Disney World Park Passes: How Far in Advance? – May 2022

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Five years ago, the failure-to-plan sob story was arriving at Disney World and discovering that there were no reservations available for Cinderella’s Royal Table. Fast-forward to post-COVID Disney, and it’s entirely possible to show up to the parks with your tickets and find that you can’t get in because there are no Park Passes available. Today we’ll look at recent trends to answer two questions: how far in advance do you need to make your reservations, and what does last-minute availability look like?

Park Pass Availability and Crowd Levels

Before we start, I’m going to take a minute and talk about what not to use in your planning around Park Passes. Do not use the predicted crowd levels on the Touring Plans Crowd Calendar to guess how far out you need to make your reservations. Here’s why: park capacity includes a lot of things that don’t go into crowd levels. We saw last week that crowd levels don’t line up very well with which days are sell-outs.

About the Numbers

We check reservation availability several times a day, so I used the history of availability for each date. I looked at the data for ticket-holders, which we have found in the past to be identical to availability for resort guests.

For each target date (the date the ticket was for), I looked at the previous 30 days of “query dates” – the dates on which availability was checked. Reservation availability might flip-flop a few times during the day; for each pair of dates I called the availability based on the last status observed on that query date.

Records from a single query date (May 4, 2022) against availability for the target date May 31, 2022.

The example above shows what the record for a single query date, target date, and park looks like. In this case, reservations were observed as available at 4:26 p.m., and found unavailable again at 6:24 p.m. Since reservations were unavailable at the end of the day, they were marked unavailable for the whole day.

For each park, I looked at availability both in the past, from January 1 – April 28, and the future, from May 14 – June 18. I didn’t think you’d want to look at it in the format shown above, so I made some charts.

sample of park pass availability history chart
Sample chart showing trends for dates in the past – yellow-green means unavailable.

In the above example, each row represents a target date. Each column represents a query date, but with a catch — the query dates are lined up based on how far away they are from the target date, not based on the actual calendar date. In the row for May 31, yellow-green in the column marked “t-3” means that reservations were not available on May 28.

You might notice that it’s not possible to see the actual dates in the rows. That’s because we’re using these charts to look at overall trends. We’re zoomed out way up high to look at the forest, and that means giving up some detail on the trees. So that we don’t get totally disoriented, the Date column shows us months, and the Weekday column shows whether the date is a Saturday or Sunday. The Crowd Level column is based on the observed levels, and more intense color means a higher crowd level.

Sample of park pass future availability chart
Sample chart showing trends for dates in the future – yellow green means unavailable.

The chart for future dates looks very similar to the one for the past. But it comes with some additional warnings.

Danger, Will Robinson!

These future charts were out of date and inaccurate the minute I made them. Because of course, I took a snapshot at a moment in time, and people have continued to make reservations since then. Please, I beseech you, don’t use any chart in this article to see whether Park Passes are still available for a given date. Instead, go to the Crowd Calendar, or to Disney’s reservation availability calendar.

You might notice that there is no column for crowd levels on this chart. Consider this my way of keeping you from reflexively trying to use the crowd level in your reservation planning when we already know that’s a bad idea.

A yellow-green stripe from mid-row to the end looks like passes are continuously unavailable, but remember those little blips on individual days.  This “misleading” presentation is intentional because I think that you, dear reader, want to know how far in advance reservations are readily available, not how far in advance you still might find one by stalking diligently and checking multiple times a day. That’s not how the Crowd Calendar does it, though, it counts those little blips when it shows the last date of availability — so don’t expect that these charts and the Crowd Calendar will match.

Park Pass Availability at Animal Kingdom

We’re ready to dive in and look at each park, and we’re starting with Animal Kingdom. Let’s begin by looking into the past; remember that the dates here are January 1 through April 28. (You can click to enlarge any chart).

Jan-Apr 2022 park pass availability trends for Animal Kingdom

Overall Animal Kingdom has been pretty readily available, with only the height of spring break in mid-March and the weeks around Easter in April booking up well in advance. If you peer very closely, you can see the lack of correlation between crowd levels and reservation availability that I talked about.

May-June 2022 park pass availability trends for Animal Kingdom

Looking at May 14 through June 18, that same availability continues into the future. What’s up on May 23? No idea, but it’s clearly the outlier in a sea of availability.

