Disney has revealed details about the theme park reservation system that’ll be used when Disneyland and Disney California reopen on April 30, 2021. This post will cover how to reserve access, ticket & booking windows, and what to expect online when making plans to enter the parks. (Updated April 12, 2021.)
As previously discussed, Disneyland and DCA will reopen with certain health safety protocol in place, including capacity caps and attendance limits. At present, Disneyland could reopen at 25% capacity. If Orange County’s cases per day improve a bit more, that number gets bumped to 35%. We doubt that’ll happen before May, and even if it does, Disneyland will probably still start with a lower percentage and slowly scale up from there–just like what happened at Walt Disney World.
Also just like Walt Disney World is the reservation system. 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 will be limited and subject to availability and, until further notice, only California residents may visit the parks, and in groups no larger than 3 households, in line with current state guidelines. (Note that California just announced the state will fully reopen by June 15, 2021–we now expect in-state rule to fall off no later than that date.)
The theme park reservation system will launch on April 12, 2021 and guests with existing valid theme park tickets can begin making park reservations for the days that their ticket is valid. Theme park ticket sales will resume on April 15, 2021 and guests without park tickets may begin purchasing tickets and making park reservations on that date.
As a reminder, ticket expiration dates were extended for many outstanding tickets. To accommodate as many types of ticket holders as possible, park reservations for select dates may be made available on a rolling basis. Ticket calendars will be updated on a rolling basis.
For those who had tickets to Disneyland prior to the closure, you can reference the above calendar for May & June 2021 to see what dates your tickets will be valid. On the back of printed tickets or in the Disneyland app, you should see “Tier [number]” on your ticket. That calendar shows what dates each tier and above is valid–for example, on May 18-19, Tier 2 and above is valid. Tier 5 tickets are valid every single day. There are not yet any days when Tier 1 tickets are valid.
Here’s how the reservation process for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will work:
More explanation beyond that graphic is probably unnecessary.
Be sure to log in to your Disney account to link valid theme park tickets prior to accessing the park reservation system. Don’t get too frustrated if the above steps don’t go smoothly (see below for further explanation).
Guests with valid theme park admission tickets who are planning a stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa will also need to book a theme park reservation, as a hotel stay does not guarantee a theme park reservation.
If you plan to visit the theme parks during your stay, get your theme park reservation prior to making your hotel reservation. For room reservations and travel packages, visit Disneyland.com or contact your travel professional starting April 15 for stays beginning April 29. Theme park reservations will need to be made separately.
Guests with Park Hopper tickets may choose, pending availability, which theme park to start their day, when making their theme park reservations, and then will be able to visit the other park beginning at 1 pm that day. (Honestly a bit surprised to see Park Hopping return right from the get-go.)
Guests with multi-day tickets will be required to make a separate park reservation for each day they plan to visit the theme parks. Upon reopening, daily park hours for Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park are currently planned to be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Next, some key booking dates for Disneyland and DCA:
- April 9, 2021: If you currently hold a theme park ticket, you can check for available days for your 1-day ticket type. (Note: I don’t know what, exactly, this means. It sounds like current ticket holders will be able to check–but not make–reservation availability for their ticket type, which implies some dates might be blocked out for this group.)
- April 12, 2021: The theme park reservation system will open no earlier than 8 am Pacific on April 12 and guests who already have valid theme park tickets may begin making park reservations.
- April 15, 2021: Theme park ticket sales will resume no earlier than 8 am Pacific on April 15, and guests without park tickets may begin purchasing tickets and making park reservations.
This is undoubtedly going to raise some eyebrows with Disneyland fans (to put some of the irate comments we’ve seen on social media into more PG terms). It essentially puts Legacy Passholders at a disadvantage, as it’s highly unlikely that group would have day tickets sitting around. Honestly, that does suck and we get why people are mad. It definitely doesn’t make the most loyal fans feel appreciated–and is another blow after the AP program was retired.
In Disneyland’s defense, I invite you to read the our “We’re in Orbit!” post (or its comments) from Walt Disney World’s reservations launch day last summer or our “A Touch of Disney” post comments or our Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge reservations now live post comments or or or…
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.
Then on April 16 (or even late on the 15th), the reservation system will work smoothly and still have plenty of availability for the vast majority of dates. Those of you who made park reservations for September 7, 2021 might thus wonder why you wasted your time. (Reservations beyond June 2021 probably won’t even be available on day one, but the point stands. Personally, I wouldn’t bother with any dates beyond June 14.)
These predictions are made with such specificity because we’ve already been down this road many, many times.
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 book up quickly for opening weekend, and probably have no trouble selling out the month of May 2021. That’s more or less a sure thing.
The bigger question for us is how the rest of the summer looks without Annual Passholders and with fewer tourists than normal. Once the pool of vloggers, bloggers, and other diehard fans is exhausted, how crowded will the parks be? (Especially come mid-June when California fully reopens.) Some ex-Annual Passholders are used to paying less for their AP than a 5-day park ticket, and that group may be reluctant, unwilling, or unable to buy day tickets.
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. (That is, until June 15, 2021 when California opens the floodgates.) We’ll keep you posted on new developments, and update this post accordingly if/when we learn more.
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
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!