We’re back with an update on Walt Disney World Park Pass availability for Summer 2021. Tons of availability has been added for Annual Passholders, on-site resort guests, and regular theme park ticket holders. We’ll take a look at the changes and speculate as to why this huge summer reservation refilled happened, and offer additional strategy to improve your chances of success in riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
We’ve been monitoring Disney Park Pass availability since the reservation system went live last summer, and this is the biggest “availability dump” we’ve seen in a while (the biggest of 2021 thus far!). Timing-wise, this comes as availability has been tightening up over the last couple of months as tourism has started to rebound and pent-up demand is clearly starting to play out at Walt Disney World.
This comes less than a week after Walt Disney World added hundreds of hours for Summer 2021. In that post, we recommended making Disney Park Pass reservations ASAP because there were already a ton of dates in May and June 2021 unavailable to resort guests for Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. This reverses that problem, totally resetting availability. Of course, it comes at a cost…
The downside to Walt Disney World refilling Park Pass reservations is increased attendance. For the past month-plus, some or all of the parks have been fully booked on many days, hitting the 35% capacity cap with regularity. Obviously, no one likes longer wait times and crowds.
However, as we also stated during that park hours update, we’ve actually been surprised Walt Disney World hasn’t upped the attendance number. Walt Disney World has been improved efficiency on a number of attractions in each park, and the result is even faster-moving lines, shorter wait times than what’s posted, and just less congestion in general. Suffice to say, the “feels like” crowds on our most recent visits–even on fully booked days–have been lower than what we experienced last year during the holiday season.
Anyway, here are today’s big updates…
As of today, all three buckets–theme park ticket holders, resort guests, and Annual Passholders–have been fully refilled for Memorial Day weekend and beyond.
Prior to this, it was slim pickins’ for those dates.
For resort guests and theme park ticket holders, that’s still the case for this month and May 2021.
Historically, this has been ‘shoulder season’ at Walt Disney World, with low to moderate crowds after the spring break rush has subsided. Although we’re only a few days into the post-spring break season, that has not been our experience thus far at EPCOT or Magic Kingdom. Crowds could still drop in the coming weeks–they usually decline gradually. However, our expectation is that remote work and learning will keep them somewhat elevated.
Annual Passholders continue to have the best availability of all on the Park Pass calendars.
We’ve mentioned this a couple of times, but this is likely a holdover from a reallocation ‘formula change’ that occurred last fall when it was mostly APs visiting, and yet the other two calendars were seas of green. We aren’t going to complain too loudly about this since it now benefits us, but we hope Walt Disney World “recalibrates” again now that more tourists are visiting. Resort guests should have better availability than APs. There aren’t many on-site advantages right now, but this should absolutely be one of them.
Above is what the June 2021 calendar looked like for resort hotel guests and theme park ticket holders as of a few days ago. I didn’t take a screenshot, but some dates in July 2021 were also starting to book up.
Here’s what the same calendar looks like now:
A sea of green.
Save for June 22, which is weirdly unavailable for Animal Kingdom. (Not normally the first or second park to book up, so I’m guessing that’s some sort of glitch.)
Same deal for theme park ticket holders.
Every park available every day of the month. (Again, save for Animal Kingdom on June 22.)
Annual Passholders also have full availability, which isn’t all that different from a few days ago.
BRB, going to book Animal Kingdom on June 22 to flaunt my ‘exclusive access’ over regular guests. Bet you’re all very jealous that you can’t visit Animal Kingdom on some random weekday in June when the temperature will probably be 104º!
This could be happening because Walt Disney World added a ton of park hours for Summer 2021. However, that was almost a week ago, and the timing doesn’t quite square with past precedent there.
Moreover, Walt Disney World added hours in a similar manner all through spring break without a corresponding ‘availability dump’ for Park Pass reservations.
If this availability dump were happening some random week this month or next, we’d write it off as routine. It’s happening over Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial kick-off to summer. That is almost certainly not by coincidence.
Accordingly, our guess is that Walt Disney World is going to increase park capacity for Summer 2021. They’ve been self-limiting to 35% for several months now after pretty consistent gradual increases last summer through fall.
It’s not far-fetched to think that a relaxation of physical distancing rules, and thus an increase in capacity, is the next significant step in the phased reopening. After all, Walt Disney World relaxed face mask rules for photos last week.
With vaccination rollout going well and about to open to everyone where it’s not already, any adult American who wants to–and is reasonably diligent–could, in theory at least, be fully vaccinated by Memorial Day. Here in Orange County, there has been no-wait walk-up availability at the local super sites since Florida opened it up to everyone, and even scheduling appointments has gotten easier.
Just this week, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings stated that local health officials have begun devising a plan to reduce occupancy restrictions on some businesses, loosen physical distancing requirements, and some face mask requirements.
Demings said the plan is being crafted with advice from the CDC, epidemiologists, and on the basis of public health data on vaccinations and infection rates. This plan is expected to be officially unveiled later this week, but it wouldn’t be surprising in the least if Walt Disney World were given a sneak peek, or even had involvement in drafting the plan.
This would make sense, and it’s a foregone conclusion that Walt Disney World will increase the park attendance limit at some point. It makes sense to do that now with a hot summer travel season ahead. Our only hope is that Disney also brings back commensurate entertainment–and not just Festival of the Lion King–and other offerings to help offset the increased crowds.
Finally, a recommendation when it comes to making Disney Park Pass reservations. If you don’t mind monitoring the Park Pass calendar, book at least a couple of days at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Consider doing so on all days when you’re planning on visiting Animal Kingdom or EPCOT, in addition to your dedicated DHS day.
This is our recommendation because it’s always easier to change from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to another park than vice-versa. By the time your travel dates arrive, it’s entirely conceivable that DHS will be fully booked for every day of your trip. Same goes for Magic Kingdom on some dates, whereas Animal Kingdom and EPCOT usually have same-day availability.
However, you’ll only want to do this if you don’t mind checking the calendar in the weeks leading up to your trip to make sure EPCOT and Animal Kingdom aren’t filling up. That has been happening the last couple of months, and you don’t want to get in a situation where you’re stuck spending half your trip at DHS.
Our expectation going forward is that EPCOT will have ample availability for summer, as that was the case all of last year and this winter–pretty much up until the last month and a half. We’re optimistic that EPCOT will become easier to book same-day, but the fact is that we do not yet know for sure.
Anyway, reserving multiple DHS days gives you more chances for success with the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue. Our comprehensive Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance covers everything you need to know–including some “fast finger” strategy to increase your odds.
With the 7 am entry time, it’s possible to attempt to score Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding passes from outside the park before you start your day. If you’re unsuccessful, you can change your Disney Park Pass reservations day-of to EPCOT or Animal Kingdom, pending availability.
Ultimately, we’re pretty pleased with the Disney Park Pass reservation refill. While some of you with vacation plans who already booked Park Passes may not like the idea of added attendance, this will hopefully be good news for everyone. For one thing, the parks can absorb more guests as-is.
For another, Walt Disney World bumping up that 35% capacity limit is a significant step in the slow return to normalcy. As we’ve said countless times, physical distancing is Disney’s biggest impediment to profitability, and so much simply will not change until attendance levels can increase. With that potentially happening here, the door is opened to the return of more dining and entertainment. Our personal hope is that this includes fireworks or Fantasmic–no reason that EPCOT Forever couldn’t return for the summer!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have any luck scoring Disney Park Pass reservations with this new inventory dump for Summer 2021? What’s your take on the ‘why’ behind this added availability? Think it means Disney is upping the attendance cap? Do you agree with our suggestions for Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance? Do you agree or disagree with any of our other commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!