Park Pass Availability at EPCOT

Jan-Apr 2022 park pass availability trends for EPCOT

EPCOT has the largest capacity and is usually the last park to sell out. We can see that here; even with Easter’s high crowds only a very few days were sold out in advance.

May-June 2022 park pass availability trends for EPCOT

Whoa! What’s going on here? The rest of May certainly doesn’t match what we saw in the first part of the year. My guess? That’s people who booked reservations in the last two weeks of May hoping to score a preview or soft opening ride on Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind. If plans didn’t pan out, availability might open up for some of those dates as they draw closer.

Park Pass Availability at Hollywood Studios

Jan-Apr 2022 park pass availability trends for Hollywood Studios

In the early part of the year the pattern of sold out days in Hollywood Studios looks similar to what we saw with Animal Kingdom. One thing that’s interesting is it appears that weekends don’t sell out as fast, and if we go back and look, we can see that for Animal Kingdom too.

May-June 2022 park pass availability trends for Hollywood Studios

The difference in weekend availability is even more obvious here when we look ahead at the next month or so. Pretty much every weekday through the first week in June is unavailable and has been for some time. But the weekends still have reservations on tap.

Park Pass Availability at Magic Kingdom

Jan-Apr 2022 park pass availability trends for Magic Kingdom

Mid-March, most of April — by now this pattern should be looking pretty familiar.

May-June 2022 park pass availability trends for Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom, like Hollywood Studios, has little availability through early June and hasn’t had it for a while. Except, again, on weekends.

What to Take Away

  • Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom have the most similar availability patterns, but when demand is very high Animal Kingdom will sell out a few days later than the other two parks.
  • Typically EPCOT is the last to run out of reservations, but right now there’s not a lot of availability for the 2nd half of May.
  • Weekends do seem to have more availability closer to the date, but remember that sell-outs and crowd levels aren’t very well correlated. That increase in weekend availability could be due to Disney’s operational choices and not to lessened demand or lower crowds.
  • For Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, 4 or more weeks in advance is not too early to be concerned about making sure your reservations are locked down based on what we’re seeing right now. In fact, for these parks I’d make reservations as soon as you’re able to. If there’s still availability you can always change them later, and if not you’ll be glad that you already have them!

Already missed a reservation you wanted? Plenty of dates do fluctuate in availability. Take a look at the last date reservations were available on the Crowd Calendar; if it was only a day or so in the past then stalking might pay off for you. And don’t forget that if you have Park Hoppers, you can move to any park after 2 p.m., even if you weren’t able to get a reservation for that park in advance.

What’s your experience with the reservation system? How far in advance do you reserve to make sure you get what you want? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer Heymont has a background in math and biology, but since she couldn't pick between the two she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

13 thoughts on “Disney World Park Passes: How Far in Advance? – May 2022

  • May 10, 2022 at 2:28 pm
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    I have a strong feeling that Disney is bringing in a lot of staff (particularly to restaurants) on the weekends this summer, and that is why there are park reservations available then when there is not during the weekdays on the same weeks. I’m actually counting on it as I am not visiting any park on any Saturday during our upcoming trip in July.

    Reply
    • May 10, 2022 at 4:49 pm
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      Hey TwoBits, I agree that the difference in weekend availability feels like it should be due to Disney increasing capacity rather than there just being less demand. What I can’t figure out is why they wouldn’t just do that on weekdays then in order to meet the demand that’s clearly there, since visitors can’t be feeling like having to book so far in advance is a great experience. Unless they just can’t, still.

      Reply
      • May 10, 2022 at 7:02 pm
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        I think they just can’t right now due to a shortage of workers, whether it be due to people not applying or Disney not hiring full time workers to avoid paying benefits because it’s cheaper that way.

  • May 11, 2022 at 6:47 am
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    Our trip got shifted by 2 days at the last minute due to an airline snafu. I can’t say that the trip was ruined, but there were no reservations available on one of our shifted days, and only Epcot on the other. The family hasn’t bought in to Epcot, so we literally gave up our reservation and drove home instead. I understand the reservation system, but as the article points out, flexibility is no longer an option on a Disney trip.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2022 at 9:40 am
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      Hey Paul, so sorry to hear about your less-than-hoped-for experience. One thing I worry about a bit is that when the word becomes “reservations are scarce” people will be more likely to make and hold them, and the result will be artificial scarcity that creates difficulties for families like yours that need to make last-minute adjustments.

