If you’re planning a 2021 trip to Disney World right now, you might be running into a few bumps that you weren’t expecting!
Trip planning is stranger than ever because of limited capacity in parks and all the reopenings going on around Disney World! Hotels and restaurants alike are reopening through the summer and later in the year. Oh yeah, and there’s that little 50th Anniversary thing going on in October (and all the crowds and craziness it will bring) to look forward to. 😉 Here’s what you need to know about the BIGGEST problems you’ll run into when planning a 2021 Disney World trip.
The biggest changes we’re seeing in planning for Disney World for the remainder of the year are Park Pass Reservations and hotel reservations going FAST! In addition, FastPass+ has not returned to the parks, and there’s no word of when it will be back. All this seems to point to Disney World being quite BUSY the rest of the year. So if you wanna go, you better get moving NOW!
Park Pass Reservations are Limited
You might know by now that Disney World is requiring you to have a park pass reservation for each park you visit. This is in addition to the ticket you purchase (the whole “needing a ticket” part has always been necessary for admission 😉). Previously, you could choose any park for any day of your stay without notifying Disney of where you’ll be heading. With limited park capacity, now guests must reserve the park they want for each day of their trip.
Quick Guide to Reserving a Park Pass:
To make a park pass reservation, you’ll first need to link your ticket to your Disney account online (or on the My Disney Experience app). This lets you access planning tools like park pass reservations. Add everyone who will be on the trip with you to your party. You should be prompted to select the dates for your trip and then the parks you wish to visit.
Sounds simple enough, right? It’s really not too difficult to grab a park pass reservation if you’re booking far enough in advance. But the reservations for each park are LIMITED. There are limited spots for each park. Park pass reservations DO run out! We’re seeing that you need to make these reservations a couple of weeks in advance at least, especially around important holidays, dates, and even weekends.
You can see on the calendar above from about a month ago that passes were limited until about July 15th when we looked a little over a week out. Under the calendar, you can see which parks have available passes. When we looked at this calendar (on July 6th, 2021), there were available passes for EPCOT each day and a few days with Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The green days on the calendar indicate that there are passes available for all the Disney World parks.
Earlier this month, Magic Kingdom and EPCOT were already low on passes for October 1st and 2nd, the beginning days for Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.
However, just recently Disney expanded the capacity and increased Park Pass availability for both EPCOT and Magic Kingdom for October 1st and 2nd. However, not all park tickets and park passes are created equal. Park Passes for Select Resorts, Annual Passes, and Theme Park Tickets have varying availability, so keep an eye on these options as they impact every family and vacation differently. This means that you might be out of luck if you’re looking as a resort guest, but standard ticket holders might have loads of availability or vice versa — it’s kind of a mixed bag! The moral of the story is to keep checking because things at the Disney Parks change DAILY!
We’re expecting dates around the holidays to go fast too. Earlier this month, park passes for Magic Kingdom on Halloween ran out completely, but since then some passes have been added! We think that’s an indication that the holidays will be a super busy time in the Disney parks — just like they’ve always been! (Surprise, surprise, we know!) If you’d love to be in Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day or just need to grab a jumbo turkey leg for Thanksgiving, make sure to get your tickets and reservations soon!
The good news is that Disney does sometimes add additional park pass reservations, especially for peak days as we’ve seen recently. So if your favorite park is all booked, keep an eye out for announcements of more reservations available! They’re increasing capacity slowly, and with that comes more passes. We recently saw Disney add more passes for Halloween day and for the busy summer months June and July. This isn’t guaranteed, though, so it’s best to get the park pass reservations early! The addition of passes is sporadic too. We do our best to share park pass reloads as soon as we discover them, so be sure to check back often!
If you’re hoping to hit more than one park in a day, you’ll be happy to know that park hopper is still available at Disney World! There are just a few rules that are different than normal you’ll want to make note of.
First, you must have a park pass reservation for the FIRST park you’ll visit in a day. Then, check the park hours on Disney’s calendar (also available on the My Disney Experience app) and find the park hopper hours. Right now, most of them start around 2pm. That means you can go to the SECOND park anytime after 2pm. You will NOT need a park pass reservation for the second park (or third, or fourth park)! You DO need to visit the first park (the one you have a reservation for) before you can enter the second one.
Hotel Reservations are Hard to Get
Some hotels haven’t reopened (or haven’t completely reopened), so there are fewer rooms than usual open at Disney World. When we checked for hotels available in the next few days (we looked at July 28th, 2021), there were only three options: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.
The rest of the 32 hotels at Disney World were either full, not yet open, or not available for reservations. Since some Disney hotels can get pretty pricey (see our post about the most expensive day at Disney World!), this means your options are very limited if you’re not booking pretty far in advance.
