When Should You Buy A Disney World Annual Pass? Florida Edition

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As you may recall from Jennifer’s recent article, if you don’t live in Florida, your determination of whether or not to get an Annual Pass to Walt Disney World is slightly streamlined in that you really only have one option available to you (though DVC Owners do have two), and it’s just a matter to figuring out whether you’re going to go enough to break even. If you live in Florida, however, you actually have several options, including discounted non-Annual Pass options that might nevertheless meet your needs. The bad news is that the whole system is super convoluted, and really takes some effort to digest. More good news, however, and that is that we are here to help you do just that. So, without further ado, let’s take a deep dive into the options available for Florida residents, and talk about how to decide which is the best option for you!

Variables and Considerations

I do want to start by framing some variables that we’re not really going to cover, because they are very specific to individual travelers, and completely subjective. The first is cost: they cost what they cost, and if your budget doesn’t permit you to spend $1,300 on the Incredi-Pass, it doesn’t really matter how good of a value it is. Instead, the focus is going to be on when it makes financial sense to buy a pass rather than paying out of pocket as you go. 

The second is an attempt to value particular available dates, because that’s likewise very subjective. By way of example, I know for many people, visiting the parks over the Christmas season is a critical part of their holiday traditions, but I personally wouldn’t step foot in a Disney park over winter break on a dare. The value added by virtue of access to those additional dates accordingly ranges from zero to priceless, and nothing I tell you is going to change that. With that said, there is indeed a significant difference between the passes in terms of your ability to use them, especially at high demand times like holidays and weekends, so make sure you are getting a pass that will actually allow you to go at the times you would otherwise go. 

One final point before we plunge ahead, and that is that this is all essentially brand new, and there are things about these new passes that we don’t know. The first unknown is to what extent, if any, Disney will be offering hotel discounts for Annual Pass Holders. The current listing of discounts makes no mention of hotel deals, but Disney has traditionally offered discounts, sometimes significant discounts, for Annual Passholders on hotel rooms that are better than those offered to the general public. Obviously, we don’t have any data to go on here, but if you’re close to the breakeven point and you would be staying at Disney hotels during your stays, it’s very possible that there will be a hotel discount that could push you over the hump.

The other consideration is that Disney often makes special tickets available only to Florida residents that provide great value in exchange for agreeing to some quirky conditions. For example, they might offer a 4 day ticket that’s good for 4 days, to be used over a few months, with each ticket good for each of the 4 major parks and no park hopping. If that happens to match how you travel, you could very well save money by paying for those tickets. Without knowing what those promotions will look like, however, or whether they will be offered at all, it’s difficult to incorporate them into the analysis.    

Here’s an overview of the different annual pass options available to Florida residents (all prices herein include tax):

Pixie Dust Pirate Sorcerer Incredi-Pass
Reservations 3 4 5 5
Blockouts All weekend and Holiday Periods All Holiday Periods Christmas & Thanksgiving Breaks None
Cost $424.94 $744.44 $957.44 $1383.44

You can take a look at the detailed blockout calendars for all passes here.

The first step is figuring out what kind of Florida traveler you are, and how you’ll visit the parks.  I’m going to group Floridians into two buckets here: Locals, and Other Floridians. For the purposes of what we’re doing, Locals are people that live close enough to the parks that they typically view the parks as a day-trip activity, going on non-consecutive days, and not having any need for a hotel room. Other Floridians are people that live in Florida and are therefore able to take advantage of the Florida passes, but who take more traditional Walt Disney World trips, where they are staying overnight for multiple consecutive days.

Additionally, here are the questions you need to ask yourself, and a quick description of why they matter:

Query Impact
Do you park hop? Annual Passes include park hopping (though Florida residents do receive discounted park hopping on regular tickets).
Do you do day trips, or multi-day trips? Florida residents get no discount on individual base tickets. All multiday tickets provide some sort of discount, with Floridians eligible for a discount on certain tickets.
When you stay overnight, do you stay onsite? Guests without Annual Passes not staying at a Disney hotel pay $25/day to park at the theme parks.
Do you travel during the holidays? If your travel plans include holidays, you are necessarily going to be choosing between the Sorcerer and Incredi-Passes, and if you travel over Christmas or Thanksgiving, it’s the Incredi-Pass or nothing. If you won’t be there during any holidays, consider the Pirate Pass.
Are most of your trips 3-4 days in length? Florida residents get significant discounts on 3 and 4 day tickets.  Conversely, if you’re not buying 3-4 day tickets, Florida residents don’t see any discount on multi-days tickets that differ from those available to the general public
Do you visit the water parks or golf? Florida residents receive a discount on Water Park and related add-ons.

