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What You Need To Know About Disneyland’s Annual Passport Updates

RIP Disneyland Premium Annual Passport

RIP Disneyland Premium Annual Passport

Once again, Disneyland has shaken up their annual passport offerings. We’ll talk about what’s new, what’s out, and how this all affects you.

RIP Premium Annual Passport

The rumors are true –

Disney has officially cancelled the Premium Annual Passport.

The first and oldest AP, Premium will no longer be available for either purchase or renewal, replaced by several other AP options.

If you currently have a Premium AP, you’ll still be able to exercise the privileges of that pass until it expires. At that point, you’ll need to renew at a different passport level.

Two side notes:

1) The Southern California and Premium AP’s are now referred to as ‘legacy passports.’
2) After reading Disney’s announcement about the Premium cancellation Sunday morning, a funny thought struck me. Surely there are some folks who either bought or renewed at the Premium level as late as the night before, completely unknowing that the next morning their AP would be discontinued. And there are those folks who were going to buy a Premium AP Sunday morning, only to have it disappear during the night. Funny how life works, isn’t it?

Meet The Disneyland Signature Annual Passports

There are actually two passports replacing the Premium AP at Disneyland, the Signature and Signature Plus.

Both new passes are essentially more expensive clones of the Premium. They both enjoy unlimited parking and the highest discounts. As an added perk, both AP’s come with unlimited downloads from Disney’s PhotoPass®.

Disney Christmas Or No Disney Christmas?

The only real difference between the Signature AP’s, other than price, are the blockout days. While the Signature Plus is a true year-round passport, the Signature AP is blocked out for the 15 days surrounding Christmas and New Years.

The explanation behind these blockout days involves crowd control during the peak holiday season. Every AP except for Signature Plus and Disney Premier will now be blockout out for the winter holidays, providing traffic relief for guests with regular tickets.

For more discussion on this change, and Disney’s greater AP policy in general, check out my article ‘5 Steps Of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Strategy To Axe Passholders.’

For grins, I decided to see how much it would cost to make up for the extra 15 days you get with the Signature Plus AP with regular tickets. You could buy three 5-Day Park Hopper Tickets for $945 or fifteen 1-Day Park Hopper tickets for $2325.

Compared to these numbers, the extra $200 for the Signature Plus pass is a real bargain.

What Else Changed At Disneyland?

As you would expect, the price of all Disneyland Annual Passports has increased. This is the second increase this year (the previous bump happened in February). The last time we saw two AP price jumps in one year was 2010.

The daily cost of parking also increased, from $17 to $18 per day for a single car.

Downtown Disney Is Keeping An Eye On Locals

The parking policy at Downtown Disney (DD) also changed. Free parking at the DD lot has shrunk from 3 to 2 hours, with an additional 2 hours free with validation from a restaurant or movie theater.

This is no doubt in response to a number of local AP’s using the closer DD parking facilities to make quick trips into the parks and skip the healthy Disney parking fees. Let’s just say I’ve never done this, but my friends have (I’m talking about you Jackie).

What Didn’t Change At Disneyland?

With all of these changes in pricing at the parks, let’s take a look at what hasn’t changed.

  1. The price for regular theme park tickets has not gone up (yet), but I’m sure it will. I take a closer look at seasonal ticket pricing in another article.
  2. You can still renew the regular Southern California AP, though new sales are still suspended.
  3. Valid days and discounts for the SoCal Select, SoCal, and Deluxe Annual Passports remain the same.
  4. The AP yearly parking option is still unavailable.
  5. Blockout day tickets are still unavailable.


Once again it costs more to play at Disneyland. While some folks will give up their Annual Passport, I’d expect most people to just grumble and pay up.

I won’t be surprised if Disney raises prices again next year and also introduces seasonal pricing models to regular park tickets. Like any good business, they’re going to raise their prices to reach peak profit at maximum demand. As the number of visitors continues to rise year after year, even though prices have gone up dramatically, I’d say we haven’t reached that point yet.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’d love to hear what your thoughts on the Signature/Premium debacle. Leave me a comment below.

