Disneyland has a new annual pass program. Here’s all you need to know

The previous annual pass program was canceled in January. Above, visitors take a selfie in front of the Walt Disney Statue inside Disneyland on April 30, the day the park reopened for the first time in over a year. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Disneyland Resort has revamped its 37-year annual pass program to help cut down on crowds on high-demand days, replacing it with a program that will require visitors to make reservations before heading to the parks at theme, while continuing to block access on the busiest days.

By requiring reservations, Disney officials say, the company hopes to manage the number of park visitors who visit Disneyland and California Adventure Park each day, alleviating the increasingly thorny problem of huge crowds clogging the aisles and pushing the times. waiting for attractions beyond tolerable levels. Disneyland announced details of the new pass program, dubbed Magic Key, on Tuesday.

“We know this allows us to smooth demand throughout the year,” said Disney spokesperson Liz Jaeger.

Magic Key includes four options, priced from $ 399 per year for residents of Southern California to $ 1,399 for the option with no blackout days and greater flexibility in making reservations.

The new pass program is only for Disneyland and California Adventure Park. Previous annual passes have ranged from $ 419 to $ 2,199, the latter of which includes unlimited visits to parks in Anaheim and Orlando, Florida.

While the overall Magic Key Pass prices are lower than previous Disneyland Annual Passes, the number of days park visitors can visit is now limited by the number of blackout dates provided with each option and the number of bookings. accepted. Under the previous program, most pass holders could show up at the parks as often as they wanted.

Disney representatives acknowledged that pass holders may not be able to make reservations even on days allowed by their pass due to overcrowding at the park.

Pass sales begin August 25.

Here are the options:

  • The Dream Key is priced at $ 1,399 with no block dates. The price includes access to the car parks and parking and allows the holder to select up to six reservation dates at a time. It includes discounts of up to 20% on merchandise, food and drinks.

  • The Believe Key is priced at $ 949 with 48 block dates, most of which fall around Thanksgiving and the December holidays. The price includes access to both parks and a 50% reduction on parking and allows the holder to select up to six reservation dates at a time. Discounts of up to 10% are offered on merchandise, food and beverages.

  • The Enchant Key is priced at $ 649 with 149 block dates; most of June and July and the days around Thanksgiving and Christmas are restricted. The price includes access to both parks but does not include parking and only allows four booking dates at a time. Discounts of up to 10% are offered on merchandise, food and beverages.

  • The Imagine Key, priced at $ 399, will only be sold to residents of Southern California and has 218 blackout dates, with no weekends available and most of the summer locked in. It allows access to both parks but only two reservation dates can be made at a time. Parking is not included. This option includes 10% discounts on certain merchandise, food and drinks.

Pass holders who are residents of California can still pay for the annual pass on a monthly basis, as was allowed under the previous program. When booking to visit two parks in one day, the pass holder must choose which to visit in the morning and which to visit after 1 p.m.

Pass holders can make reservations to visit the parks as early as 90 days in advance and can cancel a reservation as late as the day before a visit. If a pass holder does not show up at the park after making three reservations, Disney will not allow the pass holder to make new reservations for the next 30 days.

Some long-time holders of the previous pass weren’t impressed with Disneyland’s new offering.

The Magic Key offers devout fans less for more in a vague web of rules, regulations, advance reservations and blackout dates that make going to Disneyland as fun and spontaneous as paying tax. income, ”said Matthew Flynn of Studio City, who along with her husband had held an annual pass for the past 10 years. He said he would wait for more details before considering getting a new pass.

Hastin Zylstra from Santa Ana used to use his annual pass to visit the Disneyland Resort almost every week, but now he’s not sure whether to buy the new magic key.

“I think for me the question is still open as I am not sure how much value I will gain from it over the course of the year,” he said.

The new pass is an attempt to give park visitors the access they want while allowing Disney to better manage crowds, said Martin Lewison, theme park expert and professor of business management at the Farmingdale State College in New York.

“I think Disneyland has given back to annual pass holders as much as possible, but what they’ve retained is the ability to control capacity,” he said.

The previous annual pass, launched in 1984 for just $ 65, was canceled in January, less than a year after Disneyland and California Adventure Park closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shutdown allowed Disney to rethink the annual pass program and address the long-lasting problem of overcrowding. The parks reopened on April 30.

Over its 37-year history, the annual program has been extended, tweaked, and adjusted several times, with various levels added and blocking days adjusted based on park attendance.

When the program was canceled, Disney executives hinted that the replacement would be designed to help spread attendance, ease attendance on days of high demand, and increase the company’s revenue.

“I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface in terms of what we can do when we finally restart with some of our programs, in terms of making sure again, that not only are we improving the customer experience, but at the same time achieve adequate return for our shareholders, ”said Bob Chapek, managing director of Walt Disney Co., of the annual pass program on a earnings conference call in May.

The problem with the previous annual pass program, according to theme park experts, was that too many Southern California park fans used their annual passes to clutter the parks, discouraging tourist visits. from out of state or international visitors, who tend to spend more per visit than locals.

While Disney does not release attendance figures, a report by engineering firm AECOM estimates that in 2019, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park had a combined total of 28.4 million visitors. It has long been believed that the number of people holding an annual pass hovers around a million. According to an estimation according to UBS financial analysts, these pass holders accounted for 50% of all annual visitors to Anaheim station.

Prior to the cancellation of the previous program, the cheapest annual pass, the Southern California Select, could only be purchased by residents of Southern California and had the most restrictions, including blackout dates for most weekends. It was priced at $ 419 per year.

The Flex Pass, which could be used by anyone without restriction most Monday through Thursday, was priced at $ 649. Flex Pass holders who wanted to visit most weekends and during the busy summer months had to log into the Disneyland website or use the resort’s smartphone app to book. This allowed the parks to manage attendance on days of high demand.

The most expensive annual pass, the Premier Pass, gave customers access to Disney Parks in Anaheim and Orlando, Florida, without blocking any dates. It was priced at $ 2,199.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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