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5 Steps of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Strategy To Axe Passholders

The Southern California annual passport is no longer sold at Disneyland, but if you're careful, you can still renew it.

Is the Disney Annual Passport under attack?

The days of deciding to throw up a theme park one day and start construction the next are over at the Walt Disney Company. Like me, they are logical and methodical, with their decisions reasoned out and planned weeks, months, and decades in advance.

So let me share with you their ‘secret’ formula to thin out the Disney AP population, including those Southern California Annual Passholders they no longer need or want. I’ve also included a bonus 6th step from October 2015 that will affect all park guests, but especially those with Premium passes.

1. Raise Annual Passport Prices Year After Year

Disneyland has had an annual passport (AP) since 1984, starting just two years after they got rid of the A-E ticket system and went to a all-day, all-attraction pass. In those early years, annual passes cost $140 and stayed around that range until 2003, two years after Disney California Adventure opened.

Since then, the price for annual passes at Disneyland have increased from $10 -$140 per year. In that time, the Southern California (SoCal) Annual Passport has risen from $105 to $459. This increase in price can’t help but have the added effect of winnowing down the mass of SoCal AP holders, some downgrading to the less costly SoCal Select AP and others cancelling their pass altogether.

Not only has the price of AP’s increased, the price of ‘blockout day’ tickets has gone up significantly as well in the past several years, from $59 in 2011 to $84 in 2013. More on why this is significant later.

2. Advertise Cancellation Of The Southern California Annual Passport

2015 Disneyland Annual Passport Prices
Ticket prices have increased and the Southern California Annual Passport is still not available for purchase at Disneyland.

Out of nowhere in May 2014, spokesmen announced that not only were Disneyland ticket prices increasing across the board, but they would no longer be selling the SoCal AP. This caused mass hysteria in the local Disneyland AP community.

The question on everyone’s lips, and what Disney tried to make damn hard to find, was: can I renew my SoCal pass if I already have one?

I searched the internet top to bottom for an answer after the price increase, and while some sites briefly mentioned possible renewal options, nobody reputable declared it with conviction. Only after calling Disney AP services directly was I able to get a straight answer. Which leads us to the next strategic step…

3. Don’t Make Renewal Options Easy Or Obvious

Let me be the first person on the internet to give you a straight answer on this issue:

YOU CAN STILL RENEW YOUR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ANNUAL PASSPORT!

What you can not do is buy a brand new SoCal AP right out of the gate. You have to start at any of the other AP levels and then, after one year, you can renew your AP as a SoCal pass. Confusing, right?

News outlets and online forums around the world seem content to simply regurgitate Disney’s intentional, semi-ambiguous answer on this topic. After the AP policy change, heading to the Disneyland annual passport website will hardly clear things up either.

While you can find a wealth of information about the SoCal Select AP, the regular SoCal has been deleted from the AP ticket store (along with another pass we’ll get to in a minute).  There is no renewal link for the SoCal pass and it doesn’t specify if you can still finance your AP (you can!), which my family does and is a big selling point in our ability and desire to have an annual pass.

If you’d like more guidance on this particular topic, I wrote a whole guide on renewals just to clear up this point.

This brings us to the next step in Disney’s AP demolition plan, which was also ‘hidden in plain sight’ from Annual Passholders…

4. Quietly Cancel Sales Of ‘Blockout Day’ Tickets

‘Blockout Day’ tickets, those little half-price park hopper tickets that allow AP’s in the park on days their pass is blacked out, are no longer available at the Disneyland Resort.

I found out this one by accident! A short while ago, my family had planned a multi-day trip to Disneyland and, since our SoCal annual passes were going to be blacked out, we were planning on buying ‘blockout day’ tickets.

It was while researching ticket prices for a continuing series of AP articles that I stumbled on the truth in the FAQ section of the Disneyland AP website and I’m really glad I did. It says that while ‘blockout day’ tickets used to offered, they were no longer available, meaning my family would have showed up on the first day of our vacation and been completely blindsided.

Remember earlier when I said the increase in ‘blockout day’ ticket prices in recent years was significant? It’s further proof of Disney’s annual passholder strategy.

How many people in recent years have upgraded to a more expensive Annual Pass instead of buying even more costly multi-day Park Hopper tickets? And when you combine this step with the next Disney policy change below, these upgrades will come even faster.

5. (Really) Quietly Cancel The Annual Passport Yearly Parking Option

This step affects all Disneyland guests and Annual Passholders.

As of February 2015, you can no longer add a year’s worth of parking to your Disneyland Annual Passport.

All SoCal Select, SoCal, and Deluxe Annual Passholders that don’t already have the yearly parking option now have to pay the daily rate of $18 on each visit. Depending on how many trips you take, this can add up to thousands of dollars!

However, other passports, including Premium and Disney Premier, still include unlimited parking: a proverbial ‘carrot’ to the ‘stick’ of higher parking prices. More people will cancel their AP’s altogether while others will upgrade to more expensive passes.

Guests with regular tickets will benefit from less traffic, both in the parks and parking lots. However, if you’re a passholder and make lots of visits to Disneyland each year, you may now end up spending more than it would cost to upgrade to a higher level of Annual Passport.

For more information on the new specifics of AP parking, visit our Ultimate Guide to Annual Passholder Parking.
If you currently pay for the AP parking option, don’t be alarmed: you’re protected from this policy change. It’s not being advertised by Disney, but current AP’s will be able to renew their parking privileges along with their passes.

Current passholders can also finance the yearly parking along with their AP and spread the cost over an entire year. Just no one else can from now on.

Also remember: renewing an expired Annual Passport is the same as buying a new Annual Passport.

Like I said in step 2, current Annual Passholders can renew their SoCal AP’s. However, if you get fed up with the price hikes and let your passport expire, a new SoCal AP will be denied to you  (or at least until you’ve had another AP for a year).

Based on the facts presented above, your average passholder is left with a few options for AP renewal:

  1. You already have the yearly parking option, and you renew at the SoCal Select, SoCal, or Deluxe AP level.
    1. You pay more each year as rates increase but keep your pass, while Disney gets what it wants: your cash upfront, or
  2. You don’t have the parking option, but you still renew your AP.
    1. The more you visit Disneyland, the more it costs you as you pay each time you park.
    2. Due to rising costs, you choose to downgrade to a Southern California Select AP but now you have significantly fewer available days, as well as no weekends, holiday times, or other peak periods.
    3. Either way Disney gets what it wants: fewer locals (potentially at peak times) and cash up front from you (including the extra money for parking each time you visit), or
  3. You upgrade to a Signature, Signature Plus (more on these AP’s below), or Disney Premier Annual Passport.
    1. You get essentially unlimited parking and admission and Disney gets what it wants: more up front cash, or
  4. You cancel your Annual Passport altogether or delay your renewal to a later date
    1. You miss the time spent at Disneyland and Disney gets what it wants again: fewer locals clogging up their parks on busy days and one semi-permanently removed SoCal AP and/or parking pass.

6. Cancel The Premium Annual Passport

I know this article is called ‘5 Steps,’ but recently Disney revealed more of their AP’s plans that are essential to this list. Such as:

On October 4th, 2015, Disneyland officially cancelled the Premium Annual Passport.

