"Is the Annual Pass discount going away???"
It's a question we have been asked almost daily for the last several months. Before we address the future of this popular money-saving perk, let's take a look at the origins of the Disney Vacation Club Annual Pass discount.
Discounts on Walt Disney World Annual Passes are arguably the most popular perks offered to Disney Vacation Club members. Owners can purchase up to 8 discounted passes each year at prices which are $150 less than full retail rate. But Disney has not always extended such impressive savings to DVC members.
In the early days of Disney Vacation Club, many owners received free park admission during their stays. However, this offer was more of a purchase incentive rather than an ownership perk. The free park admission was guaranteed at the time of purchase to those who bought in the early 1990s. Passes were provided for half the occupancy of the villa reserved--two free passes for those staying in a Deluxe Studio or One Bedroom and four passes for Two Bedroom Villa occupants.
The promise of free passes was guaranteed only through the end of 1999.
Aside from this early purchase incentive, true discounts on theme park tickets were difficult to come by. In the late-90s and early-00s, the only disount offered on Walt Disney World passes was a 10% discount on Length of Stay passes. In order to save the 10% owners had to wait until arrival to purchase their passes, a policy which negated much of the perk's value given that Disney also offered Park Hopper ticket discounts to all guests who bought their passes in advance.
It wasn't until 2005 that the Annual Pass discount was introduced--nearly 15 years after the debut of the Disney Vacation Club timeshare program.
In that first year, the discount reduced the price of an Annual Pass by roughly 25%, saving owners about $100 off the price of a $400 pass. The price reduction remained fixed at approximately $100 per Annual Pass and $125 per Premium Annual Pass until June 2012 when it actually improved to $150 and $140 off, respectively.
With such savings on the line, it's understandable that owners would react strongly to the idea that the perk may be changed or eliminated.
On November 12, 2014, Morgan Crutchfield of website DVCCentral.com had this to say via her Twitter account: "Rumor with big teeth: DVC Annual Passes to lose discount soon. Standard AP rates will apply."
This statement caught the eyes of many owners and sent mild shockwaves across the Internet. Heading into the holiday shopping season, many owners began wrestling with the idea of whether to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on Annual Pass vouchers for future trips rather than risk losing the savings.
We at DVCNews.com immediately started checking with our sources through both official and unofficial channels. Across the board, none of the people we spoke with had any knowledge of the perk being eliminated. Still we remained mostly silent on the topic because not all sources are privy to to the same information. Officially a Disney Vacation Club spokesperson provided us with the less-than-definitive statement that they had "no changes to announce."
As the weeks passed and the perk survived into 2015, its elimination seems increasingly unlikely. Still rumors of a February ticket price increase revived some of the owner fears. Members patiently hoping for some other highly-discounted pass like the $399 Premium Annual Pass suddenly wondered if they should buy now rather than risk getting hit by both a price increase and the removal of a $150 discount.
DVCNews contacted Morgan several days ago to see if she had any new details to share regarding the Annual Pass discounts. Initially she expressed confidence in her source's track record for providing reliable information. However, additional checking on her part suggests that DVC concluded the perk's removal would be highly unpopular with members, and removal of the discount has been taken off the table for now.
So what should an owner do if they plan to purchase Annual Passes in 2015?
The safe approach is probably to buy vouchers now, before any price adjustment occurs. Prices are certain to increase in the next few weeks; the last price increase occurred in late February 2014.
Unfortunately there are few certainties when it comes to Disney ticket prices. As in 2012, the amount of the DVC ticket discount could increase...or it could go the other direction and be reduced in value. 2015 could bring another limited time offer on Annual Passes or Magic Your Way tickets. When it comes to pricing, Disney is anything but predictable.
All indications suggest that the Disney Vacation Club member Annual Pass discount is safe, but getting the absolute lowest prices on future theme park admission remains a crap shoot.