Strategy? Did someone say strategy? If you know anything about us, you know how we like our different strategies when it comes to Walt Disney World. With FastPass+ currently on hold, we’re switching gears, or is it changing directions? Either way, we’re turning our attention to our Disney World Park Reservation strategy. It’s a whole new “world” of Disney planning we live in and we thought we would share how your favorite bloggers (that’s us of course!) plan out a trip. The time has come to peek behind the curtains and share our Disney World Park Reservation strategy!
Queue the drums! We all know the drumbeat is the baseline for any good song. When talking about our Disney World Park reservation strategy, there are a couple of things that make up our baseline. The most essential is a My Disney Experience account, as it is where all the magic happens when it comes to reserving a Disney Park Pass. Please note to the Park Park Reservation System is only available through the browser version of My Disney Experience, it is not available through the app. For a full guide on how to create your own My Disney Experience, please reference the following link to the DVC Duo guide.
Not far behind is linking your park tickets, and if you are staying at Disney Resort than your resort reservation to My Disney Experience. Every member of your party will need to have a Disney World park ticket linked in order to make a Disney World Park reservation.
Last but not least, is to make sure everyone within your party is linked together within the friends and family portion of My Disney Experience. This is important to ensure everyone in your group is on the same Disney World Park reservation. It is not required, however, if you’re not linked into one group everyone in your party may not get into the same park on the day. Entry is subject to availability. Our guide (previously mentioned) walks you through how to set up friends and family.
Now that we have a baseline, let’s dive into our Disney World Park Reservation strategy. The first thing we like to look at is the overall demand for a park. Access to each our the Disney World parks is separated into 3 groups, Disney World resort guests, Annual Passholders, and Ticket Holders. It should be noted if you have a Walt Disney World Annual Pass and you’re staying at a Disney Resort, you fall into the Disney World Resort grouping.
Within My Disney Experience at the very top, you’ll see “Important Message” and a button to click called “View Availability”. This will bring you to a calendar that shows you the park availability based on the three different groupings. It’s the perfect spot to start our planning. Here is what we’ve noticed over the past few weeks in regards to demand. Hollywood Studios is by far the most popular park to book, followed by the Magic Kingdom then the Animal Kingdom, and lastly Epcot.
This level of demand makes a lot of sense, as Hollywood Studios has the newest attractions in the form of Star Wars Galaxy Edge, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and Toy Story Land. Additionally, Hollywood Studios has the lowest capacity of all the parks followed by the Magic Kingdom and so on. At the time of writing, it is our understanding that Disney is around 10% capacity at all the parks. Over time Disney plans on increasing capacity, but we do not have a set timeframe for when an increase would occur.
Beyond the Disney World Park calendar, we also take into consideration the normal travel patterns when it comes to park demand. For example, the Magic Kingdom tends to be the busiest on Mondays. A great way to check the overall “busyness” of a park is to look at crowd calendars. Our personal favorite is by Touring Plans. It should be noted that crowd calendars are adjusting based on the new capacity limits.
After we have an idea of the park demand it’s time to lay out which park we would like to go to each day. At the time of writing, guests can only go to one park per day. It should be noted that Disney has said they hope to offer parking hopping (going to more than one Disney park per day) by the end of summer. The time period of the end of summer is currently fluid and we could see it shift in either direction.
Here is how we prioritize picking our parks. We always go with the busiest parks first. Many people look to make Disney World Park Reservations in the order of days of their vacation. Not us. We look to book the busiest park first, on the projected quietest day of our vacation based on the crowd calendars. For example, if Wednesday is supposed to be the quietest day at Hollywood Studios we try for that first and then adjust based on availability. If Wednesday is not available we go to the next quietest day and so on.
For us, in the short-term, we tend to leave Epcot for last, as in the short term it’s the least busy park. This will change once Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens. Once this attraction opens we would project Epcot to move up ahead of Animal Kingdom for demand, especially in the first few months of opening.
The Other Things
Outside of park demand, there are a couple of things we take into consideration with our Disney World Park Reservation strategy. The big one is the park hours. At the moment, the park hours are staggered for each of the parks, with the Animal Kingdom opening the earliest at 8 am EST, and Epcot closing last at 9 pm EST. What we like to do to make sure we don’t burn the candle too much on both ends. We always take the opening and closing times into consideration when making our reservations. For example, we try our best not to make a reservation for the Animal Kingdom the day after we go to Epcot. Especially, if we’re planning on staying until park closing at 9 pm EST. Let’s just say those shorter nights of sleep catch up to us very quickly!
The other thing we look at is if we’re planning to anything outside of the parks. Whether it’s dinner at Disney Springs or a sunrise 9 round of golf. To maximize our park time we try our best to plan these types of activities around the park hours. Especially, if we’re planning to do both a park and activity on the same day.
Planning got a little easier! Based on our experience, planning out a Disney trip got a little easier with Disney moving to the Park Reservation System over FastPass. Our biggest tip is flexibility. Make a list of which parks are top priority based on attractions you would like to experience and then book them in that order. For example, if you have little ones (under 40 inches) you would probably look to prioritize time in the Magic Kingdom over Hollywood Studios, based on which attractions are available. Additionally, we recommend becoming familiar with how the Park Reservation System works through our step by step guide that you can find here. There is only one thing left to say, let the planning begin!
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