There’s no denying it — 2020 has been quite the interesting year that brought about a LOT of changes all over the world, including at Walt Disney World.
While you may be aware of some of the major changes that happened this year (like the temporary suspension of FastPass+ and fireworks), some other BIG changes have happened this year that you may have totally forgotten about. So, today, we’re breaking down 8 HUGE changes at Walt Disney World that happened this year which you may have totally forgotten about!
Let’s dive in!
Remember that time when you’d make all kinds of calculations to see if the Dining Plan was worth it for you, or take advantage of free dining, and then work to maximize your points while in Disney World? The Disney Dining Plan is something you may have planned to use for your trip this year. You may have even considered purchasing the new Disney Dining Plan Plus. But, when Disney World reopened after the park closures, it reopened WITHOUT the Dining Plan.
Disney canceled all “Disney dining plans included in packages” prior to the reopening, and has not brought back the Disney Dining Plan yet. We’ve got some thoughts on when the Dining Plan could come back, but nothing official has been shared by Disney.
In the meantime, we do have some suggestions on how you save when eating around Disney World since the Dining Plan is canceled, and we’re on the lookout for any update from Disney. With things like Park Hopping set to come back soon, could we see Dining Plans returning soon as well? We’re not sure, but we’ll let you know when we spot any more news about it.
2. Rise of the Resistance Boarding Group Sign-Up Times Have Changed…A LOT
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is an incredibly popular ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but to get on it, you’ll need to try and snag a Boarding Group. We’ve released all kinds of tips in the past to help you get a group, but this year Disney made some significant changes in the times that these Boarding Groups are released.
First, Disney changed the morning Boarding Group sign-up time to 7AM, which guests sign up for from outside of the park (since the park isn’t open at that time). That’s a pretty big deal! No more rushing to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to be the first in the gate to make sure you can settle down and grab some coffee before Boarding Groups are released. Instead, you can wake up at your Disney World hotel (or other nearby location) and sign up for a Boarding Group in your pjs. Pretty sweet!
If you don’t manage to get a Boarding Group in the morning, you can try again later in the day from INSIDE the park. This afternoon sign-up time used to be at 2PM, but Disney recently changed that to 1PM!
That one hour difference may not seem like a big deal, but it’s something you definitely NEED to know if you’re trying to sign up for a Boarding Group in the afternoon. It’s also a change that sets things up even more for the return of Park Hopping in 2021.
When Park Hopping begins, you’ll only be able to start hopping to other parks starting at 2PM (although this may change in the future). So, as Disney has explicitly noted and now as this change makes clear, if you want to grab a Boarding Group for Rise of the Resistance, Disney’s Hollywood Studios MUST be the 1st park you visit that day (and you’ll need to have a valid Park Pass for it).
You won’t be able to hop to Disney’s Hollywood Studios later in the day and sign up for a Boarding Group in the afternoon. That’s important to keep in mind if you plan to Park Hop in 2021.
Click here to check out more details about the change in the afternoon Boarding Group distribution time!
3. Dining Reservations Can Only Be Made 60 Days in Advance
Another big change that was made in 2020 was for dining reservations. Before Disney World reopened, all advance dining reservations were canceled. Guests were later allowed to make new dining reservations, but the window was shortened. Disney specifically said that they were shifting from “a 180-day booking window to a 60-day booking window for dining and experience bookings going forward to allow Guests to make their plans closer to their visits.”
This 60-day booking window is still in effect. So, if you were used to setting those alarms and waking up to make dining reservations 180 days in advance, that period has significantly shortened. That may, however, provide some more flexibility to your planning process.
With things constantly changing in terms of the pandemic, you might not know whether you’ll be keeping those Disney plans for 180 days from now, but 60 days from now may be a bit more manageable in terms of your plans. Regardless of how you plan your trip, be sure to keep Disney’s cancellation policies in mind and cancel any reservations you won’t be using so you can avoid any charges for failing to cancel your reservation in time.
