My Top 5 Regrets After Spending $7,500 on Disney World Season Passes

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A Disney World fanatic shares 5 things she regrets about being an Annual Passholder

It’s no secret that I love to visit Walt Disney World. My desk at work is covered with pictures of me and my family at our favorite spots around the Orlando parks. As I type, I’m glancing over at one of the seven of us standing in front of the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Another one features my now 10-year-old as a preschooler sitting beneath the yellow umbrellas near the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. He’s clutching a cup of hot chocolate from Mainstreet Bakery and there’s a clear view of Cinderella Castle in the Background. 

My family visits Disney World frequently, and we’ve been annual pass holders on and off over the years. We have them now, and mostly our experience has been positive. I work for a school district, so we typically head down to Orlando during most breaks in our school calendar. Last summer, we even took an extended trip for 2 weeks. My husband had to do some remote work, but we visited the parks most evenings. Plus, I ventured out with the kids on my own several times. 

Since we have a larger family than most standard hotel rooms can accommodate, we usually stay at an AirBnB or Vrbo off-property. This is a more affordable option for us and gives us space to spread out. Occasionally, we splurge on a stay at a Disney hotel. In fact, my husband and I recently celebrated our 13th anniversary with a weekend getaway at Bay Lake Tower. We left the kiddos with the grandparents and rented DVC points. It was an absolute dream! Since it was Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, pass-holder discounts were blocked out. But we got a great last-minute deal on the DVC points rental. Undoubtedly it’s a huge privilege to be able to afford an annual pass. Especially with five kids (but with two under the age of three). They are breathtakingly expensive. But are there any downsides or regrets? I can think of a few.

Kirby in front of slinky dog dash
With the amount of money we spend on annual passes, it’s hard to justify destinations other than Orlando throughout the year (photo by Travis Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

1. I feel like I ALWAYS have to go to Disney

Obviously, I love visiting Disney World. I’ve lost count of how many park days I’ve had over the years, but it’s easily well over 100. Yet I still discover new experiences each time I visit. For example, we listened to the Voices of Liberty show in the American Pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase on our most recent trip. It was so beautiful that it literally brought tears to my eyes. However, I sometimes catch myself feeling a bit envious of vacations or trips that my friends or family take. One friend took her kids to San Diego and visited the beaches, the zoo, Legoland California, and the naval yard in Coronado Springs. My parents went on an Alaska Cruise last summer. My sister- and brother-in-law flew to New Orleans to visit the WWII Museum. And my aunt and uncle take their kids skiing in Colorado every winter.

With the amount of money we spend on annual passes for our family plus lodging, we could easily afford any of these trips. When it comes time to renew our passes this summer, we’ll definitely be considering this opportunity cost. The resources of time off work and funding are limited. Does it still make sense for our family to allocate so much of our time and money toward visiting Disney World so frequently?

Magic Kingdom Fall with Pumpkins
Sure, you get a discount on special events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but they aren’t included with your season pass (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

2. It’s hard to justify special events

Earlier this fall, I went on a girl’s trip to Disney World with my mom and two of my sisters. Originally, the plan involved flying down on Friday and going to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party that evening. For one of my sisters and my mom, the cost of the party was nearly equivalent to the cost of a park ticket. For them, the party represented a great value for the evening of a travel day. 

However, my other sister is an annual pass holder like me. Although Disney does offer a nominal discount on Halloween and Christmas parties for pass holders, the cost was still going to be over $100. She and I decided that we’d be just as happy going to Hollywood Studios. We paid a fraction of the cost of the party and instead purchased Genie + for the day. That enabled us to stack lightning lanes throughout the day for our visit in the evening. It was a fun night, but I wonder if we would’ve had a more memorable experience at the Halloween party. As pass holders, paying for the party just didn’t make sense for us. But my mom and non-passholder sister could’ve attended the party for less than what they paid for their Hollywood Studios admission with Genie +.