Also, make sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter. We’ll keep you up-to-date on AP news, as well as notable events across the Disney universe. Thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!

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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.
The Southern California annual passport is no longer sold at Disneyland, but if you're careful, you can still renew it.
The Southern California annual passport is no longer sold at Disneyland, but if you’re careful, you’ll still be able to 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:


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?


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!

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5 Reasons Disneyland Doesn’t Want More Annual Passholders

Long lines clog the entrance to Disneyland.

Long lines clog the entrance to Disneyland.

Disney has a plan to pare down the number of Annual Passholders (AP’s) at the Disneyland Resort. We know this. One question that remains is why?

The answer has less to do with AP’s themselves and more to do with who the preferred target customer of the Walt Disney Company is.

Disney’s Perfect Guests

Disney's Preferred Customer: The Mythical Wealthy Family of Four
Disney’s Preferred Customer: The Mythical Wealthy Family of Four

Every business has an ideal customer. For surfboard companies, it’s surfers with money. For camping equipment companies, it’s outdoor-lovers with money.

And for Disney, the target group is what I call the ‘Mythical Wealthy Family of Four.’ Simply put, they’re vacationers with disposable income and a reason to spend it.

Why am I bringing this up? It’s important to know who the ideal customer is to really understand why Disney doesn’t really want more Annual Passholders right now.

1. Annual Passholders Fill Up Space

Crowded entrance to Disneyland.
Crowded entrance to Disneyland.

Bear with me here, I’m going to throw a few numbers at you.

Disneyland Guest Area Hasn’t Grown Much Over The Years

Guest areas added to Disneyland between the mid-80's and 2013.
Guest areas added to Disneyland between the mid-80’s and 2013.

In 1984, when Premium annual passes were first made available to the public, the guest accessible area at Disneyland (DL) was about 72 acres and park attendance was 9.8 million. In the years to come, the park guest area would increase slightly with the addition of Splash Mountain (1989), Mickey’s Toontown (1993), and the Indiana Jones Adventure (1995).

In 2014, Disneyland had a guest area of about 75 acres and attendance of about 16.8 million.

That’s an increase of 7 million guests in effectively the same acreage, resulting in about 1/3 less space per guest on an average park day!

Disney California Adventure Guest Area Has Grown, But So Has Attendance

Guest areas added to Disney California Adventure between the 2001 and 2013
Guest areas added to Disney California Adventure between the 2001 and 2013

When it was first built in 2001, Disney California Adventure (DCA) had a guest area of about 41 acres with attendance of about 5 million. By 2014, the area had increased to about 56 acres (thanks in large part to Carsland) and attendance to 8.8 million.

Even with the recent amazing expansion, guests at DCA still have about 1/4 less space per person on an average attendance day at the park.

The Disneyland Resort Is Busier Than Ever

Let’s look at the same numbers on a resort level.

After the completion of DCA in 2001, theme park guest area in the Disneyland Resort (DLR) rose to about 117 acres with attendance of 17.3 million. The number of visitors continued to grow, outpacing new construction efforts.

In 2014, DLR attendance was 25.5 million and total theme park guest area was 132 acres, leaving about 1/4 less space per person, like at California Adventure.

Numbers don’t lie: more people are visiting the Disneyland Resort than in past years, with only a relatively small growth in the resort guest-accessible area.

You might know this phenomenon by its other name: overcrowding. In the mid-90’s, there were fewer than 100,000 Annual Passholders. Now we number around 1 million.

There are simply more of us getting in the way of Disney’s ideal customer, our ‘Mythical Family,’ which leads us to the next point…

2. AP’s Increase Wait Times

This is fairly easy to understand:

More people in the park equals longer lines for rides and shows.

Fastpasses Don’t Fix Everything

Disneyland Fastpass

In order to make up for longer lines, the FASTPASS® service was invented to save a place in line for guests and magically shrink wait times. And it works beautifully, but there’s a catch: AP’s know how to ‘game the system’ a bit.

