The radical way Disneyland Resort should change the reservation system
When Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World reopened after their respective pandemic closures, they did with a brand new booking system. Due to the fact that the parks had to severely limit their capacity in these early days, the system was necessary. Although capacity has since increased, it is clear that the reservation system is not going anywhere.
Unfortunately, the reservation system is a big headache for many guests, which is why it needs to go, especially at Disneyland. But it seems the only way that could happen would be for the station to take drastic action. If we cannot eliminate reservations, we may need to eliminate single park tickets from Disneyland Resort.
How the Disney World and Disneyland Reservation System Works
It used to be that you bought a ticket to a Disney park and then used that ticket pretty much whenever you wanted. Later, the tickets acquired a sort of reservation element, as the tickets had different prices on different days depending on the popularity of the park on those days. But even then there was a grace period allowing you some flexibility as to when you could leave.
With the reservation system, the flexibility is gone. After buying a ticket, you must make a reservation for a specific date, and without this reservation you cannot enter. In the case of Park Hopper tickets, which allow you to visit more than one park on the same day, you must make a reservation for the park you want to enter first, and you must go there first. Then, at a set time (2 p.m. at Walt Disney World and 1 p.m. at Disneyland Resort), you can leave and go to another park.
Disney said the reservation system is important because it allows them to better manage parks. By knowing how many people will be at the resort on any given day and where they will be, Disney can ensure the right places are properly staffed, crowds can be better managed, and guests can have a better overall experience. . .
There is anecdotal evidence that this idea of managing demand not really happening, or at the very least not working as expected. However, even if we assume the best, there are some issues; not with reservations themselves, but with what they cause. The biggest problem is park skipping.
The Reservation System Is Killing Park Hopping, Especially At Disneyland
Before the reservation system, if you bought a Park Hopper ticket, you could roam the parks as much as you wanted. You can enter any Walt Disney World park and immediately turn around and leave for another. If you wanted to knock Space Mountain down just to make sure you got on it, then head to Animal Kingdom an hour later, you could do it.
But the reservation system essentially requires a delay between the initial arrival at the park and the park hopping. If you can make a reservation at one park, then turn around and immediately go to another park, the reservation becomes meaningless. whatever value it is supposed to have is lost.
At Walt Disney World, there may be an argument to be made that people who do this are less susceptible. Disney World is huge and getting from place to place is honestly a chore. It’s part of what makes park hopping there less interesting in general, In my opinion. Traveling between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios by Skyliner isn’t bad, assuming you don’t get stuck on it, but if you’re traveling by bus, it’s going to take a while to get anywhere. Might as well spend some quality time in that first park; it will be more fun than waiting for a bus.
But at Disneyland Resort, things are a little different. There are only two parks, and they are only a few meters apart. On the one hand, this is all the more the reason why the reservation system and limited park skipping exist. People would absolutely walk into one park and then turn around and go into the other if they could. But proximity is exactly why limited park skipping doesn’t make sense. It is just there.
Limiting park hopping between two parks so close to each other that they look like they’re in the same place is ridiculous. But at this point, it seems clear that the reservation system isn’t going away, and if it stays, the park hopes the limitations will become a necessary requirement. There is a way to technically make the reservation system work while allowing unlimited park hopping: treat Disneyland and Disney California Adventure as one location and make each ticket a park ticket.
All Disneyland tickets should be Park Hoppers
Walt Disney World is often the resort given the “blessing of size,” and while its massive scope certainly enables so much that will never be possible at Disneyland, there’s something to be said for the smaller scale of the California location. All elements of the resort, the two theme parks, three hotels, and Downtown Disney are all side by side, making them all incredibly easy to navigate.
Easily hopping between the two theme parks is one of the big selling points of the entire resort. Without it, much is lost. Having dinner at Carthay Circle in DCA before heading to Disneyland to watch the fireworks is the goal. Based on the plans that Disney presented for its planned Disneyland Forward expansion, the parks, hotels, shops and restaurants will only become a more cohesive environment, with one blending almost seamlessly into the other.
By giving all ticket holders access to both parks, we can still make the reservation system work. Disney will know how many people to expect on any given day, but those guests will have the freedom to move around the resort. Granted, Disney doesn’t know how many people will want to bring down Galaxy’s Edge versus Avengers Campus, but Disney also doesn’t know how many people will want to bring down Space Mountain versus Thunder Mountain. At its core, the reservation system works by tying a specific ticket sale to a specific attendance day, and that stays intact.
There is a big downside
There is, of course, a significant downside to this idea. If you thought Disneyland Resort tickets used to be expensive, this would result in a significant jump. A one-day park ticket currently costs you at least $164, compared to the current one-park ticket which is $104. You can be sure that if single park tickets disappeared, these park hoppers wouldn’t be cheaper.
We are therefore considering an increase of more than 50% in the base cost of the ticket. It’s not a boon for anyone’s wallet, but chances are a lot of people are already spending that money. And when you factor that cost into a Disneyland vacation, it becomes manageable. The daily cost of a ticket drops significantly when you go for multiple days, and most people do.
Of course, if I had all the control in the world, I would just eliminate the reservation system altogether and bring back tickets and park skips as before. It’s the perfect solution, but since it doesn’t seem likely to happen, it may be a better choice than what we have now. At Walt Disney World, single park tickets make sense, but at Disneyland Resort, park hopping is a way of life and it needs to come back.