Disney is always changing one way or another. Whether prices are being adjusted, attractions are being closed and opened, or guest habits are varying; you’ll usually spot SOMETHING different year-to-year in the World.
This is especially true in the wake of the global health crisis. A lot had to change in a very short time. Some of those changes are going to disappear while others may be permanent. It’s entirely possible that a 2022 Disney World will look TOTALLY different from a 2021 Disney World (which was already a weird enough year to begin with!).
So, if you’re looking at taking that Disney trip in the next few years, you might be wondering if it’s better to schedule for this year or hold off until 2022. We’re here to help! We’re taking a look at the biggest differences and whether you should get that trip set for this year or next!
Health Measures and Concerns
We’ll start off by addressing the biggest collection of recent changes — health concerns and measures due to the global health crisis. As we kick-off 2021, it is overwhelmingly clear that health concerns are still very prominent.
Disney has continued to offer pared-down festivals like the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts and the Taste of EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival, high-demand events have gone virtual (like the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend), and health and safety measures — capacity limitations, mask mandates, temperature checks, social distancing, and more — are all still in effect in early 2021.
Now, a vaccine is in the process of being distributed. It will take some time to fully distribute throughout the country, but it’s a positive sign that some return to “normal” could be on the horizon. Still, we’re not sure how soon we’ll see a return to normal and if a vaccine will even allow us to completely get back to how everything was prior. It’s still very unclear how long these measures might be in place.
That said if things do go well and the vaccine is distributed and functions as it should, Disney could have more wiggle room to be able to provide guests a safe experience without so many restrictions. We’ve already seen some offerings return such as hotel reopenings, the return of park hopping, and some very limited fireworks. If this trend continues, then 2022 could likely see fewer health regulations than 2021.
If you’re betting on hugging Mickey, watching Happily Ever After, visiting Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, or the like; 2022 might be your better bet. But don’t start packing your bags just yet! There’s no guarantee when or IF these offerings will return, but the more time we put between ourselves and the crisis, the more likely it is that they’ll be an option once again.
This factor is kind of complicated, so if crowd levels have a big effect on your vacation, you’ll want to listen up.
Crowds are currently capped at 35% in the parks, which is a little bit more than a sold-out holiday party in Magic Kingdom. That means wait times sometimes feel more “normal” when you’re seeing an hour plus wait for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and sometimes seem low, like the ones we saw during New Year’s week. There’s a big flux to it, so traveling in 2021 doesn’t guarantee you’ll get mystically low wait times. What we’ve really seen is the crowds ebbing and flowing. You can’t check a crowd calender or anything like that right now and know what to expect.
Sometimes, you have a lot of space in the park, but pinch points are common where folks end up crowded together. We’ve found ourselves in Adventureland at times where it looks packed with people. Social distancing is possible with heavier crowd levels, but it isn’t always easy. If it’s a priority for you, you may need to be ready to take alternate routes when you see crowds forming in the parks.
As we mentioned though, there are still times in some parks where it’s very easy to socially distance and it can even feel like you practically have a land all to yourself. The takeaway here, again, is crowds are pretty unpredictable right now. Christmas crowds AND New Year’s crowds definitely weren’t to the same extremes we’ve seen in years past (even scaled down to match the capacity cap). We’ve been surprised by crowd levels — both high and low — over the past couple of months.
If a low-crowd Disney World is something you want to experience, then visiting sooner rather than later might be a good option for you. The more time that passes, the more folks will LIKELY feel comfy traveling again and Disney could see demand return.
Now, there is an exception to this point. October 1st, 2021 is Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. This day is already booked up for Park Passes for Annual Passholders in Magic Kingdom, and it’s likely that such a historic event could pull BIG crowds in the weeks immediately before and after. In addition to usually busy times like holidays, those who are looking to avoid crowds will want to avoid this time of the year.
Analysts predict that Disney will start to return to a normal level of operation in 2022, so those typical crowds may possibly be back in full swing by next year. Plus, in addition to typical crowded times, EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary takes place on October 1st, 2022, which may have a similar draw as the Disney World anniversary this year. That’s a good time to avoid if throngs of people and long wait times aren’t your jam.
But, there’s a case to be made specifically for planning visits around these and other events. If you’re a big Disney buff and want to be a part of these special anniversaries, that can DEFINITELY be a deciding factor as to which year you choose. Not much is known about the special events Disney has planned for the 50th (barring some BIG openings, more on that in a minute 😉) but it could be major fun. And the EPCOT Transformation has the aim of being mostly completed for the park’s 40th, so there will surely be a lot to see. If you specifically want to be there for one of these events, that can mean you’re locked into one year or the other.
