It’s 2023, surely Park Reservations are a thing of the past by now, right? Right? Well, not exactly…
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Park reservations, along with a valid ticket, are still required to enter any US based Disney park. Now, the reservations are essentially used to let Disney know which park you’re planning to go to each day, but they do also continue to help limit capacity.
However, it has been announced that starting sometime later this year, Annual Passholders will be able to enter Disney World parks after 2pm without the need of a reservation.
This screenshot shows the current availability for February 2023. Most days, right now, at least, are green, which means you can reserve a spot in any park on those days. The yellow days indicate 1 or more parks have no current availability. The gray days mean all parks are currently out of availability.
So why do I need to know about park availability? If you’re planning an upcoming trip, each park has a limited availability. Pre-pandemic the parks would be stuffed full in order to accommodate the most guests. With the pandemic safety precautions, the changes in staffing levels, and even supply chain issues, Disney uses the availability calendar to ensure proper staffing is set up in each park.
So how do I secure my park reservations? Once you’ve confirmed availability for your dates, book your hotel package or purchase your tickets. If you’re not doing a package, I highly recommend Undercover Tourist. See my links below. They typically offer a lower rate over tickets direct from Disney. If you buy tickets from a third party site, you’ll need to follow their instructions for adding to your Disney account.
Once your tickets are connected, you may see a link on the page to Make a Park Reservation. If not, you can open the app and click the + sign at the bottom and click Make a Park Reservation. Choose the Theme Park Tickets option, then select all the guests you’re making a reservation for. On the next page, click the date, then click select under the park you want to go to on that date.
So can I change my reservation? Yes, as long as the park you want to switch to has availability. Last year, they introduced an option to modify your park reservation, so you can update without the fear of losing your spot, helpful during busy times when reservations are full.
So can I ever be prevented from entering a reserved park? No, having a park reservation guarantees you access to that park for the entire day. If you leave for any reason, you will be allowed entry until the park closes that day.
So what do I do if I want to go to a park that is full? Sometimes, other guests change or cancel plans and release their park reservations. If you already have tickets and see the availability, you can jump on the open reservation. If you don’t have tickets, you’d have to complete a purchase, then go back and reserve the park. This delay could allow someone else to pick up the reservation. Also, Disney has been known to open up more availability. This usually happens during really busy times where most parks were sold out for several days. Most likely, they added more cast members to the schedule.
So do I need to reserve parks I plan to hop to? No, Disney only requires a reservation for your starting park. If you have park hopper tickets, you can hop to any other park after 11Am (Disneyland) or 2pm (Disney World), as long as you scan into your reserved park.
So do I really have to scan into my first park if I’m not arriving until after 2pm? At this time, yes, you do. Some people have been fortunate and gone on days where the passes weren’t sold out, so they could cancel and book for the park they wanted to enter. However, if there’s no availability to do that, Disney Cast Members will send you to your reserved park. You can scan in and immediately leave to go to the park you want to be at or you can choose to stay. Beginning April 18th, Disney World will allow Annual Passholders entry after 2pm without a reservation. The start date has yet to be announced though.
So can I be blocked from park hopping? Technically yes, but so far, it’s only been known to happen once and for just a few hours on Disney Worlds 50th anniversary celebration day.
So do I need to reserve water parks? No, water parks are not connected to the reservation system, so you can go at any time. You could go to a theme park in the morning, leave at noon and go straight to the water park and get right in, whereas you’d be denied entry at a theme park if trying to hop before 2pm.
So are Park Reservations here to stay? At this time, yes. Disney execs have indicated this process is here to stay. Also, the park reservation calendar is open into January 2024.
So does the reservation system prevent crowded parks? Not anymore. When parks reopened and were at 25-50% capacity, the parks were really easy to navigate. Now, parks are packed and most feel the crowd levels are similar to pre-pandemic levels.
If you’re ready to start exploring a Walt Disney World or Disneyland family vacation, I recommend checking out Undercover Tourist for your ticket options. I’ve already used them twice, once at Disneyland and once at Disney World and will plan to continue comparing their prices with other sites, however I usually come back to UT because they have the best deals and their instructions make it easy to add your tickets to the Disney apps.