Disney Travel

Disney Changes to Know About For Now, 2022, and Beyond

By
on
September 12, 2020

Are you looking for a review of the many Disney changes that have recently taken place?

Since its reopening after the worldwide pandemic, Walt Disney World has undergone significant changes related to health and safety, and in debuting new activities, attractions, and technology for 2022.

In addition to several health and safety protocols still being in effect, Disney has retired the FastPass system and will roll out an entirely new technology platform called Disney Genie.

Here are 9 Disney changes to be aware of as you prepare to experience the magic now, in 2022, and beyond.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. For more info, see disclosure.

Cinderella's Castle
Cinderella’s Castle

1. Reservations are required.

There have been many changes to family travel since the start of the worldwide pandemic.

In order to manage attendance and limit the number of its daily guests, reservations are now required to visit any of Walt Disney World’s 4 theme parks.

Gone are the days of massive crowds arriving at a walk-up ticket counter to purchase Disney theme park tickets.

Instead, prior to purchasing tickets, be sure to view theme park reservation availability online and make reservations via an online tool known as the Disney Park Pass System.

The number of theme park reservation days you can hold at one time varies based on your plans, i.e. Disney Resort and select hotel guests, vs. Annual Passholders, vs. existing ticketholders.

Additional planning tip: Disney’s Park Pass reservation system is expected to be in effect until January 14, 2023.

2. Face coverings are required indoors.

Mask-up Disney guests!

Face coverings continue to be one of the many ways to keep your family healthy while traveling during these unprecedented times.

Disney-approved face coverings are required for all guests (ages 2 and up) in all indoor locations, regardless of vaccination status.

This includes when entering and when moving through all indoor attractions and indoor queues and in Disney buses, monorail, and Disney Skyliner.

Face coverings are optional for Guests in outdoor areas.

Disney's Haunted Mansion
Entrance to The Haunted Mansion

3. Termination of the FastPass System.

Understanding Disney FastPass+ secrets used to be key in a successful Walt Disney World touring plan.

The concept was that instead of waiting in the regular line (Standby) for a ride, guests were given 3 opportunities to be directed to a special line (FastPass+) with a shorter wait time.

One of the most significant Disney changes, however, is that Disney has permanently retired the FastPass+ system.

Instead, the previously allotted FastPass+ queue space is being converted into Lightning Lanes.

Lightning Lane queues can only be used by those paying for Disney’s new add-on service, Genie+, which is a new feature added to the My Disney Experience app.

4. The introduction of Disney Genie and Disney Genie+.

Disney is notoriously known for incredibly long wait times for its headliner attractions.

In order to enhance the guest experience, Disney Genie, Disney Genie+, and Lightning Lane Passes have been introduced as of October 19th, 2021.

Disney Genie is a free tool that is built right into the My Disney Experience mobile app.

It offers many of the features already available in the app, such as wait times, mobile ordering, park hours, etc.

Disney Genie goes beyond that by combining this information as well as guests’ interests to create personalized itineraries.  

For instance, guests can enter specific rides they want to experience, fireworks shows they want to see, or specific restaurants where they want to dine at, and Genie creates a schedule for their day. 

Disney Genie+, on the other hand, is a purchase through the app that includes Lightning Lane access (formerly known as FastPass) to more than 40 attractions.

For $15 per person per day at Walt Disney World guests gain Lightning Lane access to rides including Big Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise at Magic Kingdom; Mission Space, Spaceship Earth and Test Track at Epcot; Slinky Dog Dash, Rock n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; and Dinosaur, Kilimanjaro Safaris and Na’vi River Journey at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. 

In addition, Disney is now offering the purchase of individual Lightning Lane Passes for top-tier attractions not included in Genie+.

The list includes Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Frozen Ever After at Epcot, Rise of the Resistance, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios, and Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom.

Attraction prices range from $7-$15 per ride; prices and ride offerings vary by the day.

As an example, a Lightening Lane pass may be available for Rise of the Resistance for $15, Expedition Everest for $7, and Remy’s Ratatouille for $11.

Guests will only be able to make individual Lightning Lane purchases for two different attractions per day.

