The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California has now been reopened for more than a year. While a lot of things have returned to “normal” since that time, one post-closure change looks like it is here to stay: theme park reservations. Gone are the days when guests can walk right in with nothing but a ticket in hand. Advance park reservations – which can often book up weeks in advance – are required for all guests.
So how does the 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 evident from a full year of data and operations.
Last updated: May 9, 2022.
(Trips With Tykes uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through links in this post. See our full disclosure policy linked in the menu at the bottom of this site.)
Disneyland Reservation System Basics
Disneyland is no longer under any state-mandated capacity restrictions. But the parks are still using reservations to control crowds and to plan for park staffing, especially as not all entertainment has returned and cast member shortages are still a challenge.
For comparison’s sake, 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.
Reservations for Regular Disneyland Ticket Holders
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.
With one day tickets, however, guests have a more complicated matrix to navigate. Disneyland has tiered pricing for 1 day tickets. Tier 1 tickets are the least expensive. Tier 6 tickets are the most expensive. As you might expect, busy times like weekends and holidays are higher tiers that cost more. One day ticket purchasers need to be sure to buy the tier of ticket that at least matches the day on which they wish to make a reservation. Lower tier tickets will be blocked out those days.
Regardless of ticket length (one day or multi-day), there are two different reservations calendars in play for regular ticket holders. One-park-per-day tickets have their own bucket of reservations while park hopper tickets have a separate calendar.
Reservations for Magic Keys (Annual Passes)
Disneyland’s annual pass program Magic Key also requires reservations for keyholders to access the parks, even for the most expensive passes. The Magic Key reservations calendar is entirely separate from the two calendars for regular theme park ticket holders.
Common Questions about Disneyland Park Reservations
Here are some of the most common questions that arise about Disneyland reservations.
How far in advance can I make Disneyland reservations?
While you can buy theme park tickets at any time (and current tickets are valid until the end of 2023), you can’t make your theme park reservations many months in advance. Unlike at Walt Disney World, Disneyland is still a little more last minute.
For regular tickets, Disneyland maintains a 120 day rolling availability window for theme park reservations, releasing one day at a time.
For Magic Keys, the reservations calendar only opens up 90 days in advance. Magic Keys are additionally limited to a certain number of reservations at a time, depending on pass type.
How long will Disneyland require reservations?
There has been no end date announced for the reservations requirement at Disneyland. It seems likely that this is a permanent addition to the parks in some shape or form.
Disney executives have indicated this reservation system is here to stay at its US theme parks. So even if you have a trip later this year or well into the future, reservations are the first thing you need to keep in mind as you plan.
How fast do Disneyland park reservations run out?
After a year of reservations in place (many months of which were back to something more closely resembling full capacity), we know now that reservations can and do run out.
For regular theme park tickets, there is often availability remaining for most days several weeks in advance. But for peak travel periods like a holiday weekend, reservations have filled well over a month in advance and sometimes even closer to two months!
Here is what the calendar looks like for the next two months – plenty of availability for all but a couple of days. But it won’t necessarily look like that when holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around. Planning early really is essential.
How does the Disneyland reservation system work with park hopping?
Disneyland allows park hopping for all guests who pay for the park hopper upgrade to their ticket ($60 extra regardless of ticket length). 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 1:00pm start continues to limit guests a bit more.
Park hopping is of course subject to capacity limits. Practically speaking, these limits have only been an issue on a small handful of days for very limited periods of time (like when something new is opening such as the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade earlier this spring).
Are on-property hotel guests given priority for Disneyland theme park reservations?
If you are staying at one of the three Disney-owned hotels on-property, there is one perk available to you for the high prices you are likely paying: a separate theme park reservations calendar!
Simply link your hotel reservation in your Disney account. It unlocks a calendar that is otherwise not visible to guests. In my experience, this calendar is wide open until just a day or two in advance. (Note that is is very different than at Walt Disney World, where the on-property calendar can fill much earlier for some parks because there are so many more Disney-owned hotels at Disney World.)
