Walt’s famous theme parks have undergone a number of changes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of the biggest is the implementation of the Disney World Park Reservation System. With this new change, you are required to reserve your spot in each park you plan to visit before you will be granted entry into Disney’s elaborately themed worlds.
While the process is simple enough, there are a number of things you should know before getting started, so we’ll jump right in and walk you through the process.
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Is a Disney Park Pass a Reservation?
If you’ve purchased theme park tickets, often called park passes, you may be wondering if that guarantees you entry into the park. The short answer is, “no.”
Believe it or not, you can purchase theme park tickets for your dates of travel and still be denied entry, if you haven’t booked your spot with the Disney World park reservation system.
Why Do I Need Reservations for Disney World?
Disney is using the park reservation system to control crowd levels across their various parks. Initially, this was done to maintain the attendance caps set for each park and support social distancing.
Today, continued use of the park reservation system continues to help Disney meet attendance caps and help to ensure more even distribution across the 4 theme parks. Lower crowds mean happier guests, and the reservation system helps to keep guests from disproportionately flocking to one park over another on any given day. It doesn’t work flawlessly, but overall, it has been successful in reaching these goals
How to Use the Disney Park Reservation System
Fortunately, making park reservation is easy. However, before you can secure a reservation through the system, you need to do a couple of things.
The second thing you will need to do is to look at the Disney World park reservation calendar to ensure that the days you plan to travel have availability. Since the purpose of the Disney World park reservation system is to limit capacity according to current CDC guidelines, you could find that there is no availability for the day you plan to travel, and that’s something you’d rather know before purchasing your tickets.
There are three categories for booking reservations, and each has its own availability pool. If you are holding a theme park ticket or plan to buy one but are not a guest at one of Disney’s hotels (you can view the list of Disney World resorts here), then you would select the button that says “theme park tickets” to view availability.
If you are staying at a Disney World resort, you’d want to click the button that says “Select Resort Hotels’ to view availability for you. As you can see below, availability can be limited in some cases.
If you are staying at a Disney World Good Neighbor Hotel, or if you’re enjoying any other non-Disney owned property for your accommodations, you’ll want to select the button that says, “Theme Park Tickets.”
The last category recognized by the Disney World reservations calendar is one for annual passholders. If you hold an annual pass or plan to purchase one, use this category. Keep in mind, however, that guests with a valid resort reservation may book available spaces in the resort hotel category as well.
One thing you cannot do is book a park reservation from a pool for which you do not qualify. In other words, if you are not staying at one of Disney’s hotels, you can’t secure a reservation from that pool, even if the annual passholder and theme park ticket pools are completely booked. Disney World will know that you do not have a reservation and will block you from reserving space from this bucket. That’s why it is important to check availability before purchasing your tickets and then to book your park reservations immediately.
On the other hand, if you do find sold out dates for your trip, keep checking back. Disney is continuously monitoring conditions and may open up availability within your category by shifting spots from other availability pools.
Purchase Your Tickets Before You Make a Disney World Park Reservation
Now that you understand the park reservation system, it’s time to get started. The first thing you need to do is to purchase a valid theme park ticket. You can do this by logging into your My Disney Experience account and purchasing tickets directly through Disney World. However, we recommend that you save the time and hassle and purchase through a Disney World travel agent.
If you do purchase from a Disney travel agent, or anywhere else other than the Disney website, you’ll need to link your tickets to each guest on your My Disney Experience account.
Fortunately, it’s just a matter of going into the My Disney Experience app and entering the number. We’ve even created a blog to walk you through the process of linking your Disney World Tickets to you My Disney Experience account.
Once you have a My Disney Experience account and have purchased or linked your tickets, you’re ready to make your park reservations. This can be done either by accessing the Disney Park Pass System through a computer or the My Disney Experience app. We’ve covered both below.
How to Make Reservations at Disney World from a Computer
1. Navigate to the Disney World website and hover over “My Disney Experience” in the far-right top navigation. From the drop-down list, select Disney Park Pass System.
2. From the next page, the Disney Park Pass page, you’ll be presented with 2 options: Buy Tickets and Make a Park Reservation. Select the latter
3. You will then be asked to sign into your My Disney Experience account. Enter your information and click “Sign in.”
4. On the next screen, you’ll be asked to create your party. For many people, the only names displayed will be those traveling with you. However, if you’ve visited Disney World before with different people, as we have, you’re likely to see a lot of names.
