After more than a full year of closures, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California has finally reopened. When the gates swung open on April 30, 2021, however, guests weren’t just able to walk right in with nothing but a ticket in hand. Disneyland now also requires park reservations for all guests.
So how does the new Disneyland reservation system work? How complicated is it to book park reservations for Disneyland or Disney California Adventure parks? How competitive are the most popular days and how fast do they book up? Let’s take a look at the basics and then dive deeper into some advanced strategies and tips that are just starting to take shape.
Last updated: May 5, 2021.
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Disneyland Reservation System Basics
Disneyland is currently operating under state-mandated capacity restrictions. The allowed number of visitors is capped at 25% of maximum park capacity because Orange County is in the state’s orange tier (at yellow, the parks may move to 35%). Disney therefore needs to closely monitor capacity and know exactly how many people will visit a park on a given day. As a result, Disneyland requires all guests to make a reservation for the first park that they plan to visit each day.
Disneyland just unveiled a new reservation system to allow guest to book their theme park entry. Walt Disney World has had a reservation system since it reopened in July 2020, the Disney Park Pass system. While Disneyland’s system didn’t get a fancy official name of its own, the two have quite a few similarities. Of course, because the two resorts don’t do tickets exactly the same way and have several other operational differences, there are some key points of divergence.
This new Disneyland reservation system opened on April 12, 2021 to guests with existing tickets who are also California residents. I was able to log in right when it opened to try it out in a couple of different ways. I secured solo reservations for opening day April 30 and the following day. I also booked reservations for a trip my family is planning in June. The system opened April 15, 2021 to all other California residents, when new ticket sales started on the same day at 8:00am Pacific Time. I was monitoring the system nearly continuously for the first 36 hours it was live to all, especially as days began booking up on the reservation availability calendar. And I’ve been monitoring it daily ever since to spot trends.
(Why the “California residents” limitation? The state of California is currently only permitting in-state residents to visit theme parks due to the travel advisory that is in place. More on that later.)
In order to use the Disneyland reservations system, you must have a ticket that is valid on the day on which you want to make a reservation. If you have multi-day tickets, all days are wide open to reserve.
One day ticket holders, however, have a more complicated matrix to navigate. Disneyland has tiered pricing for 1 day tickets. Tier 1 tickets are the least expensive. Tier 5 tickets are the most expensive. As you might expect, busy times like weekends and holidays cost more. One day ticket purchasers need to be sure to buy the tier of ticket that matches the day on which they wish to make a reservation.
Note that the first few weeks after reopening, as well as weekends through the end of June are all currently Tier 5 only days! Look at what is blocked out even with pricey Tier 4 tickets:
Common Questions about Disneyland Park Reservations
How far in advance can I make Disneyland reservations?
When the first reservations were released, Disneyland’s reservations calendar was only open 60 days in advance of the park’s reopening day – through June 28, 2021.
Disneyland has maintained a 60 day rolling availability window since that time, releasing one day at a time. Disneyland could open this calendar up more than 60 days in advance, but this is not likely to happen until after the parks are open to out-of-state guests as well.
How long will Disneyland require reservations?
There has been no end date announced for this new reservations requirement at Disneyland. Disneyland was already trending in the direction of date-based reservations well before the closure (the Disney Flex Pass was a great example of this trend!), so it could well be this is a permanent addition to the parks in some shape or form. Only time will tell!
How fast do Disneyland park reservations run out?
With the parks capped at 25% capacity, reservations can and do run out. Some of them “sold out” quite quickly. While no days and no parks sold out after opening the reservations system to existing ticketholders only on April 12, the same was not the case once the system opened to all on April 15, 2021.
As I predicted when originally publishing this post, opening day at Disneyland park went quite quickly when reservations fully opened on April 15, 2021. The same was the case for June 4, 2021 for Disney California Adventure park – the opening date of Avenger’s Campus. Many May weekends (especially Saturdays) also went fast go fast as locals planned their first trips in a very long time.
All this said, this initial surge of demand surely won’t last and more reliable trends will start to emerge (see advanced strategies section of this post below). For the most part, if you plan far enough in advance you don’t need to worry about Disney park reservations selling out, especially if you are ready to book right at the 60 day mark.
