Disneyland and Disney California now use a theme park reservation system to manage attendance, which will be in place through 2022. This post covers how to reserve access, ticket & booking windows, and what to expect online when making plans to enter the parks. (Updated December 11, 2021.)
Even after all other health safety protocol have been dropped, Disneyland and DCA are still using a park reservation system to manage attendance. This is now largely due to staffing shortages and venues that are still closed, which means the parks cannot handle as many guests as normal. As such, capacity remains limited–albeit not to the 25% to 35% level over the summer. It’s more like 75-80% now.
Anyone who is already familiar with Disney Park Pass in Florida will be pretty familiar with the reservation system at Disneyland Resort. The only difference thus far is that it doesn’t have a proper name attached, which is fine by me–descriptive names make complex things more comprehensible. Otherwise, it sounds like it’ll function very similarly, albeit with some unique-to-Disneyland wrinkles…
To enter Disneyland or Disney California Adventure, both a theme park reservation and valid admission ticket for the same park on the same date are required for guests ages 3 and up. Guests must have a valid theme park admission ticket in order to make a reservation. Theme park reservations are limited and subject to availability.
Before even purchasing tickets, you should check the Disneyland Park Reservation Calendar. Availability is added to this on a rolling basis, 90 days in advance. Note that this has two separate calendars, one for one park per day tickets and the other for Park Hoppers. Be sure to check the correct one.
Be sure to visit Disneyland.com and login prior to doing any of the following steps here.
Even if you already clicked the book theme park reservation link from Disneyland.com, you’ll be redirected to a screen with more or less the same link.
Click that and then select your party. Basically, the tickets you purchased and linked.
From here, you’ll find a calendar with available dates. This shows when Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, or both are available. Note that Park Hopping will be possible after 1 pm, so even if DCA is the only thing available for your desired dates, it’s potentially worth booking that.
After selecting a date, you’ll be prompted to select a park. You will then confirm your reservation, and can book additional dates without repeating the lengthy virtual queue process.
Don’t be surprised if you run into technical difficulties trying to make reservations.
If you don’t want to read any of those (can’t blame you!), the commonality is that they were all slow-motion train wrecks. During the headache-inducing process, many of the participants got intimately acquainted with the details of Disney’s virtual waiting rooms, spending multiple hours in a queue only to have the system crash. Some spent the better part of a day doing that only to come up empty handed. Anyone who has tried to do a Disney opening day “thing” probably has their own “unbelievable” horror story. (I believe them all.)
Starting with a significantly smaller pool of potential guests creates less of an opening day burden on Disney IT and allows the company to see potential problem points and fix them before the deluge. Think of it like an attraction “soft opening” but for reservations. I can’t say I’m wild about this approach, but it’s absolutely better than the very predictable alternative. Until Disney IT upgrades the ‘ole Gateway 2000 they use to run the Go.com servers, this lemonade out of lemons option is best.
Finally, for some predictions for the Disneyland reservation system and demand. Even with the two-stage approach to reservations, we anticipate issues both days. That’s just a given. It wouldn’t be a Disney ‘drop day’ without them. There probably won’t be as many reports of problems the first day, but only because fewer members of the online fan community will be participating (and thus, complaining) then. Rest assured, there will still be people cursing at their computer screens on that day.
The second date will also likely have problems because it’ll have more moving parts and an exponentially higher number of guests trying to access the system. It still likely won’t be nearly as bad as it would’ve been without the phased approach, which many of you will likely find unbelievable given how bad it’ll still (probably) be.
As for demand, it should go without saying that there’s a lot of pent-up demand for Disneyland among Californians. The ease with which tickets to the pricey picnic at DCA sold out should tell you everything you need to know on that front. Our expectation is that the parks will probably have no trouble filling up reservations through 2022.
Obviously, we don’t know what’ll happen, but we absolutely do not expect the entire summer to book up as soon as reservations are released. There will be at least a few weeks with demand significantly exceeding the supply of reservations, but then it’ll likely drop off a cliff after that. (In a way, sort of like vaccines!) This is why we’re of the belief that Annual Passes are not gone forever, and will return in some modified form–probably before the year is over.
Ultimately, it’s just nice to finally have some clarity on how Disneyland’s system will work to make advance theme park reservations. We know many of you have been (understandably) stressed out about this, and while it doesn’t provide every single answer or complete certainty, it’s a step in the right direction.
Hopefully next week everyone is able to get the theme park reservations they’re after, and with that out of the way, we have even more certainty about how Disneyland will operate for the next month in this era of temporary abnormal. We’ll keep you posted on new developments, and update this post accordingly if/when we learn more.
Will you be trying to make advance theme park reservations for Disneyland or Disney California Adventure next week? Worried about availability for your travel dates? Worried about wasting your entire day on the task? Do you have plans to visit California this summer or fall, or will you hold off until 2022? 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!