It’s important to select the people for whom you have purchased and linked tickets as the system will not let you reserve a park spot for anyone else.
To get started, click the box next to the names of each individual who will be attending the park that day. You’ll notice that Disney has already preselected you as the lead guest.
As you click the box beside each name, you’ll see that person get moved to the top of the screen with you.
As you make your Disney World park reservations, make sure to check only the names of the individuals who will be visiting the park with you on the day you are reserving. However, if you do select the wrong name, simply click the box beside the name again, and you will see them removed from the top of the screen.
Once you’ve selected all members of your party, click “Continue” at the bottom of the webpage.
5. Next, you will be asked to select a date and park. You can only make a reservation for one date at a time, so start with the first date of your trip. Then select the park you plan to attend.
6. On the next screen, you will be asked to confirm the park you are reserving as well as the members of your party. If all is correct, read the terms and conditions and the COVID liability waiver, then check the box. Finalize your park reservation by clicking confirm.
You’ll know that your reservation is successfully submitted when you see the screen below.
7. Continue the steps above to make additional reservations or continue on to view your plans in your My Disney Experience account.
Using the Disney World Park Reservation System through the My Disney Experience App
1. Open the My Disney Experience app on your mobile device, and if necessary, sign in.
2. Once signed in, you will first see your future or current plans, including any park reservations you have already made. To make new or additional park reservations, click the plus sign at the bottom of the screen.
3. You will be presented with several options. Select “Make a Park Reservation.”
4. On the next screen you’ll be given the option to make a Disney World park reservation or view availability. Since we plan to make a reservation, we’ll choose one of the options at the top of the screen.
If you have purchased a 1–10-day ticket, select “Theme Park Tickets”. If you are currently an annual passholder, you will select this option.
5. If you’re asked to sign in again, enter your login credentials. You will then be taken to a screen where you can create your travel party. The app should display the names of anyone you have previously linked to your My Disney Experience account.
You’ll notice that the app has also thoughtfully preselected you as the lead guest and placed you at the top of the screen. If you are making reservations for someone other than yourself, you will need to deselect the box next to your name.
As you select other members of your party, you will see their name brought to the top of the screen as confirmation that they are eligible to book.
When you have selected all members of your party who will be attending the park, click continue at the bottom of the screen.
6. On the next screen, you will be asked to select the date you are booking. You can only make one reservation at a time.
Once you select a date, a list of parks will open beneath the Disney World park reservation calendar.
Select the park you are reserving.
7. You will then be asked to confirm your party, the date you are reserving as well as the park. If all is correct, read the terms and conditions, as well as the COVID liability waiver, and check the box. Then click confirm at the bottom of the screen
8. You will know your reservation is completed within the Disney World park reservation system when you see the following screen.
9. Scroll down to and click “Make another park pass” if you need to reserve more days, or click “view my plans” to confirm that all of your park reservations appear in your My Disney Experience account.
The Disney World Park Reservation System and Park Hopping
When Disney World first reopened following COVID-19 closures, the park reservation system was implemented and the list of available ticket options was scaled back. The ever-popular park hopper ticket was one of the casualties.
A park hopper ticket allows you to attend more than one theme park in a day. Disney World’s base ticket does not provide this option.
In 2021, the park hopper ticket was reinstated, with some changes to how guests were allowed to hop from park to park. As of today, guests holding a valid park hopper ticket must still make a Disney World park reservation for the first park they plan to attend on any given day.
After 2:00 pm, you may then move to another park, without making a Disney World park reservation, provided there is availability. Before traveling to a new park, you may want to use the My Disney Experience app to check park reservation availability.
When Can I Make a Disney World Theme Park Reservation?
Reservations can currently be made through 2022. However, keep in mind that you will need to hold a valid Disney World theme park ticket before you can make a reservation.
Final Word on the Disney World Park Reservation System
While the need to make a reservation before you can enter any of Disney’s parks does add an extra step to your vacation planning, the Disney World park reservation system is a pretty ingenious offering and a great vacation planning tool, particularly if you’d like to book a last-minute low crowd vacation.
Simply view the park reservation calendar and click through the three tabs at the top. You’ll be able to see when there is availability across all 3 categories, giving you a fairly good idea of days to avoid. And since Disney makes it so easy to view the calendar through a computer or the My Disney Experience app, it’s something you can do virtually anywhere to speed your planning and decision process.