Walt Disney World’s Park Pass theme park reservation system has been live for Annual Passholders for over 24 hours, so we thought it’d be worthwhile to check the status of AP availability now that the first wave of bookings has subsided. In this post, we’ll cover how the rollout went, some policy surprises, and answer to concerns that “we were wrong” again.
Disney’s Park Pass went live shortly before 6 am Eastern yesterday, which is an hour before it was supposed to go live. As you might recall, last week the system went live for resort guests nearly 2 hours late. Neither are particularly surprising for Walt Disney World veterans–it’s more startling when Disney opens reservations precisely on time.
Of the two approaches, quietly opening early is the unequivocally superior approach. It’s what almost always happens on Free Dining drop day, sometimes as early as 4 am. This offers a “release valve” on demand–rather than letting a ‘crowd’ build up to overwhelm the system at a more reasonable hour. It’s the same idea as Disney’s Hollywood Studios opening the turnstiles before published park opening for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance…
We were bracing ourselves for the worst with Disney Park Pass yesterday, as our assumption was/is that far more Annual Passholders were accessing it yesterday than resort guests last week. Of course, it would’ve been logical for Disney IT to iron out any problems and scale up its backend systems in light of last week…but we didn’t have complete faith that would happen.
To our surprise, it was totally smooth sailing. We were able to access the Disney Park Pass reservation system without issue or delay throughout the morning. Not once did Stitch consume the website nor did the dreaded Pepto-Pink Castle make an appearance. Kudos, Disney IT.
In terms of glitches, we heard of a few but experienced none firsthand. A few reports were actually glitches working to the advantage of guests, with some Annual Passholders able to book more than 3 reservations. However, it would appear that every single problem we addressed in our Disney Park Pass Problems & Fixes has now been resolved on Disney’s end.
There are no doubt still individualized errors (there always are with My Disney Experience) that you’ll need to call and have Walt Disney World address. If so, brace yourself for a long wait on hold. Not only are many Cast Members still on furlough, but the release of 2021 vacation packages, plus guests trying cancel or modify trips (which isn’t possible online right now), plus Annual Passholders trying to call their APs, plus complaints over [fill in grievance] are resulting in longer than normal wait times no matter which number you call.
One complaint, which is not a glitch is that Annual Passholders aren’t allowed to book 3 reservations if they already have Disney Park Pass reservations through a Walt Disney World resort stay. We’re not totally sure why anyone expected to be able to double dip in this way given the verbiage of DisneyWorld.com.
Here’s the official language from Walt Disney World’s Annual Pass “Know Before You Go” page: All Annual Passholders are eligible to make Theme Park reservations for up to 3 days at a time, or Annual Passholders staying at select Disney Resort or other select hotels with valid Theme Park admission are eligible to make Theme Park reservations for each day of their stay(s).
Note the use of “or” there rather than “and.” A strong argument can be made that double-dipping should be allowed as a matter of policy. After all, resort reservations entitle you to one type of reservations, whereas APs entitle you to another. If you pay for both a resort stay and an Annual Pass–two separate purchases–why aren’t you entitled to both?
Another new Annual Passholder grievance is Disney Park Pass availability. Above is a look at current options for July and August is below. As you can see, options are pretty scarce for July and early August.
The entire first week is fully booked, plus weekends thereafter. Once again, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the fastest-booking park. We previously addressed this phenomenon in our We Were Wrong About Disney Park Passearlier this week.
Now, this might lead you to conclude we were also wrong with our Dawn of a Temporary Disney Era: Low Crowds prediction. After all, if the parks are fully booked for part of the first full month of operations, that suggests there’s more than just a “couple weeks” worth of pent-up demand.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s a current look at the availability calendar for resort guests:
As you can see, there are some dates the first full week that are fully booked (mostly Disney’s Hollywood Studios), but at least one park remains available every single day (in most cases, multiple parks).
Once you get to July 19, every single date is fully available for Walt Disney World resort guests. This is a visual illustration of why we weren’t wrong again–at least, not yet.
Walt Disney World is using three different buckets for Park Pass reservation availability, and right now, we have no idea how capacity is allocated. It could very well be the case that it’s evenly distributed, and there’s more demand among Annual Passholders. It’s also possible half of capacity is set aside for resort guests with the remaining half split among APs and off-site ticketholders.
In short, it’s impossible to draw any conclusions about post-reopening crowds by dates from the Annual Passholder bucket being fully booked. (It’d be like saying Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the most popular park at Walt Disney World because it’s selling out. No, it’s just the one with the lowest supply.)
We also don’t know if Disney Park Pass capacity can flow from one bucket to another.
Stated in a way that makes more sense, it’s not clear if Walt Disney World will release capacity from the resort guest bucket to the Annual Passholder and day-guest buckets the night before (or a few days in advance) if not fully booked by resort guests.
If capacity can’t flow from bucket to bucket, that’s going to be incredibly concerning for Annual Passholders without hotel reservations.
In practice, it’ll essentially mean you need to book your Disney Park Pass reservations several weeks in advance, and might be limited to visiting a few times per month (potentially less if you can’t do weekdays). That’s a far cry from the access advertised at the time of purchase.
This would give further credence to the growing chorus of Annual Passholder complaints that they are not receiving the full value of their passes, and that the 30-day bonus extension is inadequate recovery. (At this point, anyone who has an AP above Gold should simply cancel and buy a new Annual Pass at a lower tier.)
While Walt Disney World understandably needs to prioritize on-site resort guests, it would be wise not to alienate Annual Passholders at a time when the parks are going to lean heavily on locals and diehard fans in the next couple of years. (In fairness, Walt Disney World is doing a fairly exemplary job of alienating everyone in new and unique ways–it’s hardly exclusive to APs.)
Throughout the closure and reopening process, we’ve tried to strike a balance. Walt Disney World is in an unenviable position faced with an array of “least worst” choices and no-win scenarios. This is while short-staffed and with many people working from home. Accordingly, we’ve stressed patience and understanding from readers–it’s a tough time amidst an ongoing pandemic. I don’t think any of us would want to be in the shoes of Disney leadership right now.
However, it’s also fair to say that many of the problems are of Walt Disney World’s own creation. The IT problems are nothing new (it has been the same story for the last decade!). The outrage stemming from the ‘planning industrial complex’ is monster of their own making. Walt Disney World’s standard practice of releasing flowery communications that are light on substance doesn’t pass muster at a time when transparency is craved. We could go on.
Ultimately, this is a long-winded way of saying our feelings here are conflicted. The status of our coast-to-coast Premier Passport is really up in the air, which is frustrating, but we also mostly understand why given the circumstances. Our personal perspective is that we’re going to roll with the punches and exercise patience to the greatest extent possible. That’s mostly because there’s already so much to be upset or worried about in the real world, and compounding that with anger about escapism is just too much for us. The emphasis there is definitely on what’s right for us–we don’t blame anyone else for reacting much differently.
Were you able to book the Disney Park Pass reservation dates you wanted? Concerned about the limited availability for Annual Passholders, or think this is fair? Will you be cancelling your AP, or continuing? Frustrating and fed up, or are you likewise rolling with the punches? Do you agree or disagree with our 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!