Well, here we go! I know many of you have been waiting for this post and I am so sorry it took so long! Our Disney adventures started back in 2009. We surprised our kids with their first trip by driving through the sign and we still video that moment each and every time, to this day!
I know you aren't here to hear all about our love for Disney, most of you already know that. So let's get started with the here and now.
In 2017, we moved quickly from Alabama to Georgia. When we sold our house in three days we surprised our kids with a quick Disney trip. While we were looking for tickets, Josh and I came across a blog about how to use Annual Passes so we researched more. Come to find out, we may have been doing it the wrong way all along. We talked with the kids and asked if annual passes would be a good idea. Later that evening, they had a Sullins kid meeting and came back to us with "if you buy annual passes that can be our birthday and Christmas presents this year". Josh and I wanted them too, so...we decided to do some research!
I'd love to say it was that easy, but we had to research this a lot to make sure we were getting the biggest bang for our buck. Here is what we did. We calculated by our last, large trip. It was a 6-days in the park trip. We had no park hoppers and we went to Magic Kingdom three times. (Magic Kingdom tickets are more expensive than the other parks.)
Let's do the math ::
One day at Magic Kingdom (during peak season...when we are typically there) is $124 per ticket, per day.
One day at Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom (during peak) is $119.
You add the park hopper to those and the price goes to $174.
Now, the math...
The last time we went on a large trip, we went into Magic Kingdom three times for a total of $1860 (if we are looking at this without any perks or package discounts).
We were in the other parks the other three days for a total of $1785 (if we are looking at this without any perks or package discounts).
The total: $3645
Yep, we felt like we were on a roller coaster when we discovered our cost versus everything else. Now remember, when you purchase more days worth of tickets, the prices of tickets do go down slightly. It also goes down slightly when you do a special room and dining package, but the Sullins were more interested in going as much as humanly possible for the next year...so we did the math to see how we would fair.
Plus, we really wanted to see these guys more often!
So, what is the cost of the annual pass? We chose the Disney Platinum Pass. We didn't want to be confined by black out dates and we wanted all of the perks that go along with the passes. I'll tell you about perks in a minute.
The cost of the Platinum Pass is $779 per person, for our family it was a grand total of $3895. We had not been to Disney for that amount in a few years, since the kids were under 9. Here's the catch...we knew we couldn't stay at our favorite resort anymore (Port Orleans Riverside), but could possibly find great condo deals right outside the gate (AND WE HAVE!!!). You can find those here :: https://www.homeaway.com and http://www.magicalvacationhomes.com. We have now stayed at Windsor Hills twice and we will be back there for the rest of the year. Our normal nightly rate has been around $60-100 depending on the season and we also get a discount when we go back because we are returning guest.
So many perks already! Our passes were official "paid for" on our 7th entrance to the parks. Why? Because with the annual passes, you have many perks to add to this list! Here are our favorites ::
- We get digital files of ALL of our photo pass photographs taken in the park. I'm a photog so I know how expensive this is.
- We can park hop to any and all parks all day long, as many times as we want.
- We get free parking at all parks ($20 per park, per day savings)
- No blackout dates. We can go whenever we'd like.
- We get discounts off most quick service restaurants (usually 10%) and some sit down dining (usually 10-20%).
- We get a 20% discount on all merchandise in the parks.
- You get Passholder seating for some shows, especially Disney On Broadway.
- You get Fastpasses 30 days prior to going on your trip
and many other small perks along the way.
(Side note:: We don't use credit cards except for one. We got the Disney credit card for Disney trips. We buy everything on that card because we get double bonuses and we get Disney money back. So, after we purchased our annual passes on our card, we actually got $100 back and used that on this last trip. We also get other perks with the card like special meet and greets with characters.)
We've had many different Disney adventures in the many years we've been going. I have to say, planning trips month by month has to be my favorite.
Dining at Disney is a favorite for the Sullins, so to keep that going we choose one sit down restaurant each trip and we pay for it. We get a 10-20% discount and save a good bit. As an example, we love Liberty Tree Tavern and we have chosen that restaurant the past two times. The meal is $35 per person and the drink is included. After our discount, it equals to $30 per person. As you may know, Liberty tree is a family style restaurant so they will keep bringing you food until you say NO MORE! We choose this style because we know everyone in our family is getting the best deal. Ohana would be another perfect example of this style (and I'm sure it's on our agenda for April).
I'm sure you are curious what we do for meals on the other days. We have packed PB+J a few times, we eat at the Chick-fil-a right outside the gate OFTEN, and we also take a bag full of snacks. We do eat a few quick service meals like Casey's Corner, Pecos Bill, and we ALWAYS go for snacks in Epcot around the worlds. The biggest decision we made was to ask for Disney gift cards for Christmas and birthdays. Rebeckah is actually stashing $300 worth in her Disney bag. We know these are great for snacks and fun stuff.
Listen, we know this isn't for everyone! We just decided to change our priorities last year. We realized our two oldest will be off to college soon and we wanted adventure in the great, wide somewhere. (Go ahead and click that link...you know you wanna!)
That's it, y'all! If you are really Disney crazed like the Sullins and live close enough to make it happen even 3-4 times in a year, the annual pass is completely worth it. If you're really crazed...and plan to go once a month (like us), then you REALLY want to do it this way! We spent a grand total of $321 out of pocket on our January trip minus the condo. It can be done! It may look different, but hey...if you're at Disney who cares? I sure don't!
Some final tips from our Disney adventures:
- Always turn left after you walk down Main Street in Magic Kingdom. The crowd ALWAYS goes right! Turn left and you will have lower wait times all morning until you hit the crowds.
- Plan your dining experiences for 7:30-8:30. When you come out and you're ready to ride (especially at Magic Kingdom) most people have either left the park, lining up for the fireworks, or they're in dinner too.
- ALWAYS keep hand sanitizer handy. Too. Many. Germs.
- Get creative with your picture taking. Use your portrait mode on your phone and get a little fancy.
- If you plan to ride water rides, keep a ziplock bag handy for your phone.
- Planning to be in the parks half day or park hopping? Leave those bags in the car for a quicker entrance. (We no longer carry backpacks into parks.)
- Schedule those fast passes for the morning! You get two additional passes once you've used your first three.
- Book those dining reservations asap. They rarely have an opening if it's during peak seasons. (Trust me...it's happened in front of my eyes!)
- Always pack something for rain. Pop up showers happen all of the time. We like to dance in it, but some people don't, so prepare.
- Talk to the characters. They will play around and banter with you and have some fun!
- If you don't have the photo pass/memory maker purchased, you can still let them take your photograph. Just make sure you also hand them your phone or camera for a quick shot.
- Our favorite snack location? Karamell Kuche in German (Epcot). You cannot go wrong! Other favs, Macarons in France, Starbucks in any park, Mickey Ice Cream bar (you can never go wrong there), and Churros in Mexico and Pecos Bill in Magic Kingdom, and of course...the Dole Whip in Magic Kingdom!
- If you choose to drive to the parks, make sure you write down or text your parking lot location (i.e. Jufar 323). You will lose your car. Trust me! This has happened to us once and it was HILARIOUS!!!
- Lastly! Have FUN! It really is the happiest place on earth!
Here's to making magical memories!