Park reservations are still available: How to make a reservation at Disneyland
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The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, has now been closed for 13 months in one of the longest and most-watched closures of this past pandemic year. Disneyland fans won’t need to wait much longer, though. Walt Disney’s beloved original resort makes its triumphant return this week on April 30, 2021.
When the Disneyland gates reopen, operations at Disneyland certainly won’t be back to normal. Masks and social distancing will be required, some attractions and shows will remain closed and methods to shortcut Disneyland lines like Maxpass and Extra Magic Hour won’t be available. For the time being at least, guests will be Californians residents only.
One of the most significant adjustments guests will need to make is that Disneyland now requires daily theme park reservations. Gone are the days of deciding on a whim to head to Disneyland for the day. Instead, guests need to plan up to 60 days in advance which of Disneyland’s two parks they want to visit. Then they must make a corresponding reservation on the Disneyland website.
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My Test Run of Disneyland Reservations
This new Disneyland reservation system opened initially on April 12, 2021, to California residents who already had existing Disneyland tickets in hand. Because my family had a vacation scheduled for late March 2020 that was canceled when the parks closed, I was lucky enough to already have tickets. With a burning desire to return to “the Happiest Place on Earth” as soon as possible, I was happy to put the reservation system to the test.
While Disney’s IT track record over the years has been spotty, the Disneyland reservation system functioned pretty seamlessly for me during this period when very few guests could access the system. There was a 20- to 30-minute wait in an online holding area as the system kept too many people from hitting Disney’s servers at once.
Once the system said it was my turn, I was redirected to the reservations site. I was able quickly to make reservations for two different trips — one for a solo visit on opening day and another for a summer vacation with my family.
During a few initial days when the reservations system opened to existing ticket holders only, none of the days on the Disneyland reservation calendar filled to capacity. Because the system was limited to California residents holding theme park tickets from more than a year ago, perhaps that wasn’t so surprising. Disneyland canceled all annual passes several months ago, so the Southern California residents most likely to drive demand were unable to access the system at that time.
Disneyland Reservation System Opens to All April 15, 2021
The true test of demand came a few days later. On April 15, 2021, Disneyland resumed theme park ticket sales. At this point, all California residents immediately began purchasing new tickets and making theme park reservations. The theme park reservation calendar is currently available until June 28, 2021. It should continue to remain open about 60 days in advance on a rolling basis.
As you might guess, the initial demand appeared significant. The systems were slow and buggy, leaving some guests in waiting rooms for up to 10 hours (yes, 10 HOURS) before they could make a reservation. Thankfully, these long wait times only lasted the first day or so. Now, most guests will experience a wait time of a minute or less if they are making new reservations or changing existing ones.
With the parks opening at 25% capacity, some Disneyland watchers predicted that reservations would book up quickly. But that has not been the case. As expected, there were a few days that filled fast. Those included:
- April 30, 2021: Opening day for Disneyland Resort (Disneyland park only)
- June 4, 2021: Opening day for Avenger’s Campus, a new Marvel-themed land in Disney California Adventure park
Many Saturdays also filled quickly, particularly in Disneyland park where demand is higher. There was also a lot of demand for the least expensive days one day tickets were sold which were a few mid-week dates in May and early June. Other than these dates, the reservations calendar has a lot of availability, especially for guests willing to pay for park hopper tickets.
But it’s too soon to say that demand for Disneyland is a bust. Disneyland could only welcome in-state guests when the reservation system opened due to a California travel advisory. A recent change now permits fully vaccinated non-Californians to visit California theme parks. Disneyland has not yet changed its rules, however, to permit visits from out-of-state residents. If it does, the floodgates could open very quickly.
In Florida, park pass reservations at Walt Disney World are already booked up for many parks through the end of June. Once more California travel restrictions are lifted, expect some of that demand to shift west. If you are a Californian dragging your feet on making vacation plans seeing that many reservations haven’t sold out yet, hesitate at your peril.
If you are an out-of-stater poised and ready to visit Disneyland, a date to watch is June 15, 2021. California’s Governor Newsom indicated that this is the date that many restrictions on businesses will be lifted. The state’s travel advisory could be further loosened or repealed on this date. Many out-of-staters have already started making tentative bookings for later in June.
