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Disneyland moves to increase parking prices at Downtown Disney

August 7, 2017, 4:11 PM · The Disneyland Resort announced today that it will tighten parking restrictions at its Downtown Disney surface lots, effective next week.

Up until now, Disneyland has offered two hours of free parking to anyone in the Downtown Disney lots, which actually are the closest lots to the Disneyland theme parks. Visitors could extend the free parking period to four hours with a validation from participating stores and restaurants in the shopping and dining district.

That made the Downtown Disney lots an attractive parking space for locals — especially annual passholders — making a quick trip to the parks. With a validation, visitors could park in the close-in Downtown Disney lots for up to five hours... and still pay less than the $20 cost of parking in the Mickey and Friends or Toy Story parking lots — Disneyland's designated lots for theme park visitors.

Even worse — or better, depending upon your point of view — Disneyland typically opened the gates on Downtown Disney's parking payment booths late in the evening, effectively allowing anyone who left after that point to enjoy free parking for the entire day in those lots. Yes, many annual passholders whose passes do not include parking are aware of that loophole, and have used it to avoid paying any daily parking fee.

Under the new policy, which takes effect August 16, getting the two hours of free parking will require a validation... which in turn will requiring spending at least $20 at any Downtown Disney location. To get the four hours, you'll need a validation from either a table service restaurant or the AMC Theatres.

There will be a 15-minute "grace period" — essentially just enough time to drop someone near the security check. After that, parking will cost $6 for each 30 minute period, to up a maximum of $48, which is what you'll pay for a lost ticket, too. The current maximum has been $36.

Oh, and don't be surprised when Disney uses that extra parking revenue to ensure that the gates remain down on the Downtown Disney toll booths until well after park close, ensuring that no park visitors get free parking at the resort anymore.

At the Walt Disney World Resort, Disney provides free parking in garages at Disney Springs, its former Downtown Disney. But Disney World's much larger shopping and dining district stands miles away from any of the four WDW theme parks, and there is no direct bus service to any of the parks from Disney Springs, making it highly inefficient to use those garages as free parking for trips to the Walt Disney World theme parks.

Replies (17)

August 7, 2017 at 4:35 PM · This is completely unreasonable. WTF
August 7, 2017 at 4:56 PM · Good! It's upsetting seeing people take advantage of the parking policies at Downtown Disney.

However, I doubt this will result in a change in the staffing of the parking lot toll booths. There has to be a return on that investment in labor hours and I suspect that they'll still raise the gates early on select evenings because the number of paid parking tickets will be minimal, just like before.

Will this deter abuse, absolutely. The beauty of this arrangement is the fact that one night some Annual Passholder will think they're going to get a freebie, but unexpected circumstances will mean the toll booths are staffed and they'll be forced to pony up.

Disney Springs is a different situation.

August 7, 2017 at 5:16 PM · I parked at Disney Springs years ago to avoid the parking fee at the disney parks. And that was the last time I will ever do it. I took whichever bus showed up to a resort which was Port Orleans. And took a bus to Magic Kingdom. It took me almost an hour to get to the parks and almost 2 hours to get back to downtown Disney (Disney Springs). My feet were destroyed.
August 7, 2017 at 9:59 PM · You don't need to staff all the booths, either. Paying to install an automated system, with one person on site to backstop, would work for Disney, as well.
August 8, 2017 at 12:05 AM · They could just lower the amount they charge for parking to a resonabe rate, and I'm sure fewer people would be looking for loopholes. I'm only $38, and I remember when park admission cost as much as parking does today. My biggest issue with this is that you'll need to spend at least $20. What if you just want to go to Earl of sandwich for a quick bite?
August 8, 2017 at 7:39 AM · This new parking policy is much less generous than Disney Springs. How can anyone spend $20 in each visit and you only get 2 hours? Theme park parking is the only alternative at $20 per entry. So forget about just going to Downtown Disney to browse the stores or get a free fireworks viewing.

I wonder if they eventually will do away with all Downtown Disney parking. Convert the parking lots into new Resort Hotels. Visitors to Downtown Disney will either have to pay the flat theme park parking fee or get valet parking at the resorts.

