You might have heard that you now need a reservation to get into Disney World theme parks.  What is the Disney Park Pass System, and how does it work?

Disney Park Pass is the theme park reservation system used at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.  Guests who buy theme park tickets must also have a theme park reservation through Disney Park Pass before they’re allowed in the park.  If reservations are not available, Guests cannot enter the theme park.

Disneyland Resort in California uses a similar system, as well.

Read on to find answers to your questions about making theme park reservations with Disney Park Pass.

Planning a trip? Need help getting your tickets and theme park reservations?  We highly recommend contacting The Vacationeer!  Their expert Disney travel planners know all the ins and outs of the system and can make it a breeze.  Get a free, no-obligation quote today… their services are provided at no additional cost to you!

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.

With that in mind, we don’t expect the system to go away anytime soon. Several park executives, including Josh D’Amaro (Chairperson of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products) and Bob Chapek (CEO) have gone on record saying that the system will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

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.  To get into a Disney theme park, you need two things:

  1. A Disney theme park admission ticket (a standard theme park ticket, park hopper ticket, or an annual pass)
  2. A Disney theme park reservation (called a “Park Pass”)

If you’re traveling during a more popular time of year such as spring break, summer, or Christmas, it is quite possible that 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 as soon afterwards as possible.

Which parks require a theme park reservation?

In Florida, Disney Park Pass reservations are required for the four main theme parks:

  • Magic Kingdom
  • EPCOT
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Animal Kingdom

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?

The Disney World Park Pass System applies to all ticket types and to all Guests old enough to need a theme park ticket.

Does my child need a reservation?

Every Guest who is 3 years of age or older needs a theme park reservation to get in.  Guests who are age 2 or younger do not need a park ticket, so they don’t need a reservation either.

Do people with annual passes need a reservation?

Theme park reservations are still required even if you have an Annual Pass to the parks.  This applies to all passholders, including those with an Incredi-Pass, Sorcerer Pass, Pirate Pass, or Pixie Dust Pass.  Reservations are also required for legacy annual passes such as Premier Plus Pass, Platinum Pass, Gold Pass, Silver Pass, and others.

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.  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.

Disney Park Pass Sample Calendar

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.

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 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 you don’t have a reservation, 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 that doesn’t change the fact that you’ll need a park reservation to get in.  Because reservations have been known to sell out in advance, 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.  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.  At best, the Passholder will need to make their reservation separately from the rest of the party.  At worst, only part of the group might be able to get a reservation.

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?

There are four major steps to making a theme park reservation.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  Note that everyone you’re picking needs to have the same type of ticket (individual tickets, annual passes, or tickets associated with a hotel package); if different people have different ticket types, you may need to make their reservations separately.
  3. Review the theme park reservation calendar to see which parks are available.  Select the parks and dates you want.
  4. 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 Disney Park Pass system appears to be here to stay.  While it adds an extra step to your vacation planning, we’ve at least come to appreciate it for the fact that it guarantees park entrance once you have a reservation.  This is a vast improvement over the previous system in which a Disney park could reach capacity without warning and Guests would be unexpectedly turned away at the gate.  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.

Planning a Disney trip? We highly recommend contacting The Vacationeer!  Their Disney travel agents can help you with every part of your trip, from tickets to reservations to suggested itineraries.  There’s no charge to use their planning services, so get your free, no-obligation quote today!