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Disney’s Making Several HUGE Changes in 2024 That Might Just Win Back Those Prodigal Fans

mickey ears and fireworks
Credit: Flickr/Brian McGowan/Canva

Disney World is gearing up to make some huge changes in 2024, some of which might just be what leads to the return of many of Disney’s prodigal fans.

cinderella castle ai version with change definition

Credit: Canva

The new year is upon us, and for many, the advent of the coming twelve-month block of time is an opportunity to look back, look forward, take inventory, and make plans. It’s also a time of hoping for change and attempting to take the initiative in bringing about that change.

A New Year of Changes for Disney World Fans

For Disney fans, the same is true as a new year approaches. But for them, it’s about looking forward to an upcoming Disney World visit and looking ahead to changes announced by the company to see how they might affect them as fans.

mickey-ears

Credit: Flickr/Brian McGowan

In recent months and years, The Walt Disney Company seems to have embraced a fast-paced climate of change when it comes to its parks around the world, its perks, and its entertainment offerings, including television series, films, and other projects. And while some unpleasant challenges are coming in 2024, the company might also be on the brink of a revival as some of its plans for the new year are very welcome changes indeed.

The Return of the Disney Dining Plan

Many Disney World fans counted the Disney Dining Plan among their “must-haves” when planning a trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth.

be our guest restaurant magic kingdom

Credit: Becky Burkett

But thanks to an angry and wide-reaching viral pandemic, fans of the dining plan enjoyed their last meal and savored their final snacks as part of the Disney Dining Plan sometime before early 2020, and they’ve yet to have the experience again, nearly four years later. As the pandemic made its way to the United States in February 2020, it became clear to execs at The Walt Disney Company that a total shutdown of Disney’s theme parks division around the world was unavoidable.

But no one could have imagined all that would be missing once the parks reopened. Though Disney World reopened in July 2020, just four months after closing its gates in March, the experience at the resort was altogether different from anything fans had experienced prior to 2020.

disney world reopens july 2020

Magic Kingdom resembled a ghost town in July 2020/Credit: Becky Burkett

Restricted capacities in the parks led to Disney family vacation photos that seemed to capture a Disney-themed ghost town rather than the usually well-attended Disney World theme parks. Waiting in front of Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle for the perfect photo took no time at all, and fans of EPCOT’s World Showcase could see hundreds of feet down the red-orange paved promenade with an almost unrestricted view.

disney world reopens july 2020

A crowd-free World Showcase Promenade at EPCOT in July 2020/Credit: Becky Burkett

Other changes weren’t so palatable. Every guest who wished to enter a Disney World theme park was subjected to temperature checks at the gate, and everyone was required to wear a mask–no exceptions. Once inside the theme parks, guests discovered that many of their favorite experiences, including parades and other live entertainment offerings, were not available.

The situation grew more disappointing for dining fans in the parks, who realized that many of their favorite Disney World restaurants had their doors locked, and on top of that, all quick-service dining venues that were open at Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom required mobile orders submitted via the My Disney Experience app.

toy story land disney's hollywood studios reopens july 2020

Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios resembles a ghost town in July 2020/Credit: Becky Burkett

But the final blow for some fans came with the news that the Disney Dining Plan was no longer available. For many, it was a deal-breaker. Others were more agreeable, taking comfort in their certainty that the absence of the dining plan would be temporary. Fans hoped that the return of the dining plan would be announced at the D23 Expo in September 2022. But in the years following the reopening of the parks, Disney World fans began to lose that hope. Everything changed, however, with an announcement from Disney in May 2023.

disney dining plan returns

Credit: Disney/Canva

Per the announcement, the Disney Dining plan would return, beginning in January 2024, and booking for the revived plans opened to guests on May 31, with the option to add plans to bookings for visits beginning on or after January 9, 2024.

Quick-Service dining plans run $57 for adults and $24 for kids (ages 3 to 9), and the Disney Dining plan, which includes one meal at a table-service dining venue, runs $94 for adults and $30 for kids.

Oh happy day!

The Long-Awaited Demise of the Park Pass Reservation System

When Disney World’s theme parks reopened after the four-month-long pandemic closure, guests were in for another sour realization.

