Disney World Prepares for Advance Theme Park Reservation System
It’s been three weeks since Walt Disney World announced the parks would begin reopening on July 11, 2020. It’s been one week since we looked at the lack of updates on DisneyWorld.com, threw our arms in the air, and said this is crazy.
Walt Disney World has offered scant updates in the 10 days since releasing its “Know Before You Go” Resort & Restaurant Info pages, which themselves only answered some questions. Both before and after that, the biggest question was undoubtedly about when registration would go live for the new limited-capacity theme park access system.
Those pages only addressed park entry in passing, noting that both a park reservation and valid admission would be necessary for access, and that “a Disney Resort hotel reservation does not guarantee theme park access.” Other than that and the fact that such a system would exist, limited other details have been released…
Due to this shortage of official info from Walt Disney World directly, we’ve instead looked towards the similar systems in use at Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland for clues. In this post, we’ll discuss those plus the latest tidbits of info released today by Walt Disney World.
Hong Kong Disneyland just unveiled its system, which will require all guests to make an online reservation for their visit date with their valid tickets or Annual Passes through the HKDL Park Visit Reservation website. These reservations can be made between one and 7 days in advance.
Upon entering your phone number or email in this system, you’re greeted with the following Terms & Conditions click-through:
This contains a recitation of the temporary safety rules (you agree that you’ll wear a mask at all times, social distance, etc.) and liability disclaimer, plus a health certification. Unlike mainland China, Hong Kong does not have a QR health code tracking system.
We’d expect much of this same click-through language in Walt Disney World’s system, including a similar health certification. We do not expect Walt Disney World’s registration system to only allows reservations up to 7 days in advance. Hong Kong Disneyland is mostly day guests taking the train in from the city; shorter notice works fine there.
A significantly longer lead-time is likely at Walt Disney World because out of state tourists drive attendance and those guests simply won’t book trips if they cannot secure reservations. We’d expect a 60 day window for Walt Disney World, on-site resorts having a priority window, or both.
Even though Hong Kong’s system is not precisely what Walt Disney World will end up using, it’s probably pretty close. It’s worth checking out Hong Kong Disneyland’s system and clicking through as many of the steps as you can (up to linking tickets) to see how it works.
Beyond HKDL’s registration process, today we have a few morsels of new information from Walt Disney World…
Notices like the one above are being sent to guests with upcoming resort reservations who have not linked their tickets, imploring them to follow the identified steps so that they can use the theme park reservation system, once it goes live.
It’s always a good idea to double-check My Disney Experience to make sure everything is properly and (seems to be) working correctly.
Despite being veritable power users of My Disney Experience, we had an issue last year when attempting to register for the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge AP previews.
The app can be wonky, and it’s best to not need troubleshooting help on ‘drop day’ when call volume peaks. Get everything straightened out now, and call on an ‘off’ day if you’re having problems. Trust us on this one.
If that’s not enough to convince you that changes are afoot, Walt Disney World has also updated the Annual Passholder Blockout Calendar. Across all tiers, dates are either “Reservations Required” or “Blocked Out.”
You might notice that the calendar shows that reservations are required for all dates through June 2021…
While this could simply be a tentative thing, multiple United Kingdom-based travel agencies have received communications from Walt Disney World indicating that the present plan is to use the park reservation system through 2021 (h/t @ScottGustin).
Of course, the operative part of the above is “present plan” which is akin to the “at this time” weasel words we discussed earlier this week in our post about Walt Disney World area hotel reopening dates. We won’t rehash all of that here, but the point is that Disney is masterful at equivocation, and if plans couldn’t change shortly after announcements like this, we’d still have Maelstrom, Universe of Energy, Tower of Terror (California), etc.
More to the point, this online advance theme park reservation system will only exist as long as necessary to modulate supply and demand.
While knowing attendance numbers in advance is undoubtedly nice for Walt Disney World, the system introduces friction and uncertainty into the guest experience, and its very existence will discourage people from booking trips. That far outweighs any upside to Disney.
Again, we’ll borrow Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as an example. For months, we knew that access to the land would be limited by a virtual queue and boarding pass system. Disney built infrastructure for it, released explanatory videos & blog posts, and cautioned guests about the system. Many fans really freaked out, worried that they’d need to arrive at the park hours before park opening just for a chance to enter the new land. Some vowed to avoid Disney’s Hollywood Studios entirely during their trips.
Then Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Walt Disney World, and the virtual queue for land entry was used for a grand total of like 2 hours ever.
This should underscore two very important points. The first is that, as stated above, Walt Disney World will only use the theme park reservation system as long as necessary. As with the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge system, it introduces unnecessary friction, stress, and uncertainty for guests.
