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Becoming an Orlando Local: The “Disney World Annual Pass” Dilemma

For many of you reading this, a big reason you want to make the move (or have made the move) to the Orlando area is to be closer to theme parks. For those same people, you may have concerns about the current state of the Disney Annual Pass program

You remember me, we met briefly 37 years ago

Now, before I go on, I want to address the ‘non-Disney’ folks for a second. I know you roll your eyes at people who are passionate about theme parks. It’s okay; we’ve been dealing with it for years. However, there are some things you should keep in mind. After purchasing a home here, EVERYONE YOU’VE EVER MET is going suddenly get in touch and want to come to see you. Even your 4th cousin twice removed on your mother’s side is going to reach out.

Remember, EVERYONE wants to visit Orlando, and you’ve just provided a free place to stay. Playing tour guide at the theme parks is going to be a thing for you whether you like it or not, so unless you want to be Uncle Jerk, who refuses to take your 10-year-old nephew to Disney to see Mickey Mouse, start paying attention.

It can cost upwards of $100 per day to visit a Disney theme park. For your guests, they’re going to have to dig deep and pay for their tickets, but they’re not paying for a hotel, so it’s perfectly okay to shame them if they complain about it. However, you’re going to need a way into the park as well, and if this scenario plays out for more than 10 days out of the year, an annual pass is going to become very attractive. The problem, of course (and hence the reason for this article) – Disney isn’t selling annual passes right now.

Disney World stopped selling annual passes last year in response to the pandemic. Now that Disney requires a reservation to enter a theme park and (currently) capacity is limited to 35%, there are concerns about how these factors will affect people who purchase an annual pass and expect to go into a park whenever they want. Disney’s view is that it was better to stop selling them for a while and see how things shake out.

For some of you, your entire reason for moving to Orlando in the first place was to be closer to the parks. For years, you’ve dreamed of waking up one morning and saying “I think I’ll go to Epcot today” on a whim. So what happens? You get here and can’t get an annual pass. The universe can be a cold, cruel place sometimes.

Before you ask, the answer is “I don’t know”

Let’s get this out of the way upfront – no one knows when Annual Passes will go back on sale, and no one knows what that program will look like. When Disney announced they were completely re-vamping the Annual Pass program for Disneyland, many of us felt a cold chill run down our spine. Speculation is rampant about what Walt Disney Worlds AP program will look like when it returns. As of right now, no announcements have been made about the WDW AP program. At least if you already have an annual pass, they will allow you to renew (even if it’s already expired, Guest Services has shown a willingness to renew your pass).

I understand Disney’s decision to curb the program given the circumstances and I don’t fault them for it. However, lets be honest – if you don’t have an annual pass and you want to go to Disney World as a Florida resident, the cost (at the time of this writing) for a 4 day pass will average around $69 per day.

Disney’s decision to suspend annual pass sales, however, has been a boon for Orlando’s other two theme parks. Both Universal Orlando and Sea World are still offering annual passes, and with the flex pay options, the cost is very manageable. The price for a Universal Orlando Premier pass for a Florida resident is $559 for a two-park pass (that doesn’t include Volcano Bay). The Universal Premier pass offers free parking, discounts on merchandise, and select dining locations and includes one free admission to Holloween Horror Nights (among other perks). PLUS you have the added benefit of using flex pay (available to everyone, not just FL residents) where you pay a down payment of around $260 and then pay equal monthly installments to pay off the rest (there’s no interest or other charges in that, it just helps you break up the cost over the span of a year).

Sea World is offering an even better deal. Their Silver pass AP offers free general parking and 10% off dining, 20% off merchandise and two free guest passes each year. The price is a very reasonable $192 or $12 per month (no money down for this pass).

For years, the mention of ‘the others’ (Sea World / Universal) would be met with a grimace by die-hard Disney fans. However, the pandemic seems to have accomplished what Universal’s marketing department couldn’t – Disney fans are giving these parks a second look, and more and more of them are taking them up on these offers.

So, if you are considering the move to Orlando and are wondering what you’re going to do if you can’t get an annual pass to Disney, consider expanding your horizons. Universal and Sea World are much more attractive when you’re not having to decide to burn a day or two of your vacation on them.

Pete Werner

I'm an Orlando local and owner of The DIS (wdwinfo.com), DVCfan.com, DCLfan.com, and host of the DIS Unplugged podcast.

One thought on “Becoming an Orlando Local: The “Disney World Annual Pass” Dilemma

  • May 19, 2021 at 9:34 am
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    Pete is correct, when you move to Florida, you become a vacation magnet. My parents moved to Florida in January 1984. They didn’t have a break from “company” of more than 5 days for nearly 2 years. Everyone they knew, family and friends, kept coming down and coming down. Some people even “reserved” weeks at a time, It was crazy!

    Reply

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