Between dining reservations, hotel re-openings, brand new ticket options, a new planning tool in the My Disney Experience app, and more, planning your Disney World vacation right now can seem a bit complicated. Is it just us or does it seem like some aspects of the planning process just keep getting harder?
If you’re currently jumping through all the hoops necessary to plan your next Disney vacation and thinking “is this really necessary?” or “what am I forgetting about?” then you’ve come to the right place. Today we’re going over some harsh truths you’ll need to come to terms with and prepare for when planning your next Disney World trip.
You’ll Never Sleep in Late Again
If you’ve been to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the past two years, then you’ve probably found yourself waking up a bit earlier than you’d like on vacation to try your chances at getting a spot in the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance at 7AM. You also probably did the same recently to try and grab a boarding group for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in EPCOT.
Well, we’ve got good news and bad news. Disney recently paused the use of virtual queues at both Rise of the Resistance and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Yaaaaay, right? Well…not really (we’ll explain in a bit). For now that means no more 7AM virtual queue wake-up times for these rides (though that’s always subject to change in the future). Instead, all guests can just hop in the standby line to wait for their chance to check these out. But, that doesn’t mean that early wake-up calls are a thing of the past in Disney World.
Genie+ allows you to skip the standby line at lots of attractions in the parks. If you pay for the service ($15 per ticket per day) you’ll get to make one Genie+ selection at a time. Guests get to see what the return times are for the available rides, pick the one they want, and then use the “Lightning Lane” for that ride when their return time comes. Then, they’ll get to make their next Genie+ selection, and so on.
But select rides are NOT available through the regular Genie+ service. For select popular rides you’ll need to use Individual Attraction Selection (pay-per-ride) to essentially pay to use a single ride’s Lightning Lane once. Guests can only make 2 of these pay-per-ride purchases per person, per day.
Where does an early morning wake up call factor into all of this? Well, all guests who opt to pay for the service can make their first Genie+ selection at 7AM.
And, if you’re staying at a Disney World Resort hotel, then you’ll also be able to make your first Individual Attraction Selection (pay-per-ride selection) at 7AM. (Guests who aren’t staying at a Disney World Resort hotel can make that first pay-per-ride selection when the park opens).
If you’re planning on using Genie+ or Pay-Per-Ride, prepare to set an alarm every day and wake up earlier than you might want to on vacation. And, if you’re traveling from the west coast, know that this means that you’ll be getting up at what feels like 4AM every morning. The early bird gets the worm. Or, in this case, the ability to pay more money to stand in a slightly shorter line. 🤣
Plus, don’t forget that while virtual queues are paused for now, there’s a possibility they’ll be used in the future (maybe for the openings of BIG new rides like TRON or the Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster?). So you’ll want to keep an eye out for any virtual queue updates in the future.
You’ll Need to Budget For Food Yourself
The Disney Dining Plan currently isn’t available, so if you’re used to using that as your budgeting tool, you’re going to need a different plan. Now Disney does plan to bring the Dining Plan back but they haven’t shared when just yet, so you’ll have to go back to the drawing board a bit to create your plan for food while in the parks. (It’s basically like we’re on the Oregon Trail again, isn’t it? 🤣)
But, not all hope is lost if you’re vacationing on a budget! You can still get your vacation savings through select hotel room and/or ticket discounts that Disney is offering right now. And, for food, you’ll just need to crunch the numbers. Disney publishes most of their menus and pricing online and you might even find that you can actually save more without the Dining Plan!
These prices can change though, so you’ll want to look for any updates. For example, at the start of January 2022 we saw HUNDREDS of price increases impact restaurants across Disney World. DOLE Whips, select popcorn refills, popcorn buckets, Mickey Ice Cream Bars, Mickey waffles, bottled sodas, and more are now MORE expensive than they used to be. You’ll have to adjust those budgets accordingly to account for those changes.