August 8, 2017 at 8:17 AM · Downtown Disney is a completely different animal from Disney Springs. Remember that most visitors to WDW are not locals, and would probably like to do some shopping and/or dining outside the theme parks and resorts. Meanwhile most visitors to Disneyland tend to be locals that are likely to shop at nearby malls and dine at other locations, and are clearly using the DTD parking for a quick jump in and out of the parks for Fantasmic!, World of Color, or a quick ride as Robert noted. Disney is not saying those locals cannot shop or dine while parking for free, they just need to make sure those getting free parking are actually contributing the DTD's bottom line. If not, they'll make sure that you are by charging you for parking.

As with all Disney loopholes, those that are flaunted and abused will be quickly closed. The free parking is still necessary to make DTD accommodating to locals, but the more stringent rules regarding validation will make sure it's no longer abused.

August 8, 2017 at 8:45 AM · I predict Downtown Disney will suddenly get a whole lot less busy and Disney will have to lower the amount they charge stores for rent.
August 8, 2017 at 3:16 PM · I wasn't unaware off the Downtown Disney late night parking until I went to there late at night & the gates were opened.

I was prepared to pay, but no one was there.

I agree automated stations could be installed.

August 8, 2017 at 4:58 PM · I love this and look forward to it! End the abuse, the Disney Resort is worthy of a cover charge. People who are willing to invest in their experiences tend to behave differently than those who feel they should get in for free. It never ceases to amaze me how many people feel entitled to Disneyland! Right before the holidays, yay!
August 8, 2017 at 5:12 PM · Very cool! Just in time for the busy holiday season!
August 8, 2017 at 5:33 PM · I am surprised it took this long for them to find the loophole. I am surprised I didn't find that loophole.

Then again, if you are there to eat or shop, get the validation. It is not that hard to spend $20 at Downtown Disney.

August 8, 2017 at 10:31 PM · While I have taken advantage of this loophole in the past (generally to extend a day at Knott's Berry Farm), I'm actually a fan of this change as it will hopefully reduce the evening floods of visitors. In fact, if abuse is as widespread as implied I'm surprised it has taken this long for Disney to make the change. Like I've said before, Disneyland is currently attempting to weed out the customers that don't make them a significant amount of money. If you're just there to browse, or you're parking in the lot to pop into the park for a couple hours, you're taking up space that could potentially be filled by someone who is going to be spending more money on their visit.
August 9, 2017 at 7:42 AM · Good! I loathe cheaters of any sort.
August 9, 2017 at 12:56 PM · It's not cheating or abusing when people figure out an advantage, it's smart. SoCal pass holders are not offered parking, and many of them just want to go to the park for a few hours, so why pay $20 for parking when you aren't there for a full day? If Disneyland truly wanted to reduce crowds, then just do away with the SoCal passes. Oh wait, they make too much money on those.
August 9, 2017 at 2:23 PM · It's so sad. Many Anaheim and orange county residents go to the downtown for walking, spending time with family, or shopping. 2 hours free parking "was" very good benefit for all residents, but now they will avoid to go there for sure. I live in Anaheim, and Every night, we should hear noisy fireworks sound and avoid to use the Harbor blvd for avoid the traffic. I didn't blame DISNEY for that because they are giving us some kind of benefits like downtown 2 hours free parking. But, now, we don't have anything. So so sad. Is it because of Earning fail?...
August 11, 2017 at 11:01 AM · First off, after they made the last change to DTD parking (only 2 hours of free parking), the crowds dropped dramatically. Prior to that change, my husband and I would drive for about 15 minutes in the parking lot just looking for a spot. Now, we can park all the way at the front of the lot, and I'm talking about weekends and evenings. So that makes me wonder why Disney is doing this - other than the current trend of squeezing every last cent out of their customers. The move from Netflix didn't sit well with me either. Now families will have to subscribe to 2 services. Back to the lot - we are Signature AP's with free parking, but when you just want to actually go to Trader Sams, or the fast food options at DTD, it doesn't make sense to park in the structure. TS does not validate - even though it's a 'sit down' restaurant.

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