Disney World Just Announced Major Changes Are Coming
It's the news many Disney fans have been waiting for: Walt Disney World announced that it's bringing back some programs and perks that were on hold due to COVID-19. It's also announcing new benefits, all designed to make your visit to the resort much easier.
If you've followed Disney's changes over the past three years, you know there have been restrictions in place, largely in response to the pandemic. There have also been some new programs — like the Genie+ reservation system replacing the free FastPass service — that have left fans feeling frustrated when planning their trips. The good news is that Disney's latest round of updates focuses on convenience rather than more restrictions or added costs.
Here's everything you need to know about the newest announcement:
Theme park reservations are going away
One of the biggest frustrations from Disney-goers over the past few years has been the need to reserve a visit to a theme park in advance. This meant having to plan your exact days in advance, and risking a park slot selling out during busy times. Starting on January 9, 2024, you can visit any theme park without a reservation as long as you have a date-based ticket.
A date-based ticket is the standard ticket option and means you've purchased park passes for a specific time frame (whether it's tickets alone or part of a vacation package). According to Disney, for non-dated tickets (like annual passes or tickets for student groups and conventions), "theme park reservations may be required to help us continue managing attendance and delivering a great experience for everyone."
For Annual Passholders and Cast Members, Disney will be launching "good-to-go days," which are select days when a theme park reservation is not needed. These days may vary by park, and Disney says more information on this update will come.
Dining plans return
The popular dining plans have been on pause since Walt Disney World reopened after their COVID-19 closures, but they'll be returning as optional add-ons with vacation packages for stays starting on January 9, 2024. There will be two pre-paid options: the Disney Dining Plan and the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan.
If you're not familiar with how these plans work, you play a daily rate and get a set number of meals or snacks included. The Disney Dining Plan includes one table-service meal, one quick-service meal and one snack per day. The Disney Quick Service Dining includes two quick-service meals and one snack per day. Both plans include a refillable drink mug to use at your resort.
Prices for these packages (along with all Walt Disney World vacation packages) will be released on May 31, 2024.
You'll get perks for staying at Disney hotels
Though it's not new for next year, Disney announced that they will continue to offer early theme park entry for all Disney Resort hotel guests as well as extended evening hours for guests at the Deluxe hotels and Deluxe Villas. These entry options vary by park each day, so make sure to check before you go. Disney also recently brought back complimentary self-parking at the hotels.
Changes to come for Genie+
New updates address the two biggest complaints from guests around Genie+, the ride reservation service that launched in fall 2021. First is the fact that guests now have to spend extra money to skip waiting in long lines, which used to be included in the complimentary FastPass service. To help offer a better value, Genie+ now includes attraction photos taken on the rides.
The second concern was having to schedule your first ride at 7:00 a.m. on the day of your visit, rather than being able to schedule in advance. Disney announced that while they don't have specifics to share just yet, they are working on ways to help guests plan these ride reservations in advance of their trip. This means you won't have to set your alarm early just to ensure you get on a high-demand ride.
The best time to book your 2024 Walt Disney World trip
Walt Disney World reservations for 2024 will open on May 31, 2023. We anticipate holidays and school break times to book up quickly, especially for high demand rooms (like spacious villas) and popular resorts (like Disney's Polynesian Village Resort). If you're considering a trip, it's best to book a fully-refundable option ASAP.
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