How to Get the Most from Disneyland's Magic Key Pass

August 4, 2021, 12:02 AM · Now that the Disneyland Resort has introduced its new "Magic Key" annual pass program, the question is - how can you get the most from it?

Knowing the value you can extract from Disneyland's new pass program is essential in deciding whether or not to buy it - and, if you do, which of the four tiers to purchase. Magic Key passes go on sale August 25 on the Disneyland website, with prices ranging from $399 to $1,399. (Monthly no-interest payments are available to California residents.)

If you want the full details on what you get for each of the four Magic Key tiers, please read our previous post, Here's the Scoop on Disneyland's New Annual Pass Program. As one Theme Park Insider reader commented, "they rolled back the prices a couple years, added the constraints of the Flex pass to every tier, renamed the whole thing, and called it a day."

That's spot on. So understanding the old Disney Flex annual pass is the key to understanding Disney's new Magic Key. That pass required guests to make a reservation for the days that they wanted to visit the park. Under the new Magic Key pass, a "Key holder" - as Disney is now calling passholders - may hold from two to six reservations in the next 90 days, depending upon which tier they own. Unlike the old Flex pass, there are no more "Good to Go" days when you can visit without a reservation. Every visit must be reserved in advance now. (And that's true for regular tickets as well as the new Magic Key passes.)

But just because you can hold only up to six reservations in a 90-day period does not mean that you can visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure only up to six times in a 90-day period. Savvy users of the old Flex pass learned how to roll over their reservations to maximize the number of visits they could make.

When passes go on sale and reservations open on August 25, let's say that you reserve that date and the next five in a row, assuming you bought the top-tier Dream or Believe Keys that allow up to six concurrent reservations. As soon as you enter the park on the 25th, that uses one of your six reservations, freeing space for you to make another to reach your six.

Since you would have reservations already for August 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30, you could then reserve August 31. By rolling over reservations in this way, you could theoretically visit the parks every single day of the year.

Of course, at some point, certain days will "sell out" and no reservations will be available. And certain dates will be blocked out for the bottom three tiers. That's where strategy comes into play. You want to anticipate the high-demand dates that you really, really want to visit the park and that are not blocked for your tier and then make a reservation for those dates exactly 90 days in advance. Then you can use your remaining reservations on a rolling basis to maximize the visits you can make to the park. Here are the blockout calendars for the bottom three tiers: Believe, Enchant, Imagine. The top tier Dream Key has no blockout dates.

Remember that you if you change your mind, you must cancel by the day before you scheduled visit. If you "no show" three times in a 90-day period, you will be locked out of making new reservations for 30 days.

So let's say that you want to visit the park every Saturday. Ignore the $399 Imagine Key, because it is blocked on all weekends. The $649 Enchant Key is unblocked for only 11 Saturdays during the 12 months from September 2021 through August 2022. If you can reserve them all, that works out to $59 a visit, plus parking. That's a better deal than you can get right now on daily tickets, but you might find a better deal with the $949 Believe Key, which is unblocked for 30 Saturdays and allows you six reservations at a time, as opposed to the Enchant Key's four. That would make it easier to actually book more of those 30 Saturdays.

The Believe Key also gets you 50% off parking, which saves you $12.50 per visit. Parking is free with the $1,399 Dream Key, which has no blockout dates and also allows you six reservations at a time.

On the flip side, if you are a southern California resident who is free to visit the park on weekdays, the $399 Imagine Key could work for you, especially if you are aggressive about rolling over your two available reservations to take whatever is available. Forget about visiting during the summer, over Christmas or during spring break - as all those will be blocked for that tier. The Imagine tier is Magic Key's version of the old Southern California Select Pass, but with the new reservation requirement.

Unfortunately, we have no idea at this point how many spaces per day Disneyland has set aside for Magic Key pass users, so we do not know how tough it will be to get reservations. With the old Flex pass, getting in was easy in its first days, but got tricky later on as more people bought that pass.

Magic Key gives Disneyland immense power to manage its crowd levels by adjusting the number of available reservations for Key holders each day, based on available attractions, hotel bookings and expected demand for regular day tickets. But that power could leave some inattentive Key holders squeezed out if they wait too long to reserve the dates they want to visit, especially in lower tiers with lots of blockout dates.

The better solution for casual fans in the area might be the current California Resident Offer (available for $78 a day from our travel partner). But if you are okay with playing the reservation game, Disneyland's new Magic Key might provide you the opportunity to get back into the parks for less money and only a little bit more hassle than before.

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Replies (4)

August 4, 2021 at 9:10 AM

A friend of mine said they are calling it the Imagine Key, because you will have to Imagine what it would be like to be in the parks, because you will never be able to get in.
Living in San Diego I’m torn. Because we do day trips on the weekends only the options that include Saturday and Sunday make sense to us, but like so many, we usually decided on a whim to go up a day or two beforehand. That’s just not going to work anymore.

August 4, 2021 at 1:03 PM

I'm actually ok with the Magic Key Pass, I had the Flex Pass before, so I was ok with reservations. Disney lowered the price a little from 2020, and added reservations, to me it's an ok trade-off. Guests got a little (lower prices) and gave a little (reservations).

The offering of the Imagine Pass tells me that they still need guests to fill in the off days. And the continuation of payment plans tells me that they still need local passholders in general. The current calendar has days wide open for reservations, either people were waiting for the annual passes to return, or they didn't want to pay for day ticket prices, or both.

Also, now the parks start emptying out earlier vs. being packed at night, because APs would come after work to have dinner and enjoy fireworks and parades. Hopefully Disney will allot enough reservations for the Magic Key Holders for people to make late reservations. I'm sure the crowd level trends will tell the story.

People say that APs don't spend much, but the Magic Key program is similar enough to the old AP program that it tells me that Disney needs APs as part of their overall revenue strategy.

August 4, 2021 at 1:23 PM

I'm guessing for most the decision will come down to Enchant or Believe. To me, Enchant looks to be the better option for a casual visitor who wants a pass but doesn't have a regular visiting pattern, while Believe is better for those who regularly visit once or twice per month, particularly if those visits are on weekends. Imagine is pretty limited, and I can only see that making sense if you have a job where your regular days off are Monday-Thursday. The top tier, Dream, also likely isn't worth the cost for most visitors as you either need to go several times a month or visit a couple times during holiday periods to make that extra $450 work out in your favor.

August 4, 2021 at 6:11 PM

My feeling is that most Legacy Passholders always used their old APs enough to get that price per day well under the daily ticket price. My family and friends easily visit 12+ times a year.

The approach I'm taking with the Keys is I'm no longer looking at the quantity of days. We know we will go 12+ a year. It's more about the quality of days to have at the resort.

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