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From nearly the first day that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was announced, it was clear that the demand for the new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World was massive. Millions of Star Wars fans could not wait to see what the new attraction had to offer. We knew that the crowds trying to get into the land were going to be unlike anything the parks had ever seen, meaning that a lot of people were planning to hold off their trip to Disney until the crowds died down. But based on the new information we have about Galaxy’s Edge’s opening, going sooner rather than later might actually be the better option. Because the crowds may not be quite as crazy on opening day as we thought.
Last week during Disney’s annual shareholder meeting, Bob Iger officially announced that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open at Disneyland May 31, and at Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World August 29. There will be one major caveat, as Rise of the Resistance, one of the major E-ticket attractions, won’t be up and running on opening day, but don’t expect that to keep people away.
What will, however, is the tiny detail that came out in a Disneyland press release alongside Iger’s announcement. At Disneyland, getting into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will require a special reservation between May 31 and June 23. Without this reservation, you won’t get access to the land.
Based on the language used, it sounds like guests staying in one of the three Disneyland Resort hotels will automatically receive a reservation, one per guest staying in the hotel. Beyond that, things get hazy. It says reservations are "subject to availability." Does that mean that not everybody making a hotel reservation will get a Galaxy's Edge reservation? It sounds more like there might potentially be some reservations for non-hotel guests, but it's all less than clear right now.
What is clear is that while the reservation for Galaxy's Edge might not cost anything, if you want to be sure you'll get in opening day, you'll want to spring for a Disneyland Resort hotel.
According to Disney, there are 2,402 hotel rooms available between the Disneyland Hotel, the Paradise Pier hotel and the Grand Californian. If we assume there are four people per room (some may only be couples, but others, like the larger suites, could hold a lot more), we're looking at 9,608 people staying in the hotels at any given time. Most will be staying for more than one day and would likely only get a Galaxy's Edge reservation for one day of their stay, but there are likely more than enough people to fill the new land from the hotel guests alone if they sell out.
As of this writing, they haven't. You can make a reservation for opening weekend at any of the three Disneyland Resort hotels. However, many different room types have sold out, so people are certainly making their plans right now.
Without the specifics, there’s a lot we don’t know. Will these reservations give you access for the entire day? Will you be able to enter and leave and your leisure? It's hard to say.
While the details are important, the broader point is clear, there’s no reason for the mass of humanity that was expected to show up on opening day of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to bother, because they simply won’t be able to get in.
Even if Disney offers as many reservations at the same time as it possibly can. Even if it fills Batuu to maximum capacity, getting into the land itself will seemingly be a lot easier because only people with reservations will be trying.
What’s more likely, however, is that Disney will give out fewer reservations than it technically can, especially during the first few days of Galaxy's Edge. This will allow the first group of guests to test everything in the land. It’s going to be the theme park equivalent of a video game closed beta test. Let a few people try it first before we open things up to the public just in case somebody finds a way to break something in a way that wasn’t expected.
Keeping with the video game analogy, after the closed beta, you open things up and allow more people in. You try to intentionally put as many people in the game at once as possible to make sure the servers, or in this case, cast members, can handle it. That point will come when the reservation period ends and anybody can get in.
I’m not saying there will be so few people there that it will feel like the park is empty. I would still expect to wait a few hours for Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run since it will be the only active attraction after all, but there's every reason to believe that the earlier you go, the smaller the crowds will actually be.
Early estimates were putting the opening day crowds at 150,000-200,000 people, which is far more than the park can actually hold, but most of those people will now be staying home on opening day because, without a reservation, they’re not getting in.
Instead, the day to look out for is June 24, the first day that reservations will not be required. That could end up being the day it everybody who could not get a reservation shows up. Everybody with an AP who couldn’t get in earlier, every local that wasn’t going to drop money on a hotel room just to get a reservation, they'll be swarming in. From that day, and for likely a long time to come, Galaxy’s Edge is going to be packed, likely far more than it will be during the earlier period.
The good news, or bad news depending on your perspective, is that all of this will only be true at Disneyland. There will be no reservation period at Walt Disney World's version of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. If you'll be seeing that version of the new land first, you're on your own, and showing up opening day may not the best idea.
One wonders if Disney will be more confident in that park on opening day because it's happening so much later, or if putting together a reservations system would have simply been too complicated because there are so many more Walt Disney World hotels, so comparatively few people would get access.
Once reservations are no longer required, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will be a free-for-all. However, for three weeks before that, it looks like the new land will be under much tighter control, so if you want to avoid crowds as much as possible, going sooner, not later, may be the answer.