How does the Disneyland reservation system work with park hopping?
Disneyland will reopen with park hopping permitted for all guests who pay for the park hopper upgrade to their ticket. What does this mean for how you make reservations? If you have a park hopper ticket, you should make a reservation only for the park you plan to enter first.
Then at 1:00pm, you are permitted to begin park hopping without needing to do anything more with the reservations system. You may remember that park hopping used to be allowed at any hour, so this new 1:00pm start limits guests a bit more. Park hopping is of course subject to capacity limits. That hasn’t been an issue at Walt Disney World, but whether this proves to be a choke point at Disneyland with only two parks to hop between remains to be seen.
(Note that making a reservation only for the first park you plan to enter is different than how Disney Flex Pass annual passes worked way back before March 2020. Disney Flex Passholders needed to make a reservation for both parks on days that they planned to park hop. This is NOT required for park hopping on any ticket type now. You simply make a reservation for the first park you plan to enter.)
Are former Disneyland Annual Passholders given priority for reservations?
Disneyland completely canceled and refunded all annual passes earlier this year in anticipation of reopening. As a former annual passholder myself, it pains me a little bit to have to answer this question in the negative. For park reservations and new tickets, annual passholders currently get no special perks – no priority access or discounts.
How does the reservation system work with multi-day tickets?
If you have a multi-day Disneyland ticket, you have the benefit of being able to reserve any day on the calendar without regard to the pricing tiers that affect 1 day ticket holders. So in a way, this makes things easier!
If you have a multi-day ticket, however, you do have to reserve a park each day. There is no way to do this in the reservations system in one transaction. Instead you need to repeat the step-by-step selection process (described below) for each day of your ticket.
Note that once you reserve your first day of a multi-day ticket, the range of days available to you will shrink. Because multi-day tickets are only valid for 14 days at a time, you won’t be able to reserve a combination of days that spans a larger window of time.
When will Disneyland reservations be open to out-of-state residents?
Current ticket purchases and reservations are limited to California residents. But I know that there are a lot of Disneyland fans from out-of-state chomping at the bit for a Disneyland vacation! I wish I had an answer for you as to when the travel advisory will be lifted and Disneyland open to all, but there is nothing definitive yet from Disney or from the state of California.
The major date to watch for now is likely June 15, 2021. This is the day that Governor Newsom indicated that the state will enter the “green tier” and many restrictions on business will be lifted. While it is possible the travel advisory is lifted sooner or later, June 15 seems a reasonable target to monitor.
How to Make a Disneyland Park Reservations Step-by-Step
Now that many of the questions you may have are out of the way, let’s walk step-by-step through making a theme park reservation at Disneyland.
Assuming you already have purchased tickets, guests can make reservations by starting on the official Disneyland website. Note that there is also a link in the Disneyland app to make reservations, but it directs to the website. Log in to your Disneyland account on the top right menu bar if you aren’t automatically signed in.
Navigate to the theme park reservations landing page and click on the blue “make a park reservation” button.
If the system is busy, it’s possible you get put in a waiting room. Don’t refresh or log out of this page. Waits on April 15 were 4-10 hours long for some people. Hopefully that won’t repeat itself again, but waits could be possible in the future any time Disneyland extends its reservation calendar.
Once you enter the reservations system, click on “Book Theme Park Reservation” (the other option, “Retrieve Hotel Reservation” only applies if you have reservations at an on-property hotel). You’ll then be directed to create your party. If you already have linked tickets in your Disneyland account that are reservation-eligible, it’s as simple as selecting from the tickets shown.
If you have tickets that were purchased elsewhere and not yet entered (like the discounted multi-day tickets offered from Trips With Tykes partner Get Away Today), you’ll need to go through a few easy steps to link them first. Click the link a ticket option. Enter the ticket numbers and hit continue.
On the next screen, assign a name (note this cannot be changed later) to each ticket. If you have both adults and kids in your party, pay special attention to the fact that the system won’t tell you which ticket is a child ticket and which is an adult ticket on the assign-a-name screen. Make sure you double check ticket numbers to put the right names with the right children and adults tickets in your group.
