It’s been a roller coaster couple of months for Walt Disney World Annual Passholders. Ongoing frustrations coupled with just enough nuggets of good news so as to not alienate Disney’s most loyal guests completely. There story here is much of the same, as we’re back with the latest on new discounts & an AP magnet, plus Park Pass availability–or lack thereof. On that final note, we discuss should you cancel your Annual Pass?!
Let’s begin with discounts for Walt Disney World Annual Passholders, recapping what was previously offered. Through September 30, 2020, Annual Passholders Can Save Up to 40% on Walt Disney World Hotels.These are some of the lowest prices we’ve seen on hotels–especially Deluxe & Villa Resorts–in a long time, and that actually presents the best “use case” for an Annual Pass right now.
If you’re not an AP or Florida resident and are thinking about a trip to Walt Disney World, you will pay full price on a hotel if booking directly through Walt Disney World. If you’re an AP trying to access the parks without a hotel stay, you’ll have limited options for Disney Park Pass reservations. If you’re an Annual Passholder booking an hotel stay, that’s the sweet spot–you’ll get a great hotel deal and access to virtually unlimited Park Pass availability!
Continuing with the deals, Walt Disney World released a 30% off discount on merchandise purchases at most Walt Disney World stores for Annual Passholders with only limited exclusions. Normally, Walt Disney World Annual Passholders receive a 20% off merchandise discount as part of AP perks, so this amounts to an extra 10% off.
This 30% off is currently valid through August 14, 2020, but we would be more surprised if it’s not extended than if it is extended. If anything, we expect more attempts to entice Annual Passholders to spend money while in the parks. Offering 20% off the 2020 Taste of EPCOT Food & Wine Festival booths seems logical given the high menu prices (and the fact that the first wave of bloggers/vloggers/etc. is now over).
The latest discount is that Walt Disney World Annual Passholders can receive 30% off select merchandise purchased on ShopDisney.com now through August 14, 2020. Basically, the same deal as above, but for those who can’t get to Walt Disney World right now.
A couple of things worth noting here. First, there are a lot of exclusions (see above). So many that we’re not typing them out here. Notable ones include face masks, art, collectibles, books, games, movies, Mandalorian items (no Baby Yoda?!), and skateboard decks, among many other things. There are also no discounts on Precious Moments, which is weird because I feel like they should be paying us to take that nightmare fuel.
Second, it appears that some of those exclusions are not accurate and also that free shipping and other discounts do stack with the AP code. We were able to use the SHIPMAGIC and DRVCMEMBER codes after signing in with linked accounts and using the AP30OFF code.
We say “appears” because this worked when we tested it in our cart, but we don’t actually want to buy any merchandise, so we didn’t complete the order. (When I purchase ten Precious Moments figures, I prefer to do so in person so I can see the looks of terror and judgment in the Cast Member’s eyes.) It might error out when hitting submit. We’d love to hear your successes/failures on this front.
Next, as a special “welcome back” surprise, Walt Disney World Annual Passholders will be mailed a Tinker Bell magnet later this month. Our assumption here is that this will be sent out after August 11 to guests with active APs.
Interestingly, no word on the Flower & Garden AP magnets, which are not being distributed in Epcot. As a reminder, the Donald Duck with Spike the Bee magnet was to be available from March 4 until April 19, while the Orange Bird magnet was to be offered from April 20 until June 1. There’s no way Walt Disney World ran out of the first magnet and there are presumably boxes of the Orange Bird one just sitting somewhere backstage. Maybe Disney will get in the eBay pirate game, hawking them for $80 each. Orange Bird could save Disney’s fourth quarter!
Next up, Disney Park Pass availability for Annual Passholders. We’ve been monitoring this over the last month-plus, and things have not been looking good. There have been a couple of “availability dumps” to Annual Passholders, but after that inventory has been exhausted, it’s back to slim pickings aside from random cancellations.
As of this morning, the earliest an Annual Passholder without a resort reservation could book a visit to Epcot is August 18, 2020. The earliest possible visit to Animal Kingdom is August 25, 2020. Magic Kingdom isn’t an option until August 31, 2020. The earliest visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios wouldn’t be until September 8, 2020.