Second, and more importantly, Walt Disney World does not have the slightest inkling as to what guest demand looks like right now. There has been a lot of online commentary about pent-up demand, and how Disney’s attendance projections must show that such an advance theme park reservation system is necessary.
Walt Disney World couldn’t accurately forecast attendance for a new land under normal circumstances and after seeing how a similar scenario played out months before in California. There’s no way they have an accurate picture of long-term attendance trends during the midst of an unprecedented pandemic and recession.
Like everyone else, Walt Disney World is making this up as they go. I know that it’s fun to envision Disney as this prescient company on the bleeding edge of everything–harnessing data and analytics to incredible advantage–but that’s pretty far from accurate in normal circumstances, let alone right now. To be disabused of that notion, look no further than Disney’s recent communications (or lack thereof), plus the fact that new ticket sales and the reservation systems are still down. Then consider how much money is being lost or left on the table as a result.
Nevertheless, hopefully today’s updates are a sign that the advance theme park reservation system is about to go live on My Disney Experience and DisneyWorld.com. At the very least, it’s a good reminder to get your ducks in a row so you’re prepared to book dates as soon as APRs (it’s like ADRs, but for park access…and not to be confused with annual percentage rate) open up. We’ll continue to closely watch this, monitoring the official app and website for the slightest changes–if you want an immediate heads up when the new theme park reservation system launches, sign-up for our free email newsletter!
If you have questions about the closure, including policy changes and what we know thus far, please consult our Walt Disney World Reopening FAQ & Info, which should answer most inquiries. See our other WDW Closure & Reopening Updates for the latest news. If you’re planning a Walt Disney World trip, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know.
Do you think capacity and demand will dictate that the advance theme park reservation system will be necessary through 2021? Annoyed at the lack of updates from Walt Disney World about reservations/tickets/refunds/etc? Do you have plans to visit Walt Disney World this summer or fall, or have you cancelled? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? 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!
I have several upcoming reservations booked (& several cancelled due to closure), my first one I could possibly take advantage of I have booked for 7/5-7/8 @ the Boardwalk villas.
I’ve rc’d the email from Disney asking me to confirm if I’m coming then – while I’m on the fence if I even want to go at all with all these restrictions in place, maybe its just best to remember things the way they were for now, but I can’t help with my love of Disney want to be there for re-opening & kinda hoping maybe I have timed that trip around the possible passholder preview (?)
So Disney wants me to tell them what Im doing, but they cannot tell me really much of anything besides a lot of restrictions – mandatory facemasks, no parades, no fireworks, no character interactions, most of my favorite restaurants will more than likely not be opened (unless Boma breakfast will reopen – then nevermind on all my rants, I’ll be there!)… No visiting other resorts you’re not a guest at?!! & My resort pool is to be shared with 2 other large resorts since SB will be closed (3 large resorts sharing 1 resort main pool will be total chaos).
Oh and I may not even be allowed in the parks, but if I am, no park hopping (as someone that drives 8 hours every month, but I’m only able to stay 3 days +/- @ a time, taking park hopping away just isn’t worth it for me).
I guess I can understand SOME of these restrictions, but ALL of these restrictions at once?!! Someone in charge of these excessive restrictions at Disney is literally taking everything & every reason guest visit away…
So I’m to drive 8 hours to possibly sit in my room?! None of this makes me feel valued at all as a passholder, sounds like as long as I pay for my room & pass, theres no concern I get anything in return. Makes no sense that passholders with an on site reservation cannot at least be shown some appreciation for alllllll the money weve spent alllllll these years & given some perk – like just a guaranteed park entrance & park hopping, doesnt seem that much to ask for what weve already paid for, esp if Disney wants us to continue to pay for it!
How do you update My Disney Experience App ? I still have pictures tied to the WDW app and don’t want to lose those (as an AP holder pics good for a year) . Currently, do not have a resort reservation because they are not allowing new reservations at this time @Happily Ever After – wow seriously 2030 for an AP expiration date? – I think it’s time to call Disney for some guidance on whether they’re going to refund for the closure time to AP holders that paid in full or if you have the option to extend – if you have the choice what are most doing? Opinions? Thanks for feedback.
It’s ridiculous that staying at a DISNEY RESORT HOTEL doesn’t guarantee access to the parks. Why would I want to spend over $12k for a vacation and not be guaranteed access to the main attraction of going to the parks? Anyone that has already made reservations for a resort hotel (even way before COVID-19 happened, so reservations were made a year ago) should be guaranteed access.
We have reservations for a week at Fort Wilderness mid-July and also did not purchase our tickets and now afraid that we will not be able to get them. I quess we will stay at the fort and go to Universal this year instead because they do not have the same restrictions on buying tickets.
