Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Disney World 2022 Changes: Our #1 Piece of Advice
- 2. Walt Disney World Policy on Face Coverings
- 3. Account for Changing Hours and Refurbishment Closures
- 5. Both Disney Water Parks Have Reopened
- 6. No Extra Magic Hours - Early Entry Instead
- 8. MagicBands Get an Upgrade to MagicBand+
- 9. Disney World 2022: (Almost) all resort hotels are now open.
- Where Can I Buy Discount Disney Tickets?
- 10. Disney Theme Park Reservations
- 11. No Parades (yet) and Reduced Nighttime Spectaculars
- 13. No Disney Dining Plans + Changes to Advance Dining Reservations
- 14. Genie+ Instead of FastPass+
- 15. "High-Touch" Interactions are still limited.
- 16. Some Special Experiences are on Hold
- 17. Pin Trading Looks a Little Different
- 18. Apps are Even More Important
- 19. Hand Sanitizers Everywhere
- 20. New Rides Coming to Disney World 2022
- 21. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Opening in March 2022
- The Big Question: Is Disney Worth It Right Now?
Since Disney’s reopening updates have been coming in fast and furious as rides and shows that were originally on pause come back. Heading into 2022 we have modified character meet and greets, Fastpass replacement Genie+, and could we see the dining plan return? Here are some changes you can expect to see on your 2022 Walt Disney World visit from pin trading to how to get to Disney with the closure of free Magical Express bus service.
Changes, changes, and more changes. Read on for everything you need to know to prepare for your Disney World 2022 trip, from how things work in the parks now to what is still not back.
TravelingMom Tip: You can now book Disney vacations up to 500 days in advance! That means you can book now for visits in 2022. All it takes is a $200 down payment. The balance isn’t due until 30 days prior to travel. You can get details on this, as well as help booking, from our partners at Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it.
1. Disney World 2022 Changes: Our #1 Piece of Advice
Know. The. Rules.
Things are different right now. Everywhere. Disney does a great job at keeping guests and potential guests informed. Get familiar with the main Walt Disney World website, download the My Disney Experience App and get familiar with how it is set up in advance of your visit.
Read the signs in the resort hotels, in Disney Springs and in the parks.
If you think you or someone in your group is an exception to any of the rules, research it ahead of time. Don’t assume. You can still have a very magical time at Disney World right now but planning is more important than ever.
TravelingMom Tip: Bookmark or save this guide to Disney World changes to refer to later.
Heading to Disneyland instead? Here’s what you need to know about Disneyland in 2022.
2. Walt Disney World Policy on Face Coverings
The Walt Disney World mask policy has changed several times. We strongly advise rechecking for new guidelines close to your travel dates.
(Updated 2/17/2022) Face coverings are optional for fully vaccinated Guests in both outdoor and indoor locations. We expect Guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations, including indoor attractions and theaters. Face coverings are still required by all Guests (ages 2 and up) on enclosed Disney transportation, including Disney buses, monorails, and Disney Skyliner.
ShopDisney sells lots of cute Disney-themed masks and you can also buy Disney masks at the gift shops throughout the resort and in Disney Springs. As long as you have to wear a mask at Disney, might as well get into the theming and wear a Disney mask!
Need help planning your Disney trip? Get all your questions answered from our Disney Planning & Fun Facebook Group!
3. Account for Changing Hours and Refurbishment Closures
When Disney World first reopened, the hours were quite a bit shorter than what we were used to. As of publication time, the hours appear to be nearly back to normal, although our best advice is to check often when planning your Disney trip and daily while at the resort. We have noticed a trend of Disney shutting down different attractions for events, repairs and refurbishments. Plans for 2022 include temporary closures of the Skyliner, pool closures at resort hotels ranging from Animal Kingdom Lodge to Art of Animation, and Expedition Everest.
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Become intimately familiar with the park hours calendar as you plan your vacation and plan your time in the parks. You’ll need to work within these parameters – and expect they may change – as you get closer to your family vacation.
If you are a free and easy go-with-the-flow type of planner, this might be a little difficult for you but if you are going to have a successful Disney World 2022 visit, you’re going to need to plan your time in the parks around the current, posted hours and accept that you might not have as much time in the day to be in the parks as you’d like.
Here are our guides for how to spend one day in the parks:
4. Waiting in Line – What to Expect Right Now
Disney World is currently operating at reduced capacity. Without getting into the math of it or a discussion of capacity versus average attendance, the park does feel relatively “normal” in terms of crowds right now. Walking onto Main Street U.S.A. and Hollywood Boulevard early in the morning felt pretty crowded. The wait times and population density – in my opinion seems about average.
Disney Genie Service launched in fall of 2021. This service is both a planning tool and the Fastpass+ replacement. You can view wait times and see recommendations for the best times to ride using Genie. Several of our writers have utilized it and report that especially at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios you can save time.