      Reply
      • May 11, 2022 at 12:08 pm
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        I’m in a better situation to comment, and I think it’s helpful to share the details of how it played out. We were supposed to be in the parks from Monday through Thursday, and we had park hopper passes with Genie+ prepurchased. We drove instead of flying, and arrived Tuesday night. We used our existing reservations on Wednesday and Thursday, and no reservation was available Friday, and Epcot only on Saturday, as of that Monday morning when we had originally planned to be at Animal kingdom. The guest services folks weren’t willing to create a new reservation for us that morning, and we got the advice “keep checking. Things will probably open up.”

        Cut to Friday morning. I fundamentally misunderstood how a park hopper works with reservations, and thought we could just show up at Animal Kingdom at 2pm and use our tickets, so we had a chill morning at Port Orleans. I was extremely frustrated that I was unable to use Genie+ to set up ride reservations, and went to the front desk. That’s when I learned that you *must* have a reservation for a park, any park, to go into a park, even when you are “hopping”.

        The person at the front desk was fantastic, and immediately went to the back and got their manager to create a reservation for Animal Kingdom. The next morning, instead of taking a few hours at Epcot, I canceled our reservation, and we started the long drive home.

        My takeaway is that the folks at your hotel CAN make things work out, and the closer you are to the moment you will start missing park time, the more they are willing to do on your behalf. But at the same time, be a kind person, and try to fix a reservation issue on your own before you start asking them to bend the rules, as it were.

        Hope this helps others!

      • May 11, 2022 at 10:37 pm
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        Good lord. It’s like Disney contracted the IRS for customer experience advice.

  • May 11, 2022 at 8:43 am
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    I’ve been wondering what happens with guests who show up with absolutely no reservations made in advance. I know that often times APRs can pop up as people cancel last minute, but are people really being turned away at all? Is anyone being forced to just sit at the resort one only visit Ep every single day? I’d love to hear some anecdotes bc it’s hard for me to imagine Disney refusing to let someone in the parks.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2022 at 8:55 am
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      I think it is very unlikely that all four parks are sold out on everyday of a guest’s length of stay. If a guest shows up at the front gates without a reservation, Disney can simply tell them to go to a park where there are still open reservations or to come back a different day.

      If somehow a ticket was bought and all the reservations for all the days it was purchased for are sold out, then I don’t know the answer.

      Reply
    • May 11, 2022 at 9:58 am
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      Hi Alice,

      Yes, there have been stories of people turned away at the gates for not having a reservation. I don’t know how often it happens, but as @TwoBits points out the most common outcome is probably that guests get sent to a park that still has reservations available.

      It’s worth noting that Disney will not sell you a ticket that it’s impossible to use – a 2-day ticket is good for 4-days; if all 4 parks are sold out for 3 of the 4-days based on the start date you want, you simply won’t be able to buy the ticket. But if you don’t make reservations right away, it *is* possible to end up in a situation later on where you can’t make reservations for enough days to use your ticket. It should be rare, but it can and does happen.

      Reply
    • May 11, 2022 at 11:34 pm
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      We were at Epcot around Christmas. While on the monorail to park hop to Magic Kingdom, we were talking to a young man next to us. He was in town on a business trip and decided to go to Disney. He had already purchased a ticket and didn’t realize he needed a park pass. He really was wanting to visit MK, but the only park pass available was to Epcot. He ended up having to upgrade his ticket to a park hopper so he could start at Epcot and then go to Magic Kingdom…his desired park later in the day. It made me wonder how many other people ended up having to upgrade to park hopper just to be able to go where they really wanted and how much more money Disney was making off of that scenario.

      Reply
  • May 11, 2022 at 8:57 am
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    Flexibility has become less and less of an option as years go by.

    As we enter the final stages of the most severe part of this pandemic (hopefully), it is clear the reservation system is for Disney’s benefit, not for that of guests.

    Reply
  • May 11, 2022 at 5:49 pm
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    My sister and her family were at WDW in January – they were able to make their park reservations the night before each visit to a park. One day they forgot to make their reservations and arrived at their chosen park. That park can’t have been very full because they said they could go in anyway – having said that, although they usually go around 4th July time, they said they’d never seen it so busy. We also thought it was really busy when we went in February/March but not all parks had run out of reservations. I’m hoping that, after the 50th anniversary celebration is over that there may be “slow” times in January and September once again but I’m not holding my breath.

    Reply

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