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Disney World making changes to simplify visits and bringing back a fan-favorite perk


Once upon a time (before the COVID-19 pandemic), visiting Walt Disney World was fairly simple — or at least simpler. You picked a date, bought a ticket and walked through the gates. You could even purchase a prepaid dining plan that made arranging meals (and Mickey ice cream bars) a breeze.

But things changed.

When Disney World reopened after a temporary coronavirus-related closure, visiting the Central Florida resort became more complicated, presumably to spread out and control crowds. After purchasing a ticket, you still had to make a theme park reservation for the park you wished to visit each day. You couldn’t park hop until after 2 p.m., and prepaid Disney dining plans disappeared indefinitely.

However, Disney has been saying it hears the concerns and wants to simplify the park experience. On Monday it announced five major updates that will hopefully make your next Disney World vacation simpler, easier — and more fun.

Related: How to save money on Disney trips by renting Disney Vacation Club points

The end of theme park reservations


As of Jan. 9, 2024, theme park reservations at Walt Disney World will officially be a thing of the past for guests with date-based tickets.

Though this change won’t take effect for more than six months, 2024 Walt Disney World ticket packages and hotel bookings go on sale May 31, 2023. So, planning your 2024 Disney vacation is about to get much simpler.

The new system will operate more or less as it did before the implementation of theme park reservations. You will still purchase variably priced, date-based tickets for the days you plan to visit Disney World. From there, you show up for your vacation, tap into the park and enjoy the fun.

Related: 10 new attractions and things to do coming to Disney World in 2023

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For now, you will still need to wait until 2 p.m. to “hop” to a second park if you purchase the park hopper add-on for your Disney World ticket. Disney has not made any changes to its current park hopping rules for regular, date-based tickets.

Good-to-go days for annual pass holders


The above changes to the reservation system only apply to date-based tickets. Disney World annual pass holders and guests with certain promotional ticket types will still be required to make a theme park reservation to enter a Disney World park. You can find more information on which ticket types still require reservations on Disney World’s website.

But, there is some good news for annual pass holders.

In 2024, Disney will be adding “good-to-go” days where annual pass holders (and Disney cast members) can visit Disney World theme parks without making a park reservation. No official date has been announced, but when it launches, these “good-to-go” days will roll out on an ongoing basis.

These updates are in addition to the recent update that allowed Disney World annual pass holders to enter the theme parks after 2 p.m. without needing a reservation (except on Saturdays and Sundays at the Magic Kingdom).

Related: Here’s why you should use a free Disney Vacation planner

The return of Disney dining plans


The Disney dining plan was once a wildly popular option for guests staying on-site at Disney World hotels. There were multiple plans to choose from that allowed you to essentially prepay for meals and snacks as an add-on to your vacation package. The economics didn’t make sense for everyone, but if you like to enjoy a lot of Disney meals, it was a great way to know what that would cost in advance.

Related: The best restaurants at Disney World

After an almost four-year hiatus, Disney dining plans will return Jan. 9, 2024. Disney is bringing back two versions of the dining plan: the Quick Service Dining Plan and the Disney Dining Plan. You can redeem meals and snacks at any point during your stay, and they are based on the number of nights in your package.

Guests who book the Quick Service Dining Plan will receive the following:

  • Two quick-service meals per night stayed.
  • A snack or nonalcoholic drink per night stayed.
  • One refillable drink mug with unlimited refills at your resort.

Guests who book the Disney Dining Plan will receive the following:

  • One table-service meal per night stayed.
  • One quick-service meal per night stayed.
  • A snack or nonalcoholic drink per night stayed.
  • One refillable drink mug with unlimited refills at your resort.

Additional dining plan details and pricing will be available when the 2024 hotel and ticket packages open May 31, 2023.

Related: Some of the best sushi I’ve had anywhere is found in … Epcot

Early theme park entry and extended evening hours continue through 2024


Currently, guests at all Disney World hotels and select affiliated hotels (like the Swan, Dolphin and Swan Reserve and the Disney Springs hotels) can enter any of Disney World’s four theme parks 30 minutes early every day of their vacation. It may not sound like much, but if you arrive at the front gates 30 to 45 minutes before early entry begins, you can quickly knock out one or two headliner attractions before regular guests are admitted into the park — even without buying Lightning Lanes or Genie+ access.

Additionally, guests staying at Deluxe Disney resorts — as well as the Swan, Dolphin, Swan Reserve and Shades of Green — can stay in the parks two hours past closing time during Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. This benefit is available on select nights in select parks.

Disney confirmed that Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours will continue at least through 2024.

More magic for Disney Genie+


Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes hit the scene at Disney World in October of 2021. These paid services replaced the free FastPass system as a way to decrease your time spent waiting in line at Disney. While there’s no doubt they save you time in line, there’s also no doubt that maximizing the service takes some of your attention away from the magic and into your phone.

Related: Does Disney Genie+ have enough magic to make it worth the added cost?

Aside from the cost, being unable to plan Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane selections ahead of time has been the most common complaint about the new system. While details are still scant, Disney announced that it is working on ways to allow guests to plan with Genie+ and individual Lightning Lane selections before the day of their park visit in 2024.

Visitors spend much time on their phones during vacation trying to snag an individual Lightning Lane reservation for attractions like Tron Lightcycle / Run. Many also wake up at 6:45 a.m. to find out the price for the day, purchase Genie+ and then make their first Genie+ selection at 7 a.m. So, this change to the planning process would be a welcome update.

Bottom line

There’s no denying visiting a Disney park is a major investment of your time and money, but even if the price doesn’t drop, simplifying the process of having fun would be a big step in the right direction.

Related: Every new land and attraction coming to Disneyland and Disney World in 2023 and beyond

Three years after the pandemic’s initial impacts, we are happy to see Disney delivering on its promise to listen to customer feedback and make it easier to enjoy the most magical place on earth.

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