TravelingMom Tip: Bring the fun home with this cute Disney gear for your next vacation.
Lines for Attractions
Wait times can be found on the My Disney Experience App and are also posted at the regular entrance to the attraction. For the most part, these posted wait times are accurate, although we did get through the line and the ride at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in less than 10 minutes versus the posted 40. That might have just been some good luck. In general, expect the wait to be about what is posted.
Disney World 2022 vacationers will be happy to see pre-ride experiences and shows have returned.
5. Both Disney Water Parks Have Reopened
If you are a superfan of Disney Water Parks, we have some good news. Both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are now open. A water park day is a great way to break up your Disney vacation and beat the Florida heat!
Note: Well, that was short lived. Blizzard Beach has shut down for a multi-month refurbishment. A reopening date hasn’t been announced.
6. No Extra Magic Hours – Early Entry Instead
Extra Magic Hours – a perk available to people who stay “on property” at a Disney hotel – was discontinued shortly after the reopening after the pandemic. Unfortunately, Disney has announced that they will not be returning. There are now two options available to some resort guests.
Extra Magic Hours used to give resort guests access to one of the four parks each day, either before or after regular park opening hours. There was a published schedule that dictated which park had Extra Magic Hours on which day. This was pretty easy to plan around.
Early Entry is 30 minute early access versus an hour. Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel will be able to use Early Entry at any park on any day. More flexibility, less time. In addition, Extended Evening Evening Theme Park hours have been added. At this time these two hour time blocks are only available at EPCOT and Magic Kingdom on designated Mondays and Wednesdays. The biggest change is that these hours are only for deluxe resort guests and select other guests. It’s definitely something to consider when looking at resort levels at Walt Disney World.
TravelingMom Tip: Remember that Disney Vacation Club properties are all Deluxe level. To take advantage of perks without being a member you can rent DVC points for your stay.
7. Getting to Disney World from the Airport is Harder
If one Disney World change really stirred up super fans it was the demise of Magical Express. You can say what you’d like about there being numerous options to fill its void (like Mears Connect) but the bottom line is it requires more work. Before you’d book your Disney vacation, input your flights and have magical reservations to go from the Orlando Airport to Disney. Now you have to weigh out your options, price them out depending on your party size and book and manage them yourself. We’ve compiled a list of options to help you but either way it’s not the same.
Disney World Changes with Parks Transportation
The transportation from Walt Disney World Resort hotels and the parks and from park to park is still running as normal. For your Disney World 2022 vacation transportation no longer has capacity limits in place. One thing that TravelingMom Nasreen Stump noticed during her December 2021 trip was the use of motor coaches in place of regular Disney busses. It wasn’t on all routes but if you travel with a mobility device your wait times may be impacted since the motor coaches do not accomodate wheelchairs and scooters.
One Disney World change that lasted for all of 2021 was the absence of trams in the parking lots. For 2022 trams have returned to Magic Kingdom. They are due to return to the other parks over the course of 2022.
8. MagicBands Get an Upgrade to MagicBand+
In 2021 we saw free MagicBands disappear for resort guests. Guests staying at Walt Disney World Resorts have the option of adding MagicBands to their reservation for an additional fee. Many frequent Disney visitors chose to reuse MagicBands from a prior trip or purchase new MagicBands. Just double check to make sure they’re connected to your My Disney Experience account.
New at Disney World in 2022 are the MagicBand+. These interactive MagicBands are being released in 2022 as part of Disney’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. They’ll light up during nighttime spectaculars, allow you to interact with the Fab 50 sculptures, and even vibrate. If you’re headed to on a Disney World 2022 vacation you may want to hold off on MagicBand purchases until closer to your trip to see if they’ll be available.
For resort guests, MagicBands can act as your park ticket, your method of payment and your room key. They’re even waterproof so you can wear them in the pools and Disney Water Parks. Even though the MagicBands are no longer free, I still recommend them especially if you’ll be using Genie+. You’ll need to tap in two times in each line that you’re utilizing it in so the bands are significantly easier.
9. Disney World 2022: (Almost) all resort hotels are now open.
As of January 2022 the only Walt Disney World Hotel that has NOT reopened is All-Star Sports. It is due to reopen on March 31, 2022. All other hotels are open to guests. Hotel rooms are being cleaned and serviced on a modified schedule.
Where Can I Buy Discount Disney Tickets?
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If you want to know what it would cost to go to Disney World for your family, ask for a free quote here.
10. Disney Theme Park Reservations
Ah, the good old days when you could wake up and decide which park you wanted to visit that day. EPCOT and the World Showcase by day and Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Star Wars after dinner? While that would have been entirely doable with a park hopper ticket pre-2020, that plan doesn’t work in 2022.
