When Should You Buy a Disney World Annual Pass? – Out of State Edition

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Figuring out when a Disney World Annual Pass will save you money if you don’t live close enough to make day trips needs an analysis that’s tuned in to less frequent trips with multi-day tickets. We’ll be breaking down what’s cost effective for out-of-staters in this post, but if you’re a Florida resident looking for a tier-based analysis that figures in day trips, stay tuned for a Florida-specific post later today.

Today we’ll be using regular ticket prices from 2022 and looking at the new Annual Pass tiers announced in August 2021.  I’ll focus on the Sorcerer Pass ($899) and the Incredi-Pass ($1299) which are the only two tiers you can buy if you’re not a Florida resident.  Add-ons for PhotoPass ($99) and Water Parks ($99) are available for both tiers, and there are only two real differences:

  • The Sorcerer pass can only be bought by out-of-state residents if they are DVC members
  • The Sorcerer pass is blocked out for Christmas and Thanksgiving and surrounding dates.

Special Considerations

I’m starting here because all of the things I’m going to talk about in this section might be reasons to buy an Annual Pass (an AP) even if the numbers don’t seem to add up and you’re tempted to quit reading.  More specifically, there are a number of AP perks that can be applied to a whole group from a single person’s ticket.  Even if it looks like a no-go for the math when you first glance at the chart, give it a second look and see whether it might make sense to purchase an AP for only one person in your group.

PhotoPass

If everyone in your group is linked on your Family and Friends list, then only one person needs to have any kind of PhotoPass entitlement.  This is the same whether you’ve got individually purchased Memory Maker or an AP with the PhotoPass add-on. Memory Maker is $169 if purchased in advance; the AP PhotoPass Add-on is $99.  If you’re only taking one trip and you feel you’re within $70 of the value point, this could tip the balance towards an AP.  At two trips, the PhotoPass add on is about $240 in savings. Of course this is only true if you were planning on purchasing Memory Maker to begin with — it’s not a great value proposition to end up with two of something you never would have bought and don’t want, just because it’s on BOGO sale.

Parking

All the new Disney World Annual Passes include free parking at the theme parks.  Theme park parking is currently $25 per day, so if you’re staying off site and renting a car that can add up quickly.  Over a week-long vacation that’s $175 worth of savings.

Dining, Merchandise, and Hotel Discounts
©Disney

The average merchandise discount is about 20%, meaning that you’ll need to spend $500 in order to save $100 with an AP.  The average dining discount is 10%, which translates to a savings of about $20 on dinner for 3 adults and 1 child at Chef Mickey’s.  Yes, there are cheaper table service restaurants — and more expensive ones too. If you like to do sit-down meals and you have a big family, you can get to a couple of hundred dollars in savings pretty quickly.  Be aware though that the dining discount only applies to a maximum of 3 guests in addition to the Passholder, and doesn’t apply to tax and gratuity.

Disney did not specifically call out hotel discounts in their announcement, but historically most public room-only offers have been accompanied by a Passholder offer worth about 10% more.  The wording of the Annual Pass blurb is “Savings of up to 20% on dining, merchandise, and more,” which is sufficiently vague to allow them to offer almost anything and change it at will — ultimately there’s no reason to believe there won’t be hotel discounts for Passholders in the future.

The value of these discounts is going to depend a lot on your individual circumstances.  If you don’t buy a lot of merch and you tend to eat Quick Service, there’s not going to be much here for you.  If you’re a DVC member, most of these same discounts are available with your membership and you don’t get to double them up if you have an AP too.  So I’m not even going to try to guess at your personal vacation style in order to do this math for you, but it’s definitely something to think about.

The Break-Even Charts

Without further ado, let’s break out the numbers.

Fewer Than Five Days
Prices for regular tickets compared to Annual Pass, 4 days or fewer. All prices are the median price over days in 2022 for the specified ticket, without tax. Italicized numbers are greater than the Sorcerer price ($899 or $998 w/ water parks), but less than the Incredi-Pass ($1299 or $1398 w/ water parks). If no price is shown, the Incredi-Pass is cheaper than the cost of individual tickets.

Maybe you don’t live close enough to drop in for the day, but it’s a short enough drive that a hot hotel deal can bring you down for a quick getaway.  Maybe you live in Chicago, but you fly all the time for work and have airmiles to burn getting to long weekends in the World.  If you’re the type of visitor who comes a few times a year for a short visit, the chart above has you covered.

