So recently I have been asked whether I thought you should buy an annual pass or 4 single day park hoppers. When you start talking about going to a theme park I want to first ask you the question are you only going once or if you have the opportunity will you go more than once. A few years back my family realized we like going to theme parks more than just the one trip a year that we take.
Most people who go to theme parks go for a week unless you live local and then we really are not having this discussion. If you live near a theme park and you like going, buy an annual pass. If you are like my family, we live in NC so the only theme parks really close to us are Tweetsie Railroad, Dollywood, and Carowinds. We, or most of us, have season passes to Tweetsie Railroad. In the past my wife and I have had Dollywood season passes and have enjoyed all that Dollywood has to offer, like the kettle corn popcorn made in a real kettle.
Now when looking at or planning your trip to a theme park like Walt Disney World then you have to ask yourself some questions. How do we plan on getting to our destination? Will we be driving 10 hours like my wife and I do? Or will you be flying to Orlando and using the Disney Magic Express Bus Line? If like us you choose to drive the 10 hours then this opens you up to a world of possibilities. I say you have options because if you have made the trip once you have made the trip 50 times and it is time well spent to see Mickey and Minnie on a hot summer day. Now you can also use what I am going to say if you fly or have flyer mileage, get discounted tickets, or use a inexpensive airline like Alliegnent Air.
Now if you are like us and like to go to Orlando to see Mickey then you can take your week vacation Saturday through Saturday 8 days of park going and if you look at the cost your tickets have paid for them self. We also look to use some holidays that fall on weekends to give us long 4 day weekends like memorial day or labor day weekend. We have also taken a second week vacation over Christmas to New Years were we get 8 days with only taken 4 days off of work.
The really nice caveat of having an annual pass is that you can take special trips to events that you normally would not attend like Epcots Food and Wine Festival, Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party, the launch of Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywod Studios, or maybe to experience Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom. Most theme parks will have special events which you either gain access to or a discount for being an annual passholder.
Another nice perk of being a annual passholder is you normally get between 10-30% depending on which theme park you attend in discounts for food and merchendise. At Disney, for instance, you can get special annual passhold merchendise that non annual passholders do not get access to until it goes to a discount store like Disneys Character Wearhouse. Another nice advantage is the cost of parking. Most annual passes include free regular parks or discounts premuim parking depending on the park.
When looking at the cost of a annual pass I like to look at the total cost devided by the amount of parks the ticket gets me into. For instance if you buy a Platuim annual pass from Disney you will spend around $1119 ($899 for FL resident) and the Platnuim Plus is $1219 ($999 for Florida resident). With the Platuim pass it gets you into 4 parks as well as all the discounts. That will put this ticket at $279.75 per park. Universal annual passes for 4 parks is $733.99 which breaks down to $244.67 a park. If you look at Busch Gardens annual pass it costs $361.88 but you get access to 11 parks in what appears to be 4 states. Busch Gardens top pass the Platuim pass breaks down to 33 dollars a park.
The other thing you have to look at is what you get with the pass as well is are there any blackout dates. I have given you examples above of the top passes at the major theme parks in central florida. I feel that i can go on and on about the pluses of getting an annual pass but I will close with this thought. If you do the math on what you get with an annual pass as well as the extra times you may get to pop down for a mini vacation an annual pass may be worth the extra money.
If you plan on going to Disney and buy 4 day park hopper for a family of 4 with 2 kids you will pay $2231 and anuual passes for 365 days will cost the same family $4767. Double the price but you get 361 more days with annual passes.