Finally, create your party from the tickets you’ve linked and assigned. This is the screen that guests who already have tickets in their account will see right away.
After your party is complete, it’s date and park selection time! Disneyland’s calendar shows a pink castle for Disneyland park and a blue Mickey wheel for Disney California Adventure. Click on an available date on the calendar.
Scroll down to pick one of the two parks.
Click continue. You’ll then see a review and confirm screen with a few checkboxes confirming term and conditions and California residency.
Click continue once more. You’re all set when you see the next confirmation screen with Mickey and friends!
If you have a multi-day ticket, you’ll want to click the white “Book Theme Park Reservations” button on this final screen to make more park reservations for the additional days of your ticket. Do this each time until you’ve covered the total number of day of your vacation. I highly recommend making a reservation for all days of a ticket at one time because Disney’s IT has been very buggy, sometimes not recognizing the ticket at a later time to complete additional reservations.
Note that when you book subsequent days, the dates you’ve already booked will be slashed out with a gray line on the availability calendar. Days that are outside of the ticket’s validity window – 13 days after the first day that you book – will similarly be grayed out.
How to Check Disneyland Park Availability
Before you buy tickets or make your vacation plans, you should always check to see whether Disneyland has reservation availability for the days you plan to travel. If you’re booking far in advance it is unlikely to be a problem. If you are booking a last minute trip or a highly popular holiday you might run into issues.
You can check park availability using this link. Note that there are two separate calendars for 1 park per day park tickets vs. park hopper tickets – we are just starting to learn how those calendars diverge and have different availability (see advanced tips below). Here is what the availability calendar looks like.
Advanced Disneyland Reservation System Tips and Strategies
The basics of making park reservations should be enough for the casual Disneyland visitor. But if you go often, during peak capacity times, or tend to plan last minute, you are going to need to get a bit more strategic.
Here are some ideas for how you can get the reservations you want even in high-demand times as well as make the most of the Disneyland park reservation system.
(You can also see a few of these summarized in my Google web story with top tips for booking Disneyland reservations.)
Expect Disneyland park reservations to go first before Disney California Adventure
Disneyland park is larger and can hold more people than Disney California Adventure, especially now that the extra capacity of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has come into play. But does this mean that reservations for DCA will run out first? Not so fast.
When guests plan to visit the Disneyland Resort for just a single day, most of them invariably go to Walt’s original park. For anyone who watched demand for reservations made with the Disney Flex Pass in 2019-2020 where Disneyland park reservations often ran out first long before DCA, this trend was pretty clear.
The 2021 data for theme park reservations is now demonstrating a similar higher demand for Disneyland over DCA too. The sole predicted exceptions of course are the days around Avenger’s Campus opening when DCA demand is understandably higher.
So if you are planning to visit on a multi-day trip, expect Disneyland to be the harder park to get reservations for almost all of the time. Act accordingly. Is Disneyland park only available one of your three planned travel days? Book it ASAP. The chance might not come around again. The bottom line is that you may have to settle for an itinerary that is shaped around what park is available on what day and not your ideal Disneyland plan, especially if booking late in the game.
Check park availability often to snag newly-available spots
If you aren’t able to reserve the Disneyland park you want to visit right away, don’t give up. Although days around reopening on April 30 or the opening date of Avengers Campus on June 4, 2021 were very competitive, not all days will have that sort of demand.
Disneyland has made clear that although a day may look sold out, “To accommodate as many types of ticket holders as possible, reservations for select dates may be made available on a rolling basis.” This means that some spaces may not be initially be made available, but can be offered later if you keep looking! This happened on May 4, for example, when Disneyland released additional availability for almost all days on the May calendar. It’s likely the parks aren’t at a true 25% capacity yet, meaning Disneyland is able to add more reservation slots as it perfects its operations and opens more restaurants and attractions which expand the resort’s overall capacity too.
And when (not if) park capacity increases in the months to come above 25%, those additional spots will open up more space for guests who look early and often.
Finally, so many guests will make last minute cancellations and changes to their existing reservations. You should keep refreshing to snag those spots as they become available. Specifically, check the night before and early in the morning to see if you can make a park reservation at the last minute.
