There are oodles of things to remember when planning your Disney World vacation.
You’ll have to buy your tickets, reserve your hotel room, make dining reservations, and get acquainted with the My Disney Experience app. And on top of it all, Disney has recently introduced the Park Pass reservation system. This system is used to reserve your spot to get into a theme park each day and is required in addition to a valid theme park ticket. It was implemented to help accommodate Disney’s limited park capacity upon reopening…but it looks like it’ll stick around well into the future. So what happens if you FORGET to make your Park Pass reservation?!
First things first — it happens. Often. We’ve seen a lot of readers mention they booked a last-minute getaway or straight up forgot to book passes and when their trip rolls around…NOTHING IS AVAILABLE. Yikes. What are you to do??
Why Do You Need Park Passes?
Like we mentioned, Park Passes are required for EVERY day of your visit, in addition to a valid theme park ticket. Once you buy your tickets, you’ll go onto the Disney World website and reserve those Park Passes for each person in your travel party. Park Passes are held in three different “buckets” basically — Annual Passholders, guests staying at a Disney World hotel, and all other ticketed guests. Passes can run out for one group but not the others, so it’s important to keep an eye on!
Disney World’s parks have been hitting capacity very frequently recently, so these passes allow you to guarantee your spot in the gates. You are not able to enter the park without a Park Pass reservation (the only exceptions are special ticketed, After Hours events like Disney World’s Halloween BOO Bash).
We recommend making your Park Pass reservations as SOON as your plans are finalized. That’s because, with demand to visit Disney World increasing as summer crowds flood in, those spots are getting snatched up fast. You’ll want to book even sooner for weekends or busy seasons like the holidays.
Of course, Park Pass reservations are a relatively new aspect of planning your vacation. So what if you forget about them? Well, you CAN’T get into the parks without them…but you can try these tips instead.
Play the Waiting Game
Disney World tends to release more Park Passes as the dates in question grow closer. So if you check the Theme Park Availability calendar and see that the day you want to visit is full, don’t lose hope!
Recently, Disney even refilled Park Passes for October 1st — which will probably be one of the busiest days in 2021 (It IS Disney World’s big 50th birthday after all!). If your trip is pretty far out, there’s a good chance that more spots will be added, especially as Disney World continues to increase capacity. And even if you’re just a few days or weeks away, you could get lucky, too. We post whenever Park Passes are replenished, so check back with DFB often!
You’ll want to keep a VERY close eye on the Theme Park Availability Calendar. When passes are refilled, they tend to go fast! We’ll also keep you updated here at DFB whenever more spots are added.
Take Advantage of Park Hopping
Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom tend to book up first when it comes to Park Passes. But if you want to visit an already-full park but don’t have a reservation, you MAY be able to do so.
If you have a Park Hopper ticket, you’re able to head over to a different park than the one you have a reservation for, beginning at 2PM. Of course, this is subject to park capacity, but the parks have yet to fill up to the point where Park Hopping is NOT allowed. (If this ever does become the case, you will be notified on the My Disney Experience app. You can also call the Park Hopping hotline at (407) 560-5000 to double check.).
So what should you do? Go on and grab a Park Pass reservation for whatever park you can get. Head there in the morning, and then hop over to the park you WANT to visit at 2PM. Just keep in mind that Park Hoppers (folks arriving after 2PM) are unable to get a boarding group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Disney’s Hollywood Studios — so that is a disadvantage to this method.
By Park Hopping, you can maximize your time in each park — and you may be able to get around that tricky Theme Park Availability Calendar! The key here is finding a park with availability. In our experience, Animal Kingdom and EPCOT tend to fill up last, so you might be able to snag a pass at one of these and hop at 2.
Try Some Other Activities
If you are absolutely unable to get a Park Pass reservation(like…they’re ALL GONE), there are some other activities around Disney World you can try instead. Head over to Disney Springs for shopping, dining, or a ride on the Aerophile balloon.
You could also visit Blizzard Beach (you do NOT need a Park Pass reservation here, but the water park has been known to hit capacity some days on a first-come, first-serve basis), play a round of mini-golf at Fantasia Gardens, or grab a Dole Whip at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
There is also a lot to do at your own hotel! Visit the pool, try some activities (did you know you can go canoeing or horseback riding and LOTS more at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort?!), or catch the Electrical Water Pageant. And don’t forget to try some of our favorite Table Service restaurants outside of the parks.
Our most important tip is to plan ahead as much as possible to ensure you get the Park Passes you want. But if you don’t, try not to stress too bad! Hopefully one of these strategies can help ya solve your problem. We’ll keep bringing you more Disney tips and tricks, so stay tuned to DFB!
Join the DFB Newsletter to get all the breaking news right in your inbox! Click here to Subscribe!
Do you have any Park Pass strategies? Share ’em in the comments!