This cancellation isn’t like the SoCal one, where you can still buy the pass through some convoluted method. The Premium AP is simply gone.

Disney Shakes Up Christmas With The Signature Annual Passports

In the place of Premium, Disneyland will now have two top-tier AP’s: Signature and Signature Plus.

Both passes are essentially clones of the Premium, with free parking and identical discounts. The only difference between the two involves blockout dates.

While the Signature Plus is a true year-round pass, the regular Signature is blocked out the during the two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Years.

This two-week difference between the AP’s confirms an important update in AP policy: Disney is definitely dealing with the flow of traffic by using seasonal pricing methods. There have been rumors in the past few months circling this idea and now it looks like they’re at least partially true.

This feels like Disney is dipping a toe in the water of more aggressive seasonal pricing. Time will tell if they’ll apply this same model to regular tickets, making busier times of the year more expensive to balance larger crowd levels.

We’ll have to wait and see how this cancellation will affect the Annual Passholder herd. For now, I can think of a few more cause-and-effect scenarios that will play out in the next year, as the Premium AP population dwindles to zero:

  1. Existing Premium passholders will simply renew at the next-best passport level, Signature.
    1. This will be the simplest move for most Premium AP’s. They’ll miss out on Christmas, but still enjoy the other benefits.
    2. With the more expensive passport, Disney will make more money and cut down on peak holiday traffic, or
  2. Premium AP’s will upgrade to Signature Plus.
    1. Some passholders either want or simply need to visit the Disneyland Resort around Christmas. Maybe they’re going for 365 days at the park (366 next year)? Maybe it’s a family tradition?
    2. Disney will make even more money, or
  3. Premium passholders will downgrade to a lower level of passport.
    1. These AP’s will renew at either the SoCal Select, SoCal, or Deluxe levels. They’ll pay less overall, but also have less access to the resort.
    2. This is where the cancellation of the AP yearly parking option rears its ugly head again. If you had yearly parking at some point and then went up to the Premium level, you won’t be able to get the parking option again when you downgrade.
    3. Disney makes more money on parking and controls park overcrowding with more blockout dates.

Adding to that last point, I’ve included the two reference tables below. For each ‘non-Premium’ AP, you can see the number of times you’d have to pay for parking before you’d make up the price difference for either the Signature or Signature Plus passes.

Trips To Break-Even On Signature Annual Passport

Annual PassportParking/DayExtra Cost For SignatureTrips To Break-Even
Southern California Select AP$18$52029
Southern California AP$18$39022
Deluxe AP$18$25014

Trips To Break-Even On Signature Plus Annual Passport

Annual PassportParking/DayExtra Cost For Signature PlusTrips To Break-Even
Southern California Select AP$18$72040
Southern California AP$18$59033
Deluxe AP$18$45025

Local Annual Passholders Are A Financial Drag On The Disneyland Resort?

Other than the reasons I touched on above, why would Disney want to get rid of Annual Passholders?

The Disneyland Resort was not originally built for the current level of traffic it receives during the busy season, namely Spring Break, Summer, and the Christmas holiday season. With little exception, Disneyland itself has had essentially the same number of bathrooms, drinking fountains, park benches, and walkways for at least the past 30 years.

Compare park attendance in 1984 at 9.8 million guests against 2014 with almost 16.8 million. That’s an increase of 7 million guests during the year, all packed in the same area, and that doesn’t even include the increased attendance from Disney California Adventure!

Needless to say, Annual Passholders contribute to a crowding problem.

Another drain AP’s have on the Disney bottom line is their potential lack of spending at the parks. To put it frankly- how many Mickey Mouse ears does a person need, especially when they’re coming back next week?

Compare that to the mythical, middle-class vacationers on a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Disneyland. These people are Disney’s bread-and-butter clients, where money is no object and they buy half of Main Street on a single day. As a company, which type of guest would you rather have?

Conclusion

Tracing a line from the yearly price increases, to the advertised SoCal annual pass ‘cancellation,’ and finally the actual elimination of the Premium AP , it’s obvious that managers at Disneyland and the Walt Disney Company have had some AP’s in their sights for some time.

And, despite how the article above may read, I can’t fault them from a business perspective. Gone are the days of Walt Disney, where you could get into the park for very little because he wanted to share his dreams with the world. We live in the age of the corporation, where survival depends on profits.

Disney obviously isn’t penalizing Annual Passholders across the board, otherwise they would have removed the financing options for all passes and jacked up the price of the SoCal Select pass.

I think in many ways the results of this annual pass strategy will be positive for all Disney AP’s, including ones from Southern California. Greater profits for the company help make additions like the recently announced ‘Star Wars Land’ possible. Maybe they’ll throw in a Monster’s, Inc. mini-land in DCA or even a brand new Tomorrowland someday? Maybe they’d bring back the Peoplemovers (a guy can hope)!

In the meantime, Cast Members from the annual passport office assure me that the SoCal AP will still be available for renewal in the future, though now at $439 (which includes the renewal discount). So, while it lasts, at least we won’t pay more more for the privilege of visiting the Happiest Place on Earth.

What do you think about all this? Are you a Disneyland AP? Are you going to renew your SoCal annual pass or just let it lapse? Please let me know in the comments below and make sure to sign up for our regular newsletter, so you won’t miss out on all our great Disney content.

For more info and insight into Disneyland tickets and annual passes, check out the 5 Reasons Disney Doesn’t Want More Annual Passholders and our Ultimate Guide to Disneyland Resort Annual Passports. See ya’ real soon!

80 thoughts on “5 Steps of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Strategy To Axe Passholders

  1. Looks like Disney is serving up different annual pass options on mobile devices that are accessing the Internet via cell tower vs. wi-fi, if you are in SoCal. Likely to guide SoCal guests into selecting a more expensive pass or not purchasing a pass all together. While in SoCal do a search on Google for “Disneyland” and view the annual pass options via wi-fi, all will display. Next, clear your browsing history and do a search with wi-fi off and accessing a cellular network (your data plan with your carrier). If you are in SoCal when you access the nearest cell tower, Disney serves limited results – deluxe passes or higher. This still occurs even if you do not select using your “current location” on your mobile phone. This experience is also the same when clicking on paid search ads on Google or selecting an organic result. Very deceptive…

    1. Wow, interesting find Veteran! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I found this article very interesting (I didn’t know about getting the SoCal Select after one year!). I started buying season passes for my family when the premium pass was $429 (only 7 years ago). My girls were 5 and 2 the first time. We waited a few years between passes. After an amazing dream-vacation in Florida last summer, my girls (now 15 and 12) begged me to get our DLR passes back. My older daughter even created a spreadsheet detailing which pass was the best option for us. They said this would be their birthday and holiday present, and could we pretty-please get them? Each of my girls got the Deluxe pass and I got the Signature (since I’m the driver), and it’s been amazing. Yes, the parks are crowded, but my girls are old enough that we take advantage of single rider lines whenever possible. Also, we are pretty laid back about lines. If we don’t get to something that day, we don’t worry because we know we are coming back in a week. We’ve also discovered new favorites. We love to relax watching the show in the Golden Horseshoe, and the French Market is our new favorite food place. We’ve learned the best ways (for us) to enjoy the parades and fireworks, and we look forward to Mickey’s Halloween party each year (a great way for non-APs to enjoy the park at a cheaper price by-the-way). My point? APs who love the park (like my family does) will always have an AP. Someone mentioned it being a “staple, like food or rent.” I can’t afford many big vacations, so an AP is basically our stay-cation each year.

