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Monday, June 22, 2020

Making Reservations for Entry Into the Parks: Our Experience

by Beth Keating
June 22, 2020

I was expecting it to be worse. But it was less arduous than I thought it would be. I sat down early this morning to make our park entry reservations for Disney World (also called “Disney Park Passes”). 

As “Hotel Resort Guests,” today (June 22) was our designated day to begin linking our tickets to specific entry days to the parks.  (For those of you still scratching your head at all the COVID required changes, you now must have both an admission ticket/Annual Pass, and a reservation to enter a specific park on a specific day. You need both items to get in.) Here’s how it went.

The hardest part was probably just getting into the My Disney Experience/My Plans system on the Disney website. When I tried first thing this morning, when the system was allegedly up and running shortly after 7 am, I got nothing… just a little spinning wheel. Didn’t even get the Disney logo. Kind of expected that, with everyone trying to be the first ones to nab their preferred parks on their preferred days. So, I decided to wait a few hours. In late morning, I tried again.

This time, I made it as far as the waiting room. Twice. The first waiting room, with a pretty picture of the castle, thanked me for my patience and advised me that there were lots of guests trying to access the system, but that I was “making progress” and to not refresh or select the back button. Helpful information, and I hunkered down for what I was sure was going to be a long wait. It really wasn’t. Sort of. Disney was just teasing me. 

After 15 or so minutes, my sign in screen popped up, and I was able to log into My Plans. But that just sent me to a second waiting room. At least I felt like something was happening though, because there was movement on my screen, and I was able to resist the urge to hit the refresh button. 

This time, my waiting room had a lovely outer space theme, and advised me “We’re almost in orbit.” Clever, huh? This waiting room was quicker, a mere five minute hold before a screen appeared that allowed me to choose the members of my travelling party that I would be making park entry reservations for. (Make sure your party and park tickets/Annual Passes are already linked to the system before you even try to get on to make “Park Pass” or entry reservations.) At this point, you can choose to make entry reservations for one or all of your party members, or you can also choose to reserve different parks for different family members (Hey, you might want to do that by the end of the trip. Too much togetherness, perhaps?)

After I chose my travelling party, a calendar screen appeared. It allowed me to scroll through the calendar and pick a day. Once I’d selected the day, it showed pictures of the four parks, and allowed me to picture-click the park I wanted to visit that day (you are limited to one park per day. No park hopping for the time being). There was also a box on that page to select the time entry for that park. 

At this stage, the time entry for our choice was essentially the hours that the park was open. I started with Hollywood Studios, and it allowed me to select 10-8 as my entry option, and our party can appear at the entry gate any time in that window. So far, so good. Before moving on, you have to choose a box that assures Disney, “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions including the COVID-19 liability waiver.” I checked that box, clicked on the confirm box, and we were on our way. A few seconds later, a confirmed message reassured me all was right in cyberspace. It then gave me the option to go to My Plans, or to make another reservation. I forged on.

I got a little too cocky. The first reservation was so smooth that I expected the next four days of reservations to go just as easily. Ha! Day two and three went fairly well, with the only glitch being that the park locations section was sometimes slow to load. Day 4 was getting glitchy, and I had to re-enter the park information several times before I could get a confirmation.  Just when I thought I was home free, I hit day number 5. 

Olaf lost his head. About seven or eight times. If you get the screen with Olaf losing his head, things have gone wrong. We were trying for Magic Kingdom entry. I got as far as clicking on the picture of Magic Kingdom, but then got a message that they couldn’t retrieve park details. Alrighty. My first reaction was maybe that park was full. So I tried a different park, only to get the same message. I got out of that menu, and went back to my planning page, reselected my guests, and tried again, figuring that maybe I just needed to start from scratch. This time, I was able to make my park and time selection (Magic Kingdom, 9-7), and clicked confirm. I got the spinning confirmation wheel for the better part of four or five minutes, and then…zip. Frozen screen. No pun intended.  

Since I’d already considered myself fortunate to have gotten through the first four days relatively unscathed, I gave up for a few minutes. I returned to the My Plans page, called up what I’d already arranged, checked through that for a few minutes, then went back to try again.

This time, I was able to once again access the Magic Kingdom and its times, and clicked confirm. Each of the six times I tried, I got Olaf’s screen informing me “Something went wrong. We’re having trouble loading this screen.” The seventh time was the charm. It finally went through, and I got the celebratory “confirmed” message. 

All in all, start to finish, the entire process took me just over an hour to arrange entry for the five days. If day number five hadn’t given me such pushback, it would have been roughly half an hour. The process itself is pretty straightforward. If you’ve ever made advanced dining reservations on Disney’s website, this process was actually even more simple than that. The glitch was really in the sheer volume of people trying to access the system this morning.

I did have one instance where the menu told me I’d already made a park reservation for that particular day, which I in fact had tried to do, but had never gotten an actual confirmed message, just a spinning wheel that never stopped spinning, and then disappeared without a confirmed message. Apparently, the system had logged it in, but just didn’t share that knowledge with me until I tried to re-enter it, and it reminded me I’d already selected a park for that day. I also tried clicking on a day that was two days before our trip started, just to see if the system was not functioning, or if it was a problem with my reservations, and the menu told me that I didn’t have a hotel reservation for that day and couldn’t make a park pass. Good to know, since all of the calendar days were lit up when the calendar first appeared on my screen, giving the impression that I could choose any days on the calendar.

Disney does give you a message at the bottom of your confirmed screen that warns you that this system can change at any time, and just because you have a Park Pass reservation still doesn’t mean you are going to get in, because the parks are still subject to capacity limitations, etc. etc. etc. In other words, stand-by, because as we have already seen over the past few months, and especially over this past weekend, information does change often and rapidly. Keep an eye out for updates as your own travel dates creep closer, because the process here in July as the parks reopen may not be what will still be in effect in the fall. (We’ve even seen the virtual queue line for “Rise of the Resistance” disappear over the last days as Disney has confirmed that there will be no virtual queues used at the park re-openings.) 

Lastly, once advanced dining reservations begin again, there may be some shuffling going on as guests try to rearrange park entry days to coincide with where they are able to get dining reservations. Since park hopping will not be in effect, and you are limited to one park per day, you will have to dine either in the park you have selected for the day, or in Disney Springs or your resort. For folks like our family, who will often hop over to Epcot at night for meals after spending the day in another park, it will mean rethinking the way we visit Disney. We also typically make our advanced dining reservations first, and then plan our park entries around where we were able to get dining reservations. This “Park Pass” system makes things backwards for us from the way we usually schedule our trip. Having to book a park entry first will definitely limit our dining location choices.

If you have a current hotel reservation and park tickets, you are good to jump on the system and select your Disney Park Pass reservation days now. If you are an Annual Passholder without an already booked resort hotel stay, you can jump in on June 26. If you are an existing ticket holder without a hotel, set aside June 28 to begin making your park entry reservations. 

Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom open on July 11, and Epcot and Hollywood Studios open on July 15. The modified Epcot Food and Wine Festival will also begin right away on July 15. Good luck. May the Force be with you.


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Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.

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