For last minute vacation planners, this is a possible backdoor into finding theme park availability when it’s otherwise sold out. Of course, you’ll have to pay for the privilege because the Disneyland hotels are usually much more expensive than nearby off-property options.
Can I modify my Disneyland reservations if I want to switch from one park to the other?
Unfortunately, Disneyland does not have a modify function in the app or on its website. If you want to switch your reservations to the other park, the only way to do that is to cancel the reservation you already have and book the other park anew.
As you might imagine, at high competition times, this can potentially mean you cancel a reservation only to find that the reservation you want for the other park is snagged by someone else in the minute or so it takes to make the switch. So be very sure you can live with that result if you are making last minute changes. I’ve heard far too many stories of families being shut out entirely because they tried to tinker with reservations too late. Disney cast members have pretty much no leeway to help you if this happens, even if you only need one ticket changed and are a large party.
How can I check if there is park reservation availability for my travel dates?
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. As mentioned above, there are two separate calendars for 1 park per day park tickets vs. park hopper tickets – and these calendars can diverge and have different availability (see advanced tips below).
How to Make a Disneyland Park Reservations Step-by-Step
Now that many of the questions you may have are out of the way and you’ve checked to make sure your travel dates have reservation availability, let’s walk step-by-step through making a theme park reservation at Disneyland.
When Purchasing from Disney Direct (Recommended for 1 Day Tickets Only)
If you are buying tickets from Disneyland directly, you make park reservations as part of the ticket purchasing process. Previously, you had to purchase a ticket then make a reservations. Naturally, this caused all sorts of confusion and resulted in guests purchasing the wrong tier one-day tickets or only purchasing tickets but forgetting the step of making reservations.
Disney is the only place that sells one day theme park tickets so you’ll have to purchase direct if you have a single day trip. Start here and follow the prompts (which are thankfully much improved over a year ago) to purchase and reserve in a single process.
First, select a one-day ticket and the number of adults/children in your traveling party:
Select whether you want one-park-per-day or the park hopper option for an additional fee:
Select the date of your visit. Note that you can quickly toggle between two calendar views – one that shows the prices and the other that shows the parks that have availability for the ticket type you already selected (hopper or non-hopper) that day.
Select the park you plan to visit (or the park you plan to start with in the morning if you have a park hopper ticket).
Add extras like Disney Genie+ or parking (check out my guide to Disneyland’s Genie+ and Lightning Lane to learn more about whether this option is worth it for your vacation):
Finally, review your selections, add the tickets/reservations to your cart, and then click check out to complete the purchase and make the reservation final.
When Purchasing from Third Party Discount Brokers (Recommended for all Multi-Day Tickets)
But what if you want to go to Disneyland for multiple days? While the same Disney direct system screenshotted above works for multi-day tickets, you really shouldn’t buy multi-day tickets from Disneyland directly. Why? Because that means you are paying too much money!
Trips With Tykes partner Get Away Today sells the very same tickets that Disney sells – but at a discount. I highly recommend purchasing from them first. Most ticket orders are fulfilled immediately and arrive into your inbox in minutes. Then you can easily link those tickets to your Disneyland account to make reservations. The extra step takes only a few minutes and can save you quite a bit of money, especially if you are purchasing for several people.
For tickets purchased from authorized third party discount brokers like Get Away Today, navigate to the theme park reservations landing page and click on the blue “Make Park Reservations” button below the “If you’ve already purchased a ticket” heading.
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.
Click the link a ticket option. Enter the ticket ID numbers one-by-one 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, 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 linked 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. Select the date you want to visit and select a park for that day. Follow the prompts until you see the final confirmation screen indicating you’ve made a reservation for the first day of your ticket.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Disneyland has always 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.