And, if you really want to stick to your budget, consider purchasing Disney gift cards from Disney, Target, Costco, or other places that sell them and use that as your dining card in a sense. It can help you stick to your budget knowing that you’ve only got that set amount dedicated to good, and it could help you stick to the plan. You might also be able to save a bit by using your Target REDcard to save 5% on the purchase of the gift cards.
Of course, we’re also big into number crunching and offer plenty of tools to help you nail down your budget in our DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining. As part of the guide, you’ll receive budgeting worksheets and more to help you budget your meals with or without the Disney Dining Plan!
Click here to order the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2022 Edition and get 25% off with promo code WDW2022!
You’ll Need to Be Tech-Savvy
Between Mobile Check-in at restaurants and hotels, Mobile Ordering at Quick Service locations, Park Pass Reservations, unlocking your room door with the My Disney Experience app, using your phone to scan into the parks with the MagicMobile service, Disney Genie, Mobile Merchandise Checkout, and MORE, you’ll need your phone for A LOT in Disney World.
The My Disney Experience app has expanded over the past few years to be a planning tool that you really can’t do Disney without, so you’re going to want to have at least a little bit of knowledge about it before you pack your bags. Whether that’s recruiting someone in your party who is a bit more tech-savvy to be in charge of the tech side of the trip or spending some time learning the ins and outs of the app, you’ll want to be prepared so that you can navigate your way through your stay seamlessly.
Speaking of how much you’ll be using your phone, you’ll probably need to plan to tow along a phone charger with you at the parks too. Gotta keep that trusty phone charged and ready to go so you don’t miss a beat! With all the phone use now (on top of pictures, social media checking, texting and maybe actually using your phone as a phone) that battery drains FAST.
You’ll Need to Prepare For Your Next Meal in Advance
Mobile Ordering has taken over Disney World as the way to secure your next meal from Quick Service restaurants both in the parks and resorts. In many cases, Mobile Order is essentially required to get your meal. But, if you’re traveling during a particularly busy time of the year, or just planning to eat at a popular spot or during a popular time, you might pull up the My Disney Experience app during your trip and find that the next Mobile Order pick-up window isn’t for another hour or more.
You CAN avoid this though! If you already know where you’re going to eat and what you’re going to order, you can place your order earlier in the day via Mobile Order and set your pick-up time to be whenever you’d like. If you plan ahead and place that order early, you’ll be able to make sure that your food is ready when you are and you’ll have a greater selection of pick-up times. This can help you avoid the danger of having to deal with a HANGRY family member. Wait too long and Mobile Order pick up windows could start booking up for the time you want to eat, leaving you in a bad spot.
Consider Whether Park Hopping is Really Worth It for You
Disney brought back Park Hopping on January 1st, 2021 but…it’s different. Currently, guests looking to hop from park to park must make a Park Pass Reservation for the first park that they want to visit. They must also visit that first park before hopping to any other parks, and they can only begin Park Hopping after 2PM. Much like the Park Hopping that we’ve known before, you can visit as many parks as you want after 2PM daily, but your ability to get into any park that you’re hopping to is subject to capacity limitations. So, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll get in.
Now, we really haven’t experienced many issues getting into the parks that we’ve wanted to hop to due to capacity limits, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. Magic Kingdom did get full at the start of Disney World’s 50th Anniversary and hopping to that park wasn’t available on October 1st, 2021. It’s possible that could happen again on very busy days.
Under the new Park Hopping system you do lose a little bit of that hopping spontaneity and there is some risk involved. Plus, keep in mind that some parks may close a bit earlier than they used to pre-pandemic, so you may find yourself with a bit less time to do everything that you want.
Still, being able to hop to other parks does undoubtedly offer you more flexibility than not being able to hop at all. The key here is to see whether the Park Hopper option (which does make your ticket more expensive) is worth it to you. Sit down and take a look at the days you’ll be in the parks and the things you want to accomplish in each park. Will you essentially be spending 1 day in each park? Do you need to hop to accomplish everything you want? Do you simply want the flexibility that comes with having a Park Hopper? It all depends on your plans!
