Disney World making two huge customer-friendly changes

The covid pandemic forced Walt Disney to make massive changes at its Florida theme parks. While California’s Disneyland remained closed for an extended period of time, Florida’s looser response to the virus allowed Disney World to reopen, but it was most certainly not business as usual.

In the early days of the reopening, Disney had to implement massive changes. Health checks took place as people entered the parks and masks were required except when actively eating or drinking. 

Related: How to get a free Royal Caribbean or Celebrity Cruises cruise

The theme park giant even required people to eat or drink while stationary in order to prevent people from using sipping a beverage as a way to move their masks aside. Disney enforced the rules with monitors kindly (at first) reminding people to keep their masks on.

Most food ordering moved to the Disney World app and rides were socially distanced to keep park visitors six feet apart. It was a very bizarre time to visit the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, but the biggest change may have been the capacity constraints and reservation requirements.

Because each park could only accommodate so many people to allow for social distancing Disney World visitors needed both a valid ticket and a park reservation to visit one of the four theme parks. In addition, “park hopping,” being able to move between the four parks for people with a ticket that allows that, was eliminated.

In January, however, Disney World will (mostly) revert back to the pre-pandemic way of operating its Florida theme parks.

Hollywood Studios has grown in popularity since Disney added “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.”

Image source: Daniel Kline/TheStreet

Disney eliminating most park reservations

It’s worth noting that Disney World’s key rival, Comcast’s (CMCSA) – Get Free Report Universal Studios never used a reservation system. It had capacity limits at its two Florida theme parks, but rather than using reservations, it simply had a line where people waited to enter after someone else left.

Disney’s system meant that nobody had to wait in line, but it did add a level of hassle to visiting its parks. That added burden was especially hard on annual passholders who were used to being able to visit one of the company’s four Florida theme parks on a whim. 

Now, Disney World is finally rolling back the reservation system.

“Theme park reservations are required to enter a park through Jan. 8, 2024. Beginning Jan. 9, 2024, theme park reservations will no longer be required for date-based tickets. For other admission types, theme park reservations may be required,” Disney shared on the Disney World website.

Reservations will be required for certain types of tickets:

Student group ticketsSport and Convention ticketDisney Military Salute TicketAnnual Passes

Annual passholders, however, will get some “Good-to-go” days where reservations won’t be needed. Starting Jan. 11, 2024, Passholders will begin seeing good-to-go days—displayed on the:

Theme park reservation calendarAnnual Passholder admissions calendarHome screen of the My Disney Experience app (if their pass is linked to their Disney account)

“Good-to-go days will be added periodically. Good-to-go days may be released days or weeks in advance,” Disney added.

Disney World park hopping returns

Before the pandemic, many Disney World visitors bought “Park Hopper” tickets which allowed them to jump between the four theme parks at will. Capacity limits still applied, but aside from the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, it was very rare for those limits to prevent anyone from moving between the parks. 

Disney brought back limited park hopping in 2023, and the theme park giant will mostly return to its pre-pandemic rules in a few days.

“Beginning Jan. 9, 2024, Guests with a ticket with Park Hopper benefits or an Annual Pass will be able to visit another theme park at any time of day during park hours (subject to capacity limitations),” the company shared on its website.

On days when annual passholders need a reservation, they will be able to park hop at will after they visit the park they have reserved first. In addition, annual passholders don’t need reservations after 2 p.m. with some exceptions.

“Annual Passholders may visit the theme parks after 2 p,m. without a theme park reservation, except on Saturdays and Sundays at Magic Kingdom park,” the company added.

    

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