Our ‘Mythical Family’ might understand the concept behind this time-saving device, but they won’t be as successful using them because…

AP’s Know The Park Better Than Just About Anyone

Practice makes perfect and the very fact that someone is an Annual Passholder makes it very likely that they’ve visited the park before, probably many times before. This means they know things like:

  • Which lands, rides, and shows to visit and when
  • Where the lines will get longer later in the day
  • What the transit time between attractions is
  • What attractions, shops, and restaurants are near each other
  • Which FASTPASS® machines aren’t linked into the network

Disney’s preferred customer has nothing on the practiced passholder. They can read all the books they want and get all the advice in the world, but nothing beats actual time spent on the ground and that’s what AP’s have in spades.

3. Annual Passholders Make Shorter Visits

A significant number of AP’s live within a two-hour drive of the Disneyland Resort, making it very convenient to pop over for a half-day with ease. Some local passholders treat the DLR like a city park and meet friends there for a few hours just to hang out.

Disney uses past visitor data to schedule everything, from the number of balloon salesman on Main Street to the canoes on the Rivers of America. The shorter, random trips some AP’s make are hard for managers to plan for and therefore cause many of the other AP attendance problems.

Poor planning can lead to improper Cast Member scheduling and a scarcity of ride vehicles on popular attractions, once again messing with the vacation of Disney’s preferred guests.

4. AP’s Fill Up The Parking Lots

The Mickey and Friends Parking Structure and some outlying parking lots around the Disneyland Resort.
The Mickey and Friends Parking Structure and some outlying parking lots around the Disneyland Resort.

The Mickey and Friends Parking Structure is the largest in North America and was built to hold 10,000 cars. If every car inside was owned by a ‘Mythical Family of Four,’ then 40,000 guests could fit inside.

But annual passholders often visit the park in groups far less than four, often just one person per car. Disneyland managers have tried to discourage this behavior by increasing the daily cost of parking, from $8/day in 2003 to $17/day in 2015. A year of parking for Annual Passholders has also increased in the past decade, from $40 to $169.

Most recently in February 2015, new sales of the AP yearly parking option were cancelled. This couldn’t help but have the effect of decreasing both the number of trips Annual Passholders take as well as the number of cars they bring with them.

AP’s fill up spaces that could be used for Disney’s preferred guests, sometimes just for part of the day, making the big-spending family park in an outlying lot and get bused to the resort.

Not only are regular resort guests inconvenienced, but Disney Cast Members as well. When guests spill into overflow lots, CM’s are pushed further out into the outlying parking lots, where they’re shuttled in on inefficient and cramped trams or forced to walk over a mile just to get to their job.

The significant time delay between parking at the resort and finally arriving at work also leaves more cars in employee parking lots longer, further contributing to the problem.

5. Annual Passholders Often Don’t Spend Extra Money

Disneyland has merchandise for all ages.
Disneyland has merchandise for all ages.

On your first trip to Disneyland, you have to spend a bunch of money. There are Mickey t-shirts, plush toys, magnets, ornaments, and kitchenware to buy, not to mention fancy sit-down dinners and professional photographs. On your second trip, maybe you’ll get a thing or two you skimped-on last time, but not a whole lot.

How about the third trip? Tenth? Hundredth?

You get the point: AP’s aren’t as likely as the ‘Mythical Family’ to spend a bunch of extra dough on their regular trips, thus cutting into the Disney bottom line (and they don’t like that). This is perhaps the largest problem with Passholders.

Now that I’ve harped on AP’s, here’s a few reasons why we’re good for the Walt Disney Company and why we should continue to be embraced.

1. Annual Passholders Provide Guaranteed Income

While you can’t exactly predict when the ‘Mythical Family’ will schedule their Disney vacation, if you buy an annual pass Disney knows for a fact that they’re going to get a big chunk of change from you. Whether it’s all at once or in monthly payments, they’re going to end up with $300-700 of your money in their bank account.

This one is pretty straightforward: Disneyland is going to be manned and ready whether you buy an annual pass or not, so it’s good for Disney to pocket some money for something they were going to do anyway.

