There is no question about it, Walt Disney World has really transformed in the past year. If you are thinking about planning a trip to Walt Disney World for the first time since Disney has reopened, you’ll notice lots of changes in the way you’ll approach planning!
Choosing where to stay
The first decision most Disney fans make when planning their vacation is where to stay.
I love to read resort reviews and think about which resort might be the most fun for my family when we visit.
Disney has so many different resorts, and there is literally a resort that is perfect for every family!
When Walt Disney World reopened in July 2020, not all of the resorts reopened with the Parks.
This is particularly frustrating if your favorite resort has not yet reopened! However, this is a great opportunity to try a new resort!
Since many of the value resorts are not yet open, this has caused me to branch out a bit.
I have tried renting DVC points and had wonderful experiences in some of the Villas, like the Polynesian. If my go-to value resorts were open, I never would have tried this amazing resort!
Try a new resort on your next trip! It will feel like a whole new adventure!
The first big milestone in Disney planning used to be hitting that 180 day mark. 180 days meant dining day!
Guests would hit the 180 day mark and happily begin booking their dining reservations for their trip. This was always a fun day because it really began the planning! Once dining was booked, it felt like the trip was finally becoming a reality.
However, 180 days is 6 months! It was always a huge challenge for me to choose where I want to eat and what location I might be in a whole 6 months ahead of time.
Guests who wanted to book vacations closer to their vacation date were often out of luck when booking dining, since most of the popular dining locations booked up 6 months earlier!
So what’s changed?
Disney Guests are no longer able to reserve dining 180 days in advance. The reservation window for Guests now opens at 60 days. While it may take a bit longer to feel like you’re hitting those vacation milestones, it does help narrow your plans down a bit better.
Choosing where to eat
Disney is a food lover’s dream! There are so many different dining options available!
If you’re looking for a quick snack, a meal served fast, a sit down environment with a few of your favorite characters, or a signature dining event, Disney has it all!
The biggest problem was always narrowing down where to eat from all of the amazing options.
Disney World looks slightly different today. While there are still a lot of great options, many of our favorites still have not reopened.
The result? Fewer choices when deciding where to eat.
Not only are their fewer dining options, but capacity is limited in all indoor dining locations. What this means for you: less dining availability for popular locations.
I have been tirelessly trying to snag a reservation for our favorite character dining meal: Topolino’s Terrace. This popular reservation is so hard to get but absolutely worth it if you can grab it!
The only bonus to so few restaurants being available is that its a little easier to narrow down your dining choices.
Looking for character dining? You’ll definitely want to try Chef Mickey’s or Garden Grill!
In the mood for a great breakfast? Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Resort is my favorite sit down breakfast. Try the Tonga Toast!
Is Quick Service more your style? You can’t go wrong with Woody’s Lunchbox or Cosmic Ray’s! If you prefer a sit down meal, why not try Tony’s Town Square?
I’m so sorry to tell you that FastPasses are a thing of the past.
FastPasses did not return to the Disney Parks when they reopened in July 2020, and we are still (impatiently) waiting for them to come back. There has been no word from Disney on when (or even if) FastPasses will return. I am hopeful some day we will be rolling through that FastPass line again!
Of course, not having FastPass to plan your day around will very drastically change your touring plans for each Park. Lucky for you, Character Locator has plans to help you make the most of your Park days, so be sure to check out the 2021 touring plans!
Another exciting part of planning was always receiving your happy mail! Shortly before your trip was set to begin, Guests would receive a box with their MagicBands and luggage tags!
We couldn’t wait for them to arrive in my house! Receiving our MagicBands always meant vacation was almost here!
Walt Disney World is now moving away from MagicBands. They are still available for purchase and can still be used all over the Resort.
Guests staying on property will no longer receive complimentary magic bands for their trips.
Disney has now begun using Magic Mobile. This new technology allows Guests to use their mobile phone for everything they previously used their Magic Bands for. You can learn all about Magic Mobile HERE.
Another fun complimentary perk, Disney luggage tags, are no longer being sent to Guests in advance of their vacation. Don’t worry though, you can still get these fun luggage tags by asking for them at the front desk of your hotel.
Planning for transportation is always important when visiting the Disney Parks. Disney offers Guests several magical ways to move around the Resort, but there have been some changes.
In an effort to comply with health and safety regulations, capacity is now limited on many of Disney’s transportation options.
What does this mean for you? Well….you won’t have to sit on the bus with someone’s sweaty armpit in your face anymore! This is a HUGE bonus!
However, it does mean that you may end up waiting a little longer for bus and monorail transportation, as parties will be distanced from each other.
