Planning 101 Vacation Planner Walt Disney World

How Planning A 2021 Walt Disney World Vacation Will Be Different

November 22, 2020

A lot has changed in a year. Planning a trip in 2022? Check all of the things that has changed for 2022.

What will Walt Disney World look like in 2021? And how will the current situation affect the way you’re planning for your next trip?

For starters, a last minute trip to Disney World may not always work out. As shown on Disney’s Park Pass Calendar, it’s easier than initially thought to get a Park Reservation. But, that’s not always the case.

Some days do sell out, especially Hollywood Studios. So, making sure you do a little bit of homework and planning ahead of time is still necessary.

Park Reservations

Attendance in the Parks are increasing. But, Park Reservations will still be required for entry throughout 2021. While we don’t know how long it’ll last, we do know that the system is currently set up through January 2022.

How does this change your planning? Some Guests rely on crowd calendars, Extra Magic Hours, FastPass availability, and/or personal preference to plan out their trip. But, with Park Reservations being required for the entirety of 2021, the Parks you visit will rely on which Parks have availability.

The good news is that with the help of the Park availability calendar, you can check for available Park Passes before purchasing your tickets.

Disney's Hollywood Studios sign

Park Hoppers

Starting January 1, 2021, Park Hoppers are making their comeback. But, there are a few changes to how they normally work.

Choose Your First Park

When Guests make their Park Reservations, they are only required to choose the first Park they plan on visiting. They will need to enter that Park before they will be allowed to hop to another Park. You do not need to let Disney know which Park you’re hopping on over to.

Wait Until 2PM To Park Hop

Park Hopper Hours is set to start at 2 PM each day and last for the rest of the day. However, those hours could change depending on the day and the Park. So, you’ll want to keep and eye on the Park Calendar before finalizing your plans.

Recommended: Check for Availability Before Leaving Your First Park

I recommend calling (407) 560-5000 prior to hopping on over to another Park. This is the phone number typically used during extremely busy times to let Guests know when a Park is at capacity.

This is a pre-recorded message, so you won’t have to wait to speak to a Cast Member. It will simply let you know which Parks (if any) are at capacity.

Virtual Queue For Rise Of The Resistance

If you plan on using the Virtual Queue to grab a spot in line for Rise of the Resistance, Hollywood Studios must be your first Park. Virtual Queue will not be available for Guests who Park Hop to Hollywood Studios after 2PM.

Already book your 2021 Walt Disney World Package? When the 2021 Packages were released, Park Hoppers were included as a ticket option. However, not everyone decided to upgrade their tickets since we didn’t know if Park Hopping would be allowed.

Now that we have an official date, Guests who would like to add the Park Hopping upgrade can easily upgrade their tickets on their existing reservation. If you used a Travel Agent to book your trip, just tell them know and they’ll do the rest.

Blueberry cheesecake with passion fruit curd from Satu'li Canteen

No Dining Plans

Restaurants everywhere are modifying their menus and reducing their capacity. Walt Disney World restaurants are no different.

As a result, Dining Plans were cancelled. And unfortunately, there is no word on when they’ll be returning. Travel Agents, such as myself, has been getting questions about pricing. However, we don’t have any quotes that include Dining plans for any 2021 Walt Disney World Packages.

However, Disney makes modifications very easy for us. So, once Disney starts offering them again, it’s very simple to add it onto your existing reservation.

This change has been the hardest adjustment for families who rely on Free Dining Promotions. For many, this is the only way they’re able to afford to go.

Historically, Free Dining has been used during the summer and/or early fall, with release dates announced early in the year.

I know that Disney is eager to start offering Dining Plans to their Guests again. So, I’m not ruling out the possibility of it making a comeback in 2021. But, when these will be released is still anyone’s guess.

Empty dining area in Pizzafari in Animal Kingdom

60 Day Dining Reservations

For many, booking your Dining Reservation at 180 days is what really starts to get you pumped for your upcoming vacation.

