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Disney Continues to Penalize “No-Show” Guests This Summer

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Credit: Disneyland Resort/Canva

One of the newest procedures at Disney World and Disneyland is also one of the most controversial. Some Guests love it, while other Guests can’t stand it, and some have even vowed not to return to the parks until it’s removed. We’re talking, of course, about Disney’s Park Pass Reservation System, and while some things about the system have proven beneficial in a post-pandemic world, other features of the system enrage Guests, especially Guests who are penalized as part of the new Park Pass Reservation procedures.

disneyland and disney world castles

Credit: Becky Burkett

Disney continues to penalize Guests who are unable to make it to the parks–a practice that began more than a year ago and still enrages some Guests. Disney’s Park Pass Reservation System can be tricky, and it’s not because the system is difficult to access or use. Rather, the system almost seems to create a problem where there wasn’t one–as though Disney took a relatively simple practice and made it unnecessarily, undeniably complex, and there’s no need for such complexities.

The one thing this writer will say for the Parks’ reservation system is this: at least Disneyland and Disney World haven’t begun charging Guests to access the Park Pass Calendar, which is surprising, despite that using the system is obligatory whether Guests are visiting with theme park tickets or annual passes.

RELATED: Disney Parks Guests are Spending More, Despite Outcry Over Price Hikes

Though the Park Pass Reservation System is scheduled to ride off into the wild blue yonder in 2024, some Guests are angry now about the penalties that accompany the system–penalties that seem downright unfair to some visitors of the U. S. Disney Parks.

New Changes To Disney's Park Pass Reservation System - DVC Shop

Screenshot, Walt Disney World website/Credit: Disney Vacation Club Shop

The Park Pass Reservation System debuted in the parks as part of Disney’s approach to welcoming Guests back to the parks following a four-month closure at Disney World and a 13-month closure at Disneyland Resort in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. And the system largely made good sense–back then. The system requires Guests to make reservations for the days they plan to visit the parks. But there are restrictions and limitations, which is frustrating enough. Initially, the system prohibited even IncrediPass holders from reserving more than five days in the parks at any one time, and the restrictions infuriated Guests who purchased the annual pass that boasts “no blockout dates.” But in reality, once a Guest reserved five days, the remaining 360 days of the year were essentially blocked out until they completed one day in the parks. At that point, another reservation could be made–but only one because, again, no more than five days could be reserved by any Guest at any one time. The only exception was for Guests who purchased single-day theme park tickets.

These restrictions resulted in lawsuits filed against Disney–lawsuits that claimed that the parks engaged in false advertising practices.

angry people at cinderella castle at disney world's magic kingdom

Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva Elements

If a Guest purchased a seven-day ticket at Disney World, he or she would be permitted to reserve seven park days in advance. Ultimately, the Park Pass System gave more perks and leeway to Guests who purchased single-day tickets and fewer perks and leeway to Guests who chose to make the massive purchase of an annual pass, which can cost as much as $1,399 plus tax per person (ages 3 and up). Also, no blockout dates doesn’t seem to apply when you consider that as an IncrediPass holder, you may get online to reserve days in the parks at Disney World and discover that the park you want to visit is already full on the dates you’ve chosen.

Your first thought might be, “Yes, but I purchased the most expensive Annual Pass with no blockout dates, so that doesn’t apply to me,” but you’d be wrong.

There have been some positive changes to the Park Pass System recently, but one feature of the system has yet to go away, and it’s perhaps the most frustrating part of the reservation process. In March 2022, Disney Parks announced penalties for some Disneyland Resort Guests who make a Park Pass Reservation but fail to show up in the parks on the days they’ve reserved, and the policy is still in effect more than a year later.

mickey at disneyland

Credit: Disney Parks

Kitra Remick, a Disneyland Guest, dreams of the day when the California theme park resort will end the entire system.

Remick receives multiple responses to her tweet, one of which made a valid point about sick people coming to the parks instead of staying home so they don’t infect others.

On the PlanDisney website, a Guest named Mitzi, who recently visited the parks at Disneyland Resort in California, was faced with the challenge of needing to cancel her park reservation and didn’t have the option to do so, and the thought of Disneyland’s no-show penalties was unsettling.

What can I do to not be penalized for not showing up to a reservation after I made an attempt to cancel, but the option was not available?” she asked the panelist. “I’m sure it didn’t give me the option because it was the day of the reservation; however, I made it only early that day.”

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Credit: Disney Parks

The response from the PlanDisney panelist detailed two different ways in which Guests can be penalized for being absent from the parks on the day for which they have a Park Pass Reservation. According to PlanDisney, Guests who are not Magic Key holders (annual passholders at Disneyland Resort) and purchase theme park tickets have up until 11:59 p.m. on the evening before their visit to cancel their Park Pass Reservations. If the reservations are canceled after 11:59 p.m. the day before the scheduled visit, those Guests will be penalized as Disneyland will restrict them from making another reservation until the following day.

The same penalty applies to Guests who simply don’t scan their tickets on the day for which they have a reservation. But it doesn’t stop there.

Guests who have purchased a Magic Key cannot have more than three uncancelled reservations or “no-shows.” After the third missed reservation, those Guests are blocked and cannot make any park reservations for 30 days. One no-show might not hurt, but Disneyland’s penalties for three missed reservations in the parks can be extremely painful.

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Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

As of the time of this publication, “no-show” Guests at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida are not subject to penalties. However, panelists at PlanDisney encourage Guests to cancel their park reservations as soon as they know they won’t be able to visit:

“Theme park reservations can be modified or canceled at any time without penalty. As a courtesy to other Guests, it’s always a good idea to cancel your theme park reservations whenever possible. Theme park reservations are known to fill up, and one Guest’s cancellation is often another Guest’s dream come true.”

Panelists note that failing to cancel dining reservations at Disney World within the allotted time, however, will result in penalties of $10 per person per reservation. The fees are assessed for Guests who don’t cancel and fail to show up for their reservation, as well as for Guests who cancel less than two hours before the reservation time.

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Credit: Becky Burkett

For more information about Disney World’s Park Pass Reservation System, visit Disney World’s official website by clicking here.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!