We all know one thing for sure…COVID 19 has changed the way we travel. One place this could not reign any truer is the magical world of Disney. Long gone are the days of pre-trip fast pass bookings, unlimited park-hopping and free meal plans. A recent trip to Disney World taught me firsthand that these subtle changes can soon make a trip less than magical if not prepared. Below you will find explanations and tips for navigating the parks.
1. Tickets and Reservations: Know Before You Go
One of the most significant changes to a trip to Disney World is the requirement to choose what park you will visit each day. For example, if you are traveling to Disney for 4 days you must register what park you will visit on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4. This reservation is made through Disney’s online Park Pass system and can also be done through the Walt Disney World app. To make a reservation, you must first purchase your park tickets. Next, you will link your tickets to your Disney account. Be sure to include your entire party of travelers when making the reservation as each ticket holder must also have a park reservation. Lastly, select the date and park you will visit each day. Disney states that these reservations may not be changed. However, the reservation can be canceled at any time and a new one may be made. Keep in mind that you may face limited availability the closer you are to your travel dates.
2. Park Hopping
Prior to the pandemic, purchasing the park hopper option meant that at any time during the day you could travel from one park to another. This is no longer the case. As of today, park-hopping for all ticket holders who have purchased the park hopper option begins at 2 pm. At 2 pm, you are free to travel to any park. There is no reservation system for this. One may ask, is it worth spending the extra money on park hopper when park hopping is limited? This is an individual decision. Some things to keep in mind are: do you plan to take a mid-day nap break, are you visiting a different park at night for fireworks, and how many days do you have in the parks.
3. Walt Disney World App
Before arriving at Disney World, it is imperative to familiarize yourself with the Walt Disney World application for iPhone and androids. During your time in the parks, this app will be your savior for navigating wait times, ordering food, showtimes, ride closures, park hours, and anything else you need to know throughout the day. The app will be one of two things for you: your best friend or your worst enemy. To ensure it be the former rather than the latter, review all its features prior to your first day in the park.
The two most helpful features will be found by clicking View My Day. You will then be taken to a screen with tabs located at the top: My Day and Tip Board. Tip Board is the place for making all Genie+ and Lightning Lane reservations. At any time during the day, you can click the Tip Board to see a listing of available bookings. My Day is a list of your reservations. Once you reserve an attraction through Genie+ or pay for an individual Lightning Lane, this will appear in your plans under My Day.
4. Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane
Genie+ is essentially the new fast pass system. You may add Genie+ to your ticket for a price of $15 per ticket per day. Reservations using the Genie+ system are made through the Walt Disney World App and can be made beginning at 7 am each day. Several attractions are available on the Genie+ system; however, a select few remain only available by Individual Lightning Lane purchase. Genie+ allows a new booking to be made every 2 hours or immediately after redeeming your current booking. If your first booking is made at 7 am, you may make a second reservation 2 hours after park opening time and every two hours after that. Confused yet? Here is an example to help understand the system.
7 am – Reservation window opens and you book Barnstormer for 10 am and purchase Individual Lightning Lane for Mining Train for 9 am
9 am – park opens, Ride Mining Train
Once Barnstormer is redeemed, you may book another attraction using Genie+
10:05 am- reserve another attraction
12:05 pm- (2 hours after the previous reservation)- make another reservation
This continues throughout the day…reserving an attraction every 2 hours or after you redeem current attractions (whatever comes first).
Individual Lightning Lane reservations are available for the two most popular attractions in each park. These can be purchased without having Genie+. The price varies depending on the day, and two lightning lane purchases can be made at a time. These do sell out, so I recommend getting on the app at 7am if interested in purchasing individual lightning lane entries. Wait times are routinely 90-120 minutes for top attractions; therefore, you can endure the wait or pay the price to skip the line. This certainly can add up quickly! While I was in Disney individual lightning lane prices were $11. If a family of four chooses two of these a day, this will add $88 per day to your trip.
If a trip to Disney World is on the horizon for your family, it is a great idea to start looking at the attractions and deciding which ones are a must. Once in the parks, navigating the app and making reservations will be easier knowing what is a must and what you can pass on. Once proficient with the Disney app, the only other thing needed for a magical day is an abundance of patience!