The reservations system to get into the park is one of the first post-Covid Disney World changes to roll out and it’s one that guests have mostly liked since it’s (so far) resulted in thinner crowds at the parks. We don’t expect them to drop this anytime soon so you’ll need park reservations for your Disney World 2022 vacation.
In order to get into one of the parks you’ll need both a valid park admission ticket and a Disney park pass reservation. As of January 2021, park hopping is back but you will still need to make a park reservation So planning is a must. It will be much more of a production to move from one park to another.
Park hopper hours begin at 2 p.m. and last until that park closes. As with all ticket and reservation related things, refer to your My Disney Experience App.
And, because it bears repeating: Guests must have both a ticket and a reservation. Foot stomp. As soon as you buy your tickets book your park reservations. Immediately. Do not wait. Parks have filled up during the busy holiday season and popular weekends during the Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration.
11. No Parades (yet) and Reduced Nighttime Spectaculars
One of the biggest Disney World theme park changes is the lack of parades.
Parades and nighttime shows draw big, enthusiastic crowds every day. That’s why Disney suspended them when the parks reopened in 2020. For now, the Disney World parades have been replaced by character cavalcades. We did see Disney bring back one parade in 2021, the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, during the ticketed Very Merriest event. Festival of Fantasy Parade is slated to start at Magic Kingdom in early 2022.
12. Character Cavalcade 101: Disney World Changes
After spending four days at Disney, I’m going to say this: I don’t miss the parade and I’m in favor of keeping the character cavalcades. They’re so cute and fun and I love the element of surprise when they pop up.
And, as much as I loved the afternoon parade in Magic Kingdom, I didn’t love having to be there an hour beforehand to stake out a good spot and still being crowded. Having a pop up parade in short bursts is a lot more fun.
Character Cavalcade times have been worked into the My Disney Experience app. You can check out upcoming times and locations. Here are where some happen.
Where to Find Magic Kingdom Character Cavalcades
The elevated stage by the park entrance almost always has characters. When you’re coming into the park, turn around and look up. There will often be music and dancing so it’s pretty hard to miss. This is a fun “See ya real soon” when you’re leaving the park. You never know who you might see up there but we’ve spotted the Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto) as well as the Dapper Dans.
The regular afternoon parade route is still in use and you’ll see character cavalcades using that route very regularly. We saw Tinkerbell, all of the Princesses, Mickey and Minnie, and marching bands. We also saw Chip and Dale on the bridge in Adventureland which is right by the parade route.
Where to Find Disney’s Animal Kingdom Character Cavalcades
All of the character cavalcades are via boat. You can see them from a number of different places in the park, but they all end up going into the arena where the Rivers of Light show normally is.
We saw Chip and Dale, Pocahontas, Rafiki and Timon, and a very lively Calypso style band.
Where to Find Disney’s Hollywood Studios Character Cavalcades
The parade route we’ve observed is from the Frozen Singalong entrance down through the gate between Star Tours and the Indiana Jones show. We’ve seen Chip and Dale walking with Minnie and Mickey in cars as well as a Pixar spectacular with The Incredibles, Edna Mode, Woody, Jessie, and the Green Army Men.
Socially distanced character interactions have been reported in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you want to get a selfie with Kylo Ren or some Storm Troopers in the background, you might get lucky.
Where to Find EPCOT Character Cavalcades
Character cavalcades in EPCOT start right between the Mexico and Norway pavilions. We spotted Mickey and Minnie in a vintage roadster. Many princesses also now appear in their home countries.
Character cavalcades have the same energy and a parade – they’re just shorter and more frequent so the crowds in the gathering spots don’t tend to accumulate as they would for a longer parade. You also never know what time they’re going to be (although about once an hour is a safe bet.)
Modified Character Meet and Greets
In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, there are no traditional character meet and greets or one-on-one interactions. That doesn’t mean you won’t see your favorites or get to interact with them.
Your kids might miss the hugs and the up close and personal experience, but Disney has gone out of its way to still make it special. Learn more about where to find these modified meet and greets here.
We think Disney is doing a great job. I’m sure there are guests who miss the experience of standing in line to meet characters and get autographs. We’re really happy with the way things are right now but hope those more intimate experiences (and hugs) come back real soon.
13. No Disney Dining Plans + Changes to Advance Dining Reservations
Disney Dining Plans are still on hold for Disney World 2022 visitors. However, we are hoping to see dining plans return in 2022. We’ve noticed that even newer signage includes dining plan verbiage, spelling out what a snack is so we’re hopeful. Character Dining is made a socially distanced comeback. Characters no longer visit your table for hugs and autographs. There will be a character procession or socially distanced interaction. Guests will be reminded to stay at their tables while this happens. You’ll get an opportunity to get pictures with your favorite Disney friends from a safe distance.
