Many things have changed since Walt Disney World reopened its gates in the summer of 2020. Out of all the changes, the new Disney Park Pass Reservation system stands as one of the biggest changes to the Disney vacation experience. For better or for worse, gone are the days where you could just figure out your Disney vacation completely on the fly. You now always need a Disney World park reservation before you enter the parks.
So how does the Disney park reservation system work? How easy is it to book Disney World park reservations? The process continues to evolve as Disney makes changes to respond to new operational concerns and fix problems. (And indeed, it all just changed again as of August 23, 2022 with Disney finally allowing guest to modify park reservations.) Let’s take a look at the basics and then go into some advanced strategies that will help you get the most magic out of your Disney World vacation.
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Looking for details on Disneyland in California instead? Check out the companion guide to Disneyland theme park reservations!
What is the Disney Park Pass Reservation System?
It’s no secret that a Disney World vacation requires a lot of planning. The Disney Park Pass Reservation System adds another layer of planning to your Disney trip – one that often adds complications and stress to your vacation.
The Disney Park Pass Reservation System is an extension and evolution of Disney’s date based ticket pricing. Depending on your dates, you may pay more or less for your Disney ticket. Busy times like holidays cost more while seasons with traditionally lower crowds cost less.
On top of that, Disney World now requires you to make a reservation for the park that you want to visit on a given day. Disney does this both to limit park capacity and to get an estimate of how many people will be in a park for a given day.
Put simply, you now not only need to tell Disney World when you plan to visit, you also need to tell Disney which of the four Disney parks you plan to visit on each day of your trip.
Common Questions about Disney World Reservations
How many Park Pass reservations can I make?
Just how many days of Park Pass reservations you can make depends on what kind of ticket you are using and also upon where you are staying on your trip, as follows:
- Disney resort guests: On-property Disney hotel guests may make Park Pass reservations during their length of stay for the number of days that they have valid Disney World theme park tickets. Note that guests of select partner hotels qualify as well. These include: Swan, Dolphin, Swan Reserve, Disney Springs area hotels, Shades of Green, Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, Waldorf Astoria Orlando, and Four Seasons Orlando.
- Disney World annual passholders: May reserve 3 to 5 park pass reservations at a time (dependent on pass type). If annual passholders are staying at a Disney resort hotel, the length of stay rule applies.
- All other Walt Disney World theme park ticket holders: Regular non-AP ticket holders staying in off-property hotels may make Park Pass reservations for the number of days that they have valid theme park tickets.
How long will Disney World use the Park Pass Reservation system?
Disney has implemented a park reservation system through early 2024 at a minimum (current reservations are open through January 18, 2024). At this point it is safe to say that some version of the system will probably stick around permanently. There is some optimism that with Bob Iger back at the helm, the park reservation system may be sunsetted for certain situations, but that’s all speculation at this point.
Note: Walt Disney World has announced Annual Passholders will not need a park reservation to enter the parks after 2 PM sometime in the near future, with the exception of Magic Kingdom on weekends.
Do Disney Park Passes sell out?
Yes, park passes can run out. In fact, it is likely that at least one or more of the parks will be sold out the week before your Disney vacation if you’re traveling during a busy time. On holidays or on special event days, expect all four parks to be sold out of park reservations the night before at the latest. Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom tend to be the first parks to sell out while Animal Kingdom and Epcot are typically the last parks to run out of reservations.
What seems to have happened is Disney has decided to limit park reservations in order to optimize staffing levels. What that means is park reservations sell out even when the Disney parks aren’t filled to legal capacity (e.g., the Magic Kingdom might be limited to 40,000 guests via the park reservation system even though it can accommodate more than that).
Although park capacity and reservation availability have increased as Disney park operations have continued to scale up, we still strongly recommend you make your park reservations at least one month in advance (earlier if you’re traveling over a holiday). The best strategy is to make park reservations as soon as you buy your tickets – they can always be modified.
How does the Park Pass System work with park hopping?