Woman Eating a Premium Mickey Ice Cream Bar
I rarely take breaks or visit other area parks (photo by Kirby Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

3. I feel guilty taking breaks and visiting other area attractions

One thing about me: I’m a huge space race and World War II nerd. My husband says being married to me is like being married to a 65-year-old man sometimes. Like many of my fellow millennials, I am also a big Harry Potter fan. But would you believe that I have never been to the Kennedy Space Center OR Universal Studios? How can this be?

It’s part brand loyalty to Disney for sure. It’s hard for me to imagine visiting Orlando without going to Disney World. Though we have been to Legoland a couple of times and really enjoyed our experiences there. Ultimately, it is really difficult for us to justify spending more money on a trip to Universal Studios. Although I desperately want to visit Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, we have yet to make the jump. This is going to be a major consideration for our family when making a decision about whether to renew our Disney passes this year. My older boys are getting more into Harry Potter. Plus they all love high-thrill roller coasters, which Universal has plenty of

Additionally, taking a break day or a pool day is a piece of advice I often give to others. Yet I rarely follow this advice myself. Annual passes give us nearly unlimited access to the parks. So when we’re in Orlando, we visit the parks! It would probably make our trips more enjoyable and less tiring if we could be disciplined enough to take a break. Planning a trip where you’re paying for a set number of park days makes it easier to plan for a break day that you’ll actually follow through on. 

entrance sign to polynesian resort with palm trees and flowers
Disney pass-holder discounts are for room-only reservations, not packages (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

4. Seasonal promotions don’t make sense

Disney has become very savvy over the years in making data-driven decisions on promotions. When bookings are low for a given date range, they offer discounts for certain groups like Florida Residents, Annual Passholders, Disney Visa cardholders, and even Disney+ subscribers. As the date ranges draw nearer, they often add promotions for the general public as well. 

Passholders do have access to special deals and discounts on room-only vacation packages. Sometimes the room rates are great, but other times they’re not that impressive. When Disney offers really generous promotions, they usually involve room and ticket packages. This means that pass holders can’t take advantage of the savings. Plus, Disney is famous for its $200 deposit on vacation packages. Regardless of the total cost of your trip, reserving the package only costs $200. This is a big advantage if you book way in advance and need time to save up for your vacation. Since pass-holder discounts are for room-only reservations, the cost to book is equivalent to your first night’s stay. That’s well over $200 in most cases. 

Sometimes I wonder if our family would be happier splurging on one really big weeklong Disney vacation at our dream resort. We could plan the trip such that we could take advantage of one of Disney’s more generous promotions. It’s true that the cost per park day would be much higher than what we’re spending now. However, we’d probably spend less annually and therefore have room in our budget for a second vacation or trip to a different destination. We’d also be conserving our paid time off from work. 

mickey with three boys at the contemporary dining experience
My two-year-olds sometimes wake up in the morning and say, “I want to go to Disney World today!” (photo by Kirby Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

5. I might be spoiling my kids (and myself)

I work with kids at an elementary school, and my students go on trips to Disney World from time to time. Most of them get so excited. Maybe it’s their first trip or maybe they haven’t been since they were much younger. My kids get excited, too. In fact, my two-year-olds sometimes wake up in the morning and say, “I want to go to Disney World today!” Me too, buddy. Me too. 

The fact is, when you take your kids to Disney World every other month or so, some of the shiny and new wears off. They just aren’t capable of getting as excited as their classmates who weren’t just there last month. As for me, I’m kind of ruined for most other theme parks. We visited Dollywood a few years ago and I spent much of the day grumbling because the lines were impossibly long. Do you want to ride the train? Hop in line behind these 600 people and hope for the best. Your kids are hungry because outside snacks are not allowed? That’ll be a 20-minute wait in line for popcorn. Yikes. 

And don’t even get me started on our local Six Flags. Sure, the kids enjoy the roller coasters. But then the ride operator whacks my two-year-old in the back of the head to measure his height for a ride. No thanks. Take me back to the most magical place on Earth. 

Photo of author

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kirby Russell

Kirby Russell is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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