You came for the Disney and you stayed… for the Disney!
Being a Disney World Annual Passholder has some super big perks, and some not so big perks, and then the perk of visiting Disney World just like everyone else with a regular ticket.
So let’s chat about the wonder and the excitement that is the Disney Annual Passholder Program.
This post may contain affiliate links, read my full disclosure here.
But before we jump in- let’s clarify
The Annual Passholder system is just that- you can come annually to Disney World.
APH (annual passholder) is something that you pay yearly for, and this is not to be confused with the DVC or the DCP.
DVC is short for Disney Vacation Club and is the equivalent of Disney’s time share program. DCP is the Disney College Program and that’s just an entirely different sport all together (it’s like comparing quidditch and snorkeling)
Annual Passes come in a variety of flavors- from the top options that include all the theme parks in Disney World and Land (so all the options in north america), to the bottom level that gets you into Epcot after 4. Where you fall in the order could determine the perks of your pass!
1- Wait Times
An annual Passholder can book up to 30 days in advance, which sounds great when you consider that some of us go quite a few times a month, but some passholders only go a few times a year.
The key here is to maximize your fastpass times so that you make the most of your trip, while realizing that you go more than the average person.
It’s my ‘rule’ as an annual Passholder that I only wait in line less than 15 mins- and I do that with my fast passes and some patience- I know I’ll be back very soon!
Having an annual pass gives you the freedom to shake off some of that ‘Disney World’ anxiety- you don’t have to do everything all at once.
2- Enjoy the off times
There’s a panic that comes from a once in a year, or once in a lifetime Disney trip.
Like the ultimate case of Disney World FOMO
For me, I normally see it happen at the table next to me, as they freak out over their planning agenda and how the last bathroom break and breakfast put them 15 minutes behind schedule.
SERIOUSLY- people get crazy when it comes to the limited time they get at Disney. I’ve seen people yank their kids away from characters and scurry past parades because they had to be ‘this place and do this and this time’. And while I do have some recommendations for can’t miss moments at Disney World, I also know that this isn’t going to be the end of the world if I do miss out on something.
Less people is always better in my experience when it comes to having a calm and easy meal (we like to go at ‘off times’) and it’s nice to get up early or stay late to enjoy the time when people are rushing back to the resort or sleeping in because they’re exhausted!
3- Don’t get caught up in the Tourist Hype
If you have an annual pass that means you’ll be at Disney more- Yep, you’ll get to see the “Welcome To Walt Disney World” at least twice a year! And for some of you that live closer, you might even make the trip month or weekly.
So because you have more access to the Mouse, I want to encourage you not to get caught up in the tourist trap of time limits and seeing as much as humanly possible.
This means that you don’t have to see the parade every single time you go, nor do you always need a picture with the castle.
What you can do is make it a priority to hit up your favorites while checking out some of the lesser-known places, because every Disney World Vacation is unique. Even if you’ve been 100 times.
And you’ll learn quickly how to save some money while at the parks- your kid doesn’t need a ballon every time you go (though we do like getting them from Publix!!). Amazon, Target and Kohls all have great deals on Disney Merch. Check out my guide to saving moolah on Disney World Merchandise!
4- Bring it with you- or not
So the cool thing about being at Disney more, is enjoying the parks! The not so good thing is the high ticket price tag that comes with a visit, especially when it comes to saving money on food. If you spend like its vacation every month, you will be spending quite a bit at Disney World!
Another good idea is to bring snacks, drinks and lunch with you or purchase it before you get to the parks. We enjoy stopping at some of the various restaurants before the Disney entrance for a big lunch like chickfila, Kobe, and the ice cream shop.
We also like to stop at the Target or Publix right by Disney for discounted Disney merch, snacks and ready made lunches to take into the parks. Its a good time to stretch your legs and have a bathroom break too (because who wants to drive an hour to wait in line at security when you have to pee!!!!) I pack everything in this collapsible cooler– it has seriously saved me thousands!
My kids have allergies so we also bring food. Sometimes I order from Amazon and have it delivered to the resort, other times we just go to Publix. It really just depends! I like doing the Amazon delivery because then I can guarantee that it will be in stock- you never know if Publix might be out (and we HAVE to have safe food- not something we can negotiate!) I talk more about our allergies and our restaurant reviews for those of you that can relate!
Benefits- Take advantage of the Annual Passholder discounts
Being a Disney World Annual Passholder comes with some pretty nice discounts! Most passes get free parking and discounted preferred parking rates.
Other benefits include discounts on dining, gifts and the resorts. There are literally too many discounts to list! (And sometimes I forget all of the awesome perks that come with an annual Passholder membership!)
First things first, most dining options give a 10-20% discount for annual passholder, though not all of them do.
You can also get some good discounts on some sweet merchandise when you have an annual pass. This is great for those of us looking for cheap Disney products to take home! Most stores offer a 20% discount with some only offering a 10% discount. This does only apply to regular priced items (because sometimes they DO have sales! Which you’ll see the more you go! )
Disney also gives its Annual Passholders Hotel Discounts.
These resort discounts are always a gamble- because you never know what they are going to cover. Sometimes they cover the little mermaid at art of animation, sometimes they don’t. Other times Moderate resorts are 20% off, sometimes the annual pass hotel discount is only for 10%.
Benefit- Easily book last minute
And I’ll show you how to know which place to go to last minute! This is one of my all time favorite hacks for Disney World Annual Passholders.
Here’s how it works. Say that you live less than a few hours away and you want to plan a spur of the moment trip to Disney OR your coming in for business and have a day at the parks. What ever it is- you can make the most of it.
These last minute trips used to be a huge gamble back in the day before the advent of the internet, but now you can check out crowd calendars. (well, that and the crowds were no where near as crazy!)
so now you can use the My Disney App to look at Fast Pass availability and wait times for rides and restaurants which will you give you a very good idea of how busy the park is. I know that if I can’t find any reservations, the wait times are long and fast passes are nonexistent that the park is pretty busy!
Then I can either brave the long Disney lines or I can look at another of the parks for a less crowded experience. This is itself is a super perk of the annual pass, and it saves me so much time!
If for whatever reason that app is acting wonky (it seriously did it to me today, I couldn’t believe it didn’t believe in our relationship anymore after all that we’ve been through!) you can just use the Disney website to reserve your fast passes or dining, or you can call in! That works too.
are the parks totally slammed? Consider eating at one of the resort hotels or character meals (especially true if you’re in a blackout) and consider other things like the water parks or resort hopping.
One of my hacks
speaking of water parks- did you know that Disney offers a water park only annual pass? We found it cheaper to grab that and the theme park select pass for our son (because he doesn’t always come with us!) instead of the passes that don’t have blackouts!
We went to Typhoon Lagoon on Christmas Day! It was SOOO much fun! I’ve heard that you can get the annual passholder discount with only the water parks pass, but it’s not something I’ve tried!
Disney Annual Passholder Recap
I’m sure that some of you who have been a 100 other times will say to wear sensible shoes or outfits- but I am 100% of doing the opposite since I go so frequently that I’m never rushing and I rarely get sunburnt- But do keep that in mind if it helps your family enjoy the most of your trip! If you aren’t sure if you want to keep your Annual Pass, you might want to look at the Disadvantages of Being a Disney Annual Passholder.
My top tips are to:
- Use the Fast Pass Wisely
- Eat during off times
- Ignore the Tourist Hype (you’re a mouse now, Harry)
- Bring stuff with you to the park (think Amazon!)
- Don’t forget about the Annual Passholder discounts (which I am so guilty of!)
- Use the My Disney App to plan and check crowd control