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Disneyland Introduces New Annual Pass: Is the Disney Flex Passport a Good Value?

May 10, 2019
10 min read
Disneyland Lines - Empty Walkways entering Sleeping Beauty Castle
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When it comes to Disney news this spring, blink and you'll miss it. It seems like every day brings major announcements out of Anaheim or Orlando. With the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland approaching in just three weeks and Walt Disney World's version of the land to follow on Aug. 29, Disney is racing against time to make changes to handle the expected crowds and increased demand.

(Image courtesy of Disney Parks)
(Image courtesy of Disney Parks)

Meet the Disney Flex Passport

Late yesterday, Disney announced another major change -- this time to its Annual Passport offerings at Disneyland. Disneyland will offer the Disney Flex Passport starting May 21, 2019. This is a brand-new annual pass in addition to the current pass lineup. It has a pretty enticing price, albeit with some unique new restrictions that Disney hopes will help space out crowds.

The Disney Flex Passport is priced at $599, which places it in between the $399 Southern California Select Passport and the $799 Disney Deluxe Passport. Since the Southern California Select Passport is only available to residents from a limited number of zip codes in Southern California, this makes the Flex Passport the cheapest option for visitors who reside anywhere else.

Like the other less expensive annual passes at Disneyland, the Flex Passport does not include parking or MaxPass. A MaxPass add-on option will be available, just as it's currently offered for $100 with other Disneyland annual passports. Pass holders are also entitled to dining and merchandise discounts and other perks. A monthly payment plan is available to California residents in zip codes 90000–96199.

What About Blackout Dates?

With this value pricing, there are, of course, limits to when and how the pass can be used. These limits are unlike anything we've seen before with Disneyland annual passes. There are very few traditional blackout days on the Disney Flex Passport calendar. Only the two weeks around Christmas and New Year's Day are completely blacked out.

The pass instead introduces two levels for the remaining days on the calendar: "good-to-go" days (listed in green on pass calendars) and dates that require reservations (listed in blue on pass calendars). For the most part, good-to-go days are Mondays through Thursdays during spring, fall and winter. They track the days when Southern California Select pass holders can enter the park already. Weekend days year-round as well as every day all summer long are listed as "reservations required" days.

Disney Flex Passport calendar for Disneyland park in mid-2019.

The calendars for Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park also vary slightly. There are a few days where one park is categorized as a "good-to-go" and the other is a "reservations required" day.

How Does the Reservation Process Work?

Disney Flex pass holders can enter the theme parks on an unlimited number of good-to-go days. Reservations are not required. But on any other day, Flex Passport holders need to utilize a new reservation system. Reservation times will, of course, be limited. Just how limited remains to be seen.

In order to make a reservation to enter the parks on days where reservations are required, pass holders will have a few options. They can book reservations on either the Disneyland website or in the Disneyland app via a new calendar.

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Reservations can only be made up to 30 days in advance. Disney Flex Passport holders are further limited to making two reservations at a time within a 30-day period. Guests can make another reservation anytime once that first reservation date has passed or if they cancel an existing reservation.

There will be a penalty to discourage no-shows who would make valuable reservation times go unused. Pass holders who no-show for three reservations within a 90-day period will be blocked from making reservations for 30 days. Guests can swipe into either park any time on their reservation date to avoid a no-show designation.

Guests can also cancel reservations an unlimited number of times. To avoid a no-show penalty, guests simply need to cancel by 11:59pm on the day before the reservation.

(Image by Leslie Harvey.)

Is the Disney Flex Passport a Good Deal?

Whether guests can extract value out of the pass will depend on just how competitive the reservation process will be. Since this is a brand-new offering, we simply don't know what the supply and demand will be for reservation windows. Will it be like the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge reservation process earlier this month where reservations were completely booked up in a few hours' time when released? Or will it be a more flexible and fluid process, much like Disneyland dining reservations are now?

Assuming that the days on which reservations are required have reasonable availability, this new annual passport offers a very intriguing value proposition for several kinds of Disneyland guests. I'm personally leaning toward purchasing it myself when I visit later this month.

