Here’s the End Date For Disney World Really Unpopular Requirement

The theme park will be changing a requirement that came from the darkest days of covid restrictions. (Universal Studios never did this).

The covid pandemic forced Disney World to make a lot of changes. Most of those, like social distancing, health checks, and mask requirements disappeared as soon as public safety concerns allowed it.

Other changes — like ordering in advance at quick-serve restaurants — proved to be popular and while they’re no longer the only choice, they remain an option. During those dark days Walt Disney (DIS) – Get Free Report also had to make rules regarding capacity in its theme parks.

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At first, capacities were severely restricted which forced Disney World to change how people visited its parks. The company stopped selling annual passes and set up a reservation system for its four Florida theme parks.

In order to enter Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, or Epcot people need both a valid ticket and a reservation. Disney had three “buckets” of reservations, one for people staying in its hotels, one for walk-up day visitors, and a third for annual passholders.

This was the group hit the hardest by the reservation policy. Many annual passholders live in Florida and, before the pandemic, visited Disney World spontaneously. That became impossible once the reservation system went in place making same-day, unplanned visits impossible.

Now, Disney World is nearing a big change in its reservations system and some of its visitors are going to be very excited.

Image source: Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images

Disney World Drops Some Reservation Rules

Even though most of its pandemic-era changes have been dropped, Disney World kept the reservation system. That’s at least partly because the theme park giant has kept its maximum capacity levels below what they were before the pandemic.

Reservations have not proven to be a major pain point for people visiting the parks staying on property. That may be because Disney has set aside more reservations for that group. In addition, the theme park company once again allows people to park hop, albeit only after 2 p.m.

Annual passholders, however, generally don’t plan their Disney World trips well in  advance. Some of them may even visit on a whim, or drop by the parks for a meal or a ride or two (or at least they did before covid).

Now, Disney is (mostly) restoring their ability to do that as it’s dropping most reservation requirements at the four Disney World theme parks as of April 18.

What Will Disney World’s Reservation Rules Look Like?     

If you’re not an annual passholder, nothing is changing. You will still need a reservation for the first park you visit each day (and then, if you have a “Park Hopper” ticket, you can visit another park after 2 p.m.

“Under the new rules, annual passholders may visit any park after 2 p.m., with the exception of Magic Kingdom on weekends. To visit the Magic Kingdom on Saturday or Sunday — or any other park before 2 p.m.’s start of daily Park Hopping — reservations will continue to be required” Theme Park Insider shared.

That’s not the complete end of park reservations for annual passholders many hoped for, but its does allow for the return of spontaneous park visits for that group. In theory, that may also free up more reservations for passholders who weren’t planning on going to Disney World before 2 p.m. anyway.  

Annual passholders are still barred from the parks on any blackout dates affecting their particular pass.

Disney’s rival, Comcast’s (CMCSA) – Get Free Report Universal Studios never implemented a reservation system at its park. During the worst of the pandemic, it did have capacity limits that led to long lines of people waiting to get into its two Florida parks.

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