Park with no crowds
Morning crowds when arriving early.

5. The introduction of Early Theme Park Entry vs. Extra Magic Hours.

Disney’s Extra Magic Hours have been suspended and are not expected to return.

Instead, they have been replaced by Early Theme Park Entry.

As of October 1, 2021, Disney Resort hotel guests and guests of other select hotels are granted 30-minute early entry to any Walt Disney World theme park every day of the week.

Valid theme park admission, park reservation, and Resort ID are required.

In addition, Extended Evening Theme Park Hours are available on select nights to guests staying at Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort Hotels.

*Click here for our exclusive FREE Family Vacation Packing List and BONUS Disney Day Bag Packing List to complement your Disney vacation!

6. The suspension of Disney Dining Plans.

Walt Disney World temporarily suspended Disney Dining Plans (DDP) and canceled Free Dining last year.

At this time, Disney Dining plans still cannot be added to a Walt Disney World Vacation Package, but they are expected to return soon.

For now, all guests can make in-park table service, Disney Resort Hotel dining, and Disney Springs dining reservations online up to 60 days in advance, however.

In addition, digital menus, mobile ordering and check-in, and cashless payments have become the norm.

7. Enhancements, closures, and construction.

Many exciting enhancements and additions have recently taken place at Walt Disney World.

Here’s a glimpse at what’s new:

  • Cinderella Castle Royal Makeover – Cinderella’s Castle has been repainted with a new “EARidescent” color scheme
  • Disney Enchantment – New nighttime lights and firewords show at Magic Kingdom
  • Harmonious – New nighttime lights and fireworks show at Epcot
  • World’s Most Magical Celebration – Disney’s 50th anniversary event (See more below.)
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure – New 4D ride experience with a virtual queue (no standby line) in Epcot
  • Space 220 Restaurant – New interactive space-themed restaurant in Epcot
  • Mickey & Mickey’s Runaway Railway – New cartoon-based ride at Hollywood Studios
  • Epcot is now organized into 4 neighborhoods: World Showcase, World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature (many offerings are still under construction)

Up close and personal Disney character experiences and photo-ops, as well as parades, are currently unavailable at Walt Disney World.

Instead, frequent surprise character appearances and modified meet and greets are prevalent and allow for costumed characters to wave from a distance.

Socially distant character interactions may include seeing Buzz Lightyear roaming around Tomorrowland, seeing the Country Bears in Adventureland, or Anna and Elsa strolling around the World Showcase at Epcot.

Though this list is ever-changing, confirm or deny temporary suspensions of the following Disney attractions before your visit:

  • Walt Disney World Railroad at Magic Kingdom – Currently suspended due to TRON construction
  • Fingind Nemo: The Musical at Animal Kingdom – Currently closed and being remiagined
  • Primeval Whirl – permanent ride closure in Animal Kingdom
  • Multiple restaurants and dining experiences continue to be temporarily suspended – check on open vs. closed restaurants here

Projects under construction:

  • TRON: Lightcycle Run – New coaster-style attraction in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland (anticipated opening in summer or fall of 2022)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – New full-enclosed hybrid coaster in Epcot (anticipated opening sometime in 2022)
  • The elemination of Future World and the addition of 3 new worlds in Epcot (anticipated to be done in 2023)
  • Moana: Journey of Water – New water maze in Epcot (debuting sometime in 2022)
The Lion King Show
Celebration of Festival of The Lion King

8. Enhancements brought about by World’s Most Magical Celebration.

Walt Disney World is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary by means of an ongoing celebration titled World’s Most Magical Celebration.

World’s Most Magical Celebration is an 18-month event (lasting until April 1st, 2023) held at all four Walt Disney World theme parks.

It features entertainment, activities, attractions, and decorations reflective of Disney’s 50th anniversary, as well as 50 special golden character sculptures placed throughout Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.

Cinderella’s Castle has received a Royal Makeover (and a gigantic 50th-anniversary medallion) and Mickey and Minnie have sparkling new costumes to help celebrate this event.

Expect to see Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade performing several times throughout the day in Magic Kingdom, as well as Beacons of Magic light projections available nightly at select parks.