But, with so many changes being made, the normal 180 day time frame has been shortened to 60 days. Personally, I love the shortened timeline. Not everyone knows where they’re going to want to eat 6 months ahead of time. So, I would not be upset if this change sticks around for awhile.

Despite Park Reservations, shortened timelines are making it a little easier to plan your trip right now. But, don’t underestimate the low crowds. You’ll still want to book those Table Service Restaurants as soon as you can.

Restaurants are still operating with limited capacity. And now that Guests are able to add themselves to a waitlist through the My Disney Experience app, getting some of those Table Service Reservations aren’t as easy as you think.

Frozen Ever After Entrance

No FastPasses

Despite increasing crowds and the return of Park Hopping, there is still no word of FastPasses returning to Walt Disney World in 2021…just yet. And for many, this is probably the hardest change to get used to. With top tier attractions reaching high wait times, it’s hard to imagine not being able to at least cut down your wait of at least a few attractions per day.

Lower capacity has helped ease the pain of not having any FastPasses. But, with the holidays coming up, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Parks reach their new capacity.

There is a rumor swirling around that FastPasse will be making their comeback in January 2021. While this may still happen, without official confirmation from Disney, it’s just a rumor.

Opening your Resort Door with your MagicBand

No More Complimentary MagicBands

If you’re like me, you were greatly disappointed when Disney released an announcement stating that complimentary MagicBands will no longer be available to Disney Resort Guests starting January 2021.

MagicBands are not being discontinued altogether. Discounted MagicBands will still be available to Resort Guests during planning. And retail locations around Walt Disney Word and shopDisney.com will still be selling them.

But, with Guests relying heavily on the My Disney Experience App, Disney plans to add more features that may ultimately replace your MagicBand altogether.

This part of the announcement didn’t come to a surprise since they’ve been working on ways to make the App better for some time now. In fact, during a past trip, I was even able to unlock my Resort door using the My Disney Experience App on my phone. So, even though I still plan on getting MagicBands for my trip, I understand why Guests may not want to.

If you choose not to purchase a discounted MagicBand, you’ll be able to use the My Disney Experience app or a Key to the World card, free of cost.

Disney Parks MagicBand 2  LavenderDisney Parks MagicBand 2 Lavender
Unlock all the enchantment of Walt Disney World Resort wearing your own personal MagicBand 2. With a simple touch, redeem FastPass+ selections, enter parks, charge purchases to your room, and more!
Hanging out in the lazy river in Typhoon Lagoon

Water Parks Closed through March 2021

Blizzard Beach plans to reopen on March 7, 2021. Typhoon Lagoon still doesn’t have a reopening date.

However, this is pending state and local government approvals. But, seeing as though the State of Florida had already approved other Water Parks in the Orlando area being open during the height of the pandemic, I don’t think that this date will change.

Because Disney isn’t planning on reopening the Water Parks for a few more months, the Park Hopper+ and the Water Park and Sports Ticket upgrades are not available for travel dates prior to March 7, 2021.

However, if you have already purchased a Water Park Ticket or a Ticket Upgrade that includes Walter Parks, you have the following options:

  • Keep Your Ticket: Your unused, unexpired 1-Day Disney Water Park tickets will automatically be extended through December 31, 2021. If you’re unable to use that ticket by that date, you may apply the value of that ticket toward the purchase of a ticket for a future date.
  • Modification: Water Park Tickets may simply be taken off your Package.
  • Cancellation: If your plans change, you also have the option of cancelling your ticket or your entire package. Disney has waived all fees through December 31, 2020. Cancelling any trip more than 30 days prior to check-in is always free, anyway.
Partner Statue in front of Cinderella Castle

With rules changing all the time, I understand that there are still a lot of questions. So, if your question wasn’t answered above, you’re welcome to leave a comment below or send me a private message. I will get you a personalized answer as soon as possible.

As always, for all of the official information, visit Walt Disney World.

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ExploreWithCatherine.com is not authorized or endorsed by, or officially connected with The Walt Disney Company, or any of their affiliates. For official Disney information, visit http://www.disney.com.

Hawaii Destination Specialist

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