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10 Ways Disney World Planning Has Changed

10 Ways Disney World Planning Has Changed

If this is your first time planning a trip back to Disney World in a couple of years, you may be surprised to hear that there are a few things that work (and look!) a bit differently now.

Here’s a recap to get you caught up…

Park Passes are required

To enter the parks, you must have a Park Pass reservation for each day you plan to visit. 

Aside from the busy holiday season, they’re almost always easy to get and available way ahead of time, so be sure to snag those as soon as you know which park you want to visit each day of your trip.

Park Hopping has changed

Want to park hop? The good news is you don’t need a Park Pass reservation for the 2nd park.

The bad news is, you can’t even begin to Park Hop now until 2:00 pm or later. That’s way different from how it used to be when you could park hop whenever you wanted.

park hopper sign

Important Note: You must enter the park where you have your Park Pass reservation BEFORE you’ll be allowed to enter the park you wish to hop to.

Aside from that, everything else is the same. Don’t forget you’ll need either a ticket with Park Hopping added or an Annual Pass to hop.

Dining Reservations at 60 days

Instead of 180 days out, you can now make dining reservations 60 days ahead. 

Although many ADRs have always been hard to get, it seems like it may be even harder now. Services like MouseDining and MouseWatcher have become popular ways to snag hard-to-get reservations.

FastPass is now Genie+

This will definitely be the trickiest part to learn, but FastPasses are now called Lightning Lanes and are part of the new Disney Genie+ system. Oh, and it costs money to book them.

This whole system is a LOT to understand, so we recommend taking some time to look through the links below before your trip, so you can get caught up on what to expect:

Extra Park Time for Onsite Guests

Extra Magic Hours are gone and replaced by 2 new things – Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Theme Park Hours.

Early Theme Park Entry is available daily for all onsite guests and allows them into the parks 30 minutes before offsite people.

Extended Evening Theme Park Hours are only available to Deluxe and Deluxe Villa guests. They are offered a couple of times per week (check the schedule before your trip).

Early Theme Park Entry

In the past, we rarely recommended people attend the Extra Magic Hours, but we *do* strongly suggest you use these 2 new offerings.

Mobile Dining

Get used to using the My Disney Experience app for dining because there are way more mobile dining Quick Service options available now.

In addition, most Table Service restaurants now have mobile check-in.

Mobile Order at Three Bridges Bar & Grill

You can do this 15 minutes before your reservation, but you do need to be relatively close to the restaurant to check in. This process allows you to specify allergies, and you can even add an additional guest to the reservation if you need to.

MagicBand changes

So MagicBands are still around, but they aren’t free for onsite guests anymore. If staying onsite, you do get a $15 discount applied toward your band purchase, which makes the plain bands (when available) cost $5.

You do have MagicBand alternatives now, including using MagicMobile functionality in the My Disney Experience app to do things like open hotel doors, scan park tickets, and use Genie+ selections at the attractions. You can also request a physical Key Card from your hotel (to use to open your resort room door).

magicband+ disney world - box
Photo courtesy of Will Cox

MagicBand+ is now a thing, too. It’s the next evolution of MagicBands which include even more functionality, including things like lights and haptic vibrations.

No more Magical Express

There is no such thing as a free ride, and that includes at Disney World.

Magical Express is now gone, and if you want to get from the Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World, you’re going to have to pay.

Entertainment changes

Happily Ever After and IllumiNations are gone. Now we have Disney Enchantment at Magic Kingdom and Harmonious at Epcot. 

Oh, and don’t miss Spaceship Earth because that whole area is a nighttime delight now with the new Points of Magic lights that have been installed.

spaceship earth at night

Still no Dining Plan

And finally, the one thing we get asked about the most: The Disney Dining Plan.

The Disney Dining Plan has not yet returned. Disney has confirmed that it will, we just don’t have a date to share of when that will be.

Changes since 2020/2021

Was your first trip during the early days of the parks reopening? If so, you are going to see some changes, too.

Here are just a few of the things that will look differently to you:


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Heather Thomas