The first column is the regular ticket-type we’re comparing to.  The second column is the number of days before the ticket expires,  beginning on the start date you picked. The third and fourth columns are the cutoffs; this is the number of tickets where you’ll come out ahead by choosing the Annual Pass.  As an example, a 3-day hopper costs $453.  Two of them are $906, so if you’re taking two trips with a 3-day ticket on each then you should buy a Sorcerer Pass instead if you are eligible. (Unless one of those trips falls during the blockout dates.)  The remaining columns show the price of the specified number of tickets. If it doesn’t make the cut that the AP is a no-brainer, this is where you can start thinking about whether you’ll make up the difference on perks.

Jaleo's paella pit
Friday night paella at Jaleo … yum.

Some of you are probably wondering why there seem to be two prices for a 1-day ticket.  The “-S” ticket prices are for visitors whose short trips routinely fall on weekends.  Such visitors may arrive on Friday evening and eat dinner in Disney Springs, then spend the day in the parks on Saturday with a 1-day ticket, closing out their trip on Sunday with a relaxing morning by the pool.  So the “-S” ticket price is based only on the median of tickets with Saturday dates.  For a single-day ticket, the difference between the general price and the price specifically for tickets with Saturday start dates is almost $10. That can add up to $50 or more before you get to the point where you might buy an AP instead.

At 4 days the Sorcerer Pass is ahead on the second trip for all ticket types, and the Incredi-Pass is ahead at 3 trips.  This is a pattern we’re going to continue to see as we take a look at longer ticket lengths.

Five to Ten Days
All prices exclude tax.

The chart on the right shows the value of a single ticket.  In general, no matter the length of ticket we see the same thing we saw at four days: twice a year to save with a Sorcerer pass; thrice for the Incredi-Pass.  The exception is the tickets with bolded prices, where even the top tier pass comes out ahead if you’re going to make two trips in a year.

One thing to consider if you’re buying longer tickets is the Park Pass reservation system.  If you’re staying on Disney property you can make a reservation for every day of your stay in addition to the five days of reservations that you’re entitled to hold at any time.  If you’re staying off-site, you may not be able to make a reservation in advance for every day of your vacation.  In practice this is very unlikely to be a big deal, as pre-pandemic capacity limits were high enough that the parks only turned guests away on three or four days a year.  Still, it’s something to know if you plan to visit at crowded times of the year.

Ten Days or More

What if you’re coming for a reaallly long vacation?  Like, two weeks.  And you just need to be in the parks, every single day!  Even if you’re only going to use it on one trip, how many days does your visit need to be before an Annual Pass will be your ticket to savings?

Prices of ticket combinations. All prices exclude tax. Italicized numbers are greater than the cost of the Sorcerer pass, but less than the cost of the Incredi-Pass. Prices below the stair-step are for combinations totaling more than 10 days of park entry. If no price is shown, the Incredi-Pass is less expensive than a ticket combination. (Click to enlarge)

If this is the point at which you’re going “Hey, now she’s just being ridiculous” — well, I wouldn’t blame you.  Still, I really like to be thorough, and there are some useful observations to be made here.

  • In every ticket class, a 10-day ticket and a 1-day ticket combined are cheaper than the Sorcerer Pass
  • Quite a lot of the time, two long tickets — even a 10-day and a 10-day! — are cheaper than the Incredi-Pass.  This is because after the first four days, the price for each additional day drops precipitously.
  • For more than 10 days there are lots of different tickets you can combine for your target number of days; 10+1 = 11 and 9+2 = 11 too.  But your best price is always going to belong to the option that has the 10-day ticket; 9+2, 8+3, etc. are more expensive.

What to Take Away

If you visit for two trips of 4 days or more within a year and you can purchase the Sorcerer Pass, you should.  If you visit for three trips of 4 days or more, the Incredi-Pass will pay off; if your regular ticket would just be a hopper then this pass might pay off on the second trip so double-check.

If you regularly visit Disney World once a year for a week and you time your trips to get a second one in right before the Pass expires, you won’t save money doing this unless can you buy the Sorcerer Pass.  At every tier, two 7-day tickets are cheaper than the Incredi-Pass.

If you do a lot of dining or buying, or you plan to drive to the parks, an AP might make sense even if it’s not saving you money on tickets.

Don’t forget that you can always upgrade a regular ticket by adding days, add-on options, or converting it to an Annual Pass, right up until the end of the day when you use the last park entry on that ticket.  If you’re already on vacation and wish you had thought to buy an AP because you suddenly remember that you have a conference in Orlando later that year, it’s not too late.  See Guest Relations, they’ll fix you up and apply the price of the ticket you already purchased towards the cost of your AP.

