smile?

      • October 9, 2015 at 1:59 pm
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        All passes except the seasonal pass included parking.

        They deducted the savings of parking in their calculations. They did not say the paid for parking.

        • October 9, 2015 at 5:17 pm
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          Correct. Since we always stay offsite, having an annual pass allowed us to not have to pay parking fees. So in my mind, one should deduct the current price of parking before calculating what each passholder paid per day to enter the parks.

          • October 10, 2015 at 12:02 pm
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            Makes sense.

    • October 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm
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      I love this math. I know I’m in the minority and thinking this way does NOT work in the real world, but I choose to look at it similarly because WOW, $15.61 or even $18.48 per day? For 10-12+ hours worth of amazing entertainment? I can’t even get into a movie with a popcorn for under $15.61 and that only lasts 2 hours. Don’t even get me started on the cost of seeing Lion King on Broadway. I’m beyond irritated at the price increase because it may mean we can’t do everything we’d like to do (fewer sit down meals and/or skipping a souvenir or a tour), but at the end of the day I’m enough of a die hard Disney nerd to still perceive it as WORTH IT. My kiddo will be grown up soon and much too cool to hang out with us, so then I will worry whether we should vacation somewhere else for our money, but for now it just doesn’t get better than making family memories in this magical place. How’s THAT for Polyanna?

  • October 11, 2015 at 4:23 pm
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    Can DVC members buy the Silver Pass? From what I had seen I wasn’t sure if I could buy the Siver Pass as a DVC member?

  • October 14, 2015 at 7:53 am
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    Your chart for DVC is incorrect as DVC cannot get Silver, Weekday Select or Epcot After 4, right?

    • October 14, 2015 at 10:24 am
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      You and Tim are correct. The chart has been updated.

      • October 14, 2015 at 1:20 pm
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        😉 I was hoping, that you were right. The silver pass is all I need, and $160 per person would be a lot of dining out with the Tables in Wonderland or as I still call it Disney Dining Experience (DDE).
        An additional question, if I buy Gold Passes, can I buy them with my DVC for the entire party, not just my family?
        Thanks

        • October 14, 2015 at 3:03 pm
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          My understanding is that only people with the same mailing address as the DVC owner qualifies for the DVC pricing.

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