  3. Unfortunately the magic of Disneyland can be spoiled for the typical visitor because of overcrowding, locals are able to enjoy the park more often and pay less per visit than an out of town tourist.

  4. I didn’t grow up to be a Disneyland fan one way or the other, but long enough that my son and daughter got taken there in the 90s. Now…I just think of Disney as a mega corporation that wants my money. That being said, I have also been a comic book fan since forever and often a attendee at San Diego’s Comicon and over the years have seen that event become bloated and corporate and unrecognizable from the days when in the early 70s only 300 people attended.

    Disneyland was fun…had been…for a long time. It may still be, but as you say, the crowding, the waits…all ruins the experience. I still love comic books but not so much ComicOn and Disney characters? I love ’em…but no longer feel the need to visit the homebase.

  5. Super helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

    1. Thanks Christina, I appreciate that.

    2. I have been coming to Disneyland since 1955, I was the Mermaid at Disneyland in 1966 and worked for Walt Disney. Yes his dream was for everyone to see Disneyland and that dream is dying sadly!!! due to the cost. But Disneyland is also letting the loyal AP holder know they don’t value us. We are mostly loyal Disneyland fans who have been coming for years and love Disneyland, even during the recessing we were the ones who continued to bring money to Disneyland. I can no longer afford to keep my pass, being on Social Security I can no longer see buying the deluxe and then I am expected to pay for parking. I see this all a slap in the face to all of us who have had Passes for so many years. Thank you so much for this article.

      1. Thanks for the comment Kat. You were a mermaid at Disneyland!?!!!!?! What was that like I’ll be you have some great stories to tell!

  6. I see 2 glaring issues that are really only 1 problem. Over crowding: within and without. Perceived or real crowds are major issues. Is Disney and Company the reason there is over crowding? Yes. No family should be out thousands of dollars because they aren’t allowed into the parks. But who wants to be ‘in’ when you can’t enjoy it? They shouldn’t turn anyone away who has paid full price and they should limit whom and how many they allow in so that their experience is not ruined once Inside the park.

    This isn’t that far removed from the airline industry and restaurants. Airlines give a way free and deeply discounted tickets to their employees and full paying customers are rarely bumped because of that. Dinner reservations have been around since I can remember [Methuselah?] and if you have a reservation its rare that you don’t get supper. In both cases you are compensated if you had reservations and are not seated.

    For all of Disney’s research and data they collect on “the consumer experience” you would think they could solve a basic problem of capacity and customer service.

    Disney has a great product and it was created it because of the parks Walt took his daughters to weren’t up to par. Disney is now in that same category. Maybe its time they changed their leadership and moved on to some more Walter-esque vision.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. We are in WA state and spend our entire vacation budget every year on Disneyland. There used to be a few great times of the year to go: January, February, April and September. Now even February is awful. And it will continue, as this generation of SoCal kids are raised on DL passes, they will want them for their kids as well. A 3rd gate might have relieved some of the pressure (Marvel, Star Wars, etc) but that isn’t going to happen.

      I just don’t want to spend our money on Disney anymore if they aren’t going to do something about the crowds for the out of state tourists. I’m not angry with the SoCal AP’s; in fact, they are some of the nicest people you could meet in the parks. But there has to be a way to end the monthly payments or take them off the fast pass machines or something.

      1. SoCal crowd some of the nicest people you could meet? C’mon. Quit pandering. I never understood why living in SoCal gave you a discount anyway. Not like this is a small town and they earned the right to protect their participation. SoCal visitors are nothing more or less than anyone else. My grandfather helped build Disneland (he was a union manager for the pipefitter’s union) and my mother was there on Day 2. We grew up with the A-E tickets, and yes, we got them for free. But now my family pays full price and I think everyone should. I see the locals when we go (we visit 10-20 times a year from NorCal) and they take advantage (rightly so) of living next door. But they don’t buy gifts, meals, souvenirs and some don’t even drive there. But its time they paid their fair share now. If they can’t afford it, then find another entertainment venue. I can’t afford going to Disneyworld, but I don’t complain. Lessen the locals freebies and discounts and we might not have to wait 85 minutes to ride the tea cups!

        1. Gee, you sound like a nice guy.

          My experiences with SoCal holders are mine, not yours and that has been my experience. In 2013, I brought my mother for her 70th birthday. She hadn’t been there since her honeymoon in 1965. We struck up a conversation in line with a young early-twenties couple with lanyards full of pins. My mom asked them where they got them all, and they said they were local and come every week. A few minutes later, the guy taps my mom on the shoulder and gave her a 50th Anniversary pin for her birthday, and wished her a great time in the parks. It was the first and only pin on her lanyard. And I’ve had other experiences with SoCal as well. So I am not PANDERING sir. I ultimately agreed with the poster, as I stated!!!!!!!

        2. The SoCal discount was originally intended as a thank you to SoCal for allowing Disneyland to be built and being supportive of the original dream. The Discount also reflected that Disney did not forget their beginnings and gave credit to those who supported the building of the park. Disney also made a backroom deal in the mid 90’s of no sales tax on tickets. The recently bargained to have that deal extended into 2020. Disney gets a major tax break and then stiffs residents on the discounts Disney has made it clear that they no longer want to honor the city or the region that supported their company in the beginning. Gordon Gecko would be proud because Greed is good.

    2. Money is the new God unfortunately, and the situation at Disneyland will continue until people choose in enough numbers to eschew the Disneyland experience. Hard for hardcore fans, admittedly, but that’s why in part I stopped going to the San Diego ComiCon…crowding, increased ancillary media (Hollywood comic book movies) present…

  7. Although I live in CA, I am not an AP. I am so glad they are doing away with them or at least thining the AP crowd out. I go to DL about every second or third year and I pay full price for my stay and I prefer the DL Hotel. It does not pay to get an AP myself because I truly would not be able to attend more than once per year at the most. What has become disheartening and has caused me to, not only voice my opinion to Guest Services but consider not attending the park anymore are the massive crowds. It is not enjoyable to go to the park and not even be able to see anything because it is wall to wall people. Waiting in line for a ride for more than 1.5 hours is not fun. I have to book my hotel stay 8 months in advance to get a decent rate. It is not worth it to me to spend $900+ on tickets for my family for two days and really not even get a chance to enjoy the park. We were even shut out in the early evening on our last visit because it was so crowded in September!! AP’s have the benefit of coming back next week….non AP’s don’t so getting shut out after shelling out the money I did is simply not okay by any standards. APs should be shut out before full paying customers. Anyway, I’ll not get over heated on this subject. I don’t understand AP for anything, really. Too much of anything is never good and it degrades the experience and thrill over time. I wish they would just do away with the passes completely or increase the prices more and block out all weekends for all passes. Just my two cents and thanks for asking what I thought.

