Why do I need a reservation to get into Disney World?
The original reason for requiring theme park reservations at Disney World was to help limit the number of Guests in the parks during their phased reopening following the COVID-19 closures. Capacity limits have eased since then, but the reservation system has remained in place. Why?
Park management has found that requiring reservations is a great way to determine how many people will be visiting on any given day. That’s important information because it helps them set theme park hours, schedule buses and monorails, decide how many Cast Members to schedule for work, and even plan for how much food to order for the restaurants. From the perspective of theme park executives, it’s a gold mine of operational data and a solid method of on-site crowd control.
Several park executives, including Josh D’Amaro (Chairperson of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products) and Bob Chapek (former CEO) have gone on record saying that the system will remain in place for the foreseeable future. But with the return of Bob Iger as CEO and the continued drawdown of pandemic precautions, there are continued signs that Park Pass is slowly fading away.
Still, it’s not completely gone yet, so it’s important to understand who needs a reservation.
Is Disney Park Pass the same as a theme park ticket?
The name “park pass” is somewhat confusing. Based on the name alone, you might think your Park Pass is the same thing as your theme park admission ticket, but it’s not.
- A Disney theme park admission ticket (a standard theme park ticket, park hopper ticket, or an annual pass) is essentially proof that you paid to get in
- A Disney theme park reservation (called “Park Pass”) is your reserved “right” to enter the park after paying for a ticket.
If you’re traveling during a more popular time of year such as spring break, summer, or Christmas, it is quite possible that tickets or theme park reservations may not be available if you wait until the last minute. Planning ahead is crucial if you want to ensure you can get into your desired theme park on the day you want to visit. Buy your tickets early, and make your park reservations (if needed) as soon afterwards as possible.
Which parks require a theme park reservation?
In Florida, Disney Park Pass reservations are offered at the four main theme parks:
- Magic Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Animal Kingdom
Whether or not you actually need a reservation depends on the type of ticket you have and when you’re going.
Do I need a reservation for Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon?
Park pass reservations are not currently required for Disney’s water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
Do I need a reservation for Disney Springs?
Disney Springs does not charge admission, so there’s no need to make a Park Pass reservation to go shopping, walk around, dine, or attend the Cirque du Soleil show. Of course, you still might want to make a dining reservation or buy your Cirque tickets in advance.
Who needs a Disney theme park reservation?
When the system launched in 2020, everyone old enough to need a ticket was required to make a reservation. A series of rule updates in December 2022 and April 2023 began to relax reservation requirements for some ticket types. Another major update due in January 2024 will significantly shorten the list of ticket types which require a reservation.
Here are the current rules based on when you are visiting and what type of ticket you have:
Visiting Before January 9, 2024
- One-Day, One-Park Ticket for a specific date: Your reservation is automatically made for you when you buy the ticket. Tickets can still sell out in advance — but if you’re able to buy a ticket, you’re in.
- One-Day Park Hopper Ticket for a specific date: You need to make a reservation for the first park you intend to visit. You won’t need a reservation for the parks you hop to later in the day.
- Multi-Day Tickets for specific dates: You will need to make a reservation for each day of your ticket. If you have a park hopping option, you will have to make reservations for the first park you intend to visit each day. You won’t need reservations for the parks you hop to later in the day.
- Multi-Day Tickets included in vacation packages (such as Hotel + Tickets): You will need to make a reservation for each day of your ticket. If you have a park hopping option, you will have to make reservations for the first park you intend to visit each day. You won’t need reservations for the parks you hop to later in the day.
- Annual Passes: Reservations required when entering any park before 2PM, and when visiting Magic Kingdom at any time on a Saturday or Sunday.
- All Other Tickets: Reservations required.
Visiting January 9, 2024 and Beyond
- One-Day One-Park Ticket for a specific date: No need to make a reservation.
- One-Day Park Hopper Ticket for a specific date: No need to make a reservation.
- Multi-Day Tickets for specific dates: No need to make a reservation.
- Multi-Day Tickets included in vacation packages (such as Hotel + Tickets): No need to make a reservation.
- Annual Passes: Reservations required when entering any park before 2PM, and when visiting Magic Kingdom at any time on a Saturday or Sunday. Disney has also hinted at the development of “Good to Go” days that won’t require reservations, but further details are not yet known.
