How I Will Approach Disney Park Reservation Bookings
Starting on June 22nd, Disney fans will do something that we’ve never attempted until now.
Potential park visitors will head to DisneyWorld.com. There, we will explore the Disney Park Pass System and book park reservations.
Since nobody’s ever done this before, we’re all just guessing on the best way to proceed.
So, I’m going to play the Guinea pig here and post two articles about my experience.
Today, I’m going to explain how we’ve decided to approach our park bookings.
After we go through the process on Monday, I’ll circle back and explain how things went and what I had right/wrong so that you can learn from my mistakes.
Before the pandemic ever began, my wife and I agreed to visit Walt Disney World for Halloween, just like we’d done three out of the last four years.
We’d scheduled this trip using Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points, which I’m mentioning in case that causes later problems.
The pandemic has messed up a lot of stuff behind the scenes for Disney executives, but DVC suffered more than most.
Disney must honor state and federal real estate laws for this system. And it’s a problem that more than 25 percent of hotel stays this year weren’t possible.
DVC members will face hotel availability issues through the end of 2021 due to the pandemic.
Our scheduled arrival date is October 29th, and we will stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort for the first two nights.
We’ve scheduled the third night (Halloween) at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and then we’ll switch to Disney’s Old Key West Resort for the final two nights.
So, it’s a six-day, five-night Walt Disney World vacation.
The General, Pre-Pandemic Plan
Our needs and goals here are insignificant compared to most visitors because we’ve traveled to Orlando twice since Halloween of 2019.
We did more at parks during our most recent Disney trip than we ever had up until then.
For these reasons, this trip is more about shopping, relaxing, and hanging out with friends.
Speaking of which, we’d planned to spend time with two other families. One is my brother and his wife, who is a top fan on MickeyBlog’s Facebook group (hi Patti!).
Another is a dear friend who runs a couple of websites with my wife and me. So, our theoretical traveling party consists of eight people.
Due to the pandemic and the recent uptick in cases in Central Florida, our friends are reconsidering. They may prefer a trip in January or February.
My brother has similarly suggested that they may spend two weeks at Disney next February instead.
Yes, we’re having to plan a trip that could be either a romantic couple’s getaway or involve three different parties.
That’s what Coronavirus has done to Disney fans. It’s wrecked all plans.
Since all three parties visit Walt Disney World frequently, all of us could easily skip or delay a trip.
However, given the daily struggles that have cropped up during the Great Shut-In, we’ve all looked forward to a Walt Disney World escape.
More than anything, none of us wants to give up the dream of the Disney Bubble right now.
With so many variables in place, planning this trip comes with many challenges, though.
How We’re Approaching the Park Reservation System
In the author’s bio in one of my books, I say that I’m a Park Hopper with sore feet.
That’s a quip, but it’s based in truth. My wife and I are aggro during our Disney trips. We walk at least 25,000 steps on most Disney “vacation” days.
So, the most significant change for us is the elimination of Park Hopping. I’ve literally never visited Disney as an adult without Park Hopping.
This one change disrupts our planning process and forces us to reevaluate the parks in a way that we’ve never done before.
For example, we usually arrive at Orlando International Airport by 11 a.m. If we take a later flight, should we even go to the parks on the first day?
We would be taking a reservation from someone else who might use it more. Also, we wouldn’t get to spend much time at the parks.
The Walt Disney World calendar shows park hours that end between 6 and 9 p.m. in October.
If we don’t touch down in Orlando until 2 or 3 and then go through Magical Express, we’d only have a few hours at the parks.
Is making a park reservation for those days worthwhile? And is it selfish? We’re still weighing those options.
Which Park on Day One?
Due to the pandemic, we still haven’t even decided whether we’ll fly yet. However, a glance at flights indicates that we’d arrive in the 10:30 a.m. range as usual.
So, we will attempt to book a park reservation for day one. And this arrival date becomes the easiest to decide.
Since we’re staying at a monorail resort, we’ll prioritize booking park reservations for Magic Kingdom first and EPCOT second. They’re the simplest and fastest to reach from our hotel.
After that, we’d select Disney’s Hollywood Studios since it’s open until 8 p.m.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is undoubtedly our last resort option since it closes at 6 p.m.
Our best-case scenario probably puts us at this park at 1 p.m., which might not be enough time to experience everything.
I’m not sure due to Disney’s capacity limits during the pandemic. Predicting for July isn’t easy; for October, it’s virtually impossible.
Deciding on the Other Days
Remember the four parks, four days tickets? Disney sold a slew of those for a good reason.
The idea appeals to many customers. When people visit Walt Disney World, they want to see and do everything possible.
We’re taking the same approach with our next visit. We’ve determined our most essential criteria for this trip.
Visiting each park is highest on that list. The second-most important aspect is experiencing Disney’s two newest attractions.
We want to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at least once each on this trip.
Then, we must decide what to do on our fifth day, the extra as it were.
Our choices come down to Magic Kingdom, which has the most to offer at Walt Disney World, and EPCOT, which should still have a festival going.
Disney has confirmed that the 2020 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival will begin on July 15th and last throughout the fall.
We’re massive festival fans and would happily spend a lot of time at EPCOT.
Plus, the World Showcase hosts plenty of activities, amenities, and attractions that we love and even a few we’ve never experienced.
Our Current Plans
So, we’ve decided that we must do EPCOT and Magic Kingdom at least once and possibly twice.
Then, we’ll also attempt to book full days at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well.
However, Animal Kingdom lists shorter operating hours and a 6 p.m. closing on many dates. So, it’ll leave more of our night open.
We’re viewing this date as a secondary kind of Park Hopping. We’ll leave Animal Kingdom, return to our hotel room to clean up, and then spend the evening at Disney Springs.
Depending on the crowd levels, Disney’s Hollywood Studios might be even more extreme.
Even with the latest editions at Hollywood Studios, we can still experience most of the park in six hours or so, which gives it plenty of time afterward to explore Orlando.
In fact, we’re seriously contemplating doing something drastic here. We may *gasp* leave the Disney Bubble and explore other parts of town some!
There’s even a chance that we spend one day at Universal Orlando Resort. A lot depends on how well the park reservation bookings go.
Our itinerary, written in pencil (not pen), is:
- Day one — Magic Kingdom
- Day two – EPCOT
- Day three – Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs
- Day four – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Day five – whichever we can get of Magic Kingdom or EPCOT
Some Advice for You
Obviously, everyone faces different criteria with their Walt Disney World vacation decisions.
However, my debates will share some similarities with yours. Here are a few things you should consider before you book park reservations:
- Do you have a favorite park?
- Is there an order you’d prefer to visit the parks?
- Does a park’s early closing impact your enjoyment any?
- If you can’t book reservations for a day, what else can you do for entertainment? (I’ll write a future article with some suggestions.)
- Does Hollywood Studios offer enough entertainment for a full day?
- Which parks should you do first/last?
- How much more/less walking will you do without Park Hopping?
- What time will you arrive in Orlando, and should you visit a park that day?
- Are there rides you have never done yet? If so, you may want to get multiple reservations at the applicable park to ensure you ride them.
Finally, I strongly suggest that you read MickeyBlog and other fansites to identify things you’ve never done at Walt Disney World.
This trip is the perfect time to try new stuff beyond the parks.
Oh, and remember the potential positive here! You may decide that you like this type of vacation better because there’s less pressure.