    1. Kelly: I completely agree with you. We just returned yesterday from our
      annual 4 day trip to Disneyland. We’ve always picked late January or early February for our trip because it was considered “non peak” season. Not anymore!!! Sunday the crowds were insane. We hoped for better on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday……no such luck! My husband and I spent $600 on tickets. My son spent over $1000 on tickets for his family….two of them a 5 year old and 3 year old. You’d think in 4 days we could ride everything, right? No such luck! Park hours were reduced to 10 am – 8 pm and when the crowd index is as high as it was we didn’t even get to ride at least one time on each attraction…..the lines were SO long we simply couldn’t fit it in. Yet we paid full price for our tickets. Annual passes were not blocked on any of the 4 days we were there. I’m guessing 60% of the visitors were local SoCal annual pass holders. I believe this to be true because many of the local hotels (including ours) were not sold out and the manager at our hotel predicted a “slow” week. No such luck!!! What a joke!!! Annual passes have virtually eliminated any kind of non peak season for out of the area vacationers like my family. It’s a shame and I never thought I would say it but I think we will be looking
      elsewhere next year for our family vacation. It’s terrible to spend nearly $3000 for a 4 day trip and feel so ripped off. I am very disappointed in Disney for
      allowing this whole annual pass thing to get so out of hand. Level the playing field, do away with annual passes and make everyone pay the same price for tickets.

      AA

  8. Currently we have the Premium Passes….the 799.00 ones…..theirs 6 of us…..at 1046.00 now it’s bye bye D-Land….hello Knotts Berry Farm. With all the billions they are destined to sucks up how about building a whole new Park in either San Diego or San Francisco…..located near the International Airports for the overseas crowd…..this will allow the closer “out of state” folks come more often as well, AND lighten the load here. Seems to me in the long hall this would be a win win for AP holders and everyone….but oh, what a dirty phrase….”build new Park”….lol

  9. What I’m baffled about,that no one addressed yet, is if the park is truly too crowded, regardless of whether it’s passholders, or tourists, why in God’s name build Star Wars Land IN Disneyland, which is going to REALLY create a crowd nightmare, and in an area thats already whittled down. How is Disney going to deal with THAT , which is going to attract even MORE visitors!

    1. Good question, Carolyn. There are a lot of reasons for and against building Star Wars Land at Disneyland. Instead of list them all here, I’ll write a more thorough post on them soon. Stay tuned for updates and make sure check out our other posts on Star Wars Land!

  10. I’ve had APs almost constantly since 1999. I had a SoCal AP when they cancelled and not only was I able to renew, I was able to buy a new one for my daughter when she turned 3, even though they were no longer available. They must have been grateful I was actually buying one for her instead of sneaking her in as a two year old as most parents seem to do.

    We went yesterday and last month, we will go next week. It was crowded and it always seems crowded now, even during the traditionally slow periods. And it is APs. Everyone I know has an AP and goes all the time, and we live two hours away. Our Jungle Cruise boat captain asked who was not from CA on the boat and there was not a single person who was not. I honestly wish they’d do something to make it less crowded. I’ll go less if it gets pricier and that’s okay. Right now I go about 20-30 times a year, so the ever-increasing blockout dates don’t bother me. If they’ve determined those are the peak days, I absolutely do not want to be there when it’s that ridiculously crowded.

    It is not fun when every single ride is a half hour or more wait and you can hardly move within the park on a weekday in February. Even the normally cheerful employees seem surly lately. It’s ridiculous and they have to do something. I don’t know why people get so upset. Disneyland is not a right, it’s a privilege, and it is silly to whine about the price increase. It’s basic supply and demand. When too many people demand something you raise the price. At some point it will get too crowded to even be safe, let alone fun.

  11. I live in Burbank and have been going to Disneyland since my folks first took me there in the early 60s. I’ve had an AP for one year and decided it wasn’t worth it. The best time for me to go to Disneyland is when it’s pouring rain! That seems to keep most of the people away. I don’t mind walking around with an umbrella. Last time my wife and I went and it rained, there were NO lines. It was a great time. Besides, walking in the rain is romantic… 🙂

  12. I currently have a SoCal pass with additional parking and go to the park about once a month for a few hours.

    I see they eliminated the annual parking option, but I totally understand it from a business point of view. Having not to think about paying $18 per visit regardless of the amount of time I go makes it a lot easier for me and other AP members to go and not think about the cost of parking. I’ve seen the parking rates rise every single year to where it’s now $18 per visit. And honestly, it’s the non-AP holders that are paying the higher rates. We AP holders with parking want to go more just to dollar cost average our passports! We know the more time we visit, the less it costs per visit.

    Believe me I am very glad that I have parking included now, and I will truly miss it if they eliminate the parking as a renewal as well. But I can see that eliminating parking option for the lower tiered AP members will probably make it less likely that locals (like me) who have the SoCal or SoCal Select passports will go and just for a few hours and take up more space.

  13. I didn’t read all the post; forgive me if this has been said:

    An overcrowding solution could be sell APs with set number of days. Case in point, we have 4 APs (2 Deluxes for the kids, 2 Premiums for us for parking and date nights); we only go 1-2 days a month. Given this, we would buy a 12-24 day pass.

    The limitations of numer of days per AP holder would reduce visitor numbers. To what degrees is a variable.

    Obviously there are many more parameters to work out.

    What say you, bloggers?

    1. That makes sense. Even with the blockout dates on my SoCal pass I can go something like 300 days a year, but I really only do 20-30. The problem is a multi-day ticket for only 5 days is the same as my AP so obviously the AP makes more sense. If I could buy a 20-day ticket for less than an AP I would!

  14. I’m considering buying an AP, finally, but I really hate the price hikes. I normally buy the one-day park hoppers, but you must be very efficient to see as much as possible. The last time I went was in 2012, after Cars Land opened. The lines for the Racers were insane, and took up a lot of my time, but I managed to ride it twice. My gf was not happy about the long lines, at all! What could disney do?

    I’ve got one idea which might help. Disneyland could let multi-day ticket buyers use their tickets over a month, six months, or a year. For example, if I buy a 5-day Park Hopper, disney knows I’ll only be going 5 days, let’s say in a 12-month period. I get a discount because I paid for 5 days (and not an AP), and disney gets reduced congestion. But do they do this? No! They make their tickets good for only 14 days!! This pushes people into buying an AP, and going as much as they can, thereby increasing crowds. So, what is disneyland thinking?

    Good question. They could tailor their tickets to reduce congestion, but they don’t. There answer is to just raise prices. Therefore, it seems to me, they’re not too concerned with the crowds or capacity issues, I guess, just with making more money. I don’t blame them, but there is a limit to what people will pay.