2. AP’s Don’t Have To Ride All The E-Ticket Attractions On Every Visit

I don’t need to ride Space Mountain on every visit to Disneyland. I’ve been on it a hundred times, so if it has a long line I skip it. For the same reason, I don’t need to go on Soarin’ Over California everytime I enter DCA. I’ve done it.

How about you? We all have rides and shows we love. They’re our favorite and when asked why we like to go to Disneyland, they’re the first words on our lips. But because a ride is your favorite, and you’ve been on it a bunch of times, it probably doesn’t kill you to miss it on one trip. Or maybe multiple trips?

There are a whole slew of rides I haven’t been on since my son was born over a year ago and I’m okay with that. I know that when I come back, they’ll still be there. A lot of AP’s have the same mindset.

So while Passholders can be the cause for longer wait times, the reverse can also be true. I say let the ‘Family’ wait in those lines. I’ll just chill on a bench and soak in the magic.

3. AP’s Are More Likely To Purchase ‘Value-Added’ Tickets For Special Events

In recent years, Disneyland managers have concocted a whole slew of special events requiring an extra ticket at extra cost. Mickey’s Halloween Party and the Candlelight Processional are perfect examples. A lot of these ‘value-added’ events happen during the school season, when our favorite ‘Mythical Family’ is stuck at home and less likely to travel.

So who buys these tickets? Local AP’s, that’s who. The Halloween Party has 14 dates and they all take place between late September and Halloween night. What’s that sound like? School season.

I know it’s a little off topic, but how about the D23 events that take place in the park? Our Family probably wouldn’t travel across the country just to see a screening of Sleeping Beauty, but a local AP would show up, dumping a little extra cash into the Disney coffers.

4. Annual Passholders Are A Good Source Of Information

Since they visit the resort more often than the average guest, Passholders are uniquely qualified to inform the WDC about what’s happening in their parks. Which plans are working and which ones aren’t. What rides and shows need to be replaced and what would be good replacements.

It wasn’t until I was a Passholder for several years that I realized I could give direct and specific feedback on Cast Member activities by leaving comments at City Hall. No matter how many times I visit, when a CM goes the extra mile for me, I always try to leave them some positive feedback.

While I don’t like to complain to Disney, and seldom have cause to do so, anyone can also use this process to leave negative feedback.

Passholders Are Perfect Brand Advocates

Brand Advocate: A person or customer who talks favorably about a brand or product and then passes on positive word-of-mouth messages about the brand to other people.

It has been pointed out to me that I often talk too much about Disneyland and Disney in general, which is probably true. Like a lot of AP’s, I do go overboard on the Mouse at times and not just about big premieres and park openings either. Most Passholders I’ve met can talk endlessly on the smallest of details, like which Hitchhiking Ghost is the coolest (Gus) or which shade of Sleeping Beauty Castle they prefer and why (I like the pink- it’s happier).

Hitchhiking Ghosts on the Haunted Mansion Poster, Disneyland
Phineas, Ezra, and Gus: The Hitchhiking Ghosts on the Haunted Mansion Poster, Disneyland

As reader Steve pointed out, AP’s are not only valuable information resources to the WDC itself, but to other park guests and the ‘Mythical Family.’ Our animated interest and palpable love of Disney parks is transferable to regular folks out in the real world, which leads to their later vacations to Disney resorts.

While managers do a pretty good job of engaging the fan community as a whole, Disney could do more to engage Passholders directly. For example, offering a larger array of discount options for AP’s looking to escort out-of-town friends and family through the resorts would be a good start. Harnessing AP brand-advocates and giving them more incentive to spread the word is a win-win situation for everyone.

5. AP’s Can Spend A Lot Of Money In The Park

Wait a second- didn’t I just say a minute ago that Annual Passholders were cheap? You weren’t dreaming, because yes I did.

However, as a reader pointed out to me, some AP’s do spend a healthy chunk of money during their visits to Disneyland. These Disney fans might collect pins, Vinylmations, watches, or artwork. Or they might simply like to purchase their wardrobe at the park.

Some passholders do the bulk of their Christmas shopping at the Disneyland Resort, and my wife and I look forward to browsing the seasonal merchandise to see what new treasures we can add to our collection. So although we may not spend as much every visit, we still have our big spending trips from time to time.