If you’re on the fence about getting the Park Hopper option, you might want to just buy standard 1-park per day tickets for now. You can always “upgrade” and add-on the Park Hopper option later. In fact, you can even add it on during your trip, once you’re in Disney World. Once you’ve purchased the Park Hopper tickets, you generally can’t get that Park Hopping removed and refunded, so sometimes waiting is best until you’re sure.
BUT don’t wait too long to add on the option. The Park Hopper option will be charged for ALL of the days in your ticket package, regardless of when you add it on. So if you wait until day 3 of your trip, you’ll still get charged that upgrade for days 1 and 2. If you’re going to add it on, it’s best to do that early so you can take full advantage of what you’re paying for!
“Going With The Flow” Might Not Be As Easy as You Think
Another big piece of planning your Disney World vacation nowadays is the Park Pass reservation system. Disney now requires that all guests make a reservation for the park that they’ll be visiting in advance. If you were the type of person that would wake up and decide on the spot where you were heading, things might be a little more challenging right now.
You can get same-day reservations in some cases, but we’ve seen parks book up months in advance during busy times of the year. So if you head to Disney World without any Park Passes and your game plan is to “wing it,” you might find that you won’t be able to visit the parks of your choice (or even any of the parks) during your stay.
Our advice? Book those Park Pass reservations as soon as you can! If you change your mind later, you can cancel them and re-book for the parks you want to visit (assuming there is availability). But it’s better to have something in place than run the risk that all of the spots fill up for the park(s) you want, leaving you stuck in a tough position.
Plus, we’ve also been seeing hotels book up, and the dining reservations that you want can be hard to come by if you wait until too late. While “winging” a trip is still technically possible, that strategy could leave you with much more limited choices. If you’ve got certain parks you’ve got to visit, restaurants you simply must eat at, or other things you have to do — you’ll want to book reservations for all of it as far in advance as possible to give yourself the best chance of planning the trip you’ve been hoping for.
Extra Time in the Parks Looks Different For Hotel Guests
Even how much extra time Disney World Resort hotel guests get in the parks has changed over the past year. Extra Magic Hours have been discontinued and now guests staying at any Disney World hotel (and a few other participating hotels) can take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry.
This new perk gives guests an extra 30 minutes in any park of their choice (assuming they have a Park Pass for that park), each day. You might find this beneficial since you don’t have to check the calendar all the time and plan your park days based on which park has extra time anymore. That’s the big perk — they all have extra time now!
Plus, guests staying at Disney Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas get an extra perk called Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. These only occur on select dates at select parks, but if you qualify for these bonus hours, you could spend some extra time in those select parks at night.
No matter what Disney hotel you choose to stay at, you’ll need to adjust to these new perks to maximize your park time.
It’s Likely Going to Cost More
It’s no secret that Disney World can be pricey and between all of the recent price increases throughout the parks and resorts, your bill will likely end up being a bit more than it was for previous trips.
We’ve seen increases on Annual Passes, merchandise, food, and even holiday parties. Though the range of ticket prices didn’t increase for 2022, there are some days in 2022 that now fall into a higher ticket bracket, meaning a trip in 2022 for the same days you visited in 2021 might now cost more. In 2022 (and beyond) you’ll also need to plan to pay for transportation to and from the airport as Disney’s Magical Express service has officially been discontinued.
If you want to “skip the lines” on popular attractions, you’ll also need to invest in Disney Genie+ and/or Individual Attraction Selections. Genie+ costs $15 per person per day, and the cost of Individual Attraction Selections can vary depending on the park, day, and ride (yes, surge pricing for Individual Attraction Selection is a real thing).
Plus, those who want even more time in the parks (beyond the Early Theme Park Entry bonus time) will have to think about spending the extra money to book a room at a Disney Deluxe Resort or Deluxe Villa to get access to the new Extended Evening Hours perk.