  15. I feel like they should allow current holders of the Premium Pass to renew as they do for the So Cal pass. We go at least once a month (sometimes staying for multiple days at a “Good Neighbor” hotel. We eat all of our meals in park & I never leave without spending at over $100 at the very least on merchandise.
    Basically they are not rewarding loyal customers who have had their Passports for years & are forcing us to abandon purchasing the additional merchandise wile my costs for 2 increases by close to $600! It’s simply ridiculous! Is $600 worth more than over $1200 over the course of the year?! So we will bring snacks instead of buying picked, pineapple, cotton candy, churros and Dole Soft Serve. We will still eat in the park but plan our visits around having 2 meals there instead of 3 & that is a huge loss for the park. I do this only to take away the revenue they made off me & my daughter since they clearly do not value us or our 13 years as Passport holders (always with no black out dates). It seems to me that those of us that have them should be able to retain them. Raise the price a bit, but reward those that have spent years spending money at the park.
    We make reservations for the Blue Bayou, Ariel’s Grotto and the Minnie Breakfast on a regular basis (at the very least we do one of those, but typically breakfast & dinner because lunch is always Bengal Barbeque). I’m quite disappointed oh this new turn of events. It sickens & saddens me!

    1. …maybe it’s not just about the money. Maybe Disney recognizes that there are families not blessed with a lot of money, or that can’t live in California or nearby. For those families, a trip to Disneyland is a huge, magical, lofty, once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation. They save, they plan, and then, finally, they get there. They’ve spent a ton and planned months, years maybe, in advance. And once there, all the restaurants are reserved by people who know when and how to make advance reservations. The fastpasses are taken quickly by old pros who know the system really well. And the parks are so crowded one can barely breathe. It’s so packed by a lot of bored moms on cell phones while their young toddlers grow ever more accustomed to the park. Then the afternoons come, and the park gets even more filled by groups of teens who, also on their phones, could be just as content at home or the mall. People drop by after work, as usual, just to ride pirates and space mountain and meet up for ice cream. Maybe an annual pass holder spends more over a year than a person who buys a park hopper, stays on-site, and has all meals at the park. It’s doubtful, though! Certainly if you consider dollars per hour, the regular people win. But I think maybe it’s not just about the money. The crowds of people who overwhelm the park don’t get as much joy and wonder out of it as the newbies, and some of the newbies’ joy is sucked by the massive bored crowds. I know lots of pass holders will argue that they love Disney just as much as anyone. Sure–I buy that. But it’s like with an old married couple who spends more annually on going to the movies vs what newlyweds spend on their honeymoon in Paris.

      1. Stella: Thanks for the post. I agree with everything you said. The overcrowding is unfair to those who live great distances from California, who save and save for that dream vacation, only to arrive and find the park overcrowded or closed because it’s reached maximum capacity.
        The more I read these posts the more I am advocating for a level playing field. Get rid of all AP’s and everyone pay the same price for tickets.

  16. Disneyland defies the basic concepts of economics. No matter how much they raise the prices, people will pay. I do not expect the changes to the annual passports or the price increases to have any impact on the growing over-crowding problem. Why? Because most Americans are financially illiterate, and Disney fans consider their AP to be a staple item, just like food and rent. They will simply put the AP renewal on their credit card.

    We all know that Disney’s business model is to exploit little children by getting them to nag their parents to take them to Disneyland and buy them Disney merchandise. But something that doesn’t get talked about is how Disney exploits financially illiterate people through ticket prices and these Annual Passports.

    If Disney were serious about reducing the overcrowding problem (they aren’t), they would limit the number of guests at the parks and/or require people to pay for APs with cash rather than credit cards (and eliminate payment plans). Not gonna happen.

    1. The problem with limiting the amount of people per day (which they do about 70,000 people) is that tickets will sell out and you still won’t be able to get in. I think of Comic Con. I would love to go but those tickets sell out within seconds. I will probably never get to go. But that’s ok. I don’t need to go.

  17. I miss the weekdays when we didn’t have to wait in line for rides. My kids were so use to that, now that they’re older they don’t like to go because of the long lines.
    It may seem selfish, but I would like to see the crowds thinned some and the payment option gone if that will help reduce the crowds.
    Thank you so much for your blog, it’s wonderful!
    I appreciate everyone’s point of view too.

    1. Thanks for the comment Rochelle!

  18. I just renewed our So California passes for myself and our 2 kids, added parking as an afterthought. I take my kids after school a lot, go by myself and generally go as much help as we can. Even after years of going, we still spend a fair amount on souveniers and food. I love Disneyland, the feeling and the type of people that come to such a place. Comparing other theme parks underscores how special Disneyland is and how lucky we are to live near. Of course they have to raise prices, it’s a business and costs go up all over all the time. I disagree about eliminating the payment plan though, we are a viable bread and butter income stream and the dedicated pass holders keep dollars coming into the park. I plan to keep renewing as long as the kids are interested, then just for myself. Disney on!

  19. I’m a Southern California resident, So Cal Select passholder and payment plan user. I’m also that mom who takes her kids to the park any ‘ol time they want to go. Whether we get on one ride or ten, spend a hundred dollars or nothing at all, we do that because having Disneyland in our backyard is one of the perks of living in the lower half of the Golden State. I completely understand non-Southern California residents’ frustration at how crowded the park is on a regular basis, it’s frustrating for everyone. However, instead of suggesting that Disneyland spoil things for the home team, why don’t you all come on down here and join us? We’d love to have you!

    1. Haha, well said Ruth. Very egalitarian. Disneyland and SoCal for everyone!

  20. I think they should remove the SoCal annual passes altogether. It would be obvious that they wouldn’t be buying souvenirs over and over again. When I was at Disneyland not long ago, it seemed to swarm with people (adults and mostly teenagers) after school and work. I overheard one person say that they send their older kids there so they can avoid babysitters and with their passes, they can meet up with friends for coffee??? Get rid of the SoCal passes, so at least the tourists can enjoy the park without being overrun with people.

  21. As of yesterday Oct. 2, 2015 all the proof in the world is that DL would like the numbers of AP holders to minimize. Major price increases.

    1. Absolutely, thanks for the comment Steve. I’m working on updating this article and our AP Ultimate Guide to reflect the new price changes.

    2. So I’m curious… On Sept 8, It was commented I think by Holly that when she went to renew her So Cal Select AP, she was offered to upgrade her renewal to the So Cal AP. We let our So Cal AP passes expire back in 2011 because I couldn’t keep up with the price hikes for three passes. Would it be safe to assume that if I purchased the So Cal Select AP, that next year I could upgrade our renewal to the So Cal pass to get our Sundays back???

      1. You’re absolutely right Rachel. You can buy any level of passport (SoCal Select for example) and then after 1 year you’ll be able to renew at the regular SoCal level.

        Check out our Ultimate Guide for more information on renewals in general and the SoCal AP in particular.

        Thanks for the comment!

  22. I will be renewing my so cal select. I keep getting the option to upgrade to so cal when I renew but it doesn’t interest us. I will also keep renewing our parking pass.

    1. Thanks for the comment Kelsey. Enjoy your time at Disneyland!

  23. I see a lot of the different views, but plainly, the main culprit for this overcrowding of passholders is the payment plan. The monthly payment plan makes even the MOST expensive pass cheaper than the average monthly cell phone bill. Disney has taken a product that is, arguably, “overpriced” and then “underpriced” it (for certain people), then turned around and over sold it. For the past few years I have loathed Disney’s continued use of the payment plan system. There is no such thing as the “off-season” anymore. As crowds have increased I’ve also become more aware of how unfair this system is to non-SoCal guests and how the tourists spend far more money on their trips and are getting less bang for their buck each year, as each year park attendance increases.