These major anniversaries aren’t the only events that could have an effect. As we mentioned, we’re still seeing events canceled and shifted to virtual in early 2021, so if a crowd-drawing event is a must for you, holding off until 2022 could be the safer bet.
Since we don’t know when it will be safe for crowds to gather, fireworks to launch, and parades to dance down Main Street, we have to consider the possibility that 2021 won’t see the return of some of our favorite offerings. If you’re hoping to experience an EPCOT fest to the fullest, attend one of Mickey’s holiday parties, or participate in a runDisney event, 2022 might be a safer bet.
Prior to the global health crisis, 2020 saw a ticket price increase to Annual Passes for Disney World. We’re overdue for a regular ticket price increase so it’s entirely possible that an increase could come as demand returns to Disney World.
Beyond that, the country is currently in a recession and the nature of the crisis means that people are hesitant to travel. As we’ve seen from historical events, Disney has offered some pretty major deals in these sorts of instances. As time goes on and demand returns, Disney will have less of a need to draw guests in with steep discounts and special offers. That’s not to say there will be NO special offers, but it’s possible that the sooner we go, the better offers we’ll get.
So, if you’re looking to save on tickets or resort hotel bookings, traveling in 2021 could be the safer bet. We’ve already seen some serious discounts on rooms at Disney World for much of 2021. We’ll be waiting to see how tickets fare as the year progresses.
As a bonus, airfare is HISTORICALLY low right now. We’re talking half or more off compared to what you might be used to just over a year ago. We could see those prices shoot up as people begin to travel more and airlines look to recoup revenue. If you’re comfortable flying, you could save on travel by scheduling your trip sooner rather than later.
Finally, let’s talk about some major openings. Both 2021 AND 2022 will see the opening of some major Disney World attractions. If you’ve got your eye on a new ride, this is something to consider!
Beyond that, we’re looking forward to the completion of the EPCOT Transformation, Play Pavilion, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, and more. The highly-anticipated TRON Lightcycle Run in Magic Kingdom was projected to be finished in 2021, but has since been delayed. These things are likely to open in the next two years, and you can stay tuned to DFB to see what’s coming when!
If you HAVE to ride Remy’s ASAP, 2021 is your year. If you don’t want to pay for a ticket just to stare at construction walls in EPCOT, 2022 might be the better bet (and towards the end of the year at that!).
Note! You do have the option to change or cancel and rebook your trip later based on how things develop.
If you’re really torn between 2021 and 2022, it might make sense to book a 2021 trip and then reschedule if things you’re hoping for this year don’t end up happening or returning. If this is a good fit for your family, don’t forget it as an option!
Cancellation policies and fees are currently waived through the end of April. Of course, that could change, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on this if you’re considering this option. Change fees are less of an issue than cancellation. Trip changes are subject to availability and you’ll need to pay a difference in price, but as long as changes are made prior to 30 days out from arrival, you likely won’t incur a fee.
Beyond that, whether you book your room and tickets separately or book a package, discounts are often available. You can keep up with these by staying tuned to DFB and checking the Disney World special offers website page.
If you want to know for SURE what fees and discounts you could encounter, we recommend using a travel agent (like our pals at Small World Vacations!). Using an agent is completely FREE and it’s THEIR job to make sure you don’t pay a cent more than you need. We’ve had great experiences with Small World Vacations and can confidently recommend them for your own trip.
So, should you book a 2021 or 2022 Disney World vacation?
You should book in 2021 if…
- You’re hoping to take advantage of lower crowd levels.
- You want to keep those ticket, room, and travel prices as low as you can.
- You want to ride some of the newer attractions ASAP.
- You’re okay if things are still up in the air in terms of events and offerings during your trip.
You should book in 2022 if…
- You want Disney World to be as “back to normal” as possible.
- You’ve got your eye on a special event.
- You want to see a mostly finished EPCOT next time you’re there.
- You’d rather not take any chances and you’re spending enough on this trip that it really needs to be perfect.
But it isn’t always that simple! This decision ultimately comes down to what you decide is best for your family. Check with everyone in your travel party to learn what they want out of a Disney trip and then use this article to decide which year is best for you. And remember, if you have any questions feel free to reach out in the comments and we’ll be happy to help!
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When are you headed to Disney World next? Tell us in the comments!