Of course, there are still ways to save on your vacation with select hotel savings from Disney and our Disney budgeting tips. And, you certainly don’t need to purchase access to Genie+ — you can opt to stick to those standby lines throughout your trip. Still, even just price increases on food could cause your trip to be more expensive. So you’ll want to take a close look at those budgets and see what (if any) changes need to be made to make your trip a reality.
You Might Need to Re-Learn How to Do Disney
Over the past year, the My Disney Experience app has gotten more features to enable a more contactless park experience, guests have adapted to new Park Hopping rules, and many have mastered the art of securing Park Pass Reservations. The past year or so has been FULL of change, and there’s more on the way.
Disney Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selections might dramatically change the way you plan your way around Disney World’s rides, especially when it comes to those really popular attractions (like Rise of the Resistance) that are available through Individual Attraction Selection. If you’re hoping to skip the standby lines, you’ll want to learn the ins and outs of making the Lightning Lane reservations through Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selection BEFORE you arrive.
Even those who have been long-time Disney Annual Passholders need to learn something new! Last year Disney World rolled out a brand new Annual Pass program that created brand new tiers, altered some of the perks, and changed blockout dates. And, even Disneyland’s Annual Pass program has been overhauled. So, whether you’re on the west coast or the east coast, you’re navigating some brand new territory.
Add these changes into all of the other newer features in the My Disney Experience app that we’ve come to rely on in Disney World (like mobile check-in and mobile ordering), and you might be doing Disney like you’ve never done it before, even if your last trip was only 3 years ago.
And new changes are on the way with things like Amazon Alexa and Hey, Disney! being added to hotel rooms, new attractions opening, and more. Who knows what changes Disney will announce next!
Rules and Information Are Constantly Changing
While the parks have been reopened for over a year now, Disney is still slowly making its way toward more “normal” operating procedures, so things are changing by the day (and sometimes even the minute). We’ve seen restaurants and hotels reopening, new offerings announced for the 50th Anniversary, entertainment returning to the parks, and more. There’s almost always something new to keep up with.
Plus, even health and safety measures can be updated in the blink of an eye. Currently, face masks are required to be worn by all guests indoors and on most transportation, but even this policy has been updated since first being released and you never know when it might change again.
It can be hard to keep up with all these changes if it’s not your day-to-day job like it is ours. We’re always looking at the fine print when it comes to all the latest Disney announcements, so be sure that you’re subscribed to our newsletter and are following us on social media so you’re always up to date on all the latest!
You’ll Get to See Some New Things (But You’ll Have to Time it Right)
Speaking of things constantly changing, there have been a lot of NEW things arriving in Disney World recently! Many of the things that were supposed to open in 2020 are opening now (or set to open soon) after a delay in construction due to the closures around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right now you can experience a brand new ride (Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure), dine at new restaurants like La Creperie de Paris and Space 220 in EPCOT, watch new daytime AND nighttime shows including Disney KiteTails in Animal Kingdom, Harmonious in EPCOT, and Disney Enchantment in Magic Kingdom, and MUCH more!
Plus more new (and returning old) things are on the way including the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster in EPCOT, Roundup Rodeo BBQ in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the return of shows like Fantasmic!, the return of the Festival of Fantasy Parade, and more. But some of these things coming in 2022 don’t have a set arrival date. Some are coming in “early 2022,” “summer of 2022,” or just at some point in the year. Time your trip too early and you might MISS some of these big additions.
Should you just postpone your trip then so you can make sure you see it all? That’s something you’ll have to think about.
Well, Disney World sure has squeezed a whole lot of updates and changes into the past year+ since reopening the parks. But, that’s why we’re always bringing you the most up-to-date information and translating them into the best ways to make the most of your trip! Check out our video below to see more information about how Disney World has gotten even harder.
Check out our latest video and then comment below: Are you planning a Disney World vacation right now?