Disneyland's Popular Perk For Hotel Guests Might Start Seeing Some Changes

The original Disneyland Resort in California has announced a change to its early entry system for hotel guests accessing its two theme parks. Early entry currently allows guests at the resort's on-site hotels to access Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure 30 minutes ahead of non-hotel guests each day. However, beginning January 20, 2024, the resort will only be offering early entry at one park per day.

This signals a departure for Disneyland from the early entry system that Florida's Walt Disney World employs. At Disney World, early entry is available daily for all four of the resort's theme parks. Disneyland had been following a similar system, but now it is reverting to its pre-pandemic model, whereby guests at participating hotels could enjoy early entry admission at one designated park per day. The difference is that the old window of early entry time was one hour – versus 30 minutes under the current and new system.

Guests of Disneyland's hotels will eventually be able to see which of the resort's two parks has early entry available by consulting the Hours & Events Calendar on its website. The calendar only shows the next six weeks, so at present, both parks have early entry available every day. This should change in December once it's six weeks out from the new system's start date — but for hotel guests locking in park tickets and reservations further in advance, the updated policy could leave you choosing blind when you select your starting park for the day.

What the new early entry system means for hotel guests

Early entry not only allows hotel guests to get a head start on select attractions — it also provides early access to Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane offerings, enabling you to make paid ride reservations for later through the Disneyland app. This can be a useful perk, but its exact parameters will now be determined by which of the two parks has early entry.

Disneyland hotels are currently open for reservations through December 2024, which means the new early entry policy might also impact some guests who have already booked reservations. Disneyland has three official hotels located on the resort property: the Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, and Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. On September 28, 2023, it will add to its list of accommodations with a new tower, The Villas at Disneyland Hotel.

Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, meanwhile, is undergoing refurbishments to transform it into Pixar Place Hotel. This will bring it in line with the re-theming of the Paradise Pier area into Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure. The hotel has its own special entrance to California Adventure, so if you're staying there one night to access that specific park early in the morning, it will be contingent on whether the date of your stay happens to align with the new rotating availability of early entry in 2024. If early entry is only available for Disneyland that day, there's a chance you could be disappointed.

Other details of the new system

To take advantage of early entry at Disneyland Resort, you still need to be a hotel guest and have both a park ticket and a reservation. The resort's website notes that a hotel reservation "does not guarantee a theme park reservation or park admission," so that's another thing to add to the list of tips every Disneyland visitor should know.

With a park-hopper ticket, you can start the day at one park and then switch to the other after 11 a.m. However, if you forego the park-hopper upcharge in favor of the "one park per day" option with your ticket, you'll be limited to whichever park you choose when you make your reservation.

At press time, park tickets and reservations were available through the end of 2023 at Disneyland Resort. Hotel reservations open for an additional year beyond that, but the early entry calendar is only available for six weeks beforehand. This means it's harder for guests booking their vacation far in advance to strategically plan their itinerary around early entry.

Under the new system, if you have your heart set on a popular ride like Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, or Radiator Springs Racers before 11 a.m., you'll need to make sure the park where it's located is offering early entry that day. Otherwise, you could be left waiting in a long line with other non-hotel guests who were unable to secure Individual Lightning Lane access.