We frogs loved hopping around the Disney World theme parks in 2021 — and we have no doubt the magic will call us, and many other families, in 2022!
As the party continues for the big 5-0, and more and more opens at "The Most Magical Place on Earth," there's so much to look forward to!
While there's lots of excitement on the horizon, including the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (May 27), it's important to note that there are still changes in place around the resort that you should be aware of before your trip. And perhaps the most exciting news of all — traditional character meet and greets have returned! Without further ado, here are the key things you need to know.
18 Key Things to Keep in Mind If You're Visiting Disney World in 2022 and Beyond
1. Know the Latest Updates on Health and Safety Measures
Recently, Disney World amended its policies a bit — as of April 19, 2022, face coverings are optional for fully vaccinated guests in both outdoor and indoor locations, as well as on enclosed Disney transportation, including Disney buses and monorails. It is recommended that guests who are not fully vaccinated continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations, including attractions, theaters and enclosed transportation. Temperature checks have been phased out and distancing measures are being reduced or eliminated across the resort (say goodbye to plexiglass partitions on rides!). That said, you should read up on all of the health and safety protocols in place before you go for the latest information.
2. Nighttime Spectaculars Have Returned!
Hip, hop, hooray! Two all-new nighttime spectaculars, "Disney Enchantment" at Magic Kingdom and "Harmonious" at EPCOT, have debuted for Disney World's 50th Anniversary Celebration. "Wonderful World of Animation" and "Disney Movie Magic" have also returned to Hollywood Studios.
3. Entertainment, Shows and Character Greetings Have Returned!
The Festival of Fantasy parade has returned, and Fantasmic! is slated to reopen in 2022, as well. Character dining experiences are continuing to reopen, including Hollywood & Vine, Tusker House and Storybook Dining at Artist Point.
And there's exciting news! Traditional character meet-and-greets has begun to return in phases, as of April 18, 2022. That means hugs, autographs and high fives with your favorites are back!
Likewise, a modified "Celebration of Festival of the Lion King" has returned to Disney's Animal Kingdom! "Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage" and "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" have returned to Hollywood Studios, along with Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at Magic Kingdom and Turtle Talk with Crush at EPCOT. Plus there are more on the way! A reimagined "Finding Nemo — The Musical" at Animal Kingdom returns to the stage in 2022.
4. More and More Restaurants Are Reopening
While more and more restaurants are reopening, and capacity is increasing, there still isn't quite as much availability as there was pre-COVID-19. For this reason, you should absolutely make dining plans in advance and reservations for table-service restaurants, so you're not left with tired, hungry tadpoles. Advance Dining Reservations can be made 60 days in advance. And don’t froget about Disney Springs (where we’ve spied the most dinner availability when we’ve checked). More options are slowly rolling out, so keep an eye out! Additionally, be sure to check menus in advance — some menu offerings have been modified.
5. Mobile Order Is a Must-Do
While it's not required, Mobile Order is all but a must-use for quick-service restaurants — and some restaurants exclusively use Mobile Order. With the limits mentioned on the table-service restaurants, quick-service restaurants are in more demand than ever, and wait times are up since the parks have reopened. No one wants to spend more time in line for a hot dog than for a ride! Thankfully, with Mobile Ordering at Disney World, you don't have to. It's pretty easy to set up Mobile Ordering using the My Disney Experience app, and we've got a full guide to walk you through it. (Psst ... on the app, you can also check table-service restaurants near you for walk-up availability!)
6. Capacity Is Going Up in the Parks
When the resort reopened, Disney World initially capped its park attendance at 20 percent. That limit has continued to increase as more guests hop back to the parks.
7. Park Reservations Are Still Required
Even so, Disney World implemented a Disney Park Pass reservation system wherein you needed to reserve the park you plan to attend on each day of your vacation. As more people have returned to the parks, it has become very important to book your park reservations earlier, especially if you want to visit around holidays and weekends. We cannot stress this enough — Park Passes can fill up quickly, so it's essential that you purchase your tickets and reserve your Park Passes as early as you can. At this point, the Disney Park Pass reservation system is set to be in place until early 2024.
8. Events Are Still Hoppening, and Modifications Are Slowly Being Rolled Back
While Disney's two biggest events, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party were canceled for 2020 and 2021, many more events did take place in 2020 and 2021 and will be taking place in 2022. Of course, Disney World is also throwing "The World's Most Magical Celebration" for its 50th anniversary. Though Disney After Hours Boo Bash and Disney Very Merriest After Hours took over in 2021, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party will be making a boo-tiful return in 2022 (and we'd expect Mickey's Verry Merry Christmas Party to return as well). The Disney on Broadway concert series (EPCOT International Festival of the Arts) and the Garden Rocks concert series (EPCOT International Flower and Garden) returned to the festivals in 2022.
Keep in mind that Park Passes may fill up early for special events. Hotels also fill up around these dates, so we'd highly recommend booking your stay in advance if you plan to attend.