Even if you don’t get a reservation for your preferred park for a given day, you can use a Park Hopper ticket to visit any of the other parks starting at 2 PM. No additional reservation is required to park hop. Park hopping is subject to capacity limits but in practice no parks have been “full” during park hopping hours. The easiest way to check park hopping capacity is to call (407) 560-5000 which runs an automated message.
Do Disney water parks or Disney Springs require park reservations?
No. If you have Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon water parks added to your ticket you do not need a reservation to visit the water parks although they can reach capacity. Disney Springs doesn’t require a ticket at all to visit.
How to Make a Disney Park Reservation with Park Pass
Guests can only make Disney park reservations through the Disney website. There is a link in the My Disney Experience app but it directs you to use the website anyway. You will only be allowed to make park pass reservations on dates that your tickets are valid.
First, navigate to “Disney Park Pass System” on Disney World’s website and then click on “Make or Modify Park Reservations”.
You will then see the option to create new park pass reservations or modify/cancel existing ones.
If you click on “Book Park Reservation”, you’ll then be directed to create a Disney Park Pass Reservation party. If you are familiar with Disney’s old Fastpass+ system, the interface will feel very familiar. Note that annual passholders and regular ticket holders can now book park reservations together (new as of August 23, 2022).
After you’ve selected and created your party, select a date to make a park reservation for. Note that Disney’s calendar now includes park availability in your search.
Finally, select a park to visit, confirm, and you’re all set!
You’ll want to click “Make Another Reservation” to make more park reservations for subsequent days until you’ve covered your entire trip.
Note that if a member of your party has an issue, you will be directed to remove them from your party and you will not be able to make a park reservation for them.
If you believe this is an error (the website can be glitchy at times), call (407) 939-7917 to get the issue sorted out.
How to Make a Disney Park Reservation as an Annual Passholder
If you are an annual passholder, you’ll first want to check out the annual pass blockout calendar, which now directs you to this website.
To make a park pass reservation as an annual passholder you will have two options, “Park Reservations for All Guests” and “Park Reservations for Annual Passholders with a Disney Resort or other Select Hotels”. The first option allows you to hold 3 to 5 park reservations at a time (the most expensive annual pass types can hold 5 park reservations) regardless of whether you are staying on property or not. To book these follow the instructions above. The nice thing about these reservations is that you can modify them.
If you have a resort reservation at a qualifying hotel, you can also make park pass reservations for every day of your stay using the second option. This preserves your annual pass allocation of park reservations (so you can make other reservations in the future not connected to that hotel reservation).
How to Check Disney Park Pass Reservation Availability
Before you make your vacation plans, you should check to see whether Disney has park pass reservation availability for the days you plan to travel. If you’re booking far in advance it generally isn’t a problem, but if you’re booking a last minute trip you might run into issues.
Although Disney now shows park pass availability on the ticket calendar, you may want to check park pass availability before you go through the ticket purchasing process, especially if you are purchasing tickets via a third party to get discounts (most third parties will display reservation availability these days but we like to double check). You can check park availability using this link (if it doesn’t work just start from Disney’s Park Pass Reservation homepage).
Note that Disney splits park reservation availability into three different buckets: theme park ticket holders, select resort hotel guests, and annual passholders. Be sure to click on the bucket that applies to you when you’re checking theme park reservations, though at this point Disney seems to have merged the “theme park tickets” and “select resort hotels” buckets.
If the dates you want to visit Disney World appear green on the calendar, you can make a park pass reservation for all four of the parks. Yellow means some parks are not available, you’ll need to click on the actual day to see what parks are at capacity. If the date is grayed out, all parks are at capacity and you cannot make a park reservation for that date.
Remember that the park calendar has no bearing on park hopping ability – so if you have a park hopper as long as you can get a park reservation for any park you should be able to park hop at 2 PM to another park. Call (407) 560-5000 to check park hopping capacity.
Advanced Tips and Strategies
The basics of making Disney World park pass reservations should be enough for the majority of families, but if you’re looking to maximize your Disney experience there are some advanced strategies you might want to consider. Here are some ideas for how you can get the most out of your park pass reservations.
