When Disney World reopened last year, MANY things changed — one of those things being the way we schedule our days in the parks.
Along with the purchase of a Disney World ticket, guests are also asked to make a Disney Park Pass reservation for the specific day and park they are planning on visiting. Before the shutdown, you only had to purchase a ticket and you could be on your merry little way.
Now, the purchase of a ticket alone won’t get you into the parks, and the Park Pass Reservation System seems to be here to stay.
Disney Park Pass Reservation System
So what IS the Park Pass Reservation System? Disney World implemented this system to keep track of each park’s daily attendance when it reopened in July 2020. This was extremely important for when the parks reopened at their initial 35% capacity. Disney wanted to make sure guests were aware of when the parks had reached their daily limit instead of them having to find out upon arrival and be turned away at the front gate.
Even after many of the post-shutdown mandates started to scale back (i.e. masking and social distancing), the Park Pass Reservations have stayed in effect.
When you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World now and for the foreseeable future, you must not forget the second important step: after purchasing your tickets, immediately nab your Park Pass Reservations so you can be sure to be able to visit the Park of your choice on each day of your vacation.
But why is Disney choosing to keep this control tactic around? We’ve got a few speculations…
Reservations Help Disney Control Crowd Levels
We already alluded to this one, but it’s still the most important one to remember. As Disney continues to reopen more experiences, they need to make sure they’re not overwhelming their attractions and Cast Members with too many guests.
Remember when Happily Ever After returned? Guests were ECSTATIC to go back and watch the show again! Magic Kingdom was still uber-crowded even without being filled to 100% capacity. (Disney rarely releases capacity percentages, so we can’t know exactly how full the Park was that night — but it was tight!)
Though capacity has increased in the Disney World parks, the Park Pass Reservation system helps Disney continue to keep an eye on things (even if they don’t announce those numbers to the general public).
Disney Park Pass reservations also help the parks not be overwhelmed when brand new rides and experiences open up. Disney has already filled its capacity for October 1st — Disney World’s kick-off for its 50th Anniversary Celebration — meaning they know precisely how many people will be visiting Magic Kingdom to see the new Disney Enchantment show that night and how many people will be over at EPCOT to ride the new trackless dark ride, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
That gives the parks a good idea of how many Cast Members need to be scheduled that day and what they can tell Cast Members to expect crowd-level wise ahead of time. They may also be able to plan ahead for ways to mitigate bottlenecks and tight spaces.
Basically, it gives Disney World a glimpse into the future. They don’t have to wait until the day of to know if they’re going to packed-to-the-max or not. This could be especially helpful on random weekdays, too, when seemingly nothing exciting is going on, but they experience a random attendance spike. Now, they can plan and schedule the help they need to keep things sailing smoothly.
The Reservation System Works
There’s a reason why CEO Bob Chapek announced that Disney Parks were going to extended the Park Pass Reservation system until 2023 — the system worked. It helped guests remain safe, it helped promote social distancing, it helped the limited working Cast Members from being overwhelmed by a sudden abundance of guests, and it helped keep the parks open.
If there were ever another need for the parks to be knocked down to a lower capacity (which we’re sure hoping isn’t the case), the reservation system would already be in effect. Disney wouldn’t have to implement anything new to regulate yet another capacity change.
What Disney is probably hoping to achieve by extending the Park Pass Reservation system is familiarity. By 2023, this should feel more like second nature to people — you buy your ticket, you make your reservation, and bam. You’re good to go.
Things that are new and make guests feel like they’re jumping through proverbial hoops — like taking the extra step to make a reservation in the first place — might be off-putting initially. But it really doesn’t take a whole lot of extra time to create the reservation. In fact, we’ve got a whole guide for Park Pass Reservations, in case you need a helping hand!
Some Guests Prefer Having The System
While certainly not everyone enjoys the new system, we have heard from some readers that they like the ability to plan with the Park Pass Reservation system.
For one, it warns you ahead of time if a certain park has already reached capacity for the day. That way, you don’t have to arrive at the gate and find out the day of.
Another reason? Keeping the park at a lower capacity than 100% means fewer days where you feel like you can’t turn without hitting a stroller or bumping into someone’s shoulder. And if you know Park Passes are nearly gone for a particular day, you can decide whether that near-capacity crowd is comfortable for you.
Sure, the parks are still seeing traffic-heavy days, but the Park Pass Reservation system prevents these days from hitting a capacity that we sometimes witnessed pre-shutdown during holidays and special events. (i.e. New Years’ Eve Celebrations, Fourth of July, etc.)
There’s Potential Money in This
Before we get into this last point, just know that we’re talking EXTREME speculation here. By no means has Disney announced it’ll start charging guests for something like this. Now that we’ve got the disclaimer out of the way, let the speculation begin.
We’ve seen a lot of once-complimentary services be transformed into money-making opportunities for the Disney parks. Select Magic Bands are no longer complimentary with a resort-and-park ticket purchase but must be purchased online if you want them beforehand.
In 2018, the Disney World resorts also started charging for parking ($15-$25 per night) for all guests staying on property.
And let’s not forget the controversy that is Disney Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selections, two services coming this fall that require guests to pay a little (or a lot) extra to skip the Standby lines in favor of Lightning Lanes (i.e. former FastPass queues).
