I keep seeing this question come up on Facebook and Disney fan community sites. The answer, like so many thing related to a trip to Disney World, is “it depends.” My family – my husband, myself and our young daughter – visits Disney World perhaps a half dozen times a year. Sometimes we go for 10 days at a time. Sometimes we go for a quick weekend overnight trip. We get Memory Maker for the longer trips of five full days or more and skip it on the shorter trips. We have done Memory Maker five times now, with plans to get it twice more in the next six months. However, Memory Maker is most definitely not for every family visiting Disney World.
Let’s start with a brief overview of Memory Maker. Here’s how Disney describes it (from https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience/memory-maker):
“Relax and enjoy the moment with your loved ones—confident that our Disney PhotoPass photographers will capture your family’s vacation memories. With Memory Maker, your whole family can be in the picture at Disney PhotoPasslocations—plus select attraction and dining locations—throughout Walt Disney World Resort. All of the photos you take are magically yours forever, like memories of your family posing together in front of Cinderella Castle, screaming down Splash Mountain, hugging Mickey Mouse and so much more. Forget about having to purchase each photo individually—you can get digital copies of them all. Conveniently view, download and share your memories!
Save $30 in a flash when you purchase Memory Maker online at least 3 days before your first photo is taken. Memory Maker is only $169 when you buy in advance, compared to the regular price of $199 sold at select merchandise locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort. If Memory Maker is purchased at the advance purchase price, any photos taken within 3 days from the date Memory Maker is purchased will not be included. Once activated, Memory Maker allows you to download your photos and videos during a 30 day window”.
What this really means is that there are many places in Disney World where Cast Members are stationed with cameras to take pictures of your family. There are also automatic cameras on several of the rides. All of these photos are yours for the pre-purchase price of $169 or the price of $199 if you forget to buy it more than three days in advance and decide you would like digital copies of the photos.
That’s a lot of money for an already expensive Disney World vacation. However, if the budget allows the splurge, it is a wonderful way to get a very low cost per photo for trip memories. First, understand that all the photos taken by Disney World Cast Members will be in your myDisney Experience for 45 days for you to download as many times as you like.
The next key point is that you have up to 30 days to get pictures taken. While I dream of the day I can go to Disney World for 30 days straight, that realistically means it is likely to cover all of your vacation days. And, it’s key to understand that everyone in your group – or at least everyone wearing a MagiBand tied to your myDisney Experience account – will collect photos. That’s right, every time they ride an attraction with a camera or stop for any Disney PhotoPass Photographer, that photo is yours.
Your photos will show up on the myDisneyExperience app and on your account on the Walt Disney World website. There are some fun frames, stickers and other digital scrapbook tools to play with these photos. If you have MemoryMaker, you can download these digital images as many times as you like during your 45 day redemption period.
Why are they called PhotoPass Photographers instead of MemoryMaker Photographers? Because MemoryMaker is a new name that rolled out with the MagicBands and myDisney Experience. The program prior to that was known as PhotoPass Plus and was very similar in a lot of ways. However, MemoryMaker adds the occasional video and does seem to be a better value overall.
Our daughter very much enjoys meeting the characters, so we spend a lot of time doing activities that have the potential for good photos. We average around 600 photos with MemoryMaker per trip, which breaks down to less than $0.30 per image. Our annual December trip means taking several family photos, which I use for Christmas Cards as well as our way of making sure we do at least one family portrait a year. Since I was spending well over $100 each fall for studio photos anyway, I just replaced that with Disney’s MemoryMaker.
On the other hand, we do not get MemoryMaker for short trips. Instead, both my husband and I have our phones and I carry either the video recorder or my DLR camera. PhotoPass Photographers are happy to use our devices to capture images for guests. I usually prefer to take the video or photo myself in places where my daughter is meeting characters. Otherwise, I will happily hand over the camera and say cheese with my husband and little girl. Just realize that since the PhotoPass Photographer is using their equipment to get the first meeting photo, the ones they take with your camera might not capture the magic moment the same way. Also, you will not be able to get the magic shots on your camera. For us, that’s a reasonable tradeoff for a short trip.
2016 EDIT: We did not get MemoryMaker for short trips in the past. Now that MemoryMaker is included as a perk with Gold Annual Passes, we use it all the time on every trip.
The other group that may consider skipping MemoryMaker would be park commandos. These are the guests who wake up full of energy a couple of hours before the parks open to be first in line at rope drop, then ride every ride in a park in a day. I’ve done these trips and they are fun. But it is not the best way to maximize MemoryMake value. If this is the type of trip you are planning, which is heavy on the rides and light on the characters or dining, MemoryMake may not be the best choice for the trip.
So, is MemoryMaker worth it? Yes, if you can plan and convince your family to take a ton of photos. No, if you are focused on getting the most done in the shortest period of time. Maybe, if you want the ride photos and will ride enough of them to make it a better value than simply buying your favorite few images after your trip.
Here are some of my favorite MemoryMaker photos from one trip earlier this year. Enjoy!
PS: The wonderful costumes my daughter is wearing in these photos come from www.momapprovedcostumes.com I can’t say enough good things about these dresses!