- All Other Tickets: Reservations required.
Does my child need a reservation?
Guests who are age 2 or younger do not need a park ticket, so they don’t need a reservation either. Guests ages 3+ must follow the reservation rules associated with their ticket type.
How many theme park reservations can I have at one time?
For most Guests, the simple answer is that you can hold one park pass reservation for each day of admission you have purchased. But there are some guidelines to be aware of:
- Guests with standard Theme Park Tickets (1-day ticket, 2-day ticket, etc) may hold a reservation at one park for each day of admission purchased.
- Guests with Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus Tickets (1-day park hopper, 2-day park hopper, etc) may hold a reservation at one park for each day of admission purchased. The reservation is for the park where you will start your day before you begin park hopping.
- Annual Passholders are limited to 3, 4, or 5 theme park reservations at once, depending on the type of annual pass they have. There also are occasional bonus days (individual days at individual parks) that are considered a “freebie” and don’t count toward the reservation limit. In addition, Annual Passholders who are staying at a Disney Hotel may hold a theme park reservation for each day of their stay without it counting toward their normal limit.
Do I need a theme park reservation to park hop?
The park hopper ticket option allows you to start the day at one park and then move to a second park later in the day. If you’re traveling before January 9, 2024, you do still need a reservation for the park you’ll be starting your day at. You do not need a reservation for the second park you’re visiting (“park hopping” to) on the same day, but the park still needs to have capacity to admit new Guests.
Can I leave the park and come back?
Your park reservation is valid for the entire day. You’re allowed to leave the park and return back later in the day if you desire.
How do I know what days are available?
Disney publishes an online Park Pass Availability Calendar that shows what days are available. The calendar might actually remind you a bit of the popular game Wordle, as it shows each day as either green, yellow, or gray. Here’s what each color means:
- Green: All four theme parks are available to reserve.
- Yellow: Only some of the theme parks are available to reserve. Click on the date to see which.
- Gray: None of the four theme parks is available to reserve.
In the sample image below, June 8th is selected. That date is yellow, indicating that not all theme parks are available. Text and icons below the calendar indicate that EPCOT and Animal Kingdom are available to reserve, but Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are not.
How soon can I make a park pass reservation at Disney World?
Park Pass theme park reservations can be made as soon as you’ve purchased your theme park admission tickets. We recommend you buy your tickets as far in advance as possible to have the best chance of getting the theme park reservations you want.
Be sure to check the Park Pass availability calendar before buying your tickets. Tickets are date-based and you’ll want to make sure your desired park isn’t “sold out” for the day you want to go.
One welcome improvement (though it did come alongside a more complicated ticket pricing structure) is that as of December 2022, One-Day One-Park theme park tickets now automatically include your Park Pass reservation. For example, if you buy a ticket that is good only for Magic Kingdom on February 7th, your theme park reservation is automatically included for that park and date. For most other ticket types, you’ll still need to make reservations.
How soon should I make my theme park reservation?
Park pass reservations should be made as far in advance as possible. We have found that in most cases you’ll have your choice of all four parks for your entire visit as long as you reserve at least two months in advance. Of course, this is just a general guideline and is certainly not a guarantee, especially if you’re travelling during busier times.
Here are a few real-world examples that may guide you:
We checked the Park Pass system on a Monday morning in late April to see what reservations might be available for the following two weeks. We found that EPCOT was the only park available to visit on six of the following 14 days! On one of the 14 days, park passes were completely gone, meaning none of the four parks were available.
We checked the Park Pass system on a Thursday afternoon in mid May to see what reservations might be available for the remainder of the year. Only two days had full availability for the remainder of May. 19 days in June had full availability. The remainder of the year – including Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve – was still fully available.
What if there are no reservations for the park I want to visit?
If your park ticket requires reservations and your desired park isn’t available on your desired day, you really only have a couple of options. The first is the most obvious but certainly not ideal… pick either a different day or a different theme park to visit. Otherwise, you’ll need to watch for availability to open back up.
Do reservations open back up?
We have seen days which were previously “sold out” open back up somewhat regularly. This usually happens either because people have changed their minds and canceled their reservations, or because Disney has added additional capacity. There doesn’t appear to be any set schedule for when (or if) this happens.
