This week, I'm happy to introduce Chris Ridgeway from Growing Up Disney! His sister, Amy, was featured a few weeks ago and you can see some awesome photos of Chris and the Growing Up Disney family in her post. Chris lives in Birmingham now and travels to Walt Disney World as often as possible. When I read on of his posts about traveling to WDW via Auburn University, I made the Alabama connection! Sadly, our days at Auburn did not cross, but I'm sure if we compared notes, we know a lot of the same people. So, welcome Chris and War Eagle!
Hi all! I'm Chris, or Ridge as I am known by all my friends, and I blog with my wonder-sister Amy and my Dad over at www.growingupdisney.com.
Being in Alabama places me in a great position, a couple hours from the mountains, a couple hours from the beach and 10 hours by car to Disney or less than 2 by air. Alabama not only provides beautiful views minutes away in any direction but it's also less than half a day from the "World". I go to the parks as often as possible which some years has meant zero times (thanks college) or like this year has meant four times. It was almost five but on short notice of less than 20 days, there were no rooms available with DVC. Yes, my family and I are proud Disney Vacation Club members. So with all these trips I need to have a couple things with me every time I travel. 1) is my camera 2) is my Annual Pass...
When I tell people about taking a trip to Disney, tickets are always a huge topic because, as we all know, they aren’t cheap and there are lots of options to choose from which add to the expense. Most people don't travel to the World as often as I do so an annual pass isn't needed. However there comes a breakeven point where it becomes cost effective to purchase an annual pass but that depends greatly on the amount of time you’re going to spend in and around the parks throughout the year. I also love the passholder perks available like dining and merchandise discounts (10% for regular AP and 20% for Premium), special events and access to Tables in Wonderland.
From time to time, there are special AP holder only events that you can participate in. I got to ride Mission Space on AP weekend when it first opened. That was a blast. I think I rode it 20 times before even I felt like it was time to do something else.
Do you get just the regular pass or the premium pass? There is about 100 dollars difference in the cost from regular to premium but the step up in perks in very nice if you will take advantage of them. Both passes entitle you to unlimited admission into the theme parks, free parking and a subscription to the Mickey Monitor, a quarterly publication with news and highlights from the parks. If you take the premium pass, you also get unlimited admission to the water parks Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, Disney Quest at Downtown Disney and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Now if you do like I did and upgrade your pass after you already purchased you regular AP, be warned that it will still cost you the same price if you upgrade 1 day after or 6 months after you buy your initial pass. Lucky for me I upgraded on my second trip of the year only 2 months after my first trip so I didn’t feel like I was getting a raw deal. I had it for the second part of my Star Wars Weekends trip. Hello 20% discount. The premium annual pass merchandise discount really came in handy for the last day of my trip when I picked up a Dooney & Bourke bag for my sister. Yep that's right I went purse shopping! Not all that it's cracked up to be but the cast members at the store were very accommodating, letting me take pictures of the bags and email everything to Amy so we could get just what she wanted. That one purchase saved me half the cost of the upgrade in the AP. So over all I got my money’s worth out of the additional discount it provided and discounts are available almost everywhere. Never and I mean never be afraid to ask. When I hit a register I always ask “any AP, DVC or Tables in Wonderland discount available?” Never miss an opportunity to save a little money.
One of the other perks to having an AP is Tables in Wonderland, for 75 dollars you get a discount card that can be used at the majority of the restaurants and a good number of quick service locations. What it does is give a 20% discount on food and Adult beverages then adds a 18% gratuity to the bill. It's an great system. On my last trip with some family that were using the dining plan I asked the servers to place our drinks on my bill. They did it with no problems and it helped us to further save a little money.
Right now I am planning a definite trip for May of 2011 to run in the Everest Challenge and if I can make something happen for March 2012 before my AP expires that would be all the better. It has been a very privileged life having parents that bought into DVC early and lucky for us even after nearly 20 years of membership, the whole family still loves to go.