Just be advised that Disneyland doesn’t have a “swap park” option (putting that into the suggestion box for Disney engineers). Instead you have to cancel an existing park reservation and reserve a new one in the other park. There’s always the small possibility you can’t snag the new one and find your old one snagged by someone else while you tried to make the swap.
Understand the 1 day ticket tier blockout calendars & how they drive demand
If you are planning a multi-day vacation to Disneyland, you might think you can ignore the 1 day ticket types. I know the their 5 tiers, 5 different prices, and 5 corresponding blockout calendars are confusing and more than most guests want to look at.
But the reason you need to care about these is that many other guests are looking for the absolute cheapest day they can go to Disneyland park. Price-conscious visitors purchase the cheapest Tier 1 and Tier 2 one day tickets (usually without the park hopper option). Days when Tier 1 or tier 2 tickets are permitted to attend will book up fast, because they are so few and far between. I noticed this when May 18 and 19 were some of the first days to book up in the reservations process – those were the first two days on the calendar after opening when Tier 2 ticket holders had access (no dates are Tier 1 dates on the currently open calendar).
Compare the 1 park per day calendar to the park hopper calendar
Disney has created two different buckets of park reservations – one for guests that buy one park per day tickets and another for guests who purchase the $55 per ticket park hopper add on. Now that reservations have been open a few days, we are starting to see the two calendars I mentioned earlier show meaningful differences.
The majority of the time, the 1 park per day calendar fills up first. This makes good sense – Disney ideally wants to hold a little more space for guests who pay for the pricier park hopper upgrade. If you are booking more last minute, you may be able to have more parks on more days available to you if you are willing to pay for this upgrade too.
Must Ride Rise of the Resistance? Consider making multiple Disneyland park reservations to maximize your chances
At least until Avenger’s Campus opens (and probably long after), the most sought-after ride in either of the two Disneyland parks is Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, located in Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland park.
Disneyland will continue to use a virtual queue for this attraction, with boarding groups given timed windows to access the ride. But these boarding groups will work differently than they did before the park closure last March 2020!
While Disneyland hasn’t released full details on how new boarding groups will work, here is what we know so far. Guests with valid park reservations into Disneyland park will be able to try for a boarding group in the morning during a first release of virtual queue spots, likely before the park opens.
Later in the day (time TBD), another batch of Rise of the Resistance boarding groups will be released. These can be booked by guests who are either scanned into Disneyland park already or those who have park hopper tickets and are scanned into Disney California Adventure.
One strategy to maximize your chance of getting a Rise of the Resistance boarding group is to book multiple park reservations for Disneyland park over the course of a longer trip, especially if you have park hopper tickets. This gives you the chance to try for the morning release of boarding passes as well as the afternoon on more than one day. Assuming that the release of boarding passes happens before park opening (as is the case at Walt Disney World), you might even be able to try for the morning release and then if you are unable to get passes, switch your park reservation to DCA for the day. I wouldn’t neglect reserving a DCA entry day entirely, but for 3 day ticket holders, booking 2 of your 3 days at Disneyland will give you more bites at the apple.
This strategy is still taking shape, so be sure to visit my guide to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding groups for all the full details and latest hacks.
Book park reservations as soon as you buy tickets
This final tip isn’t exactly earth shattering but is a necessary and important reminder for all you procrastinators. As soon as you’ve booked your tickets or your Disneyland vacation package, make your park reservations right away!
If you are booking a trip before the park reservations calendar is open (more than 60 days in advance), be sure to set a reminder for 60 days out! Disneyland dining opens 60 days in advance too, so you can get both tasks accomplished at the same time.
Even if you aren’t positive which park you’ll want to visit on a given day, having some reservations is better than nothing. You can always cancel and make new reservations if your plans change if there is still availability.
While it may be hard for locals used to visiting on a whim (or even out-of-towners who prefer the lower key planning vibe of Disneyland over Walt Disney World), park reservations at Disneyland are the new normal – at least for the foreseeable future in 2021. There will be some early growing pains and some supply and demand challenges, but I expect we’ll all settle into the system soon enough, just like Walt Disney World has.
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