When Will Disney World Resume Annual Pass Sales?
“When will Walt Disney World Annual Pass sales resume?” is a common reader question. Many WDW fans are itching to purchase passes, especially new Floridians or those who planned on waiting to buy. We’ll share the company’s official position and speculate as to when APs might return. (Updated February 18, 2023.)
As you likely recall, Walt Disney World suspended sales of all Annual Passes during its closure. However, the Annual Pass program at Walt Disney World did not end when the parks reopened nor were outstanding APs terminated. Many APs proactively cancelled their passes and requested refunds. Upon reopening, sales of new Annual Passes were “paused” while renewals were allowed.
More recently, Walt Disney World resumed Annual Pass sales last fall with new names, higher prices, restrictions, and other details. In so doing, the company dropped the straightforward precious-metal tier names in favor of a nonsensical hierarchy of fictional characters and concepts. Unfortunately, we should not expect the new names to be “undone” when APs return.
Back when the new Annual Passes were announced, Walt Disney World stated: “Please note as we continue to manage attendance to provide a great experience for everyone, at any time, Annual Passes may be unavailable for purchase.”
Sales of Walt Disney World’s three most expensive Annual Passes are all currently paused. This means that the Disney Pirate Pass, Sorcerer Pass, and Incredi-Pass are all unavailable for purchase and have been for over a year. Only the lowest-level Disney Pixie Dust Pass, which is available exclusively to Florida residents and valid only on weekdays, remains available for new sales as of right now.
Per Walt Disney World: “We are pausing new sales of select Annual Passes. All current Passholders can renew into any of our four pass types – at their renewal rate – and continue to visit using their pass. We will continue to evaluate the return of new sales for these passes. Please check back for the latest updates.”
By Disney’s own admission, the decision to suspend new AP sales occurred due to anticipated crowds at Walt Disney World during busier times of the year. For its part, Walt Disney World was correct in projecting heavy crowds and suspending AP sales to avoid running out of reservations on more dates. If organic demand were allowed to play out, attendance would’ve been even higher.
Crowds were incredibly heavy during the heart of last year’s holiday season, and are beginning to return. The Worst Week of Winter 2023 at Walt Disney World is now here, and the peak dates of Spring Break 2023 Crowds at Walt Disney World are right around the corner in less than one month.
On an even more positive note, almost all dates in March and April 2023 are green on the Disney Park Pass calendar as of right now. (Except for TRON Lightcycle Run preview days in Magic Kingdom, where reservations have been purposefully pulled.) Some of those will undoubtedly turn yellow, with Orange County Spring Break and Easter being prime candidates. However, as of right now, nothing is booked up–and that is significant.
As we’ve noted before, Annual Passholders are advantageous to Walt Disney World, but not in a constrained capacity environment at the expense of tourists. Statistically speaking, per visit spending is significantly higher among resort guests and day ticket holders than APs. It thus makes sense that Walt Disney World would want to prioritize those demographics and not fill the parks with Annual Passholders at the expense of more lucrative vacationers during busier seasons.
For Walt Disney World, the downside of delaying the resumption of Annual Pass sales would be reduced revenue if or when the parks have surplus capacity. The potential upside would be not having to suspend regular ticket sales again when travel heats up again in 2023. With per visit spending being significantly higher among tourists, there’s a tremendous opportunity cost in allocating reservations to APs in a fully booked environment.
However, Walt Disney World continues to restore capacity by bringing back entertainment, dining options, and also filling positions in the parks that were previously short-staffed. All of this helps increase park capacity, which puts less stress on the reservation system by increasing the supply of Disney Park Passes. All of this plus normalizing demand and less ‘revenge travel’ means there is less of an opportunity cost in Annual Passholders taking up space in the parks.
At one point, some Disney fans believed that lawsuits over the reservation systems for Annual Passes on both coasts were causing Disney to suspend AP sales at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This suits allege that Disney misled and deceived pass purchasers by artificially limiting capacity and restricting reservations, and created a second tier of blockout dates by virtue of allocating reservations differently for passholders and regular ticket holders, in order to maximize the number of tickets that Disney can sell.
