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Friday, June 19, 2020

Disney Opens New Reservation System for Theme Park Entry

by Beth Keating
June 19, 2020

Things aren’t normal anymore, and vacationing at the Disney Parks is no exception to that rule right now.  If you are confused about how to book or even modify your next Disney vacation and when you can begin to do so, you are not alone. Disney dropped a textbook full of information this morning on how to go about visiting the Most Magical Place on Earth in the coming months.

You’re already familiar, no doubt, with previously announced policies on temperature checks, hand sanitizer stations, mask usage, contactless payments, social distancing rules, and the removal of Dining Plans, Fastpasses, fireworks, character meals, buffets and parades. If you are still good with those checkpoints, and are moving ahead with the next step of your vacation planning, here’s some of the things you need to know (we’re pretty sure Disney will be adding some more items to this punch list in the coming days, as well as issuing clarifications to some of the more vague points put forth today.)

Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will be opening July 11, and Epcot and Hollywood Studios will be opening July 15. To get into those parks, however, you will need park reservations in addition to your park tickets. Park hopping will not be permitted in the early days of the system (though it may return later on), so you will need to select the park you want to visit on a particular day under the new reservation system, called the “Disney Park Pass System.” Reservations for each theme park will be limited in availability, and will be linked to your “My Disney Experience” app. (More on that later.)

All guests with a ticket or Annual Pass will be required to make a reservation in advance for each park entry, one park per day, using the new Disney Park Pass system online at DisneyWorld.com.  Yes, that means you need a park reservation as well as your park ticket medium, whether that is an actual ticket or your Annual Pass. (Remember that the number of guests allowed into the parks in the reopening process will be limited.)

According to the Disney Parks Blog, here are a few important details to know about the system: 

  • You’ll need a My Disney Experience account, as this is where your Walt Disney World Resort plans are stored and managed.

  • You’ll also need a valid theme park ticket or Annual Pass that’s linked to your My Disney Experience account. 

  • If you have a Disney Resort hotel reservation, be sure to link it to your My Disney Experience account beforehand, as well. 

Once you’ve logged into your My Disney Experience account and linked your ticket, you’ll have access to a calendar of available reservation dates for each theme park. If you have a multi-day ticket, you will be required to make a park reservation for each date of your visit. Families and friends can link their tickets together and look to arrange theme park entries at the same time. 

According to Disney World’s official website, these are the important booking dates to be aware of for park reservations, and "these booking dates vary based on your travel plans":

• Beginning June 22, 2020, Disney Resort and other select hotel Guests with valid theme park admission can make reservations.

• Beginning June 26, 2020, Annual Passholders without a Resort stay can make reservations.

ª Beginning June 28, 2020, existing ticket holders can make reservations.

• Park reservations will be available through September 26, 2021, based on your Resort stay and ticket eligibility or ticket eligibility window.

• If you booked a vacation package, your ticket eligibility is tied to your package travel dates. To make a park reservation for a different date, be sure to modify your vacation package dates.

• If you have a room-only reservation at a Disney Resort or other select hotel for a stay in 2021, please call the Disney Reservation Center or call your travel professional beginning on June 24 to upgrade to a vacation package with tickets—and then make your theme park reservations.

If you were hoping to visit in 2020, and do not have existing reservations, Disney will resume sales of 2020 tickets and Disney Resort hotel reservations later this summer. Guests with existing tickets and Annual Passholders will have the opportunity to make park reservations for 2020 dates first, and then based on availability, reservations will open to new bookings. The date to begin making those new 2020 reservations has not yet been announced, however, giving existing guests the chance to modify their current plans first, particularly with all the bump-and-shuffles going on in light of changed dates with the COVID shut downs.

Beginning on June 28, Disney will continue its phased reopening process by allowing guests to start booking new Disney Resort hotel packages and theme park tickets for arrivals starting in 2021 through September 26, 2021. Guests will be able to view park reservation availability on DisneyWorld.com prior to purchasing their tickets for 2021. 

Also in 2021, the free MagicBands perk for Resort hotel guests will be retired, though it appears that MagicBands will still be in use. (Even though they haven’t quite worked the bugs out of the existing system yet.) According to Disney Parks Blog, Disney will be 

exploring engaging ways for guests to use their mobile tech to experience the magic – particularly now as the use of phones and apps continues to evolve. In 2021, we plan to unveil an innovative new offering as part of the My Disney Experience app that will bring features of a MagicBand to your smart devices, building on the app’s existing digital key feature. With this new offering on the horizon, we will be retiring our complimentary MagicBand distribution to Disney Resort hotel guests for new reservations with arrivals beginning Jan. 1, 2021. Disney Resort hotel guests will continue to have the option to purchase new MagicBands at a discount, and we’ll be introducing even more colors and designs featuring favorite Disney characters in the future. Guests who prefer not to purchase a discounted MagicBand will be able to use the My Disney Experience app or a Key to the World card during their visit. We will still offer MagicBands in retail locations and on shopDisney.com, and guests will be able to continue using the wearables throughout Walt Disney World Resort.

If all of these changes seem confusing, or you’d like to view new changes as they continue to roll out, visit DisneyWorld.com/Updates. That link will also provide you with a brief overview of how the new reservation system works. You can also call the Disney Reservation Center for more details, but be prepared for a lengthy wait time, at least initially as these changes kick in.

If you are one of those Disney warriors who normally goes it alone in booking your Disney vacation, this may be a time to consult a good, Disney-knowledgeable travel agent!


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Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.

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