We have resort reservations for 8 at Old Key West starting Sept 12th. We had all our ADRs lined up and scheduled. The flights have been booked since Jan. The only missing piece was purchasing the park tickets. Now we can’t purchase tickets and we can’t get the three year credit on our resort reservation because we purchased DVC credits on David’s Vacation Club site. We have a ton of money tied up in this trip and I’m scared to death we are going to have this expensive resort stay and flights and not be able to access the parks. We’ve saved for years and planned all days and meals out on spreadsheets. So upsetting this is the way it’s turning out. Any advice is welcomed…
Exactly !! Same here! We are at AK end sept…. I’m going to call them when they biome July 11 and ask!! Why go if I can’t get tix to the parks!?? Please let me know if you hear anything!!
As soon as I read that line I couldn’t get the sing out of my head. I think Disney is currently at “I realized it’s all my fault, but couldn’t tell you”.
For those who have complaints, and especially those who are cancelling plans until normality returns, PLEASE write to Disney and tell THEM about it. While they might not respond back, they DO pay attention to the emails they get from guests. I’ve had hour long phone calls with guest relation reps who called in response to my emails, and they are VERY interested in what we – those who empty our wallets for them – are thinking and feeling about all this.
I made a reservation for Sea World Orlando and Acquatica for a July 29 and 31. You could pick your date and buy tickets at the same time. I had already bought discounted tickets and was able to type in a barcode to get the specific date reservation. Luckily the dates had availability. You have to present both your ticket and confirmed reservation to gain entrance, no exceptions. It wasn’t hard, but just a pain to do it. I can see Disney filling up fast, and lots of dates being at Covid 19 capacity. So if you already have tickets, it sounds like it could be a roll of the dice on getting a reservation. I of course prefer Disney, but Sea World was practically giving away tickets so thought we would reserve it at least. Sounds like zero chance of getting into Disney without a season pass the first month or two.
As an RN with 33+ years experience, I absolutely feel like Disney will have the obligation of practicing “crowd control” until there is an effective vaccine for Covid 19 in place and the case numbers remain very low. I would look for these new reservation systems to be at the Orlando parks until end of year at minimum. I’m a pass holder at Sea World and you need a reservation there too. I think the same goes for Universal. I have a short trip reserved for the end of October this year with my 15 year old, not sure if I will risk potential catastrophe by going then. Hoping for the best! Everyone stay healthy and safe!
It all seems moot to me. As much as I want it to open, the trajectory of this thing makes it seem impossible. New daily cases in FL topped out at about 1000 in March, 1400 in April, and 1200 in May. Yesterday’s count was 2800. And the line is trending steeply upward. If you project the spike forward two weeks, can Disney realistically open under those conditions? Fingers crossed that the numbers start to drop significantly in FL.
I’m interested in your thoughts on how Park Hopper will work with the new reservation system in place.
I think it will not work–park hopper will be eliminated for now.
I personally think that the reservation system won’t be relevant after a few weeks, a month max, because with all of the negative changes that Disney is making to things because of this stupid virus mess it will as the article said discourage people from booking trips. When the demand isn’t what Disney expected I have a feeling that they will back off of it. To leave this ridiculous idea and horrid restrictions in place until next year will be a huge mistake. They are already putting themselves at a huge disadvantage as it is by being the only park in the area to implement such nonsense in the first place. My guess, once they see how many more people visit the other parks where they don’t have to play the Hunger Games just to be allowed inside they will see what a huge mistake this is and will put the reservation system where it should have been from the second China implemented it, in the garbage.
I agree. They will be losing all kinds of money the way things are now. No one wants to spend all this money and have to make reservations to one park. When we go we always park hop. Half a day at one park, half at another. I will not pay for a trip with all of these restrictions.
I suspect that Disney is well aware of the issues but they are backed into a corner. Would you rather have them not have a reservations system and you show up only to be told that the park is “at capacity”? What will you do then? At least with a reservations system you can plan ahead. Since capacity will be very limited, I suspect that Disney actually WANTS people to cancel their plans since they cannot accommodate those who already have reservations, let alone new ticket sales (which will be paused until they see what capacity they can handle in new ticket sales) . I also suspect they will prioritize access to the reservation system with previously planned trips with Disney hotel reservations having highest priority, then on down the list.
Disagree. The AP holders and loyalists are out here. People are coming in the right numbers because they feel it’s controlled and safe. If it’s a free for all, that discourages people. The ‘masks infringe on my freedom’ is a much smaller, dumber demographic. I don’t think a massive world wide corporation such a Disney is here to cater to them.
The government forcing the use of masks in public poses a number of Constitutional problems. However, corporations on private property absolutely have the right to require them in order to use the facilities– in the same way restaurants can require their diners to wear shirts and shoes.
