Note that this post has been updated to reflect what to expect at Disney World in the summer of 2022.
So, hey, we hear you might be planning a trip to Disney World this summer!
But before you start planning, we’ve got some tips, tricks, and information you’re going to want to know about! Whether this is your first trip or your 100th, things are still pretty different in Disney World. So hang on to your Minnie ears, because we’re going to tell you what you need to plan your trip and do our best to guarantee you have a GREAT time!
So going to Disney World this summer is a little different than it’s been before. If you haven’t been to the parks in a few years we’re going to try to prepare you for everything.
Trip Planning Changes
Let’s start with Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs). Basically, if you plan on sitting down at a restaurant to eat at all on your trip, you need to know all about these! You used to be able to book these 180 days in advance, but you’ll need to know that you can now only book them 60 days in advance. That COULD change before summer, but we’ll let you know if it does!
We still HIGHLY recommend booking reservations for restaurants you plan on dining at on your trip. Disney has come out with a same-day option though. Called the Mobile Walk-up Waitlist, this allows guests to see any day-of tables available at nearby restaurants. This is convenient but not the most reliable. So if you’ve got your heart set on a specific location, plan ahead.
Early Theme Park Entry
Remember Extra Magic Hours? You used to be able to stay at a Disney resort and get some extra time in the parks in the mornings and evenings on specific days for each park. Well, those are gone. Disney has introduced a similar-but-different program simply named Early Theme Park Entry. This lets Disney hotel guests get into ANY park 30 minutes before it officially opens.
So, when you look at the park opening hours, the time you can get in is actually 30 minutes earlier!
FastPass doesn’t exist in Disney World anymore. It was taken away when the parks shut down and never returned. Instead, it has been replaced by Disney Genie+. Disney Genie is a free planning tool you can use through the My Disney Experience app to help you create customized itineraries and maximize your experience in Disney World. Part of Disney Genie is Genie+, which is the paid system that has replaced FastPasses.
It costs $15 per day, per person and you can’t buy it until the day of your park ticket, starting at midnight. Genie+ gives you the ability to make Lightning Lane reservations for dozens of attractions around the parks. The Lightning Lane is basically just the old FastPass lanes — they allow you to skip the majority of the regular line. You can only make 1 Lightning Lane reservation at a time, with the exception of the 120-minute rule, which you can read more about here.
There are also some rides that aren’t included in Genie+, but you can buy Lightning Lanes for them individually. Their prices change depending on demand, and they can also sell out.
Park hours are also a LOT different and you’ll need to check the official Disney World website for your trip dates (and check OFTEN because they change frequently). Most parks aren’t open super late in the evenings, although hours do occasionally get extended when Disney expects bigger crowds.
In general, expect shorter days that you might be familiar with (sorry, no more 8AM-2AM days for now!). You’ll see earlier evening closes, especially at parks like Animal Kingdom. This means if you want a chance to see Pandora at night, you are pretty much out of luck for the time being!
Another thing to note is that restaurants and shops do not have the same hours pre-closure — it’s always a good idea to check the official Disney World website for opening times and days. Some restaurants are even only open on weekends or during busy times, so before you make plans to eat somewhere, make sure it’s open! We post regular updates on hours here, so check with us, too!
If you’ve been to Disney in the better part of the last decade, you’ve likely encountered MagicBands. These little wristbands serve as your tickets, open your Disney hotel room, can make charges to your credit card, and much more. Sadly, the days of free MagicBands are over. BUT, you can easily still use MagicBands from previous trips or buy your own.
A huge push to allow guests’ phones to perform many of the functions of a MagicBand has been happening at Disney World recently. Now your phone can open your hotel room door, and even function as your ticket! You can also access most of the MagicBand features through the My Disney Experience app. Or, you can get a free Key to the World card that lets you do almost everything you previously did with a MagicBand.
And, Disney is actually releasing completely NEW versions of MagicBands called MagicBand+ sometime this summer. They will have more functions and features, like lighting up when you scan in and during fireworks shows, as well as allowing you to interact with things like the 50th character statues!