If you’re not able to get your desired day on your first try, you can check back periodically. That said, you might want to make a reservation for another park in the meantime so you’re not completely blocked out.
Is there a standby line or waitlist to get into the park?
There is no waitlist offered for the theme parks, and you can’t just show up and wait to get in. If your ticket requires a reservation and you don’t have one, you’ll be turned away. During the busiest holiday weeks, we’ve actually seen giant electronic signs alongside the theme park entrance roads reminding arriving Guests not to even enter the parking lot if they don’t have a reservation.
Can I still buy park tickets at the front gate?
Theme park tickets are still sold at the entrances to the park, but they’re subject to selling out in advance (either by lack of reservations or otherwise). Because of this, we strongly discourage visitors from waiting to buy their tickets at the gate.
Can I make a dining reservation to get into a sold-out park?
Guests who are coming to a theme park for a dining reservation still need a theme park reservation (if their ticket type requires it). An in-park restaurant reservation alone is not enough to get you into the gate.
Does everyone have the same chance of getting a reservation?
This is a bit of a tricky question to answer. Disney Park Pass theme park reservations come primarily from three different pools of inventory:
- Guests who are staying at a Disney Hotel
- So-called “Day Guests” (people who have 1-day through 10-day theme park tickets)
- People who have an Annual Pass.
Disney does not reveal the total number of reservations available on a given day, and they don’t say how the available reservations are divided between the three groups.
Although we don’t have any specific guidance from Disney, the generally accepted belief is that on high-demand days, Disney Hotel Guests have priority, followed by Day Guests, followed by Annual Passholders.
This might be especially frustrating for parties that are mixed among these three groups, such as a family staying at Disney on vacation and wanting to meet up with a local friend who has an annual pass.
Previously, those who had different types of tickets had to make their Park Pass reservations separately from one another. As of August 23, 2022, that’s no longer the case, and everyone can make their reservations together in a single transaction. Despite this change, it appears that reservation inventory remains divided by ticket type; separate reservation calendars for each ticket type are still posted on the Disney World website.
How much does a Disney Park Pass Cost?
There’s no additional charge for a Disney Park Pass theme park reservation beyond the price you’ve already paid for your theme park admission ticket. You can find current theme park ticket prices in our article How Much Does it Cost to Go to Disney World. Also, remember that Park Pass is only a reservation to hold space for you inside the theme park. It is not a theme park admission ticket, nor is it a reservation to get on a specific ride (that’s Genie+ and Lightning Lane).
How do I make a theme park reservation with Disney Park Pass?
If your ticket requires reservations, you’ll obviously want to know how to make one.
There are four major steps to making a theme park reservation.
- Make sure that your theme park tickets (and your Disney Hotel reservation if you have one) are linked to your Disney Account. You can check for this by signing into your account on either the Disney World website or the MyDisneyExperience app. If you don’t see your tickets or your hotel reservation, link them before continuing.
- Go to the Park Reservations page on the Disney World website, or click the plus sign on the bottom menu of the MyDisneyExperience app. Once there, follow the on-screen prompts to select the group of people who you’re making reservations for.
- Review the theme park reservation calendar to see which parks are available. Select the parks and dates you want.
- Review your choices to make sure everything is correct, then confirm your reservation. Once that’s done, you can continue making reservations for any remaining days of your ticket/stay.
How do I modify or cancel a theme park reservation with Disney Park Pass?
Modifications and cancellations to theme park reservations can be made via DisneyWorld.com or the My Disney Experience app. It’s especially important to cancel any reservations you no longer need, as repeated no-shows may limit your ability to make future reservations.
Final Thoughts on Disney Park Pass
The strict requirements originally introduced with the Disney Park Pass system in 2020 have finally begun to weaken over the past year or so. A big update coming in January 2024 will make getting into the parks easier than is has been at any point in the past four years. But in the meantime, you still need to know all about making reservations should your ticket type require them.
Based on our experience, you will probably be able to get a reservation for your desired park on your desired day if you plan even a few months in advance. For the best chance, we suggest you buy tickets at least two months before your visit (more would be better) and make park reservations right away.
One final note — if you’re visiting Universal Orlando Resort, you’ll be pleased to know that you don’t need a reservation there.