Available character dining at time of publication:
- Topolino’s Terrace, Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Garden Grill, EPCOT
- Chef Mickey’s, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Hollywood & Vine, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Artists Point, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
While not historically considered character dining, Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom) is open and the Beast is regularly making socially distanced appearances in his castle during meals. In addition, character dining is still unavailable at Cinderella’s Royal Table with Cinderella making more of a Be Our Guest style pass through during meals versus the full character experience.
You can (and should) book dining reservations if you plan to eat at any table service restaurants. The current booking window is 60 days out, down from the 180 days it has been in the past. Disney’s goal is to allow people to make reservations closer to their actual travel dates.
14. Genie+ Instead of FastPass+
When Disney reopened in the absence of FastPass+ fans were not happy. The good news is that while free Fastpass+ is gone for good it has been replaced. Genie Service has both free and paid aspects (Genie+ and Lightning Lanes) and you will shell out more money to use it on top of a traditional park ticket.
15. “High-Touch” Interactions are still limited.
Bye-bye to the non-socially-distanced Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Harmony Barber Shop and Character Couture makeovers, at least for now. Some resort salons/spas have reopened.
16. Some Special Experiences are on Hold
In addition to the “high touch” experiences, special tours and behind-the-scenes experiences were put on hold. The good news for your Disney World 2022 vacation is that it looks like they’re coming back! We can see tour times available for many tours starting on February 6th 2022 with a few more showing availability on March 1st and beyond.
One of the best behind-the-scenes experiences at Walt Disney World is the Senses of Africa Breakfast at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. If they bring it back, I highly recommend.
17. Pin Trading Looks a Little Different
If you love pin trading don’t worry pin trading is alive and well.
“We found it a Covid-safe experience,” TravelingMom Sarah Gilliland says of her recent visit to Walt Disney World. “You describe the pin you want, the cast member grabs it off the board and wipes it with a Clorox wipe and places it in a box or on the table. Guests never physically touch a cast member. They then pick up your pin, wipe it clean, and place it back on the board for others to trade.”
Although you might not find as many pin trading boards – super high touch areas – you might see other guests who are obviously pin traders. Pin traders will have visible lanyards or other containers – a popular one is a wearable pin wallet that looks like a little purse. It’s up to you whether you approach them as individuals and ask to pin trade.
18. Apps are Even More Important
Touchless check-in at the resort and touchless payment are the way to go. Get familiar with asking yourself “Can I use my device to do that?”
Your trip to Disney will be easier. Technology really does make our lives and travels easier and right now, it keeps us safer.
Familiarize yourself with the My Disney Experience app. You will use it a lot. You can check character cavalcade times, book Genie+ times, look at maps, order food from quick service restaurants and more. Many table service restaurants will have QR code signs to check in for your reservation from your phone and to put yourself on a standby list.
19. Hand Sanitizers Everywhere
This is a good change that we want to see stick around! We’re seeing ample hand sanitizing stations throughout the parks. We have been hearing reports of many of them sitting empty though so we still recommend carrying your own.
20. New Rides Coming to Disney World 2022
One of the Disney World changes in 2022 is actually an exciting one. New rides are still being planned. In 2021, we saw one new ride, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at EPCOT. We may see two in 2022. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is expected to open at EPCOT in the summer of 2022. TRON Lightcycle Run is another new roller coaster planned for Magic Kingdom. While an opening date hasn’t been set yet it is rumored to be late 2022 with some saying it will be pushed to next year.
21. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Opening in March 2022
Opening in 2022, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is more than a hotel. It’s an immersive two night three day experience. Guests will participate in special dining, roaming character experiences, and even be specially transported directly into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a day. Learn more about the experience in our full Galactic Starcruiser post.
The Big Question: Is Disney Worth It Right Now?
When words and phrases like “pandemic” and “social distance” began to be a part of our everyday vocabulary, most of us didn’t expect things to go on for this long.
But, they have. A new year has dawned and operations are still not fully back to pre-March 2020.
Should you postpone your Disney vacation until after Covid-19 is no longer a threat? Or should you arm yourself with info and go with precautions? That’s a highly personal choice. Disney right now isn’t going to be exactly the same as Disney 18 months ago. Or 18 months in the future.
Do you have visions of starry-eyed children hugging Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse? What’s being offered right now is going to fall short of that expectation.
I get that logic.
But Main Street U.S.A. is still Main Street U.S.A. The magic of Pandora and Splash Mountain and all of (well…most of) our favorites are still going strong.
TravelingMom and Disney expert Sarah Gilliland had this to say: “Are things the same? No, not even close. Can you still have fun? Absolutely, especially if you plan appropriately and manage expectations.”