After all those numbers, are your eyes glazed over?  Do you think you might buy an Annual Pass?  Let us know in the comments.

 

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Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer Heymont has a background in math and biology, but since she couldn't pick between the two she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

25 thoughts on “When Should You Buy a Disney World Annual Pass? – Out of State Edition

  • September 21, 2021 at 12:32 pm
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    Perfect timing. I was planning on mathing this out this weekend, but now I don’t have to. No AP for me, for now at least.

    Reply
    • September 21, 2021 at 1:24 pm
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      Hey Rob, glad to hear this was helpful. With the variable ticket pricing, it’s for sure not as straightforward to do the numbers as it used to be!

      Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 1:13 pm
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    So, if I’m taking a family of 4, all “adults”, for 5 days, it is definitely to my advantage to buy an AP. Yes?

    Reply
    • September 21, 2021 at 1:22 pm
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      Hi Len — No AP beats a regular ticket for a single trip unless that trip is at least 17 days long. There might be value in getting a single family member an AP if you think you will save enough on dining, parking, and other AP perks.

      If you’re making two 5-day trips in the same year and you are eligible to buy the Sorcerer pass then yes, you should buy the AP. If you’re not a DVC member or Florida resident, then you’ll need to make three trips of this length in the same year before the Incredi-Pass will be to your advantage.

      Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 3:46 pm
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    I think Disney recently reduced the number of restaurant guests covered by AP from 5 to 3, correct? At least that’s what I saw yesterday.

    Reply
    • September 21, 2021 at 3:53 pm
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      Thanks for the catch! Not sure when they made that change (or if I just made a typo when I made my notes), but I’ve updated the article to reflect the correct number.

      Reply
    • September 22, 2021 at 4:14 pm
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      I am grateful for this info, however I am still confused and overwhelmed. Hope you can answer my question. We plan to take two separate trips (2people) first trip would be November 2021 for 5 days base park entries. The second trip is in aug 2022 for 9 days with park hopper. Should I get the incredi pass? We are neither dvc or Florida residents.

      Reply
      • September 22, 2021 at 6:17 pm
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        Hi Maritza, the median price of a 5-day base ticket in November 2021 is about $530, and the median price of a 9-day hopper in August 2022 is $631. The total is $1161, but remember that’s an estimate — the range on the 9-day hopper is about $80 depending on your start date; higher towards the beginning of the month and lower towards the end. To get a precise number, you’d need to put in your exact dates on Disney’s site and see how much the tickets will be (you can do this without actually purchasing them, just start the purchase process and quit before payment).

        The Incredi-pass is $1299, so your ticket cost for base tickets is within $200 of the AP cost, but the regular tickets are still cheaper. If you think you’ll save enough in perks to make up that $200 difference, then it’s worth it for at least one of you to get the Incredi-Pass.

  • September 21, 2021 at 4:09 pm
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    Are DVCers getting free parking these days? So hard to keep up with allllllll changes!

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    • September 21, 2021 at 4:35 pm
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      Hi Melanie, parking is tricky! DVC members do get a form of free parking, but it’s not at the parks. DVC members get free resort parking for stays that they have paid for with points. But, on-site guests get free parking at the parks no matter whether they are DVC members or not.

      So: DVC member staying 4 nights at Saratoga Springs on points, parking is free at the resort. DVC member paying cash for 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, resort parking is charged like a regular resort guest. In both cases, parking at the parks is free because the guest is staying on site. At the same time, a DVC member staying at a hotel on I-Drive or Rte 192 might have free parking at their resort because that resort doesn’t charge parking fees, but because they are staying off-site they will need to pay when they park at the parks.

      Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 5:02 pm
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    Buying the big pass to use next year. Will do a 2 wk trip in July 22, a 3 day trip in Sept, a 10 day trip in Oct, 9 day trip over Christmas, a long weekend in Feb, 6 days over Spring break, and then 2 wk in June 23. We’ll drive all trips except Sept & Feb. And yes, have Touringplans subs for the next 2 years 😉

    Reply
    • September 21, 2021 at 5:38 pm
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      That sounds like you are going to have a totally awesome time. And you will _definitely_ be getting your money’s worth out of that pass!

      Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 8:19 pm
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    Jennifer, Thanks for this post! To clarify in regards to Gary’s comment, if I buy one annual pass and three regular tickets (for my family of four), will I not be able to use the discount for all of us on dining? Will I be able to apply it to three of us but not the fourth when at a restaurant? We’re planning to go to Disney, family of four, for two weeks at the end of April and beginning of May — going to the parks most days. We’ll be staying off property and will need to pay parking and would like photopass for the trip. I want to make sure I am reading your post correctly 🙂 Should I go ahead and just buy four individual daily tickets (10 days each for example). Or would it be worth it to get one person the AP and then the rest individual tickets (we have done that before). Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • September 21, 2021 at 8:59 pm
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      Hi Erica, good news — you should be totally fine on the discounts. The article currently says “maximum of 3 guests in addition to the Passholder” – that would be your three family members + you, the Passholder. When it was first published this morning it said “maximum of 5 guests in addition to the Passholder”, so if you were a family of 6 then you would be affected by the error, but your family of four is not.

      Here’s the direct link to Disney’s page so that you can see the language they use. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/passholder-program/passholder-benefits-and-discounts/dining-discounts/

      For a 2-week trip going to the parks most days, with Photopass and the parking you might well be in the range where the AP would make sense. My fellow blogger John Tierney has a calculator where you can play around with scenarios a bit here:
      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1k-a0yNFdAuaLVRZ2bkJnz2gSdoPlvHspVNe1-J1G57s/edit#gid=225771302.

      One thing that’s unknown right now is how Passholder availability will be for Park Reservations, which could be a factor if you’re staying off site on a long trip. Since this is all so new and you won’t be applying discounts to anything until you get there, my advice would actually be to buy 4 individual tickets when you are first setting up your Park Pass reservations a few months in advance. Then, as your trip gets closer, do a little checking to see how routinely they’re available within the same week for AP holders. If, as expected, there’s not really an issue except perhaps around Christmas, Easter, and July 4th, then you can convert (bridge) your ticket to an Annual Pass shortly before your trip. If it turns out that Park Pass reservations might be an issue, you’ll have information to decide whether the AP still makes sense or not.

      Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 10:38 pm
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    I’m a huge fan of WDW. I’ve been going since 1972. (no I’m not ancient 🙂 I bought annual passes a few years ago and they paid for themselves in two trips. They also included photopass. You didn’t have to pay for fastpass and parking was included at resorts. I’m very disappointed with Disney’s greed. I realize they took a hit with Covid but so did we. I’ll continue to visit because I can’t stand to stay away. I just wish Disney would ease up a little.

    Reply
  • September 22, 2021 at 4:00 am
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    For Brits, the comparator would be the 2022 Disney’s 14 Day Ultimate Ticket, which costs £465 (tax included) – that’s about $670.
    So to make the gap of about $720, you would need to go on holiday to WDW twice in a 12-month period.

    Reply
    • September 22, 2021 at 10:39 am
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      Hi Phillip, thanks for the info! Do you know how long the ticket is valid for after the start date?

      Reply
      • September 22, 2021 at 1:19 pm
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        They expire 14 days after the first use! But we can make a park reservation for each of the 14 days with these tickets – we will be coming to WDW 3 times in the next 12 months but, although it would be cheaper to buy annual tickets, we wouldn’t be able to make park reservations for every day we will be there. I am guessing the parks will start to get busy when we start coming over again so it is important for us to get the park reservations. We’re staying off site each time. If things change and park reservations are no longer required I will be getting annual passes!

  • September 22, 2021 at 10:17 am
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    I considered the $1300 pass. As an out of state guest, we don’t visit very often, so we’d have at least 10 days in the parks (and I wouldn’t be against 1 or 2 random, shorter days here and there either if the desire popped up).

    Thing is, I hear you can only make 5 reservations at a time? If we’re coming a long ways for a basically once-in-a-lifetime trip, I don’t know if I want to gamble having only 5 RSVPs and trying my lunch on the last 5.

    Would it just be better to get a 10-day ticket and be able to make all 10 reservations?

    Reply
    • September 22, 2021 at 10:55 am
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      Hi J — this is an interesting question, and I think it really speaks to some of the things that we’re waiting to see about how these reservations will work out in practice.

      First of all, if you’re planning to stay on site, no worries — Passholders with on-site stays are allowed to hold reservations for every day of their visit _in addition_ to the regular 5.

      What if you’re off site? This is where we don’t have a lot of info yet. One theory says that it will be a complete non-issue, as Disney World has only had partial or complete park closures a few days a year in the past, typically around Christmas and July 4th, and typically only at Magic Kingdom and Epcot. (Those are trends, not hard and fast statements). If that’s the case, you’ll basically be able to make a reservation for any park on the tram as you approach the park entrance. Another theory says that Disney will artificially depress the number of reservations available for Passholders, in order to keep crowds low. There are good reasons to believe that Disney won’t do this, but nobody really knows and if they did then yes, the reservation limit could pose a problem for your case.