Locals

For locals, the alternative to getting an Annual Pass is likely going to be buying a number of day tickets, which currently range between $109 ($116.09 with tax) and $159 ($164.01). To be frank, the $109 days are few and far between, but we’ll use that as the baseline anyway, because it represents the cheapest amount you could possibly spend to visit the parks. Florida residents do not get any discount on the price of a single day ticket. Doing the math…

 

Days Cost Pass Tier Breakeven
1 $116.09
2 $232.18
3 $348.27
4 $464.36 Pixie Dust ($424.94)
5 $580.45
6 $696.54
7 $812.63 Pirate ($744.44)
8 $928.72
9 $1044.81 Sorcerer ($957.44)
10 $1160.90
11 $1276.99
12 $1393.08 Incredi-Pass ($1383.44)

The Annual Pass, however, includes Park Hopper, and as a Florida Resident, you can add the Park Hopper option to a single day ticket for $31.64 (including tax), which is a pretty significant discount over the regular price. As such, if this is something you would otherwise be paying for, you’ll hit the breakeven point even faster — 3 visits for the lowest tier pass. 

Days Cost with Hopper Pass Tier Breakeven
1 $150.70
2 $301.40
3 $452.10 Pixie Dust ($424.94)
4 $602.80
5 $753.50 Pirate ($744.44)
6 $904.20
7 $1054.90 Sorcerer ($957.44)
8 $1205.60
9 $1356.30
10 $1507 Incredi-Pass ($1383.44)

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE, in that the pass also includes free parking, which is valued at $25/day, along with discounts on food, merchandise, and other things. If you would be paying for parking each visit, that plus the value of those discounts might shift your breakeven point down even further. Note, however, that only one person in each traveling party needs to have an Annual Pass to be eligible for free parking, and there are ways for everyone to benefit from the other discounts if the passholder is willing to be the one paying for things. Accordingly, if it’s a close call on the park usage, consider getting an Annual Pass for one person in the group and regular tickets for the others might end up making more sense financially.

One final important point about this math, however: again, in the interest of providing you with a clean, “if you’re hitting these numbers, it clearly makes sense,” conclusion, we’ve used the cheapest base tickets. Those cost $109, which is what you might expect to pay during the low season on a weekday — basically, the sort of days that you can make reservations on the Pixie Dust Pass.  For most visitors, you’ll be paying 20-40% more, and you’ll actually hit the breakeven on the more expensive passes a visit or two prior to what the tables above would suggest when buying day tickets.

Other Floridians

Guests that visit for more than one day do get to take advantage of savings on the cost of tickets, and that savings scales up the longer your visit. It’s worth noting, however, that every day after day 4 only adds another $20-ish or so to the cost of your ticket, which by Disney standards is honestly a drop in the bucket. Jumping from a 5 day ticket to a 10 day ticket adds less to the cost of your ticket than a single day ticket most days of the year. Moreover, Florida residents don’t get any special discount beyond 4 day tickets. If you typically do trips of 5 days or more, the main difference is that you have access to the Sorcerer Pass, which only excludes the Christmas and Thanksgiving seasons, but is significantly cheaper, and the other more restrictive passes.

For example, let’s take a look at a family that takes two week-long (7 park days) trips, one over Spring Break, and one during the summer months. There is no Floridian discount for these tickets, because they are more than 4 days:

Dates Base Ticket Cost Hopper Ticket Cost
April 9-15 $632.16 $722.68
July 9-15 $559.95 $650.48
$1192.11 $1373.16

As a reminder, 12 days in the park was the breakeven point for the Incredi-Pass when buying tickets one day at a time.  As you can see, these two trips spanning 14 days don’t quite get there if you’d only be getting the base ticket. If you’d be staying off-site and would otherwise be paying for parking each day, however, that extra $350 ($25 x 14) will more than put you over the hump. Moreover, even if you do stay on-site and don’t have to pay for parking at the parks, if you would be getting the hopper option, the difference in price between the Incredi-Pass and the actual cost of tickets is so negligible that you’d certainly make up that difference in discounts on food and merchandise.  

Here is the important part, however: while the math works for the Incredi-Pass, you don’t need it. All of the Annual Passes available to Florida residents have the same perks, and neither of these two trips occur on times that are blocked out on the Incredi-Pass.  With that in mind, the $960 Sorcerer Pass is a no brainer. Worth noting, however, I intentionally selected the April dates because those dates are among the most common Spring Break dates, and thus blocked out for the Pirate Pass. If Spring Break happened to be on a different week, or if you were going a different time entirely, the $745 Pirate Pass would be an even better value.   

