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Disneyland’s Rocky Reservation Release Recap

Theme park reservations and new ticket sales for Disneyland and Disney California have now been open over 24 hours, with the rollout being a “little bit” rocky. This post recaps how things went, are currently going, park availability, and offers commentary on yet another resounding success for Disney IT!

None of this should come as a colossal surprise to anyone who read the warnings in our How to Make Disneyland Reopening Reservations post. That recapped some of Disney’s past “slow-motion train wrecks” with drop days, suggesting that many of you would become “intimately acquainted with the details of Disney’s virtual waiting rooms” (how many of you now hate the beloved Big Thunder goat?!) while spending multiple hours in a queue only to have the system crash.

This is how it always goes on Disney drop days. Some people spend the better part of a day waiting only to come up empty handed. Anyone who has tried to book something on a Disney “drop day” probably has their own horror story. As we said in the above post, these woes are predictable and inevitable until Disney IT upgrades the ‘ole Gateway 2000 they use to run the Go.com servers…

Another prediction was that by April 16, “the reservation system will work smoothly and still have plenty of availability for the vast majority of dates,” further suggesting that many of you might thus wonder why you wasted your time on the first day. We also recommended not even bothering if your visit dates were after June 14, 2021.

As pointed out there, these predictions were made with such specificity because we’ve already been down this road many, many times. So, how did things actually go? Well, you probably already know the answer to that, but in case not…

Let’s start with the good news: the virtual queue for theme park reservations actually opened slightly early!

I didn’t plan on writing a post about this, so I didn’t meticulously document times, but I entered the virtual queue at sometime around 7:50 am. I’ve heard from others who entered earlier and there were even scattered reports of some people getting in and out pretty quickly–by like 9 am.

However, that was not how things played out for most people. Paradoxically, Disneyland stated “the wait is almost over” despite a wait time of “more than an hour” for a few hours.

Around 11 am Pacific (the above screenshot is from 11:02 am) it switched from a wait time of “more than an hour” to “recalculating” for about 30 minutes, or what felt like eternity.

At 2:16 pm Pacific, I received the message that it was my turn to enter. Hooray!

In talking to friends who joined the virtual queue around the same time as me, this felt almost random. Someone who joined before me wasn’t called until 3 pm, and someone who joined at the exact same time as me was called about 10 minutes before me.

Hello, old friend! After clicking through a couple of screens, I was greeted by a familiar face, who ate my page.

Ah, the human drama of athletic Disney fan competition, the thrill of victory…the agony of defeat!

Fortunately, this didn’t really matter to me. I didn’t plan on booking anything yesterday, but was simply going through the motions to report on the topic, answer reader questions, and for fun I guess. (My concept of “fun” might be a bit warped.)

After trying a few things and hitting some dead-ends, I actually was able to re-enter the selection page without a long wait. I didn’t complete the booking process, so I’m not sure whether it would’ve worked, but at least it let me back in.

Following that, I joined the virtual queue again for the sake of further research/fun/stupidity at around 2:30 pm.

It was my turn again shortly after midnight, which I discovered this morning when I woke up. (Guess my grandma was wrong about nothing good happening after midnight!)

At that time, I was able to enter the queue immediately. Granted, it was 5 am Pacific, so most Disneyland locals weren’t up.

After 8 am Pacific, the wait time has bounced around. I’ve seen it as low as a few minutes and as high as 55 minutes. At the time this being published, the wait time is 40 minutes. I’d expect that to fluctuate throughout the day, and not going away as word gets around to people who gave up in frustration yesterday.

This has resulted in a lot of media headlines touting the intense demand exceeding the limited supply. There’s undoubtedly a degree of truth to that, but the subtext is that hordes of diehard Disneyland tried to quickly gobble up reservations. Our view is that the better angle is one of technical difficulties.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chapek on CNBC later this week boasting about “robust consumer demand” and “brand affinity” for Disneyland, spinning the ridiculous virtual queue waits as a success rather a failure. I wish that were a joke.

The reason this is not simply a matter of demand surpassing supply is the current calendar of available dates. There literally is not a single date that is fully booked–June 5 and 12 come closest, with no availability for 1-park per day ticket holders, but still options for Park Hopper tickets. Many dates, particularly weekends, are gone for Disneyland. However, there’s still plenty of availability almost every single day for Disney California Adventure–including opening day.

Our expectation is that dates will continue to book up; we’re not suggesting there’s a lack of pent-up demand. However, the slow pace of bookings indicates it’s a pipeline issue rather than solely a matter of supply v. demand. If my local McDonald’s serves one Big Mac per hour and there’s a 12-hour line as a result, the story there is not a triumph of consumer demand. It means something has gone terribly wrong. But I digress.

Getting most of this right hardly makes us clairvoyant, and it might even seem odd that we’re taking a bit of a victory lap over something that we thought was so obvious. It might even be ‘poor form’ to be doing so with regard to something that caused so many people so much frustration. Nevertheless, we hope it might be a cautionary tale, and those who aren’t glutton for punishment will take heed next time.

Ultimately, this saga of Disneyland reopening reservations is still unfinished. We have a lot of additional thoughts about pent-up demand, summer crowd levels, actual capacity, park hopping, SoCal ticket deals, and when Annual Passes will return or memberships will launch. However, all of those are premature at this point, and probably not worth burying in a post recapping woes. Many Disneyland fans who lived through won’t read anyway because the wounds are still too fresh and painful. We’ll be back sometime next week with more on some/all of those topics!

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Will you be trying to make advance theme park reservations for Disneyland or Disney California Adventure next week? Worried about availability for your travel dates? Worried about wasting your entire day on the task? Do you have plans to visit California this summer or fall, or will you hold off until 2022? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? 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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