We also checked for the beginning of October to see what hotel availability looks like for the start of Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration! From what we saw, there’s not a whole lot available for that time right now.
There was one moderate resort available at this time: Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, but it was still $367 per night. A few Deluxe Resorts — Disney’s most expensive hotels — were also available, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.
There were NO value resorts (Disney’s cheapest hotels) available for late September through early October.
The good news is that there were still many options available for hotel reservations in late December. Holidays are usually another big travel time for Disney World, but it looks like there is still room if you’re hoping to get to the parks for Christmas time! It might be that more people are planning to go in October to be in the parks for the 50th Anniversary Celebration, so there is less demand than normal for holiday times.
Is a 2021 Trip Even Possible?
Yes! It is still possible to plan an awesome Disney World trip for 2021, but you might have to make a couple of adjustments. First, grab your tickets and park pass reservations ASAP (you can get reservations as soon as you have tickets if your trip is before Jan 2023 at this time). Park Pass Reservations are available for all the parks most days if you’re booking at least a couple of weeks in advance. Dining reservations are available 60 days in advance, so plan to get reservations right on that 60-days-out deadline.
If your trip will begin before that deadline or you’re already seeing some stuff you were looking for “sold out,” get the reservations you can and keep an eye out for any that were full when you tried. We’re talkin’ check daily to see if anything opens up — persistence is key. Counter service — fast food-type restaurants in Disney hotels and parks — is always an option if those sought-after sit-down meals are booked too! But it’s nice to have a couple of reservations so you’re guaranteed a chance to sit down. Plus a lot of Disney table-service restaurants are just delicious.
Quick Guide to Getting Dining Reservations:
You can make dining reservations 60 days out from each day of your trip if you’re not staying in a Disney World hotel. If you are staying in a Disney World hotel, you can make dining reservations 60 days out of the day of your arrival for up to 10 days of your trip. Dining reservations for most restaurants open at about 5:45AM EST for online bookings (through the Disney website or your My Disney Experience app). Or you can call 407-WDW-DINE (3463) beginning at 7AM EST each day to make reservations over the phone (but expect a LONG wait — we recommend trying the website first!).
A lot of hotels that are still available for popular times are more expensive, but some of them — like Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa — are really nice hotels with great perks. For example, if you stay at the BoardWalk Inn, you’re within walking distance of EPCOT, where a lot of new 50th Anniversary things are happening! At Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, you’ll likely have great views of Magic Kingdom fireworks and you’re in a great spot to get around the parks! So it’s up to you if the extra cost is worth the stay!
BUT staying off-property is an option as well! Airbnbs also expand your accommodation opportunities, there are a ton in Orlando, and they’re not crazy expensive. This is a great option for larger families as well.
Planning a 2021 vacation to Disney World is still possible for sure! Just make sure you’re keeping track of the reservations and making them as soon as you can, keep checking the Disney website or the My Disney Experience app for any changes or updates, and, if you can, be flexible! We also advise going with an open mind. With so many closures, reopenings, new celebration moments, and ever-evolving health and safety protocols, there’s likely to be some changes that even the most devout Type-A traveler can’t predict.
The Good News!
FastPass+ is still not a thing, so you don’t have to worry about those reservations if you’re planning a trip that’s soon. Actually, this is both good and bad. You won’t get to use Fastpasses (huge bummer for some), so you’ll need a new plan to get on those really popular lines without waiting in a super long line! Single rider lines are coming back, so that’s one way to get onto bit attractions with less of a wait. BUT, for folks who dreaded the pre-planning that came with picking out FastPasses months before their trip, that’s ONE thing you don’t have to stress over.
More good news: A LOT is happening in Disney, so you won’t be short on things to do! We’re seeing all kinds of new shows and events for the 50th Anniversary Celebration, including new fireworks shows in Magic Kingdom and EPCOT and a new daytime show in Animal Kingdom! The EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival is starting this month as well, so there’s a lot of delicious food and drinks in EPCOT (with even more on the way on the Anniversary!). In addition, the new Ratatouille ride in EPCOT will be opening on October 1st!
And if you’ve been watching DFB lately, you’ve probably seen that a lot of restaurants are reopening in the parks and resorts! That means there should be plenty of options for you to do our favorite thing in Disney World — eat yummy food!
It’s tougher to plan a last-minute trip, but if you can time it right, it’s still possible to visit Disney World in 2021! The two biggest struggles will probably be the park pass reservations and the hotel reservations, so get those early (as soon as you can!) and then get ready for a whole lot of exciting things on the trip!
Keep following DFB along the way, and we’ll let you know about more trip planning tips and Disney World news!
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Are you heading to Disney World this year? Let us know in the comments!