      The advice I would give you right now, if you’re planning a trip within the next six months and staying off-site, is to buy a regular ticket (or combination). The only discount you’d potentially be missing out on _in advance_ of your trip is a hotel discount, which doesn’t at all matter if you’re staying off-site. Within a few weeks of your trip, there should be enough information about how much “last-minute” availability there is for Passholders for you to make an informed decision about whether or not to bridge your ticket up to an AP.

      One thing to keep in mind if your answer doesn’t seem clear-cut even a couple weeks in advance is that some parks have much more last-minute availability than others. If your answer isn’t obvious then it’s likely because there is mixed availability. If the reservations are the only negative against your AP decision and there are a lot of strong positives, you could consider bridging to an AP, making 5 reservations at MK and HS to lock those in, and relying on Epcot and AK to have reservation availability to be picked up the night before as you free up those reservation slots with visits to the parks.

      Reply
    • September 25, 2021 at 8:40 am
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      I have been OBSESSING over this very topic. We are out of staters and DVC. We are visiting next month and I only planned ONE park day with a purchased ticket. It is so hard to put a VALUE on the ability to just pop in and out of Epcot while staying at Beach Club vs. going in on my one planned day. I purposefully planned other vacation destinations for 2022 but could time a 2022 trip to overlap for another WDW vacation.

      Would there be any sense in purchasing the pass in October and holding onto it? Meaning if I activated it in 2022 October is this feasible? Any loophole I am not considering with this?

      Thanks for the GREAT article and the reply! 🙂

      Reply
      • September 25, 2021 at 7:12 pm
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        Hi Melissa, I hear you on trying to put a number on things that are all about how you feel. When Fastpass+ meant you had to make reservations in advance, for my family that was a big driver to getting the AP instead of just getting a 10-day ticket for a two-week trip. We might not have wanted to go every day, but we didn’t want to be like “Dang, no Fastpasses because we changed our plans last minute”.

        I’m not 100% sure I understand what you’re asking, but if I’ve got it right here’s my answer:

        If you purchase a 1-day ticket *and* a pass this October, then you can leave your pass unactivated until October 2022. But the only thing this might get you compared to just waiting to buy the pass is to have the price locked in in case it goes up between now and October 2022.

        If you bridge the one day ticket you already have, then you won’t be able to hold off on activating it until October 2022, because if you “upgrade” your one-day ticket to an Annual Pass then it will be considered activated based on the day that you use the one-day ticket.

        If that wasn’t your question, feel free to try again — just make sure to put your question as a top level comment because we can only go three tiers deep with replies and this comment is the third tier.

  • September 23, 2021 at 12:46 pm
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    Thanks for the analysis! I did the math on this, too, based on current pricing for when we have typically gone to WDW each year with our AP. Ticket prices for 5 days were $613/615, respectively, so $71 less than the Incredipass. The free parking is a $250 value since we stay off site so the Incredipass would save us money, but it’s not a savings off of each pass, only one. Alternatively we could assign 1/3 of the parking cost to each ticket (since we area family of three) so it would save us $83 each, making the AP a tiny $12 per person savings over the course of a year. That’s not worth me committing all of my vacation time to Disney every year. If we decide to go back it will be for a week and then we’ll have almost $2000 to dedicate to a trip somewhere else.

    Reply
  • September 30, 2021 at 8:29 pm
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    I have a 5 day park ticket in December. Does it make sense to cash in the value of my existing ticket for an AP on the first day and have the park-hopper aspect of the AP for my trip? What the advantage of waiting until the last day of my trip? Also, I’m assuming that I can’t apply the money I spent on other members of my party towards my AP (if they are not going to get an AP), can I?

    Reply
    • October 1, 2021 at 8:03 am
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      Hi Bryan, Only you can say how much it make sense for you to get an AP instead of simply adding park hopping to your existing ticket – although if this is going to be your only trip it’s likely that upgrading your regular ticket to a Hopper will be much cheaper than going to an AP. If you do decide to get an AP, then there’s no reason to wait until the last day – the earlier you do it, the earlier you will be able to get the benefits.

      As far as applying money from other tickets, your best bet is to check with Disney directly about this. For certain, if Disney does say that you can reassign those tickets to yourself and consolidate them into an AP, then whoever currently holds the tickets would no longer be able to use them.

      Reply

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