Click here to read about the previous cancelation in dining reservations and change in booking window!
4. EPCOT Has Really Started to Transform
We’ve been keeping an eye out for more updates about the EPCOT Transformation, but this year we got to experience some of the changes ourselves. In terms of movies, we got the new Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along in the France pavilion, as well as the new Canada Far and Wide film in (of course) the Canada pavilion, and the new Awesome Planet film in The Land pavilion.
On top of all of that, we recently got the reveal of the gorgeous, new EPCOT entrance fountain and a barge for the Harmonious fireworks show was placed in the World Showcase Lagoon.
While some things are moving forward, however, other things have been delayed. Even though Spaceship Earth was set to close for a big refurbishment, that transformation was ultimately postponed. The Mary Poppins attraction set to come to the UK pavilion was also postponed. There’s still many aspects of the EPCOT transformation that are on the way, like the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster and more. We’re definitely excited to see what next year brings!
5. The Polynesian Is Getting a Big Refurb
Over at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, there are some BIG changes happening. The resort temporarily closed earlier this year with the rest of Walt Disney World, and while the Poly originally had set a reopening date in October of 2020, Disney delayed the reopening date of the Polynesian until 2021 to complete refurbishment at the hotel.
What will be included as part of this refurbishment? Well, the rooms at the Polynesian are getting a Moana-inspired makeover, and there are also changes coming to the Great Ceremonial House as there will be a new look with an enhanced entryway. We’ve seen the signature roof beams removed, and other signs of construction all around the resort.
As part of the refurb, the Monorail Station at the Polynesian has also been closed for the time being. We’re really looking forward to seeing the new and improved Poly once all the refurbishment is done. In the meantime, we’ll be enjoying some ‘Ohana Bread Pudding.
6. BIG Menu and Character Dining Changes
Character dining is back in Disney World at several locations, but it’s different than how it used to be. Characters no longer go up and hug you or sign autographs. Instead, they typically parade around the room and stop near your table for some socially distanced photos, although some character appearances are much more brief.
But aside from changes to character dining, there have also been some BIG menu changes. ABC Commissary and Hollywood & Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios have gotten some serious menu makeovers that we’ve been really impressed with!
The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom also got a revamped menu that we really enjoyed. And, if you’re looking for another meal with characters, Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort also got a few new menu items recently that we liked. We ALSO got to eat some of our favorites from Columbia Harbour House over at the newly reopened Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant.
So, while some menus at other locations have been reduced or stayed the same, be on the lookout for some of those spots where the menus have dramatically changed for the better!
7. The Morocco Pavilion Was Taken Over by Disney
Over at EPCOT, the Morocco pavilion has undergone some serious changes this year. First, we saw Disney file a financing statement related to the company involved in Morocco’s restaurants. Then, we shared that the Morocco pavilion would actually be fully transitioning its operations to Disney by the end of the year.
Most of the Morocco pavilion then closed as Disney prepared to take over, but lately we’ve seen some parts reopen, while others have remained open throughout this change. The pavilion remains in a bit of a state of transition, so we’ll be keeping an eye out for more changes. But, having the pavilion switch to being entirely under Disney’s control is a BIG change. We’re interested to see if any other changes come to this pavilion in the future.
8. New Security Procedure
And finally, we reach the last on our list of major changes you may have forgotten about. Previously, when going through the security checks at the Disney World theme parks, you’d have to take your purse or bag off and open it up for the security guards to open up and check.
But, that security system was changed earlier this year to a new system that allows you to walk through the detectors with the items in your bag. If the sensors go off, you may then be asked to step to the side for the security Cast Member to check your bag.
That’s a big change from the past and can help to streamline the process, and minimize contact with others.
And that’s what we’ve got on our list for the top changes you may have missed! But, of course, there have been lots of other changes at Disney World throughout this year, and we expect that there will be more changes to come in 2021 and beyond. We’ll be sure to share all of the latest details and updates with you, so stay tuned to DFB for more news!
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Which change did you forget about? Let us know in the comments below.