    Disney won’t eliminate the payment plan or annual passes in one fell swoop either, but I think they should make a better effort at evening the playing field for ALL guests, instead of these half-hearted attempts that Disney is making to dissuade passholders from visiting as frequently as they do (i.e. No blockout day tickets, which didn’t stop people from simply upgrading, and no more parking pass add-on, so now all the passholders park at the Downtown Disney lot which still offers three hours of free parking). Disney knows the problem is too many locals, but they are also too afraid to eliminate the payment plan altogether for fear of the negative publicity. Here’s one way to make it more fair…the only people eligible for the payment plan are SoCal residents…the only people eligible for the “SoCal” passes are SoCal residents….so a fair compromise? Only SoCal passes should offer the payment plan option. Any one who wants a Deluxe or higher should have to pay it all upfront just like anyone else who purchases an annual pass and lives outside the SoCal zip codes (and there are a fair few of those people). I think using a method like that would greatly reduce the number of passholders in the park on a day to day basis, as well as cut down on the number of passholders who upgraded to a Deluxe when the resort stopped offering the SoCal pass (because using the payment plan meant only paying a few dollars more a month for a lot less blockout days).

    Either way, something’s gotta give with this annual pass situation. Either Disney is going to have to eliminate the payment plan altogether, which, having to pay for annual passes at their current rate all upfront would eliminate a lot of passholders quickly. Or Disney keeps raising the prices of annual passes to the point that people can’t even afford the monthly payments anymore.

  24. Thanks for this article and comments, it was very informative. Do you have an article about the best times to go? Seems like everyday is a heavy traffic day, which is why I haven’t renewed my pass for a couple of years. But I do miss it!

    1. We don’t have an article about best times yet, but I can give you some ideas. Basically anytime off-season would be best. New Years to Spring Break, Break to Memorial Day, Labor Day to Halloween, Halloween to early December. As far as days of the week, mid-week is usually best, when everyone else is at work. As surprising as it seems, Saturdays can also have light traffic, because a lot of AP’s are blocked out.

      Thanks for the comment and good luck with your future AP!

  25. Alex, thanks so much for this informative web site. As an annual visitor from Northern California (twice a year if I’m lucky)I see all sides of this issue and I’m glad Disney is at least trying out different things. 3 years ago my husband and I visited the Disneyland the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Not on the holidays but the days between. While we went into it with our eyes wide open I was absolutely stunned at the crowd level. NEVER in 40 years of visits had we experienced anything like this. Two of our 3 days the parks reached capacity by 12 noon and they were not letting people in. Just imagine the chaos at the main gate as guests showed up after 12 noon, after paying for parking, with tickets in hand only to be turned away at the gate. People were so angry security had to be called.
    In our hotel laundry room I struck up a conversation with a young mom who was drying clothing and shoes after a brief rainstorm. Her family was from Wisconsin, it was their first trip to California and their first trip to Disneyland. Her children were 10, 8 and 5. The trip was to be their family Christmas present and supposedly the trip of their dreams they had been planning and saving for two years in advance. She shared that their 3 days were up and it had been pretty much of a nightmare. When I asked her why she almost started crying and told me they were not prepared for the crowds, they had spent so much money on tickets for a family of 5 and were only able to average about 5-6 rides a day because of long lines. Since it was their first trip to Disneyland it took them a day to figure out Fast Passes but the crowds were so heavy many of the Fast Passes were gone for the big rides by 10:30 in the morning. I know this to be true because I experienced the same thing. She said her kids simply gave up and asked to go back to the hotel to swim in the indoor pool. Her story broke my heart. As I love Disneyland so much I want everyone else to enjoy it also!
    The point to this story: the following day I asked a cast member in one of the park restaurants why it seemed exceptionally crowded this particular week. The cast member said it had rained in Southern California many days prior to Christmas and the locals had flooded the park during this week to see the Christmas decorations, parades, etc.
    In conclusion, I guess there is no easy answer. I must admit I too felt a little ripped off after spending over $500 on tickets and another $500 on the hotel room, not even totaling up meals for 3 days. In my case, I have the option of returning during non peak times for another visit. The family from Wisconsin will never come back and I feel so sad those children did not get to experience the magic of Disneyland. Some will say, “Oh well, they can travel during non peak times,” which unfortunately is not an option for some people.
    Again, I am happy Disney is at least trying out some new ideas. While we all know Disneyland is the happiest place on earth it is also one of the most expensive places on earth and like others I accept that at some point we are all going to pay more. If it does lower crowd levels I’d have to say I’m in favor of limiting new SCAL passes. Maybe we should all just pay the same entrance price and do away with annual passes completely.

    1. I loved your comment. It makes me sad when local passholders say Disney is greedy and so expensive, and they get to visit every week. We are in WA state and try to make it down once a year. The last few years since the payment plan have been horrible. We’ve decided to take our 8k and spend it on a different family vacation. I hope Disneyland can work out the crowd issues so tourists can enjoy it again.

  26. Disneyland is my favorite place to go! I had the SoCal Select pass this past year, and when I was renewing I was able to upgrade to the SoCal pass, so I could go on Sundays. Whenever I visit the park, I make it a point to purchase my snacks and meals there, as I do understand the business need behind it. It doesn’t dampen my spirit at all, and I love to people-watch and see how much the families and kids are enjoying the park. That’s part of my experience. I love to see people having fun. To me it is worth it, and I will never stop loving Disneyland.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Holly! I agree with you 100%, Disneyland is most definitely the best place to be.

  27. Hey Alex!
    Super informative website, glad I stumbled onto it. I’m on Disney’s website right now trying to renew my family’s annual passes but I don’t see an option for me to add a Parking Pass (we DID have parking on our passes this past year).

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. Ruth! Thanks for the info! You may need to renew your Parking option in person at one of the Main Entrance Ticket Booths. Disney usually requires that when they’re “grandfathering” you in on an expired perk/program. I’d call Annual Passholder Services to confirm, though. Thanks again.

      1. Thanks for the quick response Alex, mind if I ask another question? Because we buy 4 passes at a time, the only way our family can swing the cost is by taking advantage of Disney’s payment plan. Do you happen to know if that option is available when renewing APs at the ticket booth?

        1. Yes, you can finance your AP’s on the internet and in-person at the park. The only place you can’t is over the phone, because they need your signature.

          My family finances our passports as well. It’s far more cost effective than slapping down a lump sum. Good luck with the renewal. Let me know how it goes!

          1. Hey Alex!
            Not that I had any doubts, but you were right about everything!
            1) You may only attach a parking pass to your AP when you renew it in person at the ticket booth.
            2) Financing an AP is still an option when you renew it in person at the ticket booth.

            My family and I are headed down this Friday when The Haunted Mansion reopens. The kids are super excited to see Jack and his friends!

            Thanks again for this website, it’s awesome!

          2. Glad to hear it Ruth! Have fun and thanks for the confirmation!

  28. Being a socal local…I buy 9 premium ap each year…they are all years gifts…birthday, anniversary, Christmas…and I don’t regret the cost at all…if we go and it is too crowded…we simply go home and come back again another day…and by the way…we eat in the park and we buy many, many gifts there too…and always candy to take home!

