You’ve gotten your dining reservations, booked the perfect hotel room, and even bought your tickets. But if you’ve forgotten to do 1 critical thing, you could find yourself in SERIOUS TROUBLE when you arrive at Disney World.
What are we talking about? Well, Park Pass reservations of course! While you will need a valid theme park ticket to get into the Most Magical Place on Earth, you’ll ALSO need a valid Park Pass Reservation for the park you want to visit. Some days, especially during a slow time of the year, you may be able to score a reservation to your desired theme park at the last-minute, easy peasy. But there are some dates in 2022 that could be EXTREMELY popular or busy, and you’ll want to make your theme park reservations for them as far in advance as you can. So, don’t be the White Rabbit (late for a very important date) — let’s look at the 2022 dates for which you’ll want to book your theme park reservations NOW!
Park Passes Generally
Before we begin, we just want to make a quick mention of Park Passes generally. As we noted above, you will need a valid ticket to get into the Disney World theme park of your choice, but you will ALSO need a Park Pass reservation for the park you want to visit on the date you want to visit it. No park pass = no park entry.
Park Pass availability can differ depending on whether you just have theme park tickets, are staying at “select resort hotels,” or are an annual passholder. Availability can change CONSTANTLY. So, while some of these dates might have lots of availability right now, that could all change in just a few days.
You can cancel your Park Pass reservations later and attempt to make new ones (depending on availability), so there is some flexibility there if you change your mind later.
1 — Major Holidays
Many of these dates may already be on your radar as “must-book-in-advance” days, and with good reason. Park crowds are typically at their peak on major holidays. On those days with high crowd volumes, Park Pass reservations can fill up and parks may ultimately reach capacity, so guests will likely book as far in advance as they can to “guarantee” their spot in the park.
There are days that will “sell out,” and if you haven’t gotten your reservation early, you may be out of luck as you get closer to your vacation.
You may be well aware of some of these “major holidays” — Christmas (ALL week), New Year’s Eve and Day (and generally right around New Year’s Eve week), Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving (usually for the entire week), Memorial Day, Halloween (including the surrounding days), and Labor Day.
But there are other holidays that can sneak up on you. All of a sudden you realize the kids have a long weekend, you want to head to Disney, and BAM!, no Park Pass reservations.
What holidays might catch you by surprise? Well, you won’t want to forget about things like Martin Luther King Jr. day/weekend (took place on January 17th in 2022, but it’s a good one to remember for the future), and President’s Day/weekend (took place on February 21st, 2022, but again one to keep in mind for the future), Columbus/Indigenous Peoples Day (October 10th, 2022).
Your best bet for handling holiday situations is to not only book your reservations for the holiday itself, but if you plan to be there in the days before or after, book those reservations now as well.
2 — runDisney Race Weekends
Friends, we are not kidding around here. runDisney races are SERIOUS. Race weekends usually begin on Thursday with the Health and Fitness Expo that each runner attends to pick up their bib and shop for some merchandise.
But it’s not just the Expo area that’ll be busy, the theme parks can be pretty busy the entire race weekend as runners flood the parks to enjoy time there and take photos with their awesome medals. Park days can get busy, especially during spring races, which coincide with some schools’ spring break.
This year, some race weekends have already passed — the Walt Disney World Marathon (January); the Disney Princess Half Marathon (February), and the Springtime Surprise Weekend (March/April). But there is another race weekend on the way.
The Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend will take place from November 3rd-November 6th, 2022. This can be a really popular race weekend (and a busy time in general) since it takes place during EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival.
If you plan to go during any of these times this year (or in the future), book your theme park reservations well in advance!
3 — EPCOT Festival Opening Weekends
It feels like every day is Festival Day at EPCOT. Disney fans look forward to the EPCOT festivals like a little kid at Christmas (we certainly do!), and many may plan their vacations specifically to ensure that they can be one of the FIRST to try the latest festival dishes.
Not all of the start dates for EPCOT’s upcoming festivals have been announced but here’s what we do know. EPCOT’s 2022 International Food and Wine Festival will run from July 14th through November 19th.
Also, in 2021, the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays took place from November 26th through December 30th. We expect it will be available generally during similar days this year, but Disney hasn’t announced the exact Festival dates yet.
The EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays can be a bit of a unique beast since it typically encompasses super busy days during Thanksgiving week and Christmas week. Plus, it generally comes with the ever popular Candlelight Processional, meaning many days during this festival could be especially packed.
Also, for reference for future years, the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts began January 14th, 2022, and the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival started March 2nd and will end on July 4th.
Keep in mind that while the start of a festival may be particular busy, the end of the festival and weekends during the festival period can also be pretty packed, so it’s a good idea to get those reservations early!
