When Does a Disneyland Parks Annual Pass Makes Sense in NorCal?

IMG_3556It feels a little ridiculous that we live a six-hour drive away from Disneyland, but are Annual Passport holders. It seems like more and more people in the Bay Area have annual passes – at first it seemed like a novelty because it felt harder to get for those outside of SoCal, and then it almost felt like a vacation trap, almost like buying a vacation home where you need to go to that second house for every vacation instead of changing up destinations each trip.

This year, practicality and our need for more magic intersected, and annual passes made sense. We leapt.

Here was our logic:

  • We made a trip earlier this month where we had bought three-day park hopper tickets ($275 each ticket);
  • We plan to go to Disneyland again in the spring for my son’s birthday. Two trips with three-day park hopper tickets each = the breakeven point on an annual pass ($549 for the deluxe).
  • Many Disney resort dining options have discounts for annual pass holders, which really adds up. We were surprised to get the discount at non-Disney places in Downtown Disney, too.

The annual passes were purchased during our trip at the beginning of this month. We’d already purchased the three-day park hopper tickets, but Disney allows you to trade those in and put the credit toward the annual pass (go to any ticket window on location for help). The key is that you need to make the trade-up before your standard tickets expire – in our case, before the end of the third day – and our annual passes began on the first day those park hopper tickets were used. That means we couldn’t try to game the system by trading in the three-day tickets on the third day, receiving the full monetary credit for the passes, then have our annual passes expire one year from that third day. Our annual passes expire the first day we used the tickets in September.

Now that we have the tickets, we want to go more. I’ve found myself looking at the school calendar, trying to find gaps where we can head down for a quick trip. This is the real craziness. It’s a six-hour drive or we can stalk flight deals, then there’s a hotel involved. This is going to be a costly year, for sure.

The flip side is a year of amazing memories. I’m deep into sentimentality now that my oldest is in eighth grade. This is the last year before it gets difficult to miss school, plus, with high school, she’ll have a stronger pull toward spending time with friends and outside of the house. I’m trying to make as many family memories as we can before the meat of the teenage years begin. Everyone is happy at Disneyland. Sure, we have moments where one or more of us are overtired and cranky, but they are far outweighed by the good. I’ve already forgotten how incredibly hot and humid is was during our trip two weeks ago, but I clearly remember the excitement of going down the rapids after dark on Grizzly River Run, my son jumping up when he spotted Olaf during the parade, and my elation of snagging a water-side seat at the Blue Bayou Restaurant.

We decided that this is a one year only thing for us, mostly because high school is next year, but there is a small part of me that thinks the one year limit is negotiable, too.

 

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