    1. I’m glad you enjoy your AP. We love ours as well. Thanks for the comment!

    2. We buy the premium AP with the payment plan each year. if we didn’t do this we couldn’t afford to go because we have someone who has a health issue where a debilitating migraine can send us home without warning. We go once a month or once every two months and if it is too busy we come back on another day because we know others are there on their “once in a lifetime” trip. When it is too crowded which is pretty much every time now, we eat at a restaurant and buy something at the stores and go home. I have gone to Disneyland since 1968 and supported the park in many ways including my business doing Disney art for decades. It is imperative that the crowd issue be handled but it is important to note that the habits of the different guests are not all the same. Most every AP I know simply doesn’t stay long, where the average traveling vacationer is there from beginning to end trying to get on everything. Obviously we all adore the place but I’ve noticed in many of these comment feeds that the customers are pointing fingers at other customers instead of realizing that the Disney corporation is a growth based format for making money.Shaming those who want to do something and can’t afford it and want a break is not the way to go.Personally, I think what we all feel is a society where the prices keep going up but we aren’t making more! There are so many ways that the park could be handled for crowds and please everyone but the main thing to remember is that Disneyland is a business which is not free from supply and demand. Bottom line is profit. Overpopulation is so great that even if you abolish the AP completely it won’t reduce the crowds. The local population does endure the tourists that visit and we welcome them because we want the world to enjoy Disneyland. It is nice to be acknowledged with some form of discount or perk for being close by all year long and for local property owners it is nice to get this to balance the congestion. One thing that could have greatly reduced the crowds would have been to put the new Star Wars complex in another area. The future will be packed regardless. Hope everyone has a magical time on their visit crowded or otherwise!

      1. I also have a disability, migraines that can send me home, and a bad pelvis that makes me very slow. 6 years ago I took my daughter to Disneyland for her birthday, we live almost 3 hours away. I developed a migraine mid-day but we’d spent so much for tickets, had reservations at Ariel’s Grotto, etc. I just fought through the pain and nausea and took the maxalt I’d brought with me. Last year I bought us the least expensive So Cal season passes for her 17th birthday. We had the most fun coming about 6 days last year and spending 4-6 hours at the park, sometimes bringing my wheelchair. We felt we didn’t “have to do it all” in one day! Disneyland was so much fun for us again, no burn out! No pain for a week from pushing myself too hard. We just went 2 weeks ago on a Wednesday for the afternoon and rode mostly kid rides lol! (We normally ride 4 or 5 rides, have lunch and a Dole Whip and go home) I just renewed our passes so we can have some more happy afternoons together this year 🙂

  29. When is Socal AP going to be a available for purchase? Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the comment Steve. Either Disney doesn’t know or isn’t saying if they’ll put the regular SoCal AP up for sale again. Until then, you can buy any of the other Disneyland Annual Passports and, after 1 year, choose to renew at the SoCal level.

  30. I can identify with all sides of this issue. Disneyland is trying to make sure that they are getting the most from their guests. That is good business. However, it doesn’t benefit the people (passholders or visitors). We have to invest thousands of dollars just do visit our favorite place (“The Happiest Place on Earth”). I have loved Disney for years but only was lucky enough to have an annual pass for one year. I hope to do so again in the future but that is only if I can afford to pay for 5 passes (which since they took off the parking option for any pass other than premium – I would have to go for the top option). Everyone has their point. If it is too crowded then it is hard to enjoy the place. I get it. I’ve been there at all times – crowded and not so crowded. It depends on your attitude, what you want to accomplish and how comfortable you feel about being around thousands of other people at any given moment. There are ways for visitors to save time (like getting fast passes for their favorite rides – which you can do every 2 hours), downloading the Mousewait application on their cell phones (to check the wait times for their favorite rides), and going on popular rides during parade times. Those are just a few options.

    There are many blogs out there that can provide great ways to enjoy the Disneyland resort more effectively. Especially if you stay at a Disneyland hotel that offers Magic Mornings. You get into the park an hour before everyone else. That provides plenty of time to check out some things before the crowds get busy but it just requires getting up early to get to the park by about 6:30am.

    I do have hopes to return but for now, Disneyland had made it very difficult for me to enjoy my happy place. Disney doesn’t account for it’s global influence and that they make so much money worldwide. They should be more willing to allow people from all walks of life to enjoy the park (provided they follow the rules and don’t get out of hand or act inappropriately).

  31. Hi Alex, just stumbled on your site. I live in Southern CA and have had a pass for over 20 years now. I’ve had all levels of passes, but for the last 2 years my husband, myself, and my 5-year-old have had the So CA pass. We were able to renew it online after they stopped offering it. What I’m concerned about now, though, is that when my 2-year-old turns 3 next year and he needs a pass, do you think DLand will allow our family to purchase him a So CA pass, since the rest of his family has one? I sure hope so….

    1. Awesome question, Laura. In fact, my family is in exactly the same boat with our 2-year-old and I was stressing out over the possibility of having to buy him a Deluxe AP!

      I bring you good news! It turns out that families who already have regular SoCal AP’s can buy new SoCal passports for their coming-of-age children. This can only be done at the main entrance ticket booths in front of the park. So in effect, the kids are grandfathered into the old AP system.

      Enjoy Disneyland with your family!

      1. Our case is a little bit different. This is our first year with Selected SoCA AP. We are planning to upgrade it to SoCA AP in a couple months. Since we have not had regular SoCal AP, do you think we still can buy new SoCal AP for our coming-of-age children? Thank you in advance!

        1. As long you and your spouse have regular SoCal AP’s, it shouldn’t be a problem to buy them for your ‘coming of age’ children as well. Just make sure you’ve renewed at the regular SoCal level before buying your kid’s passes. Check out our Disneyland Annual Passports For Children page for more information. Thanks for the comment, Trang.

  32. Disneyland/DCA is wonderful. If we lived in California, or even Phoenix, I would happily pay at least double the current prices of the APs. As a non-local, each off-season visit (4 days each) to Disneyland costs our family of four about $5000, and weeks of planning. We have paid three times the going local hotel rates to stay at a Disneyland resort hotel in the hopes of enjoying early entry perks, but the parks are so crowded, the main benefit of staying on-site has been nullified. I remember going in the early 2000s, when it was still very expensive, but we used to be able to walk around without squeezing through crowds. There’s no benefit to going off-season now. We’ll shell out over $300 a day in meals and snacks, but we see local moms with strollers packed with food from home. What’s worse is how bored they look, and the children seem sort of blase about the whole thing. I LOVE Disney, but the crowds have made me not want to go back. We spend $1250 per person for 4 days. I would gladly spend $1250 per person for the possibility of 215 days!

    1. Thanks for the awesome comment Rachel! I’m sorry you’ve had some bad experiences at Disneyland and hope you’ll be back. You bring up a good cost comparison between the price AP’s pay for their passes and the price for a regular multi-day vacation. Perhaps us Annual Passholders should value the experience more.

    2. I Love Disneyland! And I am a SoCal Select AP. This pass works best for me, because I only like to go during low-crowd times. I have visited Disneyland five times, in the last year, and each time brings me more joy than the time before. Also, I always buy all my meals at Disneyland’s sit-down restaurants, always purchase several gifts and snacks there, as well as parking, of course. So, please understand that we do not all fit into the profile you have given. Some of us do spend a fair amount of money there.

