Many things that 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 and how easy is it to book Disney World 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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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 vacation.
The Disney Park Pass Reservation System is an extension of Disney’s date based ticket pricing. Unless you buy Disney World’s expensive “any day” ticket, you have to buy tickets that are valid only on certain dates. 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 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.
- Annual passholders: May reserve 3 park pass reservations at a time. If annual passholders are staying at a Disney resort hotel, the length of stay rule applies.
- All other 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 the length of its open calendar – January 14, 2023 – at a minimum. We wouldn’t be surprised if some version of the system sticks around permanently.
Do Disney Park Passes sell out?
Yes, park passes can run out. This is especially possible on holidays or on special event days like Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021. Some parks sell out faster than others, especially Hollywood Studios due to its smaller capacity but also increasingly Magic Kingdom.
Editor’s Update April 20, 2021: The demand for park passes has been growing quickly this spring leading into summer. As of April 20, 2021 for example, every day in June is sold out for Hollywood Studios and almost all are also sold out for Magic Kingdom. If you plan many months in advance you likely don’t need to worry about Disney park reservations selling out, but vacationers planning less than 3 months out need to look at the calendars closely and act quickly.
How does the Park Pass System work with park hopping?
Even if you don’t get 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. 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.
How to Make a Disney Park Reservation with Park Pass
Guests can 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 a Park Reservation”.
You’ll then be directed to create a Disney Park Pass Reservation party. If you are familiar with Disney’s Fastpass+ system (currently suspended), the interface is the same.
Next, select a date to make a park reservation for. Note that Disney’s calendar will 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 Park Pass” to make more park reservations 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 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. 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: Disney resort guests, Disney’s annual passholders, and Disney theme park ticket holders. Be sure to click on the bucket that applies to you when you’re checking theme park reservations. If you are staying on Disney property and have an annual pass you can check both of those buckets. The “Theme Park Tickets” bucket is for people who only have tickets and do not have a Disney resort stay.
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.
Make multiple Hollywood Studios reservations to maximize your chances of riding Rise of the Resistance
Despite the addition of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Rise of the Resistance remains the crown jewel of Hollywood Studios. Disney has changed up how they handle Rise of the Resistance boarding groups – you can now try to join the virtual queue from anywhere at 7 AM. If you don’t get one at 7 AM you get another shot at it at 1 PM if you’re both in Hollywood Studios and have a park pass reservation for Hollywood Studios.
One strategy to maximize your chance of getting a Rise of the Resistance boarding group is to book multiple park pass reservations at Hollywood Studios over the course of a trip. Hollywood Studios has the smallest park capacity so it generally runs out of availability first. Since you can change your park pass reservations on the day of, you can book multiple Hollywood Studios days and then switch to a different park as necessary. For example, if you book your first three days at Hollywood Studios but get your Rise of the Resistance fix in on day one, you can switch to other parks for days two and three.
We would not recommend you do this over a weekend or during a holiday week, when more parks are liable to sell out, but in general you should be able to get a park pass reservation to other parks on the day of or while in the middle of your trip.
Use park hopping to your advantage
If you have park hopper tickets, you can also use the park reservation system to your advantage. In the scenario above, if you have multiple Hollywood Studios reservations even if you can’t switch parks on the day of you’d be able to park hop 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 except for Rise of the Resistance. Then, if you get an early boarding group for Rise of the Resistance on another day you can finish Hollywood Studios and then park hop over to Epcot or the Magic Kingdom.
Essentially, with the park hopper and with Disney’s current limited offerings, 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, 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.
Book Park Pass Reservations as soon as you can
This last 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 cancelling and reserving a new one. You’ll be much happier you made reservations early than realizing you can’t get the reservations you want later.
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. Plus, with some planning and careful thought, you can make the park reservation system work to your advantage. Before we know it, we’ll be making park pass reservations as easily as we used to make Fastpass+ reservations!
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