I’m curious how many days you will be able to make reservations for- if we head to Disneyland and I get 4 day tickets… I don’t want to only be able to get reservations for 2 park days. Any ideas?
So are you saying this reservation system will be through 2021 – UGH. It seems to mean you cannot park hop. We typically go for 6 days and park hop. I love to go to Animal Kingdom or Studios in the morning and Magic Kingdom and especially Epcot in the evening. In general we will just go walk around Epcot as a break to get a snack, etc!
Someone, please correct me if I am wrong…
I have reservations for a deluxe villa and seven-day park hopper tickets for the end of August; as well, we will be flying in from the West coast (the original trip was for March).
It is totally possible that I may not secure a reservation for a park, which means I’d be stuck in Orlando with an overpriced theme park villa and a view of a park we can’t visit…
I just looked at my annual pass tickets once I updated my disney app… it says expiration date 12/2030
Is that a typo???
The updated app also has the Park hours listed. There are special event ticket at magic kingdom 7:45-9 on some dates in July. And 9/1 has special event ticket 7pm-12 supposing mnsshp
Hi Debbie, while that is certainly possible, I imagine you, and anyone else with valid reservations and tickets, will get first crack at the reservation system when it goes live. You should certainly know, especially with a late August trip, well in advance of your trip which parks you have reservations for on which days.
Also, I don’t think your park hoppers will work anymore. I believe it’s going to be only 1 park per day.
Ok, so I just heard that Disney is more than likely going to be renting out the GF, Gran Destino and Yacht Club to the NBA? Guess they want to make up money fast, but they are first, grieving everyone else by not having any kind of clear plans and cancelling everything left and right and secondly, ewww, sports stars are notorious for being raunchy in rooms. Maybe I’m remembering certain stories about former player Rodman and it’s just gross. Good player, but I wouldn’t want a room after he was done with it. I doubt much has changed. Here anything about this and how it is going affect regular peeps once again?
Tom, do you know if you can unlink tickets before using them for entrance and have them still be valid to use some other time? I bought tickets a few years ago when you didn’t have to choose the dates you were going. But I don’t want to link them, not get reservations for all five days and then not be able to unlink them and use next year or whenever. I tried emailing Disney weeks ago (after spending an hour on hold by phone) and they sent back a canned response and didn’t answer that question.
OK – did I miss an important fact. In order to use this soon to be released park reservation system any idea if you need to have a valid admission in order to reserve your day? To me it doesn’t make sense to buy park admission not knowing if you can get in – correct? Or did I miss something.
I have 2 weeks end of Sept and haven’t bought park admission yet. And, right now, wasn’t planning to but tickets yet unless I know I can get in. But, I would like to know ahead if I need a park ticket in order to use the park reservation system.
Did miss the fact above in the article- or anyone know?
I don’t know, but you have an excellent question. (Like we should trust them now to make sure everyone is treated fairly is beyond me.)
Everything that I have read says you need a purchased ticket in order to reserve a day at the park.
Same boat here… haven’t got tickets yet
I don’t know about WDW, but at a regional theme park near me that is opening July 1 (Hersheypark), you need a valid ticket in order to reserve a date(s) to attend. It asks you to input your ticket number/barcode (in our particular case, the barcode on our season ticket vouchers).
I think it’s similar to fast pass. You couldn’t make a fast pass reservation without valid admission so that people wouldn’t take fast passes that they wouldn’t use. I definitely see why you would be frustrated but can also understand Disney’s reasoning. It would be nice if you could purchase but not be charged until you get the reservation at which time your credit card would be immediately charged.
I have the same question. I would buy tickets if they would remove the date restrictions. If you have to have a reservation to get in, the ticket dates make no sense.
It’s my understanding that they aren’t selling new tickets at this time. So if you haven’t bought tickets I’m not sure when you will be able to purchase.
This soon to be release park reservation system – should allow those without tickets to be able to buy their valid admission at the same time you are reserving your park.
So I am going for 2 weeks at the 60 day mark I should be able to use this park reservation system to reverse as many days I want to go to a park and buy the valid admission tickets for those amount of days.
It makes no sense for me to buy tickets for 2 weeks not knowing when I go into this new reservation system that I will get 2 weeks of park reservations. Why would I spend that money and not be able to use the tickets if I don’t get a reservation.
I am not a frequent Disney guest – what would I do with any unused purchase tickets. Will Disney refund my money?
I think the plan is to give current ticket holders access to the reservations system before allowing new ticket sales. If I had to guess that may mean a rolling schedule where ticket holders have a period to book park reservations before tickets for the same dates go on sale.
Right now there is a freeze on purchasing park tickets along with new resort reservations.