Planning 101 Vacation Planner Walt Disney World

What’s Different About Planning Your 2022 Walt Disney World Vacation

December 18, 2021

Walt Disney World is ever-changing. And 2022 is gearing up to be a year of many changes. If you haven’t planned a Disney vacation in a couple years, you may want to rethink how you’re going to plan your next trip.

So, before you put down a deposit, give this list a quick look. Some of the changes may surprise you.

There Aren’t As Many Discounts

Disney isn’t starting 2022 off with the discounts we’re used to.

If there was one thing I could always count on, it was discounts. Specifically, room offers. But, since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of promotions have gone down a lot.

And for the first time ever in my career, I’ve had families jet off on their long-awaited vacation having paid full rack rate for their room. It breaks my heart since this was never anything I had to worry about before.

While it’s getting a little better, most deals are only available for Annual Passholders and Florida residents. If you fall into this category, that’s wonderful. But, for the rest of us, it’s just another reminder that future trips cost more.

While this is a complete bummer for Walt Disney World hopefuls, this is not true for all Disney destinations. Discounts are still being rolled out for Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani, and Adventures by Disney…regardless of where you live.

Without those discounts, sometimes it’s hard to justify the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation. So, if you’re not liking the prices that 2022 is showing, you may want to consider one of Disney’s other offerings to see if you can get a better deal.

Screenshot of Virtual Queue and Genie+ for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Remy's Ratatouille Adventure

Disney Genie+

Ah, yes… Nothing has been talked about more lately than the official discontinuation of FastPass+ and the debut of the brand new Disney Genie+.

We’ve recently added an entire post dedicated to learning all there is to know about Disney Genie+. So, we’re not getting into specifics here.

But, for those who have never heard of Disney’s brand new reveal, this is the replacement for FastPass. More importantly, this is the new PAY TO PLAY replacement for FastPass.

There are 3 versions of this new system. So, if you’re thinking about going to Walt Disney World in 2022, I highly suggest learning the difference between the 3 and how it works.

Basically, Disney Genie is a FREE planning tool, while Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes are an additional cost for anyone who wants to skip the lines.

Disney Genie+ costs $15, while the cost of Individual Lightning Lanes vary depending on the attraction and day.

Disney's Magical Express waiting at the bus stop

No More Magical Express

Another giant disappointment is the discontinuation of Disney’s Magical Express. This takes effect on January 1, 2022.

For those unfamiliar with Disney’s Magical Express, it was a complimentary shuttle ride from the Orlando International Airport to your Walt Disney World Resort. This was one of the biggest perks for staying at a Disney Resort.

But, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get to your Resort on your next trip, luckily we have already showcased 5 alternatives to Disney’s Magical Express.

Entrance to Animal Kingdom

Park Reservations

Disney has decided to continue Park Reservations for all of 2022. At least, that’s according to their Park Reservation Calendar. Basically, even if you have a Park ticket, if you don’t have a Reservation, you’re not getting into the Park.

Most days, getting a Park Reservation isn’t a problem. Park capacity appears to near pre-pandemic crowds, so there are plenty of Reservations to go around. However, holidays and school breaks do sell out.

This is why we suggest booking early and securing your Park Reservations as soon as you can. It also helps to check Park Reservation Availability before booking your trip. There’s nothing more disappointing than booking your trip, just to find out there are no more Reservations left.

How long will Park Reservations be required? We don’t know for sure. But, the Park Reservation Calendar is currently showing dates through January 2024.

Disney's Hollywood Studios sign

Rules for Park Hopping

I miss the days when you could come and go from the Parks as you please. While that’s still partly true, there’s a little more to that.

Guests with a Park Hopper ticket must first visit the Park they made a Park Reservation for. After 2PM, you are able to hop to another Park, as long as that Park hasn’t reached capacity. Luckily, the Parks only reach capacity on highly popular days, like New Years Eve.

You do not need to make another Park reservation. So, if you’re in Magic Kingdom and you feel like eating at Epcot, then go for it.

Queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

Virtual Queue

Virtual Queues were created to keep crowds under control. When Flight of Passage opened up in Animal Kingdom, wait times were 6+ hours long. The same thing happened with the opening of Slinky Dog Dash.

