The biggest Disney World unknown: The future of annual passes and the warning sings to watch for

Annual Passholders know the value of what they have and so the executives who run Disney World. That makes the future a lot murkier and unknown.
Disney Annual Passholder entrance sign. Credit: Brian Miller
Disney Annual Passholder entrance sign. Credit: Brian Miller /

There is something special about being an Annual Passholder to Disney World. Enjoying the four parks at various times throughout the year doesn't take a lot of pre-planning and while you may end up visiting on rather busy days, the fact you didn't spend a lot of money on that once-a-year vacation makes it better.

Now there are rumors starting to pop up that suggest APs may be changing or going away altogether. It's a murky and dark future that frankly, we simply don't enough about yet.

At Disneyland, a lot of changes were made when the parks re-opened after COVID and the APs that originally were sold, are gone. Replaced with what is called "Magic Keys" the three types of AP Magic Keys are Inspire, Believe, and Enchant.

On the Disneyland website, those three passes are currently open only to renewal or California residents. In Orlando, the highest tier of their four-tier Disney World APs, are open to out-of-state guests. All of the others require you to be a Florida resident.

That Disney Incredi-Pass can be purchased by out of state guests for a whopping $1,449.00.

APs never returned to normal after COVID shut the parks down and then reopened with strict guidelines and restrictions. Now there is speculation that Disney will eventually start to phase out APs altogether, if not for out-of-state guests only.

Starting in January 2024, guests will no longer be required to have reservations for date-based tickets but AP holders will still need to make reservations while Disney World has stated that mid-January will begin something called "Good-to-Go" dates, reality says AP holders will still have to follow reservation guidelines in some capacity throughout the year.

Will Disney World do away with Annual Passholder passes completely?

It is a possibility. Capacity at the Disney World parks is not dropping and Disney makes a lot more money on day-to-day admission tickets than they do with AP visits. If the parks continue to see high guest traffic, trimming attendance could start with AP guests.

While it may seem somewhat logical to change the current AP tiers and options, reality says that doing away with APs altogether at Disney World would not make much sense for the company. APs come with upfront payment options and a monthly payment option. This is guaranteed income and while APs are less likely to buy a bunch of souveniers, they tend to spend as much or more money on drinks, dining, and other events throughout the year.

Overall, APs may not be here to "stay" but chances are they will be here for quite a while even if changes are made to the tiers and availability and that is what AP holders should watch for.

Disney isn't likely to make a sudden change that would eliminate APs but changing availability and readjusting the tiers and even the benefits would be an early warning sign.

Should you renew your APs when they become due? That's a great question that many AP holders ask. In many cases, guests may not be attending the parks for months after renewal and that is money thrown away. However, inevitable changes, price hikes, and the potential of Disney ending or suspending new AP purchases are always something to be aware of.