Use park hopping to your advantage
If you have park hopper tickets, use the theme park reservation system to your advantage. If, for example, you only can secure Epcot or Animal Kingdom reservations because you book your vacation last minute, you’d still be able to park hop elsewhere daily at 2 PM.
The reality is, parks like Animal Kingdom and even Hollywood Studios only warrant a half day for many trips, especially during slower periods. You should factor in these half day parks into your planning, especially if you want to maximize your time with the park hopper.
For example, you could make a park pass reservation for Animal Kingdom, rope drop and finish almost all of Animal Kingdom by lunchtime (check out advanced strategies for riding Avatar Flight of Passage to minimize your wait time there). Then you could park hop over to Hollywood Studios and ride everything including even Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance if you’re willing to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane.
You could also start at Epcot, get an early virtual queue boarding group for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and then park hop to another park, like Magic Kingdom, in the afternoon. And if you’re park hopping mid-day, that presents some opportunities to stack Genie+ return times for the most popular attractions in the second park you are visiting and shortcut overall wait times (see tips for maximizing Genie+ at Walt Disney World for more).
Essentially, with the park hopper and with Disney’s still somewhat limited offerings in some parks, you want to be strategic about how you plan your park passes. You’ll be able to save a lot of time with just a little bit of pre-planning.
Check park availability on the day of for last minute cancellations
If you don’t get a park pass reservation you want, don’t fret. Just like with dining reservations, there are plenty of last minute cancellations and changes. Even during busy times, check the night before and in the morning to see if you can change your park reservation at the last minute. There are thousands of reservations each day, so some people are bound to change their minds.
Unfortunately the only way to find one of these last minute cancellations is via brute force. Check back early and often and hope that the park you want has reservations opened up.
Book Park Pass Reservations as soon as you can
This tip isn’t quite advanced but is a good reminder for the procrastinators out there. As soon as you’ve booked your tickets, hotel reservation, or your Disney package, make your park reservations! There’s no reason to wait with demand increasing. Changing your reservations is as easy as making a modification now. You’ll be much happier you made reservations early than realizing you can’t get the reservations you want later.
Adjust your Park Reservations after you book your dining
If you book your park reservations when you book your Disney vacation, that might be months before your actual trip. So one recommendation we have is to double check and adjust your park reservations when you book dining 60 days before your trip. This is a great time to adjust your park reservations because you can tweak them to better fit your dining plan and still have your pick of parks – unless you are traveling over the busiest holidays, all parks should be available for park reservations 60 days before your trip.
Modify – don’t cancel – park reservations
Since August 2022 Disney has now enabled visitors to modify their park reservations which is a feature that should have existed from the beginning. If you decide to change your park reservations – make sure to click the “Modify Reservation” button to choose a new park. This way you’ll hold onto your existing reservations while searching for new ones and won’t risk ending up with nothing at all. Don’t cancel by mistake!
For the time being, it looks like the Disney Park Pass Reservation is here to stay. While it’s not our favorite system, the fact of the matter is that it will help Disney run operations more efficiently which should theoretically improve our in-park experience. With some planning and careful thought, you can make the park reservation system work to your advantage or at least make it manageable.
Where to Book Your Walt Disney World Vacation
Planning a visit to Walt Disney World? Book your Disney vacation with trusted Trips with Tykes partner, Get Away Today. Get Away Today sells park tickets at a discount, helps you find great deals at both on-property and off-property hotels, assists with all the logistics of a Disney World vacation with its free concierge service, and provides complimentary price monitoring so you can lock in newly-released discounts.
2 Ways to Save:
- Discount Tickets: If you only need park tickets, don’t purchase direct from Disney and pay more! Book discounted Disney World park tickets from Get Away Today here.
- Discount Vacation Packages: To take advantage of hotel and other package discounts from Get Away Today and get concierge service for free, request a full vacation quote here.
Friday 3rd of February 2023
This information is very helpful!!! Have been to WDW 10 times in the past 15 years but, this is all new. I do have a few questions, if I have a 3 days ticket, and have 5 days to use it, can I make park reservations for only 3 days? Also, can I add a day to my ticket if we decide we want to go more days once we are there? Finally, is the option for 2pm for a different park only for park hopper tickets?