Once upon a time, Walt Disney World guests could purchase a park ticket that granted them admission to any one of the four parks on any given day. Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works anymore (Don’t worry, we’re here to help!).
What is a Park Pass?
As of post-COVID times at the parks, all guests age 3 and up must have a valid theme park ticket AND a park reservation made in advance. If you have a multi-day ticket, you’ll need to make a park reservation for each day you have a ticket.
While it might take away from what little spontaneity there was left to our Disney vacations, the Park Pass system is Disney’s answer to accurately monitoring and balancing crowd capacity.
And from everything that’s been said? It’s here to stay for a bit. So here’s how to make the most of it, and more importantly, understand how to get a park reservation even if that calendar is showing “sold out”.
Considering crowd levels when planning your Park Days
“Crowds” and “Disney” are practically synonymous at this point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your trip. Like the saying goes, fortune favors those who are prepared for their Disney vacations! Or…something like that.
First, check a Crowd Calendar (we recommend Touring Plans [paid] or WDW Prep School [free]) to determine which days are best to visit each park. For example, we try to avoid Magic Kingdom on Mondays since that day tends to draw a lot of crowds.
If you have the Complete WDW Parks Strategy Playbook, a fun and handy Plug & Play Park Planner is included as a free bonus. Use it!
After you book your park tickets, make sure to create an account on My Disney Experience (MDE) and link your tickets so you’re ready to make your Park Pass reservations right away. Reservations at each park are limited so it’s in your best interest to reserve one as soon as possible!
What if I’m Park Hopping?
If you’re planning on park hopping during your trip, you do not need a second reservation! All you have to do is make a Park Pass reservation for your first park, then hop over to your second park anytime after 2 p.m.
What to do if you need to change your plans
Many people don’t realize you can move your plans and Park Passes around before or even during your vacation.
And, Disney made things a whole lot easier by allowing people to modify their existing park reservation instead of having to outright cancel to book a new one. That way, if you’re trying to switch to a day that’s full, you don’t lose your existing reservation.
What to do if you can’t get a Park Pass
Maybe it’s a busy season and the demand is high, or maybe you dropped one Park Pass and another wasn’t available. Either way, all hope is not lost. There are a few things you can do!
Take the availability calendar with a grain of salt.
The color-coded squares are not updated in real-time, so even if the calendar is grayed out and shows no availability, there can *actually* still be open spots. Try again!
Break it up.
Try breaking your party into smaller, more manageable groups to try and grab 1-2 reservations at a time. Think of it like open seats at a bar: it’s much easier to find one or two seats than three or more.
Refresh, refresh, refresh!
Keeping a browser tab open on your computer or your phone and checking back often is key to snagging a hard-to-get reservation.
Like anything else at Disney, things change often so you can always check back. We have frequently had to pivot and change plans on a dime during our research trips, so consider the above tips tried and true.
We’re even guilty of forgetting to make a reservation altogether and having to scramble to find one while on the bus there!
If we can do it, you can do it.
Love yourself some Disney hacks?
If you haven’t yet signed up for it, grab our *totally* free 26/8 Method. It’s our #1 dining hack tutorial that will teach you how to get almost any dining reservation for your trip (yep, even the ones you missed!).
And that same hack applies for hard-to-get reservations like BB Boutique, Savi’s Lightsaber building, etc.!