Disneyland Annual Passholders can definitely create problems for the DLR. We show up all the time, get in the way, and usually don’t spend a whole lot of extra cash at the park.

But we add value to Disneyland and the Disney company as well. We’re brand-evangelists. We love to talk about Disney to everyone and anyone. Not only do we love visiting the resort, we love other Disney products as well, like their animated films, books, and games.

When looked at in a vacuum, AP’s can get in the way of the Mythical Family of Four and hinder their ability to give even more money to the WDC. But don’t discount the possibility that we’re a big part of the reason the family showed up in the first place, spreading the word and whispering in everyone’s ear about all things Disney.

I’m not giving up my annual pass anytime soon, and with Disney’s strategy to decrease the number of SoCal AP’s in general, I may even buy Deluxe passes so my family can spend even more time spending less money at the Disneyland Resort.

What do you think about all this? What’s your annual passport plan? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And make sure to read the 5 Steps of Disney’s (Not So) Secret Strategy To Axe Passholders and our Ultimate Guide to Disneyland Annual Passports. Thanks for reading and I’ll see ya’ real soon!

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How Much Did Disneyland Cost When It Opened Compared With Today?

Disneyland 'A' Ticket
Disneyland 'A' Ticket
Disneyland ‘A’ Ticket

Ever wonder what it would be like to visit Disneyland back in 1955? To stroll the barely solidified pavement and see the park in its infancy?

Maybe you’d bump into Uncle Walt having lunch at the Chicken Plantation Restaurant before checking out the Indian Village? How about forking over a C-ticket to ride the Jungle Cruise?

Today, we’re used to the modern all-day, all-attraction type of Disneyland. As a die-hard Disney fan, I know all about the famous A-E ticket system that used to rule the park, but it was phased-out before I was even born.

While working on The Ultimate Guide To Disneyland Annual Passports, the thought occurred to me:

If I could go back in time and visit Disneyland the year it opened, how much would it cost for me to ride everything at the park like I expect to do now?

On this page, I’ll walk you through the steps I took to make an ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison for tickets to Disneyland in 1955 and Disneyland today, including some interesting things I learned along the way.

As an aside, I’ve recently updated the calculations on this page in response to a request on our Mouse Monthly Facebook page. I’d like to give a special shout out to Autumn and thanks for reading!

1. How Many Attractions Did Disneyland Have in 1955?

It’s hard to compare the price of admission to the park today with what it cost in 1955 for several reasons.

  1. The park had about half the number of attractions it now has.
  2. Park admission and ride tickets were sold separately, with the famous A-C tickets.
  3. There was only one theme park, Disneyland, and no place to ‘hop to’ like we have today.

When it opened, Disneyland had a number of temporary rides and shows that passed rather quickly. Other attractions followed shortly afterwards that same year, the last being the Mike Fink Keel Boats near Christmas of 1955.

The first step for our comparison is to count the number of attractions that we could visit/ride the first year. Simplified, here’s what was open in 1955:

Ticket-LevelNumber Of Attractions
Free With Admission9
$.50 Special Ticket1

As you can see, there we 38 attractions open by the end of 1955. If you’d like more detailed information, I’ve included several tables at the bottom of the page showing which attractions were open and at what ticket-level. You can jump down and take a look if you want.

2. How Much Did Disneyland Tickets Cost In 1955?

Now that we know how many attractions we could have visited, the next step is to figure out the price of tickets.

When Disneyland first opened, and for many years after, guests were charged separately for admission to the park and attraction tickets, similar to a travelling carnival. Adults could get in for $1 and rides cost between 10-30 cents each.

Ticket-LevelCost in 1955What It Would Cost in 2018**
8-Ticket Book*$2.50$23.12
* The 8 ticket book included one adult admission.
** All inflation calculations on this page courtesy US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Then in October 1955, the famous A-E ticket system was created, though at the time D and E-ticket rides had yet to be invented. Tickets could be bought individually throughout the park or in an 8-ticket book that included an admission discount of $.10.

