Is Disney Changing Their Ticket Pricing Structure?

As you may have heard today, Disney has updated their annual pass pricing structure. Most readers of this blog don’t go frequently enough to justify an annual pass so normally this wouldn’t be newsworthy. But the change in the annual pass pricing structure may indicate a similar change is coming to standard tickets. And this change could happen anytime so it’s worth a look. While there were changes at Disneyland as well, this post is going to look at what’s new at Disney World.

The old structure of the annual passes included Florida resident seasonal passes, standard annual passes, and premium annual passes. The old Florida resident seasonal pass (basically good for visits anytime during the year except the summer and peak holiday periods) was $350.39 and the standard annual pass (available to residents of other states) was $696.51.

The new pricing structure includes a “Silver,” “Gold,” “Platinum,” and “Platinum Plus” annual pass. The “Silver” pass most closely aligns with the old Florida resident seasonal pass but instead of costing $350.39, it now costs $414.29 (these numbers include taxes). The blackout dates for the “Silver” pass (again, not available to anyone but Florida residents) are similar to the old Florida resident seasonal pass. Basically, you’re not able to visit the parks from December 17 through January 1, March 19 through April 1, June 6 through August 11, and then December 16 through January 2, 2017.

The “Gold” pass is a new level and available to Florida residents and DVC members. With a “Gold” annual pass, you’re not able to visit the parks from December 17 through January 1, March 19 through April 1, and then December 16 through January 2, 2017. The “Gold” pass is $584.69.

The “Platinum” pass doesn’t have any blackout dates and now comes with Photopass downloads. But the price is now $797.69 versus the similar annual pass that was about $100 cheaper a few days ago.

And the “Platinum Plus” pass has no blackout dates and comes with the four parks, all the water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports admission, and Oak Trail gold course green fees. This pass comes in at a whopping $882.89. You’ve got to really love Disney to pay that price!

So, what does that mean for those of us who don’t need an annual pass but still like to visit Disney every now and then? There is no solid proof either way, but if I were a betting person, I would guess that Disney will implement a similar strategy for standard park tickets at some point in the near future. It appears that I’m not the only one who thinks so.

It is no secret that Disney increases the cost of tickets every year. They are constantly adding new attractions and enticing visitors to come back so it’s not a surprise that they are able to increase the price of their park tickets each year.

If people want to attend the park so badly during these peak times of the year, it seems to make sense to me that charging more is a great way to reduce park attendance so that everybody is able to enjoy themselves. But how many of the people in the parks during those high capacity days were annual pass holders? The majority of visitors are visiting on standard tickets so changing the pricing structure of the annual passes only won’t have a major impact to the numbers in the parks during these peak periods. The only way to do that would be to change the structure of the standard park tickets too. And this is why I believe that a change to the standard ticketing structure is on it’s way. Again, this is all speculation but I believe it’s educated speculation.

There has been a lot of negative feedback regarding this annual pass change given that most families can only travel during holiday and school breaks. And I can see that. The periods blacked out for the “Gold” pass are Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter/Spring Break. But there are also school break periods that aren’t blacked out. Thanksgiving being one of them. Summer vacation being another (except for those “Silver” pass holders). So, it’s not all doomsday. Yes, families may have to alter the time of year that they visit if they don’t want to pay a premium, but the blackout dates are not overwhelming for families. And if you must visit during one of those high periods and you can afford the increase, your experience may be better. Smaller crowds equals shorter wait times. For us, that just might be worth the premium.

So, what do we do now? Well, we are proceeding with purchasing our park tickets for next year NOW. When Disney implements a change to ticket pricing, it’s effective immediately so there is no grace period where you can purchase your tickets at the old rate. And I think it’s quite unlikely that Disney will decrease park ticket prices so if you have an upcoming Disney vacation, you may want to consider purchasing your tickets now. If you plan on traveling during what Disney has defined as peak periods, I believe there is absolutely no reason to wait.

For those of you with an American Express credit card, check out your Amex Offers (log into your account, scroll down, and you’ll see the offers available to you). Undercover Tourist is currently offering $30 off a $150 purchase so you can save $30 if you buy your tickets through Undercover Tourist on your Amex card (which we frequently do without any sort of discount because their prices are often the cheapest).

In short, Disney has made some pretty major changes to their annual pass pricing structure. There is no indication either way whether a similar change is coming to the pricing of standard tickets, but there appears to be a decent likelihood that that may be on the horizon. As a result, if you want to guarantee yourself cheaper ticket prices for an upcoming trip, I’d buy your tickets now. And if you plan on traveling during one of the peak periods that Disney has defined as part of the change in their annual pass pricing structure, I’d say run, don’t walk, to make your ticket purchase.


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