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Disney World Park Pass Refill: Holidays 2020

We’re back with an update on Walt Disney World Park Pass availability for the end of November through mid-December 2020. This time, it’s good news as availability has been fully replenished for Annual Passholders, on-site resort guests, and regular ticket holders. We’ll take a look at the changes and offer additional strategy, including recommendations for improving your chances of success in riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. (That might seem random, but it’s absolutely relevant!)

We’ve been monitoring Disney Park Pass availability since the summer, and things have been looking much better the last couple of months. There have been some many “availability dumps” to Annual Passholders that we’ve lost track of them, and even in between the big ones (like today’s) there have been smaller reallocations and refills.

The downside to this is increased attendance, which has been primarily driven by Floridians and other Southerners who now are able to visit without booking a Disney Park Pass theme park reservation over a month in advance. Obviously, no one likes longer wait times and crowds, but I think most APs will take that when the alternative is not being able to visit. Anyway, here are today’s big updates…

As of this morning, all three buckets–theme park ticket holders, resort guests, and Annual Passholders–have been fully refilled for November 29 through December 19, 2020. Prior to this, it was slim pickins’ for those dates. (Basically, what the weeks before and after the refilled dates still look like.)

This not so coincidentally starts right after Thanksgiving crowds start heading home and ends before Christmas week crowds arrive. Historically, that has been a slow stretch at Walt Disney World, but special events (e.g. Pop Warner) have helped elevate crowds in more recent years. Obviously, such events have been cancelled for 2020.

In the past several months, such a Disney Park Pass refill has precipitated increases to park hours. Early to mid-December has not seen much in the way of extensions thus far; with a few exceptions, it’s mostly still just the boilerplate hours for those dates.

Over the course of the last week, Walt Disney World has also gotten more aggressive about increasing attraction capacity with more dividers (most recent high-profile additions are on Frozen Ever After and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway) and bringing back more dining options.

However, that wouldn’t explain the Park Pass refill occurring only from post-Thanksgiving to pre-Christmas. That’s why our bet is on more park hours for those specific dates coming soon.

Park hours are usually extended late on Friday or early on Saturday. We’ll be watching what changes and (hopefully!) have another big update for you this weekend, so stay tuned for that.

One of the more interesting trends that we’ve been watching unfold the last month or so is that some dates have had more availability for Annual Passholders than for theme park ticket holders or resort guests. This is the exact opposite of what was happening early on, when it was a sea of green for the the latter two buckets, and yellow or grey for APs.

For the Christmas season, this makes sense. Those holiday weeks are popular times for vacations, and those guests tend to book far in advance. They also don’t have the more stringent Park Pass allocation limits as Annual Passholders. In short, it’s totally logical for tourists to book far in advance and APs to book for nearer dates. Still somewhat odd to see given how things started.

A couple of recommendations here when it comes to making Disney Park Pass reservations. First, anyone taking a vacation to Walt Disney World in early to mid-December should start by booking at least a couple of days at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Consider doing so on all days when you’re planning on visiting Animal Kingdom or EPCOT, in addition to your dedicated DHS day.

This is our recommendation because it’s always easier to change from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to another park than vice-versa. By the time your travel dates arrive, it’s entirely conceivable that DHS will be fully booked for every day of your trip. Same goes for Magic Kingdom on some dates, whereas Animal Kingdom and EPCOT usually have same-day availability.

Accordingly, start by reserving multiple DHS days. This gives you more chances for success with the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue. (See our newest Star Wars Rise of Resistance Ride Report that covers our experience with the modified process.)

With the new 7 am entry time, it’s now possible to attempt to score Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding passes from outside the park before you start your day. If you’re unsuccessful, you can change your Disney Park Pass reservations day-of to EPCOT or Animal Kingdom.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a contingent of Walt Disney World fans who don’t like this recommendation, deriding it as exploiting a loophole, thinking it’ll lead to crowding and other unspecified problems, or is unfair to Annual Passholders.

My simple/blunt retort to that (as an Annual Passholder) is that this whole virtual queue system up until now has been biased towards APs. Many of us have done the attraction numerous times. We don’t get to complain when the scales tip away from us in favor of other guests. As for crowd/attendance issues, that’s exactly why the Disney Park Pass system exists; it’s a self-regulating system.

Beyond that, we really don’t expect many tourists to take advantage of this strategy. For one thing, people like to plan and changing their park choice day-of is a non-starter for most guests. Be it because of Advance Dining Reservations or itineraries that aren’t flexible, but it’s not a practical option for most.

If it turns out that we’re wrong and massive numbers of tourists are switching parks at the last minute each day thanks to this supposed loophole, Disney IT can simply prevent switching Park Pass reservations after attempting to join the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue. If this is truly a problem that needs to be fixed, Walt Disney World will do it. This should go without saying, but it’s not our job as fans to police others’ behavior on behalf of the multi-billion dollar corporation.

For Annual Passholders, dates the next couple weeks in November are already filling up. There’s nothing at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and even other parks are running out of Park Pass options on the weekends and Thanksgiving week. This isn’t just DHS, either. It’s every park–even EPCOT is out of availability this Saturday.

Nevertheless, if you’re a local Annual Passholder, we wouldn’t recommend booking reservations super far into the future unless you need Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a weekend, any park during peak holiday dates, or have another must-visit date. Upon quickly glancing at the calendar, you might disagree with us, thinking it’s “necessary” to book weekends far in advance given the shortage of near-term options.

This is because the bucket of reservations for Annual Passholders is regularly refilled for dates in the immediate or near future quite often; it’s just usually not as big of an inventory dump as this. Even for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there have been countless times when next day availability opens up at the last minute. If you use all of your Disney Park Pass reservation allotments on distant dates, you can’t scoop those up.

Ultimately, some Annual Passholders locking in their dates far in advance (and thus not competing for closer dates) benefits everyone else. So we are thankful for those individuals. However, if you’re reading this blog our goal is to offer advice to help you “beat” the masses, and this falls within that purview. Unless something changes dramatically (always a possibility in these uncertain, ever-changing times), the much better approach right now is making reservations for closer dates, having a strong refresh game, and checking the availability calendar–especially on Thursday evening and Friday morning.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have any luck scoring Disney Park Pass reservations with this new inventory dump between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2020? What’s your take on the best Park Pass strategy? Do you agree with our suggestions for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or think that’s a loophole that shouldn’t be exploited? Do you agree or disagree with any of our other commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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