Tutorial for Making a Disneyland Park Reservation
Ready to head to Disneyland when it reopens later this month? You’ll first need to purchase theme park tickets, either from Disney directly or from an authorized discount reseller like Get Away Today or Undercover Tourist. Some of these ticket purchasing systems require guests to select their travel dates. Selecting dates as part of the ticket purchasing process, however, does not mean you’ve made a theme park reservation for those dates. A second, separate theme park reservation process is required.
After you have tickets in hand, here’s how to navigate the Disneyland website to make a reservation. If you’ve made theme park reservations at Disney World before, the systems work in similar ways, although the look and feel of the sites and the exact steps are a bit different.
Start on Disneyland’s website, where you’ll head to the main theme park reservations page. Scroll down and click on the blue button to make a park reservation. There is a link in the Disneyland app for reservations as well, but it will just redirect to the website.
I found the system easier to fill out on a computer rather than a phone.
The next screen offers two choices. Most guests should select the first, “Book Theme Park Reservation.” The second is to retrieve a hotel reservation and is only for access for guests staying in Disneyland on-property hotels.
Next, create the party for whom you will be making reservations. If you already have tickets linked to your account, they should be visible to select with checkboxes.
If you haven’t linked tickets yet, there is an option farther down the page to add more ticket numbers.
The next page is where you’ll select both the date you wish to visit as well as which park you will enter first for the day. Available days and parks open for booking are shown on a calendar, with colored icons indicating which parks are available each day (Disneyland park or Disney California Adventure park).
Click on an available date on the calendar and then scroll down to select the button for a park.
The next screen is to just review and confirm selections. Double-check that you have the right date, park and people in your party. It also asks for confirmation of California residence and terms and conditions, including a COVID-19 waiver.
After you click continue, you should see a confirmation screen with Mickey and pals.
If you have a multiday ticket and need to select more days, you start this process over by clicking on the white “book a theme park reservation” on this confirmation screen. If this option isn’t available, you are all done.
You can’t modify reservations after they are made, but you can cancel single or multiple reservations and rebook a new date or dates.
Tips & Tricks for Using the Disneyland Reservation System
Although the Disneyland reservation system itself is pretty straightforward to use, there are a couple of potential mistakes guests can make. Watch especially for the following as long as Disneyland reservations are required.
- Always check the Disneyland reservation availability calendar before you purchase park tickets. Tickets purchased from Disneyland directly are nonrefundable, so you’ll be stuck with a big cost if you can’t make a reservation on your preferred travel day. Note that there are two tabs on this calendar with different availabilities, one for park hopper tickets and one for one park per day tickets.
- After you purchase tickets, make your park reservations right away. With the theme parks initially reopening at 25% capacity and a busy summer travel season anticipated, reservation slots continue to fill and disappear from the calendar.
- If you plan to purchase single-day tickets, note that Disneyland has five different one-day ticket tiers. Each tier has a different price and a different blockout calendar. Purchase the wrong tier ticket? Need to change your travel day? You may find you are blocked out when you try to make a theme park reservation on your travel day of choice. Through the end of June 2021, at least, if you plan to go to the parks on a weekend (Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays), you’ll need the most expensive Tier 5 ticket.
- Guests who are purchasing single day tickets on the Disneyland website are presented with a calendar during the ticket purchasing process. This calendar is only to make sure you purchase a ticket that matches the pricing tier for that day. Clicking on this calendar does not mean you’ve secured a reservation for the day you clicked (or even that there is any reservation ability left that day at all!). You must still go through the separate reservation process described above. (Confused yet? A lot of people are.)
- Consider purchasing multiday tickets instead of single-day tickets. Not only do they cost less on a per-day basis, but multiday tickets have no blockout dates in the new Disneyland reservation system. Note though that these tickets expire 13 days after first use.
- Disney generates a QR code for each daily theme park reservation for each person in your party and emails it to the address associated with your Disneyland account. You’ll need these codes — in addition to all theme park tickets — to access the parks. This is different than at Walt Disney World, where scanning a MagicBand or iPhone using MagicMobile acts as both a ticket and a theme park reservation.
- Park hopping after 1 p.m. is allowed for guests who purchase the park hopper ticket upgrade, subject to availability. If you wish to park hop, you don’t need to make an additional reservation. The Disneyland reservation system is only for the park you wish to enter first for the day.
Featured image by Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort
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