At one point, it was plausible that the company paused Annual Pass sales on both coasts while waiting the resolution of this case to mitigate legal exposure. However, this theory has now been debunked. For one thing, Disney never paused the lowest tier of AP sales on either coast. If the company truly feared a massive class action lawsuit, no passes would be sold at all–not just some of them. For another thing, Disneyland resumed all Magic Key sales briefly last November and again in early 2023. The lawsuits are substantially similar, and there’s no reason they would cause the suspension of sales on one coast but not the other.
On a tangentially related note, the resumption of Magic Key Annual Pass sales at Disneyland could be a potential sneak peek of what Walt Disney World fans will have to endure when AP sales for the Florida parks resume. Back in November when Magic Keys were briefly sold, virtual queue wait times were 10-12 hours.
In January 2023, wait times were shorter–but still measured in the hours on the first day they resumed. Within about a week, some tiers of Magic Keys had already sold out again. The resumption of APs at Disneyland occurred right on the timeline that we previously expected both coasts to resume Annual Pass sales. Frankly, we’re a bit surprised that Walt Disney World didn’t follow suit–but that suggests AP sales aren’t too far away for Walt Disney World.
The more straightforward explanation remains that AP sales are suspended due to internal concerns about Disney’s ability to meet demand for regular tickets once Annual Passes are available again. As long as the parks aren’t operating at full capacity and there’s the potential for unsatisfied demand among higher-spending tourists, this is the simplest and clearest explanation for the lack of Annual Passes.
With all of that said, we think there are two possible timeframes for the return of Annual Passes at Walt Disney World. The first is that Annual Pass sales resume after April 17, 2023. This is not necessarily the precise date that APs will return to Walt Disney World, it’s simply the earliest date we expect them at this point.
Previously, Walt Disney World resumed AP sales during the off-season, which gave the company a window to test and adjust the program and reservation availability during a window when crowds were low. When AP sales resume again in 2023, it will almost certainly occur during another such off-season window.
As for the significance of April 17, that’s after the height of spring break season and Easter 2023. And…just in time for Tax Day!
This is the next window of lower crowds, which will last following the conclusion of spring break until the start of summer season in mid-June 2023. Not every day or week within that timeframe will be slow–it’s more like ‘shoulder’ season–but it won’t be as bad as Presidents’ Day/Mardi Gras, Easter, Summer, etc.
This is also after the opening of TRON Lightcycle Run and start of EPCOT’s Flower & Garden Festival. In short, the end of April or beginning of May 2023 is the perfect window of opportunity for Walt Disney World to resume AP sales.
Additionally, Walt Disney World has discounted Florida resident tickets that are currently on sale, and are valid through April 27, 2023. This is a pretty common special offer that’s typically available right around this time of year.
Walt Disney World crowds do not increase after April 27. To the contrary, the entire month of May 2023 will be shoulder season; it’s a slower time between the peaks of spring break and summer at Walt Disney World. Selling Annual Passes at the tail end of this discounted ticket deal, or shortly after it concludes would be a smart move–and a way to spike demand during what would otherwise be a relatively laid back month in the parks.
With that said, there are so many other variables at play that could cause Walt Disney World to continue waiting to bring back Annual Passes. Ongoing attendance, guest spending, forward-looking projections, and even the Florida Resident tickets selling well could impact the return date of APs.
If business continues booming even without Annual Passes, the company may decide that it’s advantageous to continue waiting to resume sales. In such a scenario, we view it as unlikely that APs would return in June or July 2023. Instead, Walt Disney World is more likely to wait for the busy summer tourist season to end, restarting sales in mid-August or September 2023. This is simply to say that anyone anxiously awaiting the return of Annual Passes might want to temper their expectations.
One unfortunate reality reinforced in the last 2 years is that demand for Walt Disney World is fairly insatiable right now. Attendance, hotel occupancy, and guest spending have not been impeded in the slightest by the range of unpopular decisions, cutbacks, or price increases.
Many fans–us included–keep waiting for some of Walt Disney World’s decisions to come around and “bite them” with consumers. At least in the short term, there are no signs of that happening. Long term is a potentially different story, but with all of this success and strong sales in spite of everything, we may be waiting a while. Then again, things can change in a hurry, and last year was a time of unprecedented consumer spending across the board that seems unsustainable.
In any case, it’s safe to say that Annual Passes will return at some point, and will not be retired entirely. Walt Disney World APs have never presented the same issues as at Disneyland, for relatively straightforward reasons. Beyond double the parks, there are significantly fewer Annual Passholders at Walt Disney World.
