Since the Disney World theme parks reopened earlier this year, we’ve seen quite a few changes.
Now, as of this week, Park Passes are available into 2022…but the Park Hopping option is available to add onto tickets being purchased for 2021. What’s up with that?! Can the two systems exist together? What’s going on?
Park Pass Reservation System
Prior to the park closures, you could start your morning in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, have lunch at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, ride an attraction or two in Magic Kingdom, and finish your day off by eating around the world in EPCOT, all due to Disney World’s park hopping system. That means you can hop from park to park to park as long as you have a park hopper on your ticket. But, that’s no longer a possibility, at least for now.
When Disney first announced the suspension of park hopping they said “visiting more than one park per day will be temporarily unavailable upon the reopening of the theme parks due to attendance limitations.” Disney has in fact been limiting the number of guests able to visit each of its parks due to social distancing requirements. According to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, the parks have been operating at around 25% capacity.
In order to maintain these capacity limits, Disney has instituted the Park Pass Reservation System. So, before walking down Main Street, U.S.A. or flying on a banshee in Pandora — The World of Avatar, you’ll need to make sure you book a Park Pass Reservation for the park you want to visit. You are limited to only booking a reservation at ONE park each day. Availability for these reservations depends on whether you’re a Disney Resort Guest, Theme Park Tickets Guests, or an Annual Passholder.
If the number of reservations allotted for a particular group and park fills up, they will appear as sold out and you will not be able to book a reservation for that park for that day. For example, we’ve seen Park Passes starting to fill up for major holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween for select guests and parks.
Park Passes Available Through January 2022
We know how the system works at the moment, so the question is how will it work in the future? If you’re visiting in 2021, will you still be required to book a Park Pass? Will Park Hopping return fully or in a modified fashion? Here’s what we know so far.
What does that tell us? Well, it means there is a definite possibility that Park Passes will be here to stay for a LONG time. It’s possible that Disney will keep the reservation system in place and continue to limit capacity in the park until COVID-19 numbers are lower in Florida, in the U.S., or around the world, considering guests visit Disney World from various other countries and states.
Disney may also continue to limit capacity until a vaccine is created and readily available. In fact, 2,000 U.S. consumers were asked if they would visit a Disney park this year and almost two-thirds said they would only think about going to Disney if a vaccine existed.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that capacity will continue to stay at its current levels. Florida has already moved into a stage where limiting capacity at theme parks is not required, and the Florida Governor has in fact approved 100% capacity at one Florida football team’s stadium. Disney initially stated that they would be reviewing the situation and would not make any immediate changes to capacity.
It is possible, however, that will change in the future.
Park Hopping Add-Ons for 2021 Tickets
But, what about Park Hopping? Is that gone forever? Not necessarily. Park Hopper add-ons for 2021 tickets are actually available right now! That may be an indication that Park Hopping will be back in 2021, but, of course, things are always subject to change. Disney could cancel this feature in the future and issue refunds, as they did with the situation this year.
Like Park Passes, this could be a situation where Disney is trying to allow guests to cover their bases and BOTH book Park Pass Reservations AND buy Park Hopper tickets so that, when the time comes, whichever option is being used will have already been taken care of by these guests choosing to book early.
Are Other Theme Parks Offering Park Hopping?
What are other parks doing in Florida? Universal Studios Orlando has two theme parks and currently park hopping IS allowed and park reservations are not required. But, their two theme parks are within walking distance of one another, which is a different situation when compared to Disney World. In fact, one of their major attractions — Hogwart’s Express — is a popular ride between both parks that REQUIRES park hopping to be able to experience.
Park hopping at Disney World isn’t as simple as walking to your next destination in most cases. For most park-hopping scenarios, you’ll need to take a car, bus, Monorail, Skyliner, or some other form of transportation to get from one spot to another.
That means more guests will be coming in contact with each other in tighter spaces. It also likely means more buses may need to be utilized to keep guest lines to a minimum since bus capacity is currently very limited.
Universal Orlando also opened well before Disney World and has utilized this simplified system for a while, so simply because Disney’s Florida neighbor has adopted some new methods doesn’t necessarily mean Disney will follow suit. Still, it may provide some evidence to Disney that at least minimal park hopping can be accomplished safely.
What about Disney parks around the World? Disneyland Paris, which has two adjacent theme parks, reopened a number of weeks ago. The resort has also been utilizing a theme park reservation system, but not all guests need to have reservations to get into the park. Guests with dated tickets or tickets purchased as a part of a package don’t need reservations. But, if you buy a “flex” ticket that doesn’t have a specific use date, you’ll need to make a reservation.
It appears that the reservation is for the resort as a whole, though, and is not limited to just one park. When we looked at the tickets available for purchase on the Disneyland Paris website, it notes that you can buy a 1-day ticket for 2 parks.
And the disclaimer on the page also says that the ticket is valid for 1 day at Disneyland AND Walt Disney Studios Parks.
Again, though the parks here are much closer than the parks in Disney World, taking away those extra transportation concerns. You can easily walk from one park to the next in mere minutes.
What about Tokyo Disney Resort? This resort also has two parks — Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Their park-hopping situation, however, has long been done differently than Disney World. If you buy a one or two day ticket, you can only enter one park per day. If you buy a 3 or 4-day ticket, you can only visit one park per day on days 1 and 2, but you can park hop on days 3 and 4.
There is an exception to this, however, if you stay at a Disney-owned resort hotel. Could we potentially see something like this introduced at Disney World where you can perhaps park hop after being there for an extended period or if you stay at a Disney hotel?
It’s possible but it doesn’t seem likely that would make things any “safer” in terms of COVID concerns. It’s not as though individuals who have stayed there for just two more days have less of a chance of being ill for any particular reason. But, it may be a way to transition the current system back to the old system while incentivizing guests to visit longer.
It’s certainly possible that we could see some kind of mix of the systems where you’ll be able to perhaps make a Park Pass reservation at 2 parks and then be restricted to hopping between those two. Ultimately, it appears that the reasoning behind the Park Pass system and the suspension of park hopping is centered on limiting guest capacity, maintaining social distancing, and ensuring guest safety.
If any of those things no longer become as pressing of a concern (due to reductions in COVID-19 numbers or a vaccine) or Disney feels they can allow for either of these restrictions to be set aside or modified in a way that still maintains guest safety, we may see them changed or potentially done away with entirely. While Disney does appear to be eager to open their parks, they are still enforcing their health and safety policies and not immediately easing restrictions simply because they are allowed to do so by the state of Florida’s rules.
A few months ago, Florida health officials noted that cases of COVID-19 have not been definitively traced back to the Orlando theme parks and one can only assume that Disney wants to keep it that way. Recently, we’ve seen certain things like stricter mask signs and announcements in the parks, so simply because things change around Disney doesn’t mean they’ll change that rapidly in the parks.
SO, yep you can currently buy a Park Hopper add on AND book a Park Pass reservation. Only time will tell which will stick around come 2021, 2022, and beyond but you can at least be prepared for either. We’re on the lookout for more updates and we’ll certainly let you know as soon as we hear any definitive changes or news from Disney.