As I mentioned above, however, Floridians benefit most when purchasing 3-4 day tickets. Specifically, Florida residents get a discount of approximately 30-40% on 3 and 4 day multi-day tickets. There is no discount offered to Florida residents for single or two day tickets, or multi-day tickets of 5 days or longer. This pricing structure very clearly caters to the “let’s drive in for a long weekend” Disney visitor.  Since most holiday weekends are blocked out under the Pixie Dust and Pirate passes, make sure you’re looking at the Sorcerer or Incredi-Pass options for comparison purposes if that’s how you tend to travel.

Let’s start with a “long weekend” traveler, who takes 3 long weekend trips of 3 or 4 park days over holiday weekends, for a total of 9-12 park days. Because holidays are only available on the Sorcerer and Incredi-Pass tiers, those are the only two I’ll look at for this analysis. Our first example has a family that travels during the fall break in October, over Christmas Break, and Presidents’ Day weekend, getting park hopper tickets on each trip:

General Public Florida
Four Day Options    
October 8-11 $516.32 $354.70
December 27-30 $676.00 $396.11
February 11-14 $520.07 $356.95
 Total $1712.39 $1107.76
Three Day Options
October 9-11 $493.61 $329.15
December 27-29 $555.88 $372.68
February 12-14 $497.20 $331.66
Total $1546.69 $1033.49

The thing that’s important to keep in mind about the example above is that it includes Christmas Break, such that you absolutely have to have the Incredi-Pass to be able to make reservations during that time. Doing the math, while getting an Annual Pass would be an easy decision for members of the general public, Florida residents get significant enough discounts that the tickets themselves don’t cover the cost of the Pass, even with the 4 day trips and 12 park days with the hopper. It is close enough that you might determine that your access to other discounts, like free theme park parking and food and merchandise discounts, will still make it cost effective, but it’t not a slam dunk the way it would be for non-Floridians.

Now, imagine that rather than doing Christmas Break, this hypothetical traveling group took a trip over the holiday weekend celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Here’s how it breaks down:

General Public Florida
Four Day Options    
October 8-11 $516.32 $354.70
January 14-17 $490.57 $338.72
February 11-14 $520.07 $356.95
 Total $1526.96 $1050.37
Three Day Options
October 8-10 $493.61 $329.15
January 14-16 $484.03 $317.02
February 11-13 $497.20 $331.66
Total $1474.84 $977.83

Again, they are going to come up short for the Incredi-Pass, but in this instance, they don’t need it — the Sorcerer Pass covers these dates, is almost $100 less than the cost of the 4 day trips ($960), and is close enough on the 3 day trips that they’ll almost certainly make up the minor difference taking advantage of the discounts. Moreover, if this group didn’t have to plan around holiday weekends and did their trips on any random long weekend, the Pirate Pass would be a great option at $745 that would save them even more money. 

Of course, the reality is that Disney now has a dizzying array of pricing depending upon which days you intend to visit and several other variables, and your travel schedule likely looks different. The same analysis applies, however, just do the math; your biggest takeaway from this article is that you should make sure that you don’t overpay for days in the park that you wouldn’t actually be there anyway.

*  *  *

Too long, didn’t read?  It’s tough to generalize with so many variables at play, but here are a few shortcuts to at least start your analysis at the right place:

  • The most significant difference between the various tiers, apart from cost, is when you can use them.  There’s very little reason in my view to consider a more expensive tier than the tier that includes the dates you’ll be using — the discounts are going to be the same, and the number of reservations you can hold at a time are unlikely to move the needle for most people.

 

  • If you travel over the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays, the Incredi-Pass is your only option.  If you’re expecting to be in the parks 10 or more days, do the math to see if an Annual Pass will save you money.

 

  • If you visit the parks on holidays other than Christmas and Thanksgiving, the Sorcerer pass is the one to target, and 8 visits is your likely breakeven.

 

  • If you avoid the holidays, target the Pirate Pass if you’ll be going more than 5 days.

 

  • The Pixie Dust Pass is likely too restrictive to work for most people, but if you happen to be in the niche that can make it work, the Pixie Dust Pass can pay for itself in as few as 3 visits.

So, are you getting an Annual Pass this year? How did you decide which one to get? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Jamie Rosemergy

When not planning for or traveling to Walt Disney World with his beautiful wife and impossibly adorable daughter, James practices law in St. Louis. He also really likes cheese -- and loathes kale. He can be found on twitter at @jrtoastyman.

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