And many of them aren’t local, anyway. Disney Vacation Club members and New Yorkers who come down three times per year and book hotels every time are much more valuable to the company than Disneyland locals who drop-in for a few hours and don’t even eat dinner in the park.
With that said, I’d stop short of saying that Walt Disney World “needs” Annual Passholders. They’re an asset at times, helpful in guaranteeing attendance (and revenue) during slow stretches. However, that’s not always the case.
There are times when Annual Passholders can compound tourist-driven crowd problems, like during the popular Christmas season. In the past several years, we’ve seen Walt Disney World introduce more blockouts and raise prices on most Annual Passes–sometimes by hundreds of dollars at a time. There’s a reason for that.
There have been a lot of headlines recently about homebuyers “fleeing to Florida,” but this phenomenon is nothing new. Back when Annual Pass prices increased two years ago in February and the June before that, we mentioned the ongoing population explosion in Central Florida. Even then, several cities in the Orlando metro area were among the fastest growing in the United States. Many of these new Florida residents are (and were) people leaving the Northeast and Midwest.
Our commentary at the time was this: “If new home prices and construction around Walt Disney World are any indication, these transplants are also on the more affluent end of the spectrum. (Behind Magic Kingdom, there’s been a proliferation of subdivisions with no end in sight—most of these have homes starting at over $300,000 and ranging up to $800,000.)”
Those price points now seem quaint (add another couple hundred thousand dollars on), but the sentiment still rings true. And this was long before “Zoom Towns” had entered our collective vernacular. If you’ve seen any of those ‘fleeing to Florida’ stories in the news, you’re undoubtedly aware that this trend has only accelerated in the last two years. In fact, many of you who have been asking when Walt Disney World will resume AP sales are fresh transplants from the Midwest or Northeast.
Ultimately, our prediction is that Walt Disney World resumes Annual Pass sales at higher price points around late April or early May 2023. Failing that, the next most logical time for resuming AP sales is not until mid-August 2023, but we do not think Walt Disney World will wait that long. These are two prime windows of opportunity in the off-season that are the most likely, as it’s improbable that Walt Disney World will begin Annual Pass sales right before any prime tourist season.
At some point, things will normalize. Staffing shortages will be fully resolved, pent-up demand will fizzle out, and consumer spending will fall back to normal levels. All of that could happen abruptly in the coming months or it could last until mid-2023. For the better part of a year, we’ve been wondering when demand would slow…and it’s only grown stronger during that time.
Of course, that’s just our guess from the outside looking in. I never would have predicted this happening back when Annual Pass sales resumed, as it seemed the worst of the reservation availability problems were already in the rearview mirror at that point. Then again, it would seem that Walt Disney World also did not predict those problems, as if they did, they wouldn’t have resumed AP sales in the first place!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
When do you expect Walt Disney World to resume new Annual Pass sales? Think sometime in late April or early May 2023 is a safe bet, or will Walt Disney World be more cautious this time, waiting all the way until Fall 2023 to ensure there’s ample capacity for more lucrative tourists? Would you purchase a Walt Disney World AP right now? 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!
DVC owner since 2000, and was season Passholders until 2020. We went from traveling to Disney 2-3 trips a year (7-10 days a trip), to 1 trip every 2 years. Prices for passes and tickets are out of control. We spend our money and vacation time on other places now. Disney loses over 15K a year from us now….
Member 2004 sold my points booked bush gardens and universal
Once TRON opens, if anything, MK will continue to see rising crowds, not lower, not after a new ride opened. I’m new to Florida (as of March 2022), and one of the reasons for moving here was for APs. What I wouldn’t have guessed, after reading this article and reading between the lines, that Disney would join the price gouging band wagon and act just like any other greedy corporation and cater to non-AP folk, cause “…they spend the most”. At the end of the day, Disney is a corporation but I honestly thought they would rise above the greed, something ALL other corporations just can’t resist. Silly me for thinking that they would be different. There is no reprieve from greed and it’s such a sad thing…well…not ALL corporations…
See, not only does Universal Studio cater to ALL customers EQUALLY, they have recently announced that they’re giving their employees a very fair wage, whereas Disney is squabbling over A SINGULAR DOLLAR RAISE. $1.00!! So I do take a bit of what I said back; Not ALL corporations…just Universal Studios, and that’s where ALLLLLL that money that was suppose to be coming from excited AP owners, will be and has been going instead. I have read SOOO many posts of, now, former AP members switching to Universal Studios. With Mario World AND the opening of Epic Universe, yeah, many forsaken former AP owners has been and will be going to instead. Me and my family of 20, who were planning a family reunion at Disney, are now going to Universal instead.
