Disney World brings back dining plans; other park improvements coming

The Walt Disney World Resort on Monday announced a number of guest-friendly changes, including the elimination of park reservations for date-based tickets starting in 2024 and the return of the Disney Dining Plan. 

The ability to plan experiences using Disney Genie Plus is also coming.

This is the second spate of customer-friendly changes Disney has made this year. In January, the resort announced it was lifting overnight self-parking fees at hotels, among other announcements. 

Disney on Monday said the changes announced will go into effect for 2024 bookings at the Walt Disney World Resort, which will go on sale May 31.

“These updates will make planning your future Walt Disney World visits simpler and easier, so you can further enjoy all we have to offer and make more memories,” Disney said in a post on the Disney Parks Blog.

Starting on Jan. 9, 2024, Disney World will lift its pandemic-era park reservation requirements for guests who purchase date-based tickets. 

Date-based tickets are the standard ticket option offered to guests. Annual passholders and guests with non-dated tickets will still need to make reservations. Disney said keeping that requirement will help manage park attendance.

But Disney isn’t leaving out annual passholders. In 2024, they will be able to take advantage of “good-to-go-days” when they don’t need a park reservation. Disney did not specify how many days there would be, but said they will be rolled out on an ongoing basis and may vary by park. 

Passholders will continue to be able to visit parks after 2 p.m. without a park reservation, except at the Magic Kingdom on Saturdays and Sundays.

At long last, dining plans return

Disney dining plans will return starting with stays beginning Jan. 9. The add-on is for guests staying at Disney hotels who purchase a package with the company; pricing will be released when bookings open May 31. Guests can choose from the Disney Dining Plan or the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan.

“We know our guests — and families in particular — have missed dining plans, which offer guests the convenience and peace of mind of prepaying for their meals and snacks,” Disney said.

Disney also said its hotel guests will continue to have early access to theme parks through 2024, every day at every park. Deluxe Resort and Deluxe Villa guests will continue to have evening extended hours on select dates through 2024. Early and late access require park admission and resort identification.

Finally, Disney is going to give guests the ability to plan experiences via Disney Genie Plus next year. Genie Plus is a service on the Disney app that enables guests to pay extra to skip the standby line for an attraction. Details about how guests will be able to do that are forthcoming, but in 2024 there will be some kind of option to plan activities.

“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,” Disney said.

Changes come under Bob Iger’s leadership

The changes Disney has made this year come under the leadership of CEO Bob Iger, who returned to the company last November after the ouster of his predecessor, Bob Chapek.

The leadership shakeup came amidst mounting guest complaints about the company, mostly surrounding the cost of visiting Disney parks.

Iger in February called admitted that pricing had become “alienating to consumers,” saying, “We were not perceived to be as accessible or as affordable to many segments as we probably should have been.”

The changes made in January resulted in a “really great reaction,” Iger said.

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