Also, if you’re planning on visiting Magic Kingdom in the morning and hopping on the monorail to visit Epcot in the afternoon, you’ll need to rethink your hopping plans.
We are still waiting for Disney to open the Epcot monorail line. To date, Disney has not released any information on when this line will reopen.
Perhaps the biggest change to Walt Disney World transportation is how Guests get from Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World Resort.
Beginning in 2022, Guests will no longer have the option of using Disney’s Magical Express. This complimentary offering is for Guests staying on property only and will only run through the end of 2021.
Shorter Park Hours
I know so many Disney fans who love to “close down Disney” and stay into the very late night hours at their favorite Disney Park.
Or those early morning rope-droppers who wake at the crack of dawn and are waiting at the parking lot entrance hours before the Park opens.
Disney has seriously decreased their hours. Park opening and closing hours are staggered throughout the day, but the Parks do not stay open into the late night hours any more.
Guests find that they now have a lot of extra time outside of the Parks to do other things.
Personally, I love staying late into the evening at the Parks and enjoying every last minute I can.
I have recently changed my feelings on this particular point. Since the Park hours have shortened, I have found that this gives me more time to actually enjoy the resort!
We’ve gotten more pool time and eaten in more Resort dining locations more often than before.
Shortened hours have allowed us to relax in the room, get to bed earlier, and spend more time exploring other areas of Disney besides the Parks.
Fewer entertainment offerings
While you’re making your touring plans for each Park, it is worth nothing that there are less entertainment offerings than ever.
Currently, there are no late night fireworks spectaculars. There are very few live shows, and there are no Character Meet and Greets.
All of these events required a lot of planning to fit into your schedule, so your touring plans will be drastically changed! Be sure to check out Character Locator for up to date touring plans for each park.
What are the biggest changes to planning a Walt Disney World vacation that you have noticed? Share your thoughts with us on Kenny the Pirate’s Facebook page, or join our crew and continue the discussion!
Me, my wife, and our autistic grandson planned well before covid and moved into a retirement community 30 minutes from Disney Would. Our plan was to get annual passes and visit frequently. It’s unrealistic to pay for daily tickets so we are really considering just moving over to Universal Studios. I’m afraid Disney’s delay in selling annual passes is really turning us away from Disney World just for the principal. If Disney doesn’t want locals then locals may start rejecting Disney.
I think, after doing many many Disney World trips, resort stays, and magical Disney cruises since 2006, it’s sadly time to move on and vacation elsewhere. This is all just too depressing.
With all the people being vaccinated, it’s time to bring back the magic. Disney isn’t the same without late hours, fireworks, live entertainment and full monorail availability. COME ON DISNEY. “OPEN UP”
In time. There’s still many millions of people not vaccinated. I think you’ll see it begin to open more in summer.
No fireworks? It was bad enough when they took the electric light parade away. It is turning into just another amusement park. I’m glad I went there many times in the past when the magic was still there.
Fireworks are suspended until we get through the pandemic. They will return.
I think this sounds like a kill joy. I wouldn’t want to spend my hard earned $$ to go on a masked vacation with most of my photos masked let alone no fast passes and the limits in dining…no thanks.
I was there March 23-30 and really didn’t miss most of the things above. Fast Pass was probably the most missed because it would have saved some time in line. Overall, it was nice to not have everything totally planned for every minute of the day. We just kind of decided what to do whenever and most lines weren’t too bad. The main thing was to get to the park early do about 1/2 of what you want to do, leave for a few hours and come back in the evening to do the rest. Rarely was a line as long as the posted wait time. Usually it was MUCH less than posted or even just a walk on. We stayed at the Swan, which we have never done before. I would not stay anywhere but a crescent lake resort right now because then you only have to deal with buses to two resorts. Having access to walking, boats, skyliner to Epcot and HS was fabulous. There was only one dining reservation we wanted that we couldn’t get. I LOVE the mobile ordering! I hope that stays forever. It was a SUPER HOT week when we were there, but we really had a fabulous time. I also agree with the author that I liked the parks not being open so late. Normally, we stay so late and then end up exhausted with not enough sleep. We were also able to get ROTR both of our HS days.
No real incentive to stay onsite anymore (coming from someone who has exclusively stayed on site at 6 different resorts – 1 value, 1 moderate, 4 deluxe). In fact, not really a reason to go to Disney right now without a deep discount (I’m not aware of any discount in excess of what would normally be offered), given the reduction hours, entertainment, restaurants…everything.
This sounds terrible to me. I’ve known all these things and read about them here for the past year, but seeing it all compiled into one article; why would anybody stay there? The Magic is gone, along with the food and fireworks and atmosphere and… I’m ready for all this to return so my family can return to The World.