And as hard as it is to walk away from Disney, THAT is the moment where everyone needs to nut up and just go. It won’t make a dent if you’re looking at it in the perspective of crowd numbers, but it will for Disney’s bottom-line if large families, in unison, would go to Universal instead, like my family and I. It’s not impossible to teach corporations a lesson by hitting them where it hurts. Look at the backlash Starbucks received when it was revealed how horribly they’ve treated their employees. My family and I just stopped getting coffee from them. Period. Easy.
If anything, it should be even easier to hit Disney where it hurts. See with coffee it’s $5.00 here and there. So you have the money to get coffee everyday, that’s the temptation. With Disney, full blown vacation is in the thousands. That’s a huge amount of money that will be noticeably gone from your account. And for what? Crowded parks? Half the experience because some ride went down…again? Extraordinarily long lines even for the simplest of rides? Yeah, no thanks. I’ve been once, I loved it, and I will cherish my first ever Disney vacation (April 2021), would love to go back but Disney has made it very clear that they do not want me, or people like me who are interested in APs, to go. At least not until they have sucked the rest of the non-AP visitors dry. THEN that’s when they’ll start crawling back, to…who? In a perfect united world, there would be no one left standing in line for APs. That’s how Disney will learn; Pain. Well deserved too.
My wife and I are FL residents. We’d like to buy APs. Is it possible to buy the currently available pass, and then call Disney to upgrade to another type of AP? We do not want to be stuck with the current pass that blocks out all weekends.
My understanding is if you currently buy the Pixie Dust pass, you will be able to renew to any level of pass, but you are stuck with the Pixie Dust for the first year until it’s time to renew.
Disney wants you to spend more to make the owners and CEOs rich . what happy place. no even the other parks have done this. sea world actually gives food away and money to guest lol. why is Disney so gold hording and greedy it’s disgusting.
just greed.not even the other theme parks are doin this. Disney is the biggest money cry baby of them all. I wish people would realize that and bash them for it. I went recently it was ridiculously packed. they make so much money it’s the CEOs that are to blame. wake up people stop being so washed and blind.
UK reader here. Don’t suppose you’ve any insight as to whether the 21 day ticket will return for travellers from the Uk? There’s a new “Magic” ticket that allows entry for any 14 days over an 18 day period but doesn’t help if you want to nip in for a final hour or two of departure day to get those last few moments of Disney before heading home. We mostly stay either 14/21 nights
DVC member here anxiously awaiting AP sales – we have 8 nights at Boulder Ridge starting in mid June. Park Hopper Tickets are currently priced at $650+ Disney will lose out if we don’t get them because then we will not be returning for a week in April 2024.
I have already sold my points this year booked 2 weeks with universal my daughter did the college program she said that it is sad what politics disney has turned to not the happiest place on earth anymore
It’s possible they’ll resume after Tron fully opens and spring breaks are all over. There’s not likely to be any sort of special preview or event for AP’s for a long time thereafter. If summer bookings are really down (hence the somewhat higher discounts and dining card offers), it would make some sense.
This extended “pause” could also be a long term strategy help keep people renewing vs. invoking the “buy an AP every other year” strategy. Not wanting to risk losing it is a strong incentive.
“This extended “pause” could also be a long term strategy help keep people renewing vs. invoking the “buy an AP every other year” strategy. Not wanting to risk losing it is a strong incentive.”
Absolutely. We’ve seen exactly that play out at Disneyland, hearing from a lot of people who otherwise would’ve taken a break that they felt compelled to buy because they didn’t know if they’d be able to at a later date.
Could this “extended pause strategy” also be the reason AP sales to DVC owners haven’t yet resumed? I don’t own DVC, but I have friends who do, and they’re highly annoyed that APs aren’t available to them. I would think that, for goodwill reasons if nothing else, sales to this group would be first to resume, but so far that has not been the case.
I think this is the next best guess in late April early May is when we can expect them to resume AP sales after Tron is open. But at this rate it’s anyone’s guess when they will come back