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Vote of the week: The best way to make a theme park reservation?

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Published: December 7, 2012 at 10:44 AM

How do you prefer to book your theme park vacation?

Major theme parks offer a variety of ways to buy tickets, book hotel rooms and make restaurant reservations. (Soon, you'll even be making ride-time reservations with certain packages at the Walt Disney World Resort.) But how do you prefer to do all of that - online, over the phone or by email? Or, if you just love waiting in lines, how about in person?

On the train
How do you prefer to book your tickets?

Since we're asking you this question online, I suppose it's reasonable to assume that our vote will skew in favor of the online option. But let's look at some of the pluses and minuses of all the options first.

On the Web, you've got immediacy. But it's up to you to wade through the available options. If you've got questions about potential alternatives, or can't find the exact option you're wanting, you might be out of luck. (For links to various parks' online reservation systems, please visit our How to get the best deals on theme park tickets page.)

Over the phone, you've got a couple more possibilities. You could speak with a live operator, or work your way through an automated voice menu. (Walt Disney World's automated voice menu has, uh, acquired a bit of a reputation over the years….) Operators are great for flexibility, answering questions and guiding you through options you might not have considered. But you could be on hold for a while waiting for one. And if you're not interested in exploring all those upsells - and just want to book your ressie - well, you might be in for a bit of conflict. Automated systems can frustrate, too, but at least they're almost always instantly available.

You can use email to book at some parks, too, though you'll have to wait for a response to be certain you got what you wanted. Disneyland uses email for its online restaurant reservations. And you probably shouldn't send credit card numbers via email unless you're doing so via secure connections, which I don't know that any parks use for this sort of thing.

Finally, there's just showing up and doing things in person. That's a terrible call for buying tickets on the morning of a busy summer day. But for a spur of the moment visit on a slow day? What the heck.


Please tell us some of your success and/or horror stories with making reservations at theme parks, in the comments. And, as always, thank you for reading and being part of the Theme Park Insider community. Have a great weekend!

Readers' Opinions

From Brad Jashinsky on December 7, 2012 at 11:39 AM
You've posed a great question Robert. I'm curious to see the comments and responses since my experience with Disney's reservation system has been awful.
Last week I spent a few days at the Disneyland Resort and booked reservations by phone through Disney Dining for the Blue Bayou, Golden Vine Winery, and the Carthay Circle Restaurant. I booked these reservations separately yet at each restaurant my reservation wasn't found. Luckily each restaurant was able to honor my missing reservation. I can understand one mistake, but to have 3 separate phone operators fail to properly book a reservation makes me believe there are big problems with their system. At each restaurant the host riffled through a box of paper reservations trying to find mine. I'm astonished that Disney appears to have such a low-tech reservation system.

Has anyone else had similar issues? Has anyone tried the email reservation program?

From Jack Curley on December 7, 2012 at 12:38 PM
On my last trip to WDW (which was, hey... exactly two years ago today), I was unable to book the room I wanted at Coronado Springs online. I called the 800 number to talk to an operator and find out if there were any rooms like I wanted still available at Coronado, and there were, so I booked through them. I guess I just feel like there is more potential for mistakes online, so I booked with an operator. And hey, if my choice is causing the brass at Disney to keep more people employed, rather than just directing people to the website, then I'm okay with that. It didn't take long at all.
From Melanie Howe on December 7, 2012 at 5:22 PM
Honestly, I do both. To book hotel rooms at Universal, I check online for the dates and rates I want, then I call the Annual Passholder hotline to make the actual reservations. I do this mainly 'cause we travel with our Great Dane and want to make sure the hotel knows this in advance. But also 'cause it's nice to talk to a human. We order our Horror Nights tickets the same way -- pick out our price package and dates online then complete the purchase on the hotline. This also gives us double-confirmation. We get confirmation numbers from the operator, plus it's always followed up with an e-mail.

The operators on Universal's passholder hotline are always extremely friendly and helpful, so I've never had any complaints.

From Anthony Murphy on December 7, 2012 at 5:29 PM
Dining reservations online.......yes

Get to skip the fine print! I know I need to,have tickets to get into the park to eat

From Tony Duda on December 7, 2012 at 11:17 PM
A few years ago, I booked a Party For The Senses at Epcot over the telephone. Nothing complicated, so I thought. I gave them my name and credit card number, they gave me confirmation number. For PFTS, they immediately charge your credit card, so I knew that was done before I went. I got to the World Showplace and no reservation in my name. I went to 3 different stations and there was no record of my reservation. Finally, I was brought inside the World Showplace after about 30 minutes to a computer hard wired to their system. Finally found out when they checked my confirmation number that my last name was misspelled for the reservation but not the credit card charge. Well, at least they know what's really important, taking the money. How they can screw up my name on one but not the other is still a mystery.
From Mark Hollamon on December 8, 2012 at 6:47 AM
I always book my dining reservations for WDW via their website. It is easy, you get an immediate confirmation # and email for your records, and you can also track and manage all your Disney dining reservations online if you set up an account. It is my understanding you can manage all types of reservations from that site and not just dining.

I love speaking with Disney phone reservation specialists and will call from time to time if I have any questions, but booking online is much better all around.

From Ben James on December 8, 2012 at 9:11 AM
I honestly wish you could only make reservations in person at the park, Planning that far out for a meal makes it a chore to hit your meal time rather than enjoying the park. And if you choose to change your mind you can do so. I remember my first visit to WDW and didn't know about reservations. I was starving and couldn't find anywhere to sit at a counter service restaurant. So I wanted to go to a sit-down place but I was told they had no space available. What should have been the friendly demeanor from a Castmember was someone who was unwilling to listen that I am someone who was alone and just needed a seat for one person. I was angrily refusedf even the opp to talk to someone.
From 65.35.141.6 on December 8, 2012 at 5:55 PM
Has anyone else noticed that Robert likes to sneak pictures of his good-looking family in his articles? Good for you, Robert. The only thing I can't figure out is where this picture was taken. The windows look too big to be on an airplane. Is this from a train?

- Brian

From 173.227.104.102 on December 9, 2012 at 1:12 PM
In person at the resort Hotel is the best option in MHO because you avoid the on-line service fees. At the resorts, there is usually no or little wait.

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