Will there come a day where you’ll be able to pay *extra* for a flexible reservation pass? Think about it. Instead of just scheduling for one day, you could purchase a ticket that had the capability of being scheduled for a week’s worth of flexibility privileges.
Did the morning you were planning on going to Animal Kingdom turn into a torrential downpour that’s not going to let up the rest of the day? Never fear! This completely hypothetical pass would be reserved out for the whole WEEK; now, you can use it any time without having to worry about the next day being blocked out.
Or maybe you didn’t snag that Rise of the Resistance Boarding Pass at 7AM? You could use that flexibility privilege for the chance to try again later in the week. Again, just a thought. But maybe not too far-fetched?
Disney World added MORE Park Pass Availability in July! Click HERE to read more!
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What are your feelings about the Disney Park Pass reservation system? Let us know in the comments!
13 Replies to “Why Disney Park Pass Reservations Are Probably Here to Stay”
I still want the good old days back, when using the park ticket by itself can get me into the parks.
I think the reservation system stinks!!👎
We’ve been DVC members since 1994. We’ve gone every year except for this year. Benefits are gone for both DVC members and the regular resort guests. Even with our membership the costs are getting too high to go to Disney World. Disney now makes you plan every day of your vacation well in advance. We had an easier and much more pleasant time planning a two week Hawaii vacation where we just planned things (tours, dining, etc.) when we arrived. We have a Disney World trip planned for January and are still thinking about cancelling it. Regardless, we’ll start using our DVC membership to go to other places something we’ve never done before. I’m actually looking forward to doing something other than Disney. The Disney magic is gone for us.
Aside from the ongoing concerns with Disney pricing itself thru the ceiling, they are making it incredibly difficult, almost impossible, for experienced WDW travelers to even plot out their trip. I am going next April and have almost no idea what to expect. I will have no fast passes set. No idea what advanced dining will be come next April, and how can I plan a day at MK and dinner in Epcot with zero confirmation I can get into Epcot? So I am spending thousands to just wing it? What an absolute mess they have made.
Now that we know the free fast pass has been canceled, having to book into the park is a way for Disney to charge you more for rides. How? Think about it the busier the park is the more they will charge you for the Individual Lightning Lane Pass attractions. I’ll bet the Genie app has an algorithm linked to park bookings that increases the cost of Individual Lightning Lane Passes as bookings to get into the park increase. That way a normally slow Tuesday in February can have a major ride price increase if the park happens to be particularly busy. Absolutely nothing to do with improving the guest experience, they don’t care if we are shoulder to shoulder.
Everything Disney has done over the last 18 months (ending of luggage service and MDE-parking fees were never an issue for us-we always used MDE- but that fee if we rent a car is another one, the end of fast pass, the need to reserve parks, and now the charges for the new fast pass system have all resulted in us looking at using our DVC points to go elsewhere and when we do go to WDW, it will be for fewer days in the parks, say 4 vs 7). Well if more people do that, Disney will charge for the air you breathe to make up for it.
I say Disney is cutting down on worker’s. Never in Disney’s history has there been so many temporary ride shut downs at one time. So Disney have to control the short handed staff and the crowd at Disney World at the same time.
I agree with the previous comments. I am a visitor of plus 30 times in the past twenty years and IMHO, none of the new changes are “to enrich my experience but to enrich Disney’s pocketbooks. That is their prerogative as it is mine to stay home. “How can a person plan rides around meal reservations without knowing when the ride reservations will be until the morning of. As an old adage goes,” don’t urinate on me and tell me it’s raining.” Many have said we should quit complaining but Disney continues to remove the magic while charging much more.
Every breaking news story cements that I’ve had enough of Disney. Been going since I was in utero in the 70’s but it’s enough. I do NOT want to plan my entire trip down to the minute. What if I change my mind when I arrive? What if I don’t feel well one day? But as long as people keep coming they will keep it up. Sad really.
This is ridiculous, especially the last paragraph. Why would anyone pay for something that used to be free? But wait a minute…that’s exactly what’s happening with the Genie+ thing, charging for Magic Bands etc etc.
You can almost hear Walt Disney spinning in his grave! What he’d make of all this, I’d dread to think.
We certainly won’t be back. It’s far too expensive to even think about coming over from the UK. As several people have already said, it takes away all the spontaneity from what’s meant to be a holiday, not a meticulously planned blow by blow route march.
Why Disney keeps coming up with more reasons not to bother trying to go there is beyond me! I would never book a room, rent a house or any other expensive travel plans without being able to change my mind on what I want to do when I get there. It’s just gotten out of control will all of these new rules and regulations. If I’m there for a week, I want to be able to just get up and go without having to cut through a bunch of red tape just to change my plans. I’ll go somewhere that sill allows me to be ON VACATION.
That’s disappointing. Just about any spontaneity is gone from our vacation. Hasn’t anyone done the four parks in one day challenge? Many of our decisions regarding which park we would be visiting was based on weather that day. It’s hard to guess months or weeks in advance on that one.
If Disney wants to control park capacity, they really don’t need this idiotic reservation scam. They could just post a continuously updated chart of current park capacity along with ride wait times and guests can make their own decisions about whether to visit any particular park or not. After all, it is OUR vacation. As things stand now I’m looking forward to our next trip with trepidation instead of anticipation