It’s time for an update on Walt Disney World Park Pass availability for June and July 2021. Reservations have 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 actively monitor Disney Park Pass availability, and this is the largest refill since April 14. In terms of timing, this comes as availability has been tight or nonexistent since before Memorial Day, with all parks fully booked almost every single day for the last several weeks. Quite clearly, tourism has rebounded in a big way, with pent-up demand playing out at Walt Disney World–or attempting to do so.
This also comes nearly one full month after Walt Disney World announced that physical distancing would be relaxed, stating that this would occur “across many areas with a gradual, phased approach” but also that “six-feet distancing measures will continue in all dining locations, merchandise stores and in areas where guests can temporarily remove their masks.” In fact, just yesterday we got another minor verbiage update on physical distancing at Walt Disney World…
I wasn’t planning on cover the “stealth update” to the language of Walt Disney World’s physical distancing rule policy since it didn’t warrant a full post, but it’s relevant here. The new wording is: “Adjustments are still in place to promote physical distancing for Guests. These measures will be reduced in a gradual, phased approach.”
To me, this is significant because it suggests that Walt Disney World might start reducing physical distancing in restaurants and stores. They are no longer mentioned specifically as being exceptions, which was obviously a deliberate change. In our recent experiences at Walt Disney World, it appears that many restaurants are short-staffed, so the practical reality is that many locations aren’t ready to fill every table. But that could change as the fruits of Disney’s hiring blitz start being enjoyed around Walt Disney World.
One day after the original rule relaxation to physical distancing, Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke to investors about these very topics. He started by indicating that Walt Disney World had already started to raise capacity caps based on past guidance from both the CDC and Florida’s relaxation of health protocol.
Chapek further addressed demand and staffing: “We’ve sort of got the perfect positive storm, if you will, where we’ve got plenty of demand, we’ve got really great yield management gains, and the cost management at the same time. In terms of labor, we had about 80% of our cast members return that we’ve asked to return. [We] continue to get more and more cast members back, it thrills us to be able to do that. We’ve had no problems whatsoever in terms of trying to get our cast to come back and make some magic for our guests.”
A few weeks later, Chapek addressed the same topics at the JPMorgan Chase Global Technology, Media & Communications Conference. There, he said that Walt Disney World can expect to see “low double digit increases” in attendance over the summer months, with the full benefits of relaxed guidelines felt towards the end of the fourth quarter (October is the start of Disney’s new fiscal year).
Chapek also spoke about the parks being bound by OSHA guidelines, which adds complexity to the process of unwinding health safety protocol in some areas of the parks & resorts. He also again expressed a desire to continue leveraging technology (things like Disney Park Pass reservations!) even after capacity limits end. That’s wishful thinking, but also another topic for another day.
We think this is all interesting and relevant background to the increase of Disney Park Pass reservations. Frankly, the recent availability–or lack thereof–partially contradicts what Chapek claimed. Our visits to Walt Disney World in the last couple of weeks further corroborate this, as we’ve experienced relatively light “feels like” crowds even over the holiday weekend.
As for labor, at minimum, the spirit of his comments there are false. If it’s true that Disney “had about 80% of our cast members return that we’ve asked to return” it must be the case that the company has only formally asked those to return they knew were likely to say yes. Like so many other businesses, Walt Disney World is short-staffed, which why they accelerated the return of the College Program to Summer 2021, has numerous job openings, and is actively advertising that its hiring in the Orlando market.
Enough commentary for now–here’s a look at June 2021 Disney Park Pass availability as of Thursday night:
Note that these screenshots only show the resort and Annual Passholder buckets, which is because the ticket and resort buckets are identical–and have been for a few months.
Anyway, as you can see here, almost nothing for on-site resort guests for pretty much the entirety of June 2021. Those dates that did have availability were almost exclusively for EPCOT.
Above is the old Disney Park Pass availability, pre-refill, for July 2021.
July looks much better for on-site resort guests, but again, many of these dates only had availability for EPCOT. You had to go mid-July or later to get anything that wasn’t EPCOT or Animal Kingdom. Annual Passholders, on the other hand, were totally fine for the entirety of July.
Above are the post-refill options for June 2021.
The next several days still aren’t great, but once you get to the middle of next week, things improve dramatically. Even the yellow dates are not just EPCOT–Magic Kingdom is available (as of right now, at least) for June 9-14, 2021.
Finally, a look at July 2021 following the refill.
Independence Day is still unavailable for Annual Passholders, but it is now an option for theme park ticket holders and on-site resort guests. It’s been a while since we’ve seen July totally green on any calendar!
One quick recommendation that we’ve made before for 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.
Our expectation going forward as capacity increases 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.
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 virtual queue 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. Again, that’s pending availability, so be mindful of the Park Pass calendar going forward.
Obviously, 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 most days, hitting the current capacity cap with regularity. No one likes longer wait times and higher crowds, and you might be concerned if you’re planning a visit for those dates and already have your reservations.
Don’t be. Our recent experiences in the parks have demonstrated that Walt Disney World has greatly 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.
Ultimately, even though it’ll mean slightly higher crowds and wait times during our upcoming visits to Walt Disney World, we are very pleased with the Disney Park Pass reservation refill. Walt Disney World can absolutely handle a 10-15% increase in attendance without much of a negative impact to guests–especially if/when more Cast Members are hired and trained to help the parks better absorb those crowds.
In fact, Walt Disney World finally bumping up that capacity limit is a signifier that more Cast Members have been hired and trained. That’s key because it would put the parks in a position to restore more substantive offerings–or improve existing operations. With that potentially happening and attendance being increased, the door is opened to the return of more dining and entertainment. Our personal hope is that this includes fireworks and Fantasmic. As we’ve teased a few times, EPCOT Forever should be returning for a limited engagement this summer!
Have any luck scoring Disney Park Pass reservations with this new inventory dump for June and July 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!