1955 Disneyland 8-Ticket Book
Ticket LevelNumber In Book

You didn’t have to pay extra for everything though. Some venues, like the Golden Horseshoe Revue and Dutch Boy Paints Color Gallery were free with admission. Another show, The Mickey Mouse Club Circus, required a separate $.50 ticket.

3. How Many Tickets Would It Take To Visit Every Attraction In 1955?

We have established that there were 38 rides at Disneyland the year it opened. We also know the prices for both the 8-ticket book and the individual A-C tickets themselves.

Now we’ll look at how much it would cost to buy that all-attraction, all-inclusive vacation we enjoy today, but back in 1955.

Using Individual A-C Tickets

First, we’ll take a look at what it would cost if we paid the full price for admission and only bought individual attraction tickets.

Ticket-Level# Of AttractionsCost in 1955Total Cost
$.50 Special Ticket1$.50$.50

As you can see in the table below, to buy separate tickets for everything and pay for admission, the cost would come to $7.60.

ItemCost in 1955
Attraction Tickets$6.60
Cost For All-Attraction, All-Day 1955 Disneyland Vacation$7.60

Combining The 8-Ticket Book With Attraction Tickets

Thanks to our friends at the Disney History Institute, we know that the original 8-ticket book from October 1955 sold for $2.50, saving you $.10 on admission when compared with paying for everything separately like we did above.

If we bought the 8-ticket book, here’s what our costs would be for an all-attraction day at Disneyland:

Ticket-Level# Of AttractionsTickets From BookCost For Extra Tickets
$.50 Special Ticket1$.50

As the table below shows:

Towards the latter half of 1955 it would cost $7.50 to experience an all-attraction Disneyland vacation like we have today.

This would save us $.10 over paying for everything separately and this is the number we’ll use to compare against the current price.

ItemCost in 1955
Attraction Tickets$5.00
8-Ticket Book (Including Admission)$2.50
Cost For All-Attraction, All-Day 1955 Disneyland Vacation$7.50

4. How Does A 1955 All-Attraction Disneyland Vacation Compare To Today?

Cost in 1955Cost in 2018Cost Of 2018 DL Single-Park Value Ticket
Cost For An All-Attraction, All-Day Disneyland Vacation$7.50$69.37$97

When adjusted to 2018 dollars, the cost to do everything at Disneyland in 1955 was $69.37, or about $27 cheaper than it is today. We now have a baseline ticket cost with which to compare all future price changes.

So why does it cost more today? Here are a few quick answers I can think of:

A. There Are More People On The Planet

YearWorld Population
19552.7 Billion
20187.6 Billion

There are about 180% more people on the planet than in 1955. And the area of Disneyland has not increased substantially in many years.

More people in essentially the same space = Overcrowding

B. People Have More Disposable Income

Based on the most recent US Census Bureau statistics:

YearMedian Household IncomeIn 2018 Dollars

Between Disneyland’s opening and today, the average American family has experienced an earning increase of about $18,000 per year. While other household expenses have certainly increased as well, a chunk of this excess certainly qualifies as disposable income. Income that makes is easier for more people to visit Disneyland more often.

C. Disneyland Has More To Do Now

We concluded that the park had 38 attractions in 1955. Today it has over 60, not to mention a sister park (Disney California Adventure) sitting next door. Also, let’s not forget about the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, set to premier in 2019.

And not only have the number of rides and shows increased, many are superior to anything that existed in Disneyland’s first year (I can hear the outrage that last sentence will cause). There was no Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Matterhorn, Star Tours, or Audio-Animatronics of any kind in 1955.

Better rides = Higher value = Increased price.

I talk about these issues a lot more in my article 5 Reasons Disneyland Doesn’t Want More Annual Passholders, so check it out and let me know what you think. Also, take a look at the tables at the bottom of this page for the specifics on 1955 attractions and ticket-levels.


It certainly does cost more to visit Disneyland today, but not as much as you’d think. And these numbers are not entirely complete. For example, they don’t include the increased cost of parking or food. They also cover a very finite period in the history of the park.

