We recently purchased the Annual Pass for WDW this year and I wanted to make a few comments, complaints and comparison to this pass. One can't argue that having an annual pass offers more flexibility to visit the parks not to mention the free parking, resort discount, no black out dates, etc. It does offer all these great things but I find the pass to be lacking a lot of benefits that other park annual passes offer. I also have a 2-park preferrred annual pass over at Universal Orlando so we will use this as an example:
Universal Orlando benefits:
20% off all merchandise inside the parks and citywalk.
discount at citywalk clubs
20% discount at Wet n Wild
20% food and beverage at the parks
discount at UO resorts
Special Pricing for special events (HHN...)
no blackout dates
10% merchandise at downtown disney select stores...NO discount at parks
discount at pleasure island admission
no discount on food
discount on select epcot world showcase restaurants mon-fri
$4 off water park
discount at resorts
no blackout dates
Ok, as you could see, Universal is offering some competitive benefits to disney. Not to mention, that their annual pass is almost at about half the price and are constantly offering free days or even a free year. I was really dissapointed that they didnt offer any kind of discount on food or merchandise at the parks. And then the worse part is that they offer discount at epcot world showcase restaurants on selected days??? I mean why are they doing this? They could at least offer discounts with food at the parks. Disney's price for an annual pass could be considered expensive. I think the best part of the Disney Annual Pass is the fact you could come to the parks whenever you like without paying parking and admission. But I must give Universal credit for benefiting annual passholders, especially when it comes to special events. For example, during Mardi Gras, HHN, Macy's Parade, Universal 360 etc they offer special viewing, priority sitting, and special pricing (better than disney). The only thing Disney does as far as I've seen is have a "special" preview to new/updated attractions, although, many regular admission guests could experience these before the annual pass preview. This is were Universal exceeds Disney and the reason why Universal has a decent number of Annual Passholders. The most credit I could give Disney is the fact they actually take time to update their rides and offer more new attractions these days. Universal is lacking in this department. Look at Islands of Adventures that has been the same since 1998. I think the only new attraction has been the Dr. Seus. tram ride and a minor update to Poseidon's Fury. Universal Studios has added the Mummy coaster, but that's it, nothing else.
Both parks have their flaws, but Disney must really improve benefiting annual passholders. That may help to get even more pass holders into the park!