9. Park Hopping Has Returned (With Some Modifications)
Park hopping has returned — with some stipulations. You need to make a reservation for the park you plan to start the day in, but you're free to hop to another park at 2 p.m. (provided there's availability). To date, there has only been one day when park hopping wasn't available (on the very first day of Disney World's 50th-anniversary celebration at Magic Kingdom), but you'll want to keep this in mind during busy times such as the holidays.
10. All of the Disney World Resort Hotels Are Now Open
All of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels have reopened! Disney's Polynesian Village Resort reopened with its new Moana-inspired rooms, followed by Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Port Orleans Resorts (helloooo beignets!)
Additionally, some resort hotel services have been suspended. Club-level service is temporarily unavailable. As of Jan. 1, 2022, the Magical Express has retired. Third-party services, such as Mears Connect, will offer paid transportation to and from the airport. As another alternative, you could rent a car (which you can do through Undercover Tourist!).
Again, we highly recommend booking as soon as you have your dates set, especially if it's during a traditionally busy time such as holidays, summer and spring break.
11. Water Parks Are Slowly Reopening
Disney's Blizzard Beach reopened March 7, 2021, with health and safety measures in place (read all about the experience in our Blizzard Beach guide). Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon reopened Jan. 2, 2022 — the first time it's been open since 2020! (Currently, Blizzard Beach is closed for annual refurbishment).
12. Extra Magic Hours Are Going Away and a New Early Theme Park Entry Benefit Is Here
Early Magic Hours haven't been hoppening since the parks reopened, but now there's a new Early Theme Park Entry benefit that hotel guests can take advantage of. The new Disney Early Theme Park Entry benefit allows on-site hotel guests and guests at select off-site hotels to enjoy 30 minutes of early entry to ANY theme park, EVERY day. Deluxe and Villa resort guests also have access to Extended Evening Hours at select parks on select nights. (Note: Early Theme Park Entry can be extended to one hour during busy peak periods.)
13. FastPass+ Has Retired, and Genie+ Has Emerged from the Lamp
Disney has retired FastPass+, its skip-the-regular lines service. In its place are Lightning Lanes, which guests can pay to access using the all-new Genie+ service. Similar to Disneyland's former MaxPass system, the add-on covers 40+ attractions and can be purchased same-day. (No more getting up early 60 days in advance to snag your spot!) You can also purchase your ticket with Genie+ included for the length of your trip.
As of June 8, 2022, Disney Genie+ service will no longer be available to purchase as an add-on to new tickets, and will only be available for sale on the day of your visit via the My Disney Experience app. If you have multi-day tickets or annual passes, you will need to purchase Genie+ each day. If you have already purchased tickets with Genie+ prior to June 8, your ticket will still include Genie+! When Genie+ is available on a day-to-day basis, it will be subject to availability. Undercover Tourist will continue to sell tickets with Disney Genie+ service included until June 8, so book your tickets now in order to guarantee Disney Genie+ availability for the duration of your trip!
14. MagicBands Are No Longer Free, but There Is Less Need for Them in 2022
MagicBands are still available for purchase to all, but they are no longer provided free for resort hotel guests. Disney has brought some of the functionality of MagicBands to an all-new service called Disney MagicMobile. Disney MagicMobile provides a contactless way to access MagicBand features such as theme park entry through your iPhone, Apple Watch or other smart devices. Guests can create a Disney MagicMobile pass through the My Disney Experience app and add it to their smart device’s digital wallet. Just like a MagicBand, MagicMobile works by holding or tapping your smart device near an access point. Digital room keys will continue to be available through My Disney Experience. You can also use Disney MagicMobile for Genie+ access to Lightning Lane entrances, validating Early Theme Park Entry access and more — anything that your MagicBand can do!
15. Now, More Than Ever, You Need to Plan Your Time in the Parks
It is perhaps more important than ever to have a plan when visiting the parks. At the very least, have all of your family members decide at the outset which rides are most important so that no one is left disappointed. If you want more direction than that, we frogs have added new Disney World park plans that take into account these changes to help you plan your best day.
16. Know the Latest Ways to Make Reservations for In-Demand Rides
A virtual queue was the only way to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, but Boarding Groups are temporarily closed for this particular attraction. But virtual queues are here to stay! Remy's Ratatouille Adventure used a virtual queue upon opening before transitioning to standby, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will open with a virtual queue when it launches May 27.
17. As Soon as You Know You're Going, Book the Trip!
This goes for hotel reservations, park reservations and tickets. It's doubly true if you will be visiting during a holiday, peak times or major events, such as Disney World's 50th anniversary. With limited capacity and demand increasing, you need to book as soon as you feel comfortable doing so.
18. Consider Travel Insurance
While Undercover Tourist has a generous 365-day refund policy, in these times, you may want even more peace of mind. Our travel insurance offers reimbursement up to 100 percent for pre-paid, non-refundable tickets if you cancel or interrupt your vacation for a covered illness, injury and more. You'll find it as an easy add-on in your cart before you purchase!
While this is a lot to consider, we think the benefits of a fabulous Disney World family vacation are toadally worth it. Have a tip you think other vacationers would benefit from knowing? Share it in the comments below!
Related: Best Time to Visit Disney World