The pass might be good for the following types of guests:

  • Current Southern California Select pass holders who want to visit on a few more peak days (summer, weekends): For just $200 more than the cost of the Southern California Select Passport, a huge number of days open up as possibilities on the Flex Passport calendar, including most weekends and all of the summer. Of course, reservations are required to access those days. Locals who can plan ahead even a bit and who want to visit the park on at least two weekend or summer days during the course of a calendar year will come out ahead with the Flex Passport.
  • Northern California, Arizona, etc. residents who aren't eligible for a Southern California Select Passport: There are a number of travelers in drive markets like the San Francisco Bay Area and Phoenix who go to Disneyland a couple of times a year. This pass may make excellent sense for them if they take several shorter trips each year. Since these kinds of travelers already plan somewhat ahead for their visits, the reservation process won't be too much of a burden. Since they often come to Anaheim for shorter weekend getaways, the limit of two reservations per 30 days won't be too constraining.

The pass is likely not a smart deal, however, for visitors who plan to visit Disneyland for more than two days during a period requiring reservations. Because guests are limited to only two reservations at a time, there would be no way for a guest visiting on a trip of three or more days to guarantee they will be able to reserve admission on all of the days of their vacation. For just $200 more, the Deluxe Passport offers more guarantees to guests coming for a longer period of time.

Disney California Adventure at night. (Image by Leslie Harvey)

How to Get the Most Value Out of the Flex Passport Offer

At The Points Guy, we always want to make sure that our readers know how to extract maximum value from offerings within program rules. And there's a very special rule that currently allows Disneyland guests who have a regular single or multiday ticket to apply the value of that ticket to the purchase of an annual pass. This upgrade option is only available at Guest Services in the park on or before the last valid day of the ticket, so most guests upgrade on their final day in the parks.

Why does this policy matter? It's a fantastic opportunity for guests who are planning a visit this summer to experience Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. These guests should purchase a regular park ticket and upgrade to the Disney Flex Passport on the last day of their visit. Why not just purchase the Disney Flex Passport first? Because summer dates require reservations for Flex pass holders, and reservations are not guaranteed. Guests with regular tickets, however, can be assured of admission on peak summer dates. These same guests can then turn those tickets into annual passes, even though they have taken advantage of regular ticket benefits that they could not necessarily have gotten with the annual pass they eventually purchase.

Classic Characters and Castle
Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort

Here's how I plan to benefit from this rule on my own trip. I will purchase a three-day Park Hopper ticket to visit Disneyland May 29–31, at a cost of $355 (Note: Small discounts are available from brokers like Undercover Tourist.) I'll have guaranteed admission to the parks for those three days and will also have access to a single day of Magic Morning early entry into Disneyland Park, a feature not available on annual passes. I can then apply the $355 purchase toward the cost of the $599 Disney Flex Passport on the last day of my trip, for an additional cost of $244. If I plan to visit Disneyland even just two more days within the next 12 months, I'll more than breakeven.

Remember that tickets bought through sites like Undercover Tourist will code as travel on your credit card but ticket-only packages bought directly from Disney will usually code as entertainment. Be sure to use the right card to maximize your rewards. (Here are the best credit cards for family travel.)

Related: The Best Credit Cards for Entertainment Spending

TPG reached out to Disney for official comment as to whether this ticket upgrade policy will remain in place with respect to the Disney Flex Passport and it confirmed that, indeed, it will. Using this upgrade strategy is a smart way to have a less restricted or longer initial vacation as well as to obtain a low-cost annual pass with a lot of additional flexibility for the following 12 months.

If you’re headed to Disneyland, you may also be interested in:

Leslie Harvey is a mom of two who blogs at Trips With Tykes, is the co-host of the podcast Disney Deciphered and co-owns the Disneyland planning Facebook group, Disneyland With Kids.

Featured image by Be rewarded with empty walkways when you enter at rope drop! Image by Leslie Harvey. Not for reuse in other stories. Image licensed for author's stories only.

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