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Walt Disney World nixes reservations, adds back dining plans

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Guests at Florida’s Walt Disney World.

Joe Burbank | Orlando Sentinel | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

Changes are coming to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Prompted by guest feedback, Disney is updating some park policies to better accommodate both local and out-of-town visitors, the company said Monday.

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To start, Disney World will remove theme park reservation requirements for its date-based tickets beginning Jan. 9, 2024. This reverses a pandemic-era policy which required guests to plan visits before arriving at the parks by going through a two-step process, which included purchasing a ticket and then selecting a reservation date.

Now, there will be only one step: purchase a ticket for a specific date.

Annual passholders will be required to make reservations for most visits. However, Disney plans to roll out “good-to-go days,” which won’t require park reservations.

The change is in addition to the recently adopted rule that passholders can visit any of Disney’s Orlando-based theme parks after 2 p.m. without a reservation. The only exclusion is admission to Magic Kingdom on Saturdays and Sundays.

Disney’s most recent string of operational updates are part of its wider strategy to reduce friction points for guests. The company’s theme park division is one of the most lucrative segments of its overall business, and its success is driven by strong customer experiences.

The House of Mouse looks for ways to improve the guest experience, through new rides and attractions, better food options, magical moments with characters or updates to its resorts. The company aims to adapt to customer feedback — including concerns from some guests that the park reservation system was confusing or inconvenient.

As part of the changes announced Monday, Disney also said it is bringing back dining plans for those staying at its resort hotels after Jan. 9, 2024. Disney also announced that it is extending its early theme park entry for hotel guests through 2024.

The company said Monday that it could make more changes moving forward. Disney is looking to address concerns with its Genie and Genie+ itinerary programs, which were launched during the pandemic.

These digital offerings were designed to optimize guest experiences in the parks, allowing them to schedule their days more effectively, with access to estimated wait times and restaurant reservations. Coupled with Lightning Lane, guests also have the option to pay for a shorter wait for Disney’s top attractions.

Currently, guests can only access their Genie and Genie+ itineraries the day of their visit. Disney said it is working on ways for guests to make selections before their visit, so they can spend less time planning and more time enjoying the park.


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