Indeed, Disneyland regularly releases additional reservations closer to the actual dates, often at about 4-8 weeks in advance. We regularly post about these drops in the Disneyland with Kids Facebook group I co-own, so join us if you are on the hunt!
Additionally, 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 even early in the morning to see if you can make a park reservation at the last minute.
Expect Disneyland park reservations (usually) to book up before DCA
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. The demand there is higher, even with the park’s larger capacity. On most normal days, Disneyland reservations will “sell out” before Disney California Adventure.
So if you are planning to visit on a multi-day trip, expect Disneyland to be the harder park to get reservations for most 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.
Of course, when something special is happening at DCA, it can be the first park to sell out. For example, expect DCA to book up first on the first weekend of a festival like Food & Wine. So watch the special events calendars closely too!
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. As much as we’d all prefer to ignore those 6 tiers of confusion, they are important!
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. So book those early (especially if you have one-park-per-day tickets) or risk missing out.
Watch out for the SoCal resident offer effect
Some times of year, Disneyland offers a special discounted ticket type to Southern California residents. Like with the cheapest Tier 1 and Tier 2 one day tickets, these discount tickets can really mess with the availability calendar in unexpected ways.
In 2022, the SoCal ticket is good only on weekdays until May 26, 2022. As a result, it was common to see weekdays book up before weekends – the reverse of what you might expect! And the later you get into the season, the more pressure these tickets can put on the reservation calendar as more guests realize they need to use up their final days before the tickets expire. As a result, right now May 26 is fully booked for all ticket types in both parks, but the subsequent days (Memorial Day weekend!) are wide open.
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 $60 per ticket park hopper add on. Now that reservations have been open over a year, it’s evident that though the calendars generally track one another, there are a few 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.
Buy 1 day tiered tickets with all contingencies in mind
Want to only go to Disneyland for one day? While you’ll certainly save money buying only a single day ticket, it’s essential to be able to redeem it. Only purchase a one day lower tier ticket if you are sure you will be able to use it on the day you first reserve. Why? Because if your plans are less firm and you have to cancel or switch to another day, you may find that you can’t find many days when the low tier ticket isn’t blocked out.
For example, all Tier 1-3 tickets are completely blocked out during the month of July. Tier 1 and 2 are essentially blocked out for the entirety summer. If you buy a Tier 2 ticket for a date in mid May and ultimately cannot attend, you may find yourself unable to use the ticket to go to Disneyland again until at least the fall. While that may be just fine for a local looking to go on a tight budget with time to wait, that may not be as palatable for out-of-towners who simply want to make a minor adjustments to their travel plans (like switching from a Wednesday to a Thursday).
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. There have been some growing pains and supply and demand challenges, especially when it comes to Magic Key reservations. But for regular theme park ticket holders at least, the system is mostly navigable as long as you plan somewhat early for peak times. We may not love it, but at least we know what to expect from it now.
Where to Book Your Disneyland Vacation & Save Money!
Save big on your Disneyland 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, and provides expert customer service from representatives who visit Disneyland all the time.
For park tickets, don’t purchase direct from Disney and pay more! Book discounted Disneyland park tickets from Get Away Today here. Tickets purchased now are valid through end of 2024. Both park hopper and single park per day tickets are available, as well as tickets that include Genie+.
To take advantage of hotel and other package discounts from Get Away Today, explore and book Disneyland vacation packages here. Be sure to use code TYKES10 for $10 in additional savings.
Current Get Away Today Specials & Deals:
- Southern California Resident Deal: Save up to $146 per ticket for WEEKDAY travel January 9 – May 25, 2023. Available as 3 day tickets (either park hopper or one park per day, with or without Genie+).
- Extra Day Free Tickets: Get 5 days at Disneyland for the price of 4 with this extra day free special for longer vacations.
- 3rd or 4th Night Free: available at select Anaheim area hotels exclusively through Get Away Today bookings (can be combined with all ticket discounts).