Many of us have grown up watching Disney films, and now our children are obsessed too! Disneyland, the so-called “happiest place on earth”, is the perfect day out for all the family.
However, with the current economic climate, what is Disney doing to ensure we can still take the family for a memorable day at this iconic theme park without it breaking the bank?
Disney has scrapped the old-style annual passes in favor of a different scheme. There is now a new style annual pass, broken down into four options depending on your budget. These annual passes allow you to visit your favorite theme park and receive discounts and benefits too.
So, are they value for money and what are the benefits of purchasing the new Magic Key passes?
Here, we will explore the advantages of the new Disney Annual Pass program and give you the truth about whether it’s good value for money for you and your family.
Do you need help planning your ultimate family trip to Disneyland California? Our top tips will tell you everything you need to know!
- Disney’s Annual Pass Program Explained
- Annual Passes For Families
- Advantages Offered To Magic Key Holders
- The Different Magic Key Passes
- When Is It Worth Buying A Magic Key Pass?
- Paying For A Disneyland Annual Pass
- How To Visit A Disneyland Resort With A Magic Key
- Final Thoughts
Disney’s Annual Pass Program Explained
Disney has always had an Annual Pass option when visiting its parks. However, with the changes the last few years have brought, the reimagined Magic Key pass is now in place.
Disneyland’s original annual passes were discontinued at the end of 2021 due to the ongoing pressures on the park caused by the pandemic and the need for the park to continue to run safely. They have also introduced rules regarding COVID-19, and details involving whether you have to be vaccinated to go to Disneyland California can be found in our blog. Disney announced the changes along with the introduction of the Magic Key pass.
The new Disneyland annual pass scheme has been developed as a reservation-based booking program that promises to be as quick and easy as the old annual pass system. It has the added benefit of being able to limit the number of people visiting the park at any one time. This is to make sure social distancing can be observed as much as possible and allow for fewer staffing issues.
If you are a regular visitor to the Disneyland resort, it could be beneficial for you to purchase a Magic Key annual pass to save money. However, there are terms and conditions included with each of the passes. Each Magic Key is broken down into price tiers and offers different discounts, but there are also restrictions to be aware of, particularly when booking your trip.
The Magic Key scheme works on a rolling basis, so once you have visited and used up one reservation, you can immediately book another depending on the calendar availability. You can also use the Keys to enter either of the theme parks and even both in one day.
There are different variations of the Magic Key pass depending on what you are looking for when you visit. So let’s explore the new Disneyland resort annual pass program.
Annual Passes For Families
Annual passes have always been a popular option for families visiting Disneyland as it is a cost-effective way to plan your days out. There are now different types of Magic Key passes that offer various options regarding entry, rides, food, and merchandise. Depending on what is best for your family, Disney is hoping they have you covered.
There are 4 types of Magic Key to choose from. If you and your family are regular visitors to the Disneyland Resort, the new style annual pass scheme promises to give you fairly priced options that guarantee savings for your family trip. There are some restrictions with the new scheme regarding which days of the year you can make reservations on.
The most expensive Key gives families the option to visit both parks on any day of the year and so might be a popular option for those living close by who visit regularly. The cheaper Keys limits you to a select number of days that you can reserve, so it may be a more suitable option if you are planning a vacation and want to visit the park on specific days during your stay.
Depending on what you and your family want to get out of your visit to Disneyland will also affect the choice of Key you purchase, as there are different discounts to be had. There is also the option of having one family member hold a Magic Key annual pass and get the benefits of free or reduced parking at Disneyland California, as well as merchandise and food discounts that they can share with the family.
It is all about weighing up the cost against time spent at the park and desired discounts. If you’re looking to compare prices for different types of tickets, check out our fantastic guide that explores how much Disneyland California tickets cost.
Advantages Offered To Magic Key Holders
There are many advantages to purchasing a new style Disneyland annual pass. You can receive up to 20% discount on select merchandise, up to 15% off select food and beverages, and up to six reservations for the Disney parks in a 90-day window. You can also get money off or even free parking, and there is even a pass specifically for Southern California residents.
There are also extra rewards and benefits if you are one of the Magic Key holders. You will get special experiences during Disney’s regular festivals, including special offers and collectible merchandise and keepsakes. First access opportunities mean you can be the first to discover new experiences at Disneyland and access new merchandise lines.
The Magic Key terrace is a special lounge area for you and your family to enjoy, and there is even a Magic Keyholder month which is a month-long celebration including special deals and discounts. You also have access to upcoming news and special offers from the Magic Keyholder section of the Disneyland app.
The Different Magic Key Passes
This is the highest tier pass in the new program.
Free parking, 20% off select merchandise, 15% off food and drink, and up to 6 reservations to the theme park at any one time in a 90-day window.
The Dream Key costs $1399. California residents can deposit $179, then pay $102 every month for 12 months.
Is It Worth It?
This is the most expensive Magic Key pass. However, it is good value for money in that parking is free and it affords you a great discount on select things when you are in the park.
Six reservations are the maximum you can book under the new program, giving you greater flexibility when deciding when to go. It also allows you to book admission to either of the Disney theme parks on any day of the year.
It is similar in price to the original annual pass, the Signature Plus Passport. The only difference is that this also includes MaxPass and PhotoPass, which the Dream Key does not include.
This is the second-highest tier price-wise.
50% off parking, 10% discount on select merchandise, food and drink, and up to 6 reservations to the theme park at any one time in a 90-day window.
The Believe Key is $949. California residents can pay a deposit of $179 then make 12 monthly payments of $65.