Nor do they take into account multiple visits to the same attraction on the same day, like today’s all-inclusive tickets allow. If you were to do everything we discussed above and ride the Jungle Cruise 3 more times the same day, it would cost an extra $.90, or $8.32 in 2018 dollars, bringing the modern total to $77.69!

Can you imagine some Skipper with his hand out every time you wanted to go for a trip?

What do you think about the difference in 1955 Disneyland prices compared with today? Which “park” would you rather visit? Let me know in a comment below. Thanks for reading and we’ll see ya’ real soon!

[Disney AP Guide Blurb]
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1955 Disneyland Attractions And Ticket Levels

Back to the top

Below is a list of all the attractions Disneyland had in 1955, though not all existed on opening day (July 17, 1955), as well as the ticket required to ride each:

Disneyland Attraction Grouped By ‘Land’

1955 ‘Lands’1955 Disneyland AttractionsTicket-Level
Main Street, USA
Fire WagonA
Main Street ArcadeFree
Main Street CinemaA
Main Street Shooting GalleryB
Santa Fe & Disneyland RailroadC
Street CarsA
Jungle CruiseC
Conestoga WagonB
Davy Crockett Frontier MuseumFree
Freight TrainB
Golden Horseshoe RevueFree
Indian VillageFree
Mark Twain RiverboatC
Mike Fink Keel BoatsC
Mule PackC
Stagecoach RideC
Canal Boats Of The WorldB
Casey Jr. Circus TrainB
Dumbo Flying ElephantsB
King Arthur CarrouselA
Mad Tea PartyB
Mickey Mouse Club Circus$.50 Extra
Mickey Mouse Club TheaterB
Mr. Toad’s Wild RideC
Peter Pan FlightC
Snow White’s AdventuresC
Circarama, USAC
Dutch Boy Paints Color GalleryFree
Kaiser’s Hall of Aluminum FameFree
Monsanto Hall Of ChemistryFree
Rocket To The MoonC
Space Station X-1A
Thimble Drome Flight CircleFree
Tomorrowland BoatsB
20,000 Leagues Under The SeaA
The World Beneath UsFree

Disneyland Attractions Grouped By Ticket-Level

Davy Crockett Frontier Museum
Dutch Boy Paints Color Gallery
Golden Horseshoe Revue
Indian Village
Kaiser’s Hall of Aluminum Fame
Main Street Arcade
Monsanto Hall Of Chemistry
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Fire Wagon
King Arthur Carrousel
Main Street Cinema
Space Station X-1
Street Cars
Canal Boats Of The World
Casey Jr. Circus Train
Conestoga Wagons
Dumbo Flying Elephants
Freight Train
Mad Tea Party
Main Street Shooting Gallery
Mickey Mouse Club Theater
Tomorrowland Boats
Circarama, USA
Jungle Cruise
Mark Twain Riverboat
Mike Fink Keel Boats
Mule Pack
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Peter Pan Flight
Rocket To The Moon
Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad
Snow White’s Adventures
Stagecoach Ride
$.50 Extra
Mickey Mouse Club Circus
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Disney’s Ideal Customers: The Mythical Wealthy Family Of Four

Disney's Ideal Guest: the 'Mythical Wealthy Family of Four'

Wanted poster top cut

Mouse Monthly - Mythical Wealthy Family of Four distressed


Be on the lookout for Disney’s Ideal Guests!

  • Alias: The Family, A Family, Your Family
  • Usual Number of Members: Four
  • Ages: 1-99
  • Location: All over the world

Recognize The “Mythical Wealthy Family of Four” by these characteristics:

  • Loves all things Disney
  • Visits a Disney resort at least every few years
  • Stays at premium Disney hotels (i.e. Disneyland Hotel or Disney Grand California)
  • Visits Disney theme parks for at least three days per trip
  • Eats at Disney restaurants and shop for Disney merchandise in Disney stores

dollar sign

Boosts company profits!
Disney’s perfect customer spends a big chunk of change on vacation

Report all family sightings to:
  • Jack Lindquist, Mayor
  • City Hall
  • 101 Town Square
  • Disneyland, California 92802


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