      Disneyland may be the Happiest Place on Earth, but to truly experience that, it does require bringing a happy attitude along. Part of that means enjoying where you are at every moment, taking your time to enjoy the little things, being patient, pleasant, kind and respectful to everyone (including cast members!). Disneyland is not a race. It’s where you can leave your everyday world behind, “and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.” It’s where you open your heart and mind to the magic and wonder of all that Walt Disney created for us. Disneyland is a magical place that says, you can do anything in the world, if you set your heart to it.

      Last year, some friends brought me to Disneyland on a block-out day. . .a Saturday in late May. Afterwords, someone asked me, “How were the crowds.” And you know what? I didn’t even notice that it was crowded, because I was truly enjoying the Happiest Place on Earth.

      1. I agree. If you can dream it, you can do it. Thanks for the comment.

      2. I agree that being happy and kind is really the only way to be, and at Disneyland it’s easy! It’s a joyful place. I’m still as happy and kind at the parks as I was when we visited in 2007–I just can’t breathe as easily, walk as easily, or ride as many rides as we used to (and no, it’s not because I’m older. :-)). I’m just packed like a sardine. A lot of the magic–window displays, small architectural details, etc., are invisible now due to crowds. You can’t stop and look at the ducks, because the crowd will sweep you right past them. Cast members are more harried and grumpy than they used to be, and it takes lots of friendly effort to get a smile out of them, when before, cast members used to smile a lot more spontaneously. It takes a lot of effort to summon up the joy that we used to feel when we first walked into the park, when now we’re being shoved aside by leagues of people, after we’ve stood in line already for an hour+ in a sea of people–in “off-season.” I’m jealous of the SoCal pass holders! They’re very blessed to live so close and have the option of going almost any time they like. I don’t know that increasing prices necessarily will deter people from buying the passes, particularly with the no-interest monthly payment option. People need Disney, and the optimism and wonder with which it can infuse us, like almost nothing else. If anything, higher prices might just mean roughly the SAME number of pass holders make MORE visits–to get their money’s worth.

        1. Wonderful sentiment Rachel. Great point too about Disney’s plan back-firing. I’m certain that is the case with at least some folks!

    3. I know what you mean about the bored Mom’s. I’m a pass holder, but I only go about 6 times a year because I live 3 hours away and I like it because I’m disabled and it allows me to just enjoy myself. Well, my last visit, on Its A Small World, the woman in the boat behind me just talked to her friend loudly about her life story the entire ride. Then she’s like, “Yeah, we’ll come back next week kids ok, did you have fun again?” To her little ones – obviously local pass holders.

  33. While I understand where some people are coming from and I know a few who think beyond their “boxes”, for those of us who don’t live in CA and still like to come visit and maximize the bang of our buck, this has increasingly gotten harder over the last decade or so.

    As others have mentioned on other sites, there is no more off season with the regular attendance of CA guests, which makes planning a trip with hopes of not standing in long lines, even more difficult and even more unlikely. Disney has raised our daily tickets too, and the park hoppers, so when we have to pay for hotel, usually not Disney’s hand over your first born child price per night, but the good neighbors for our time, plus the park tickets, transportation costs, and we eat more food at the parks even if we’ve made a grocery store run for some easy eats in the hotel room since their’s no running home to our fully stocked kitchen to make lunch or dinner, it really gets up there.

    This is a big decision for us, and after weeks of planning and dreaming with high hopes it really stinks to show up and feel like this special place is run over by people who feel a bit more like they have some sort of entitlement or ownership to this place with as often as they come to it. I know that’s not everyone, I know there are those who still get lost in the wonder and the magic of what Walt built, but my last visit was anything but magical and I’m terrified of a repeat as I bring my roomie for her first visit. Some CA residents may spend a few hundred dollars per person to enjoy Disney for the year but we’ll spend easily $1,000 per person for just under a week at Disney and a taste of that magic to last us until our next visit maybe 2-5 years later.

    If this visit is the same as my last, I may not return to try again. So yes, I understand the SoCal residents feelings of resentment toward the mouse after years of not having to go through this, but what about me and people like me? Do we not matter too? Even if I bought an annual pass, which is worthless to me, the payment plan is not available to me for the pass or any of my trip, unless you want to consider going into credit card debt an option (which I don’t). My point is to simply understand all aspects from all sides as to part of why the mouse does what it does, because they do want me to come back and bring my friends like I’m doing.

    An unhappy me, equals no repeat business and telling those I know it’s a waste of time and money. (And while middle class I don’t buy up half of Main Street, just a tee shirt 😉 Yes you have a higher cost of living out there in CA, but you also have way more accessibility to Disneyland. So really from my point of view, you have the better end of the stick.

    1. Thanks for the great comment Renee! It’s always interesting to hear things from the point of view of another Disney fan. And I agree with your last point completely- SoCal residents (this one in particular) are very lucky to have such access to the Happiest Place On Earth. I’d like you to know that, though this post seems a bit harsh, I don’t resent Disney for what I see as merely a smart business pricing strategy.

      I hope your next trip is more enjoyable than the last. No matter where you go in life, some folks will always act like they’re entitled to whatever pleases them. It’s never fun or justified and my strategy for dealing with these people is to laugh at their ridiculousness. This may be cliche, but it’s easy for me to do that in a place like Disneyland, where I let the cares of the world wash away and simply celebrate each moment with my family at my favorite place.

      Thanks again for the comment and let me know how your next trip to Disneyland goes!

  34. Quick Update.. the Renewals can be at another level… only you can not DOWNGRADE during the year. When I renew, I am given the option for all 4 levels… I chose the higher one, because they also give discounts when renewing…. so you can not downgrade during the year (and get a refund,etc) but at renewal you can pick a different passport level.

    1. Thanks for the comment Fred and you’re absolutely right. You can upgrade your annual passport any time throughout the year and then downgrade to a less expensive pass when and only when it comes time for renewal. The point I’m making, and summing up in point #5 in this article, is that if you do change to a new level of passport you won’t be able to go back to your SoCal passport on your next renewal. I’ve reworked the language a bit in that section to make things hopefully a bit more clear. If you haven’t checked it out already, I’ve gone deeper into Disney’s AP strategy on a sister article to this one. Check it out and let me know what you think.

      By the way, I love the comments I’ve been receiving from readers on this Disneyland AP/ticket issue. People have brought up some great points and helped me make articles like this even better. Thanks to everyone who’s left a comment and I look forward to hearing more.

  35. I can sympathize with Disney given just how crazy it gets with all the passholders when days aren’t blocked out. I went during a day when they all couldn’t go, and it was pretty great.

    The challenge is the fact that people may keep paying higher prices. While that helps Disney financially, it doesn’t solve the problem. If I lived in Southern California, I’d pay quite a lot for an annual pass.

    1. Thanks for the comment Dan! I agree with everything you said. There’s definitely a supply and demand aspect of Disney’s strategy. If they can reduce the number of AP’s and still make the same amount of money, why not do it? In fact, I’m working on some more posts about Disneyland tickets and AP’s that show exactly how much you get, even with the higher prices.

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