Is It Worth It?
This is a cheaper version than the Dream Key but still allows you to book the maximum 6 days in the 90-day window, which the lower tier passes don’t. You still get decent discounts, including a generous 50% off parking. However, you can only reserve on certain days of the year, which slightly limits when you can go. You will need to check the Believe Key Blockout Calendar to see what days are included.
This is the second-lowest tier and a cheaper pass.
10% discount on select merchandise, food, and drink, and up to 4 reservations at a time during a 90-day window.
The Enchant Key is $699. California residents can pay a deposit of $179 then 12 installments of $40.
Is It Worth It?
This is a more budget-friendly option, yet it still has the same discount on merchandise and food as the Believe Key. However, you can only reserve 4 days in the given 90-day window and only make these reservations on select days of the year, again reducing your options for when you can visit. You will need to check the Enchant Key Blockout Calendar for more details.
When Is It Worth Buying A Magic Key Pass?
If you are a Disney fan and love spending time at the Disneyland resort, it makes sense for you to purchase a Magic Key pass. It allows you to benefit from many discounts and the ability to book reservations that guarantee you entry to the theme parks. Disneyland annual passes have always been popular with residents of California.
There is a special Magic Key for Southern California residents called the Imagine Key pass. You must live in the vicinity of zip codes 90000 to 93599 to qualify. It is a low-tier pass price-wise and affords the pass holders 2 reservation days in a 90-day window and 10% off merchandise and food and drinks. It costs $399, or you can pay a deposit of $179 then 12 monthly payments of $19.
The Imagine Key pass is a great budget-friendly option for those living near the theme parks who visit Disneyland regularly. There are restrictions, and you can only book on certain dates, so make sure to check the Imagine Key Blockout Calendar.
If you are looking for flexibility in when you can book, the top-tier Dream Key has no block-out days meaning you are free to book your visit for any day of the year, allowing for greater flexibility. The lower-tier Keys have block-out days, usually including major holidays, when you can’t make a booking.
Paying For A Disneyland Annual Pass
Disney has been very fair with their pricing tiers and even offer the option of monthly payments if you are unable to pay in one go. This opens up the Magic Key program to many more people and makes it an affordable investment.
You can choose the price tier that suits you and decide if you want to pay upfront or pay a deposit and then 12 fixed monthly payments. Payments differ depending on which pass you choose. At the moment, Magic Key passes can only be purchased online or via the Disneyland app.
How To Visit A Disneyland Resort With A Magic Key
The new style Disneyland annual pass program allows admission based on reservations at any of the theme parks. Disney assures customers that using the Magic Key is simple and can be done in 3 simple steps.
Firstly you need to check the dates available for your visit as you can only make a certain number of reservations at a time. You can do this by checking the Blockout Calendars for unavailable dates and reservation options.
Next, you need to sign in to your Disney account to begin making reservations. You need to link your Magic Key ID, and then you can start booking. You can also add friends and family passes to your account and book as a group. Check the calendar to see the available dates.
Your Magic Key pass will activate from the first time you enter the park. You can visit both Disney theme parks with your Magic Key and can even split your day between the two from 1 pm on the day. Always check availability and terms and conditions.
If you fail to cancel days you have reserved that you cannot make, it will count as a no-show. There is a no-show policy with the Magic Key, which states that if you miss any 3 reservations within the 90-day window without properly canceling, you will be unable to make any more reservations for the next 30 days.
Can I cancel the Disney magic key?
Unfortunately, Disneyland Magic Key passes are non-refundable. So once you have invested in a pass, you are tied in, especially if you are paying monthly, which you will have to continue to do. Always check the terms and conditions before purchasing a pass with the new Magic Key program.
Can you upgrade the magic key pass?
Yes, you can upgrade your Magic Key pass to a higher tier, and your monthly payments will stay the same. You would just need to pay the difference in price in full. However, there are some conditions, including select promotional tickets that cannot be upgraded. It is advised to upgrade at the end of your latest booked day as upgrading would cancel any reservations you already have.
Can I buy a Magic Key for someone else?
You can purchase a Disneyland ticket or pass for someone else. However, be aware it must have their details on it, and there needs to be a photo of that person for the park’s ID process. If there are monthly payments, you must agree to pay these for the entire 12-month duration.
Is PhotoPass included with Magic Key?
None of the Magic Key options include PhotoPass at the moment. This must be purchased separately.
Disneyland is the most popular theme park on the planet and a truly magical place for all you die-hard Disney fans. It is the perfect fun day out for families and friends looking to experience the wonder of Disney, but as with all theme parks, it can be pricy.
Disney has made a real effort to ensure their visitors get value for money and memorable experiences by purchasing one of the new style annual Magic Key passes. Whilst reserving and booking in advance means more planning ahead on your part, it also has many benefits and discounts to be enjoyed.
Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully and always cancel any date you have reserved but are unable to make as there is a no-show policy that could see you penalized.
It is an investment that could see you having the time of your life at “the happiest place on earth” all year round.
For lots more information on holidaying in California with kids, check out one of our other guides.
Want to learn more about the different rides at the parks? We’ve provided you with the rundown on how many rides are in Disneyland and California Adventure to get you clued up for your next trip.
More about our TFVG Author
Caitlin is one of The Family Vacation Guide's long standing contributors. She enjoys taking vacation to busy, vibrant cities and has stretched her traveling legs out towards Europe in recent months, enjoying new experiences in Barcelona in Spain, and Nice in France.