Visit Disney’s 50th Anniversary Celebration site to find a complete list of festivities to look forward to!

9. The termination of free Magical Express transportation.

Disney’s free Magical Express airport transportation expires as of January 1st, 2022.

As a replacement for Disney’s Magical Express, Mears Connect will be offering shuttle service to the Disney Resort area (from the airport) beginning on January 1st of 2022.

Unlike Disney’s Magical Express, Mears Connect isn’t free, however.

Instead, there are two tiers of service: standard vs. express.

Standard service is a shared ride that makes a few stops en route to your hotel with waits of up to 20 minutes after checking in at the Mears reception area at the airport.

Express service provides a direct ride to your resort with no other stops and “limited to no wait time.”

You can find a list of current resorts that Mears Connect will pick up and drop off from, as well as pricing and the option to book your rides at Mears Connect’s site.

Additional planning tip: The resorts that Mears Connect services will appear in the drop-down menu when reserving. The list is expected to expand throughout 2022.

Which one of these Disney changes are you most surprised or excited about? Are there any Disney changes for 2022 ones that you will be happy to see stick around?

Jen

If you found our list of Disney Changes for 2022 and beyond helpful, continue planning your Disney World vacation here!

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*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

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Read on for the Walt Disney World changes that you need to know about now, for 2022, and beyond from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan.
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12 Comments
  1. Reply

    Keri | Bon Voyage With Kids

    October 6, 2021

    These are super helpful updates. This is such a big year for Walt Disney World! So many new things are happening, I can’t wait to visit this year. But the Magical Express one is a big one so that is super helpful to know!

    • Reply

      Jen

      October 14, 2021

      Thank you so much! I am very excited to get back there sometime soon to experience all of the new additions!

  2. Reply

    Lillie

    October 5, 2021

    Lots of changes! The upcoming Moana ride looks fabulous.

    • Reply

      Jen

      October 6, 2021

      It sounds like the Moana experience is going to be more like an attraction vs. a ride, but either way, yes, it sounds delightful! Can’t wait to experience Disney in 2022!

  3. Reply

    Harmony

    October 4, 2021

    this is the best list of recent updates I have seen – there is so much going on, its hard to keep up! Lots feel like a money grab, I know we are coming off the crazy pandemic, and with the 50th – I gotta get back to WDW. I want to see the new stuff. Curious how genie+ and lightening will roll out in practice.

    • Reply

      Jen

      October 4, 2021

      Thank you! I had a good friend of mine who is a Disney travel agent preview the article to be sure that I didn’t miss anything. It sounds like a whole new experience there right now for sure! Exciting!

  4. Reply

    Kathryn Dickson

    September 20, 2020

    Some of the changes I hope stay implemented – less capacity in the parks, social distancing. However, some of that Disney magic is missing like the character meet and greets. Here’s hoping a vaccine arrives soon!

    • Reply

      Jen

      September 22, 2020

      Hi Kathryn! Yes, some of the changes are awesome (less capacity, yeah!), and some, not so much. Either way, it’s amazing how Disney has adapted, but a sad situation overall.

  5. Reply

    Nancy

    September 16, 2020

    Thanks for these tips! I’m excited to return to Disney when we can travel again.

    • Reply

      Jen

      September 22, 2020

      Surprisingly, I am excited to return soon! I’d love to experience the parks at a lower capacity then we’ve done in the past.

  6. Reply

    Lillie

    September 14, 2020

    Very interesting updates, from the in-person meet and greets being on hold to the pause of dining plans. One has to appreciate the adaptability of the place, though!

    • Reply

      Jen

      September 15, 2020

      Lillie, you’re totally right! That is a great perspective to appreciate the adaptability (and the resources!) to help keep the park safe during uncertain times 🙂

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We are the Brommer family from Minnesota, and I'm Jen - the travel planner for our family of 5! We are passionate about traveling together for it's what keeps us happy and healthy at home. The free family vacation itineraries and tips you'll find here are crafted with love to be shared with you. We hope our experiences inspire you to start planning your next family adventure!

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