My Disney Experience and Mobile Order
Speaking of My Disney Experience, you’ll need to be comfortable using the app, if only to use Mobile Order. Almost every fast-food-style restaurant at Disney World now requires you to place your order via the app (with rare exceptions like guests requiring the assistance of a Cast Member or those paying in cash). Familiarizing yourself with how it works first will save you a lot of time and frustration.
You can download the My Disney Experience app from home and start playing around with its features before you ever step foot in Disney World! Trust us, knowing the ins and outs of the app will help a LOT!
What’s Recently Returned
If you’ve been to Disney World in the past couple of years, you will have noticed that some of the usually activities, attractions, and entertainment wasn’t available. But now, a LOT of things have returned! Many character meet and greets are back, a lot of character dining has returned to normal, buffets have returned to many locations, parades and shows are back, and more.
But, some things ARE still missing. If you’ve enjoyed the Disney Dining Plan in the past, that is still not available at this time. Disney has said it WILL return, but has not mentioned when it will return. Again, this is something that could change, so keep checking back with us to stay updated!
One thing you can (just about) always count on is visiting Disney World during one of EPCOT’s festivals — these days, it seems like there is ALWAYS a festival going on. The EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival is running all the way into July this year. And the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival is kicking off soon after, on July 14th! It’ll run through November 19th.
Summer used to be the big “no fest” time of the year in EPCOT but the festivals have started to run longer and longer. A summer trip now means you can likely plan to enjoy all the festival fun EPCOT has to offer! So you might want to plan ahead for festival activities and foods in advance! Again, we cover EVERY festival, so be sure to check with us if you want to know what’s going on!
Things have really been picking up at Disney World. Though the parks were almost like ghost towns in 2020 after reopening, people have definitely returned to the parks. We’ve seen big crowds at the parks pretty frequently — and we’re expecting that trend to continue into the summer.
Disney World has increased its capacity, which means you can expect big crowds during the summer months.
Compared to last summer, a BUNCH of stuff has reopened in Disney World! ALL of the hotels are now open and many restaurants like Boma, Flying Fish, ‘Ohana, and more are back. There are only a handful of restaurants that remain closed.
What’s Still Closed
Some entertainment may never return to Disney World. Some performers were laid off in 2020, including many of our favorites — the Grand Floridian Orchestra, the Citizens of Main Street, and more. Disney has not revealed if this entertainment will return, but we’ll keep you updated.
So you’re going on a summer trip. Guess what that means? It’s going to be HOT and HUMID. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to stay hydrated — drink lots of water. And don’t forget, you can get free water at the parks rather than pay for an overpriced bottle of water (or bring your own). You might also want to consider bringing a cooling towel or portable fan for your own personal comfort.
What about those masks? Whelp, masks are no longer required in most places in Disney World. So, it’s up to you if you want to wear one. You do have to wear them in specific places like the first aid centers, though.
If you have a foldable raincoat or poncho, bring it with you to the parks. Disney sells ponchos but they’re…pricey!
Being summer it likely will rain. And it will be random. Florida is notorious for sudden rainstorms, and that’s even on days when the forecast doesn’t call for rain. Don’t be fooled by a deceptively bright and sunny day outside. It can change in a flash! Trust us — be prepared.
Finally, you’ll want to plan some downtime because it will be SO HOT (and possibly crowded) in the parks. Take a break in the middle of the day and hit the resort pool. Or plan a full day where you just hang out at your resort and just chill. You can pop over to Disney Springs for the day or just an afternoon if you want to get away from the hustle of the parks for a bit.
Looking to stay in the parks? Find those sit-down shows in each park (stuff like Carousel of Progress in Magic Kingdom or Muppet-Vision 3D in Hollywood Studios). This will give you a long much-needed break in the cool air conditioning! Your body will thank you.
We hope this helps you in planning your trip to Disney World this summer. As always, we’ll keep you updated on any changes that could affect your future trips.
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Are you going to Disney World this summer? Let us know in the comments!