** Yes, I know this is considered a ‘first-world problem’ and there are greater tragedies in the world. I am thankful for the years we were able to visit Walt Disney World. However, the thoughts I am expressing here are ones that I believe many other Annual Passholders are feeling too. I felt the need to share my concerns. Thanks for reading. **
After eleven years of family adventures at Walt Disney World, we have decided *not* to renew our seasonal annual passes this year. The place that has served as our ‘escape’ from everyday life and the place we can always count on to bring us tons of fun just isn’t the same. For many reasons. It was a tough decision to not renew, but in the end – it is the best decision for our family. And yes, I’ve cried about it. Often.
As a native Floridian, I had an annual pass to Walt Disney World for many years of my childhood. Then, the dreaded ‘broke college student’ and ‘young professional’ years came along when it just wasn’t financially possible. (I know you can relate to that one.)
When I became a mom, I knew I wanted my children to grow up experiencing the parks just as I did. I’m incredibly thankful that we were able to make that dream a reality for my girls. However, over the past three years, things have changed the way I feel about the parks and the Walt Disney World Resort as a whole.
When I told those close to me that my family had decided *not* to renew our Annual Passes, the first question was “Why?, “Are you okay?” and “What’s next?”Disney Parks are just a part of my life. It’s tricky to explain, and there’s no easy answer, but I’m ready to give it a try.
Let’s take a look at why my family and I are not renewing our Walt Disney World Annual Passes –
So. Many. People.
I’m not sure if it is because of the 50th anniversary or everyone making up for lost travel after Covid-19, but the amount of people at Walt Disney World these days is just unbelievable. Hoards of people. Crowds. And germs, oh my gosh – the germs!
The days of hopping on to a ride with little to no wait are long gone. Now, it is a literal race to hit the lines before wait times get out of hand. And heavens forbid you want to eat at a quick service location for lunch at a normal hour. Practically impossible (although, you can use the mobile app – more on that in a bit.)
Waking up at 6:30 a.m. just to take advantage of short lines at rope drop does not sound like a vacation to me. Yet, that’s exactly what we did on our last visit. Every morning. There was so much planning and logistics involved that it eliminated all of the spontaneity of being on vacation. And that leads me right into the next reason we aren’t renewing….
This one is a biggie for me. Back in the day, FastPass+ was everyone’s best friend. Book a ride time weeks/days in advance or even make a spur of the moment decision either in or out of the park, use the FP+ entrance lane at the ride and boom – you’ve skipped the line in minutes. Easy peasy and most importantly – FREE!
Now, its new predecessor, Lightning Lane is approximately $15 per day, per person and complicated. In order to get the rides you want at the time you want – you must be on the mobile app at 7 a.m. and hope for the best. For select rides, you can just purchase a ride on it separately from Lightning Lane. You know, on top of the park ticket you’ve already purchased. If you visit often as we do as Annual Passholders, this adds up. Wouldn’t it be a great AP benefit? Universal Orlando offers theirs to top-tier passholders daily after 4 p.m.
For many families that only visit once in a lifetime or every few years, maybe it is worth it – but considering it used to be free makes it a big NO for our family.
On our last visit, it would have cost my family $60 per day to use the faux FastPass. Plus, the fine print on Lightning Lane says that depending on the day, you may only get access to approximately three rides. No. Thank. You.
And thanks to Lightning Lane, the wait times for rides are atrocious these days. Over a two-hour wait for some rides? Not worth it – no matter the ride. Being spontaneous and enjoying a ride are gone.
I Miss Cast Member Interactions
I have a blog and do online content for a few outlets, I’m on my computer and phone a lot. But when I am on vacation, the last thing I want to do is have my face in my phone. With the new Lightning Lane options, wait times, park reservations, show times posted in the app, mobile ordering for dining, reading a restaurant menu, mobile check-in for dining and also resorts and more – I’ve felt like I’m doing more and more on my phone during visits. I miss interacting with Cast Members and truly soaking in my environment.
While, yes, going mobile can save time, Cast Members are the ones that make the magic come to life at Walt Disney World. With our phones being such a part of a Parks visit, we are losing those interactions and magic. And this is no slight on the Cast Members, I am HUGE fan of them. They are the link that creates and provides the magic during visits to the Parks.
Rising Costs, Less Benefits
The cost of Annual Passes has increased every year since we purchased them, so I am not surprised by the rising rates. But it sure has gotten out of hand over the past eleven years. We used to be able to stay at the All-Star Sports Resort for approx. $70/night. Now those rates are closer to $200/night. For the same room (with no housekeeping these days) and that’s not including the newly instated resort parking fee.
However, it is the decrease in benefits year after year that has surprised and angered me.
To name a few: requiring advanced park reservations, limiting the hours for park hopping, only allowing early (and late) Extra Magic Hours for resort guests and my biggest peeve when staying at a Disney Resort – paying for resort parking. The number of dining options that accept Passholder discounts has decreased as well. The amount of the actual discount has also fluctuated over the years too, making it an inconsistent benefit. The prices keep going up, the benefits keep slipping away.
I’m Sad to Say Goodbye, But It Is Time
I am heartbroken to say goodbye to my favorite place and I’m sad to no longer have the option to escape there when things get overwhelming. But, there’s gotta be a time when people say “enough is enough” and for my family and me that time is now.
I am going to miss so many things about being at the Parks. My favorite place to sit on Main Street U.S.A., the candy smells from the Confectionery, my girls getting their haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop at Magic Kingdom. Riding the Kilimanjaro Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the fantastic Festival of the Arts held every year at Epcot, watching Muppet Vision 3-D with Molly and laughing like I’ve never seen it before, although it is the same show I watched when I was a kid.
We’ll be back one day. Soon, I hope. But for now, it is time for us to find a new place to make memories.