4 — May the Fourth
Thank you, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, for giving Star Wars fans everywhere a mecca to flock to on May the Fourth each year! May the Fourth (a.k.a. Star Wars Day — as in “may the Force be with you”) can bring in quite the celebration at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a day you’re going to want to reserve well in advance.
The day is often celebrated with special merchandise and themed snacks and treats. At one point in 2021, park passes for Hollywood Studios sold out around the special holiday.
Also, remember that if you want to hit up Droid Depot to custom build your very own Droid or Savi’s Workshop to build your own lightsaber, you’ll want to book those as soon as you can (typically 60 days out). Grabbing one of those reservations for May the Fourth could be especially difficult!
5 — Jersey Week
If you’re not familiar with it, you might be reading this and wondering “what on Earth is Jersey Week?!” Well, allow us to let you in on this important fact, which could help you plan your trips a bit more carefully to Disney World!
Each year, schools in New Jersey take a few days off as a fall break, this is known as “Jersey Week.” During this time, many families choose to spend their break in Disney World, which can lead to some substantial crowds.
This year, the New Jersey Education Association will be hosting their annual convention from November 10th-11th. Combine that with some days off earlier in the week, and you typically get Jersey week (typically it falls around the first full week in November).
While Jersey Week may not be one of the busiest weeks on the Disney calendar, there’s a definite uptick in guests for an otherwise relatively quiet part of the year. You’ll want to book your theme park reservations before half of New Jersey does. 😉
6 — Dapper Days
Dapper Days provide a chance for guests to step out in the parks in some serious style. The parks that are the gathering spots for the Dapper Days fun can get quite busy with people dressed in their fashionable finest.
The event, not officially sponsored by Disney, usually takes place two days in the spring and two in the fall. There’s an official Dapper Day website, where you’ll be able to check not only for dates, but also for updates on merch and more.
In the spring of 2022, Dapper Days will take place on April 30th (EPCOT) and May 1st (Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
Later in the year, Dapper Days will come back to Disney World for the “Holiday Outing” on December 10th (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and December 11th (Disney’s Animal Kingdom). Be sure to book your Park Passes for those days well in advance!
7 — Gay Days
Last year, we shared how Gay Days returned to Disneyland. This year, you’ll want to plan ahead for this special event in Disney World as well.
If you’re planning your Walt Disney World vacation for June 2nd—5th in 2022, now is the time to book your theme park reservations. Gay Days, a non-Disney sponsored festival, brings together members of the LGBTQ+ communities with their families, friends, and allies. During the festival, participants generally visit one of the four main theme parks each day.
The online schedule lists the festivities taking place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on June 2nd, Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the 3rd, Magic Kingdom on the 4th, and EPCOT on the 5th.
If you’ll want to be in any of those parks on any of those days, try to book your theme park reservation ASAP to beat some of the incoming crowds.
8 — Disney Holidays or Other Big Disney Dates
While they might not be official holidays that show up in your traditional calendar, there are some Disney holidays or big dates coming up this year.
First, October 1st, 2022 marks EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary. Disney hasn’t yet shared any official news about what may or may not take place in the park that day, but there could be some crowds there regardless, as well as special activities (if announced).
EPCOT will also be getting a big, brand-new ride soon — Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Disney recently announced that the ride will be opening on May 27th, and you better believe EPCOT will be BUSY that day with all kinds of fans lining up to check out this new attraction.
So if you’re hoping to be there on opening day, book those park passes ASAP.
Also, we have to mention that IF Disney World’s new TRON ride — TRON Lightcycle Run — opens in 2022, that is also a date you’ll want to get park passes for quickly! The ride was set to open in time for Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, but that was later delayed.
Disney has not yet announced an official opening date for this ride, but it could announce a date soon. Sign up for the DFB Newsletter so you don’t miss it the second the news comes out! As soon as that opening date is announced, you’ll want to quickly snatch up your park pass so you don’t miss out on all the fun.
It is certainly possible that you will see other days throughout the year “sell out” in terms of theme park reservations, so if you are planning a Disney vacation, it’s always best to buy your tickets and book your park pass reservations as soon as you can, even if you won’t be going during a holiday or other season that’s expected to be busy. In the long run, that’s the best way to avoid being blocked out of being at the park you really want to be in.
Plus, as we mentioned above, if you change your mind about your plans, you can cancel that pass and make a new park pass for a different park later (provided there’s availability). But, it’s better to have something reserved, rather than run the risk that it all gets booked up!
And those are our tips for right now on Park Passes. Be sure to check back with us for more Disney news and tricks to help make your next vacation a total success!
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What dates do you think are the most important must-book-in-advance days? Let us know in the comments!