Walt Disney World, which has stood alone among Florida’s theme parks in keeping many of its pandemic-era restrictions, on Monday announced it will be relaxing some of its rules on advanced park reservations. Plus, it’s bringing back the popular Disney dining plans and is working on a way to simplify its new fast pass system known as Genie+.
The coming changes were in response to complaints from customers, the announcement said, especially annual passholders — “our biggest fans” — who could no longer just show up at the park on a whim. All visitors currently have to pick a date and park they plan to visit, though annual passholders recently got the bonus of being able to show up at 2 p.m. on certain days without a reservation.
Starting with park visits on Jan. 9, 2024, theme park reservations will no longer be required for date-based tickets, like single-day or two-day tickets. That means, passholder or not, you can select a start date for your Disney World visit and purchase tickets, but you won’t be required to make theme park reservations for those dates. You can check which admission types require park reservations by visiting disneyworld.com/themeparkreservations before your purchase.
For annual passholders, the news about reservations is even better. In 2024, Disney will roll out “good-to-go days” for its staff and for annual passholders when they can visit any park without a reservation. Disney didn’t reveal yet what the dates are, and said they will be updated “on an ongoing basis” throughout the year. So there will be some dates when even passholders will still have to make a reservation.
The No. 2 complaint among customers, according to a Disney spokesperson, is the lack of Disney dining plans, which disappeared during the pandemic. The prepaid plans made it easier for families to budget for meals and snacks in the parks.
Beginning Jan. 9 (which will be open for bookings on May 31 of this year), packages that include either the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan or the Disney Dining Plan will again be available.
Another frequent complaint is the new system known as Genie+, which allows you to buy a daily itinerary with a set time to skip the long lines at some rides. That system and also the Lightning Lane, a fast pass you can purchase for one specific ride, are currently only available on the day of your visit. So people are waking up early in the morning to jump online to secure their pass for popular rides.
Disney said it is working to “simplify the Genie+ experience” by allowing parkgoers to make their selections in advance. It did not say when or how it will make the changes just yet, but said they wanted guests to know they are working on it.
“Our goal is to give you the opportunity to spend less time planning in the park and more time enjoying your visit with friends and family,” the announcement said.
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And in other news announced Monday, Disney said it will continue through 2024 its perk of giving early and late theme park time to guests in Disney hotels. Early theme park entry and extended evening hours will still require valid theme park admission and a Resort ID.