Disney saw the hype surrounded Rise of the Resistance, so they created a Virtual Queue. Guests were spending all day waiting in 1 line. And from a business perspective, if you have a Guest waiting all day in line, they’re not spending money in gift shops and restaurants.

So, Disney is continuing to use Virtual Queues in 2022.

With a Virtual Queue, you get an estimated time when you’ll be able to ride. And in the meantime, you get to ride other attractions, buy souvenirs, and eat all of the delicious Disney food.

You have a better experience and Disney has a better chance of getting you to spend more money in the Parks.

As of August 2022, the only attraction in Walt Disney World using a Virtual Queue is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, in Epcot.

There is no standby line, So, if you want to ride this attraction, plan on waking up before 7AM to get either a Virtual Queue or an Individual Lightning Lane to ride.

exterior of the Grand Floridian

Resort Guest Perks

With Disney’s Magical Express gone, you may be wondering, “Which Perks are left?” Some Perks are still around, like the ability to send your souvenirs back to your Resort and being able to purchase things with your MagicBand, there are a few changes to other Perks.

Early Theme Park Entry

While it’s been reduced from 1 hour to 30 minutes, getting into the Parks before Rope Drop still has a definite advantage.

Even with less of a head start, you can still get 2 to 3 big attractions out of the way before the wait times get too long, if you play your cards right.

And best of all, this Perk is available to all Resort Guests…unlike the next Perk.

Extended Evening Hours

In this case, where you stay absolutely matters. To qualify for this Perk, you must be staying at one of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villas, or other Select Resort.

These Resorts include:

Disney Deluxe Resorts

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Beach Club Resort
  • BoardWalk Inn
  • Contemporary Resort
  • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Polynesian Village Resort
  • Wilderness Lodge
  • Yacht Club Resort

Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts

  • Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge at Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Wilderness Lodge
  • Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
  • Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  • Beach Club Villas
  • Boardwalk Villas
  • Old Key West Resort
  • Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
  • Riviera Resort
  • Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa
  • The Villas at Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Other Select Hotels

  • Swan Hotel
  • Dolphin Hotel
  • Swan Reserve
  • Shades of Green (Disney’s Military Resort)

Park and hours change per day. So, if you qualify for this Perk, be sure to check the Disney Calendar before finalizing your 2022 plans.

Individual Lightning Lanes

When you’re able to purchase Individual Lightning Lanes is quite possibly the biggest perk. Depending on the attraction, these can sell out in minutes, especially Rise of the Resistance. So, getting a head start gives you a definite advantage, and may be a deciding factor into whether or not you stay on property.

For Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, you can purchase Individual Lightning Lanes at 7AM. Not Staying at a Disney Resort? You must wait until the official Park opening before you’re allowed to purchase them.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Cupcake at Be Our Guest

Dining Reservations

Reducing the Advanced Dining Reservation window from 180 days to 60 days is something Disney changed in 2020. And it appears they decided to continue this new timeline through 2022.

Everyone gets to book their Dining Reservations 60 days before their trip. So, where’s the Perk?

If you’re staying off-site, like we did when we stayed at our beautiful (and cheaper than any Disney property) rental Condo, you are held to that 60 day timeline. This means you’re logging into My Disney Experience and booking your reservations exactly 60 days from the date you want to eat at that restaurant.

If you’re staying at a Disney property, you have the luxury of booking your Dining Reservations for your entire trip (with a maximum of 10 days) at 60 days prior to checking in.

Imagine getting a 7 day head start at booking a restaurant as popular as Topolino’s Terrace. I stayed off-site and, trust me, it was impossible to find any open reservations by the time I was able to book. Perhaps I would have an easier time getting it, had we stayed on property.

Opening your Resort Door with your MagicBand

Discounted MagicBands

If you went to Walt Disney World in 2021, this isn’t new.

But, if you haven’t been to the Parks since before the pandemic, you may be surprised to hear that you’ll no longer receive a Free MagicBand when you stay on property.

No one liked this change. But, at least we’re able to get discounted plain colored and character MagicBands. And there is a $10 discount on the brand new MagicBand+.

However, now that we’re able to open our Resort door with our phone and get into the Parks using Magic Mobile, you may opt out of using a MagicBand at all on your 2022 Disney trip.

Ready to book your magical vacation?

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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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