Because crowd control was of the utmost importance as a means of slowing or stopping the spread of the coronavirus, Disney diligently worked at keeping attendance in the parks historically low. Though the company never shared specifics about its capacity limits in those first months, the uncharacteristically empty walkways and thoroughfares, coupled with the walk-on availability of many of the parks’ most popular rides, kept no secrets.

magic kingdom splash mountain

A usually crowded Frontierland at Magic Kingdom looked all but abandoned in July 2020/Credit: Becky Burkett

How did Disney World achieve such a low number of guests in the parks? By implementing requirements for reserving days in the parks. Known as the Park Pass Reservation System, the new way of booking a visit to Disney World involved checking the reservation calendar to determine which parks had availability for guests, then purchasing tickets, and then returning to book specific dates at specific theme parks.

It was an arduous task for guests, especially in the first days. But guests’ growing familiarity with the system didn’t ease tensions, and soon, they began to air their grievances about the requirement of reservations at Disney World–especially annual passholders whose passes clearly stated there were “no blockout dates.”

crowds at magic kingdom

Credit: Becky Burkett

Suddenly, the most expensive annual passes were reduced in value, as guests could not reserve more than three days in the parks at one time. In the months that followed, several guests filed suit against Disney in response to the new park reservation system. No wonder many were thrilled about two announcements made earlier this year.

In February 2023, Disney announced that reservation restrictions would be eased for annual passholders looking to visit the parks after 2:00 p.m., and in May, Disney announced the end of the Park Pass Reservation System for date-based tickets beginning in January 2024. Per Disney, beginning January 9, 2024, reservations will no longer be required for those tickets. For other types of admission, including tickets without dates, reservations could still be required in an effort to manage attendance in the parks.

park pass system going away

Credit: Disney/Canva

It’s among some of the most welcome and exciting news announced for 2024. What a relief it will be to witness the reservation system’s demise!

A Farewell to Park Hopping Restrictions 

In the months following the reopening of Disney World’s theme parks in July 2020, park hopping was restricted completely, but soon, guests regained the opportunity to move from one park to another but were required to wait until 2:00 p.m. local time to visit another park.

No matter how much they wanted to start their day at Magic Kingdom and hop to EPCOT for a lunch reservation, it simply was not allowed.

Four Disney Parks at Beacons of Magic

Credit: Disney Parks

Months later, during a time in the parks when virtual queues were the only way to experience a popular attraction, guests who hoped to hop to a different park to try for a spot in the virtual queue found no magic whatsoever.

But beginning January 9, 2024, guests with Park Hopper tickets, as well as annual passholders, will have the flexibility to hop to another theme park anytime. The removal of the Park Pass Reservation System will make way for the removal of park hopping restrictions, thus allowing guests to move between the four theme parks as they wish.

disney world park hopping

Credit: Disney/Canva

On days during which a theme park reservation is required for certain admission types, guests will still be able to hop to another park anytime after they visit the first park they’ve chosen for the day.

Is Disney World Listening to Its Guests?

The welcome changes coming to Disney World in the new year are long overdue by many guests’ accounts. Some feel that Disney extended its post-pandemic implementations for far too long and say there’s no need for them now.

The new changes also have some guests feeling better about Disney overall. Could it be that Disney is listening to the requests and the concerns of its patrons? If so, could these changes–and others potentially coming to the parks in 2024–ultimately be what begins a return of former fans back to the House of Mouse?

magic kingdom train station with hearts

Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

Is that possible? Yes. Is it probable? Perhaps. While there are no guarantees about the outcomes these new changes might have for guests, one thing rings true for the majority of guests: when they feel like they are being supported and that their concerns are being taken seriously, the chances are very good that those who’ve fallen out of love with Disney might once again be able to rekindle the flame.

Here’s hoping that’s true in 2024.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

2 comments

  1. And what about getting rid of those scandalous costing Genie + extra fees ? Basic admission prices are high enough to start with. The fastpass system worked just fine. But I guess that didnt create extra revenue did it. GREED, GREED, GREED. Shame on you Disney.

  2. Doesn’t seem that this pertains to Disneyland or DCA. Waste of time reading this ……

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