This is despite no shortage of same-day Disney Park Pass availability for resort guests and theme park ticket holders for literally every single day between now and September 2021. There’s also no shortage of “available space” in the parks–only Disney’s Hollywood Studios is coming close to hitting its reduced capacity cap. The parks are still ghost towns, with some weekends being maybe 2/10 in terms of crowds. Most weekdays are not even 1/10.
This paradoxical phenomenon has been occurring because there are three separate “buckets” for Disney Park Pass reservations, and only the Annual Passholder bucket has had any degree of serious demand. Inventory is dynamic within each bucket, which means that a cancellation by an AP results in a space opening up (having a strong refresh game can yield favorable results). However, inventory is not regularly reallocated among the three buckets. Aside from a couple of one-off dumps of availability, capacity has not been shifted around.
It makes complete sense that Walt Disney World would allocate plenty of Park Pass inventory to resort guests and ticket holders. Those guests absolutely should be prioritized above Annual Passholders–I don’t think anyone seriously disputes this.
Statistically speaking, guests on vacation spend more than in-state Annual Passholders. On the quarterly earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek once again reiterated this. However, Chapek also stated that out of state travelers are making up a lower percentage of guests than expected (~50%) whereas Floridians are making up a higher percentage (~50%) of all guests in the parks on any given day.
Chapek indicated that vacation package and resort cancellations have been higher than anticipated and utilization of the parks has been lower than expected. Finally, he stated that despite all of this, in-park spending has been very strong due to pent-up demand (and, let’s be honest, eBay pirates).
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at all of this and think the easy fix is last-minute reallocations of Disney Park Pass availability to APs. Yes, they spend less on average than tourists, but the latter group is cancelling trips. Moreover, park utilization is low and in-park spending is high. The very obvious solution is to fill in that surplus space with APs, who will at least spend something. Like seats on an airplane, park capacity is perishable–if it goes unfilled, it’s lost. Something is better than nothing.
Even before the earnings call confirmed all of this, we’ve been discussing it for weeks, stressing patience to Annual Passholders. Our assumption is that, eventually, Walt Disney World will figure things out and start reallocating surplus Park Pass availability to the Annual Passholder bucket around 24-48 hours before the date in question on a rolling basis.
It’s absolutely confounding that this has not yet happened. Either Walt Disney World is doing this deliberately to project the appearance to tourists that they will never have any troubles booking Park Pass (unlikely) or the IT infrastructure for the Disney Park Pass system was not built for dynamically reallocating inventory in this manner (that’s our bet!). Still, why not more regular “availability dumps” like we saw a couple weeks ago?
This brings us to the question of whether you should cancel your Walt Disney World Annual Pass. Our past advice has been “wait and see” as there was no real urgency to cancel unless you already knew the near-term guest experience was not for you.
However, the clock is ticking. Annual Passholders only have through August 11, 2020 to cancel their passes by calling V.I.PASSHOLDER Support. We’re still holding out a sliver of hope that Walt Disney World will “fix” the Park Pass inventory system, but maybe they don’t see a problem? Perhaps they don’t care? Maybe there is no easy solution?
Ultimately, whether you cancel or not is obviously a personal decision. If you’re an out of state AP who always books a hotel stay, the status quo is pretty swell for you! If you’re a Floridian who never books a room…this is beyond frustrating.
Not resolving this problem is also a self-defeating move for Walt Disney World. While this whole reopening process began with Walt Disney World finding new and unique ways of alienating virtually every demographic of guests and fans, they’ve mostly rectified and turned things around with other guests.
However, Disney continues to alienate, discourage, and take for granted the local Annual Passholder population. This makes absolutely zero sense at a time when the parks, by Disney’s own admission, are leaning heavily on Floridians. That’s unlikely to change in the next couple of years, so let’s hope Disney fixes this in the near future. A Tinker Bell magnet is nice, but it’s insufficient in nullifying the infuriating experiences of attempting to book park reservations, obtain partial refunds, etc. (Okay, maybe the Precious Moments discount makes things okay!)
Are you an Annual Passholder? Thoughts on the merchandise and resort discounts? What’s your take on the Park Pass fiasco? Will you be cancelling your Annual Pass due to the lack of Park Pass availability? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!