If you’re heading to Disney World in 2021, you might want to switch up some of your tried-and-true vacation planning strategies.
If you’re a longtime Disney World vacationer — or if you’ve been studying up for years — you might think you have all of your strategies in the bag. But there have been some BIG changes recently that could impact your 2021 trip! Here’s how to do Disney World differently this year.
Switch Up Your Park Hopping Strategy
Let’s start with the good news…Park Hopping officially returned to Disney World on January 1st, 2021! But even though park hopping is back, there are currently some limitations on where and when guests can hop.
Park hopping is only available starting at 2PM, so if you choose to hop to a park that closes early, like Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you may not be left with enough time in the park to justify the transportation time it takes you to get there.
Guests still need to have a Disney Park Pass reservation for their first park of the day, and they have to actually visit their selected park before they can get into a different park. In other words, you can’t just decide to skip your reserved park and head right to a different one, even if it is after 2PM!
The parks are also still subject to capacity limitations, so you aren’t guaranteed to be able to hop to the park of your choice. Guests can call the capacity hotline or speak with transportation Cast Members for current availability. Note that so far, one month in, we haven’t seen a park at capacity and unable to hop to just yet.
With the current restrictions, you’ll need to approach park hopping a little differently in 2021. If you were a family of ride or die Park Hoppers, you might consider changing it up this year. OR, you might want to test it out if you haven’t before. Crowds are still lighter than pre-closure and hopping has been relatively simple so far. Keep these limitations in mind when deciding whether the park hopper upgrade makes sense for your family this year!
Consider a Longer Vacation
Between the shortened park hours, reduced capacity, and park hopping limitations, you might not be able to pack quite as much into one day as before.
Plus, wearing a mask all day could take more out of you than you realize. If you’re able to book an extra day or two more than you would normally stay, you can spend shorter days in the parks without having to worry about missing out on some of your favorite activities.
With FastPass not available in the parks yet, that means EVERY ride has a wait in the stand-by line. We’ve seen some pretty hefty wait times start to appear that are much more in line with pre-closure waits for popular rides. If rides are a priority for you, prepare to spend a good chunk of your time waiting in line.
Planning extra time into your trip is a good strategy before or after the closures. You could plan on spending a portion or an entire day resting and recharging at your resort, which is one of our go-to strategies for avoiding in-park meltdowns!
Give a Restaurant Another Shot
Since the parks reopened, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the meals we’ve had at several of the restaurants around Disney World. One change we’ve enjoyed is the switch up from buffet-style dining to family-style meals. We love a good Disney World buffet, but the food is typically more quantity over quality. Not anymore! Now many of these meals are worth going out of your way to check out.
Right now, Chef Mickey’s, Hollywood and Vine, and Crystal Palace have all placed their buffets on hold and are instead serving guests at their table with either family-style meals or plated meals. In our experience, this makes the experience less hectic. We’ve really enjoyed the meals that we had in these restaurants which previously weren’t our favorite in the food category!
Of course, there has been one notable trade-off with the positive changes. There are no characters at Crystal Palace at the moment, and the characters at Chef Mickey’s and Hollywood and Vine only visit from a distance.
But if the character changes aren’t a dealbreaker for you, now could be the perfect chance to enjoy these restaurants with a much more relaxed atmosphere and some menu glow-ups to boot!
Make Sure You’re Traveling at the Right Time of Year
Even if you’re a veteran Disney World vacationer and you always travel around the same time every year, you may want to think extra hard about when you want to vacation in 2021 based on the top priorities for you and your family.
There are still a number of serious health concerns in early 2021. And while there are no guarantees on how things will evolve, there’s a chance that things could begin to look a bit more “normal” later in the year as vaccine distributions progress. Or not. It’s still a bit too soon to know for sure. Either way, analysts are starting to predict it may not be til 2022 that crowd levels begin to rise to what they were before the pandemic.
There are also a number of major openings that are expected to happen in 2021. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the Harmonious nighttime spectacular, and La Creperie de Paris have all been confirmed by Disney as ready to open this year.
And there are other projects like the Space 220 restaurant in EPCOT that haven’t been officially confirmed for this year but seem far enough along to open soonish.
But none of these projects have been given an exact opening date at this point. So if one of the new attractions or restaurants is on your must-do list, you might want to push your trip to later in 2021, to increase the chance that it’s open by the time you travel.
And, of course, Walt Disney World’s big 50th anniversary is coming on October 1st, 2021. Crowds are probably going to be pretty intense on the anniversary and in the dates surrounding it. In fact, ALL types of Park Passes at the time of writing are booked up for the anniversary in Magic Kingdom.
If you’re looking to avoid the huge rush of people, you’ll want to avoid planning a trip from late September to early October unless you are dead set on being in Disney World for the anniversary.
Prioritize Your Park Passes Differently
For most of 2020, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was the hardest park to snag a reservation to visit, which is why it’s the park we STILL suggested locking down first.
But in 2021, the demand for park passes will likely shift a bit. When Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Harmonius open in EPCOT, guests will probably start snagging those park passes quick. Which means EPCOT is likely to go from relatively available to higher in demand.
As for Magic Kingdom, it looks like this park’s new big-ticket attraction TRON Lightcycle Run probably won’t be opening in 2021. That means, aside from around popular dates, this park remains fairly easy to snag a Park Pass.
With all that being said, if Rise of the Resistance is on your must-do list, try to get park passes for Disney’s Hollywood Studios for at least two days of your trip.
Only guests with park passes can get boarding groups for the attraction and it’s pretty tough to snag a spot, so you might be glad to have a few shots at it! If you get to ride your first day, you’ll still likely have room to swap out your additional Hollywood Studios park passes for a different park, if you choose.
If you’re heading to Disney World in 2021, you may need to do things a bit differently to get the most magic possible out of your vacation. Keep these tips in mind while planning to help make sure you and your family have the trip that’s perfect for YOU!