Disney nixes reservation requirements at Florida parks, adds back dining plans

Disney nixes reservation requirements at Florida parks, adds back dining plans

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 a number of park policies to better accommodate both local and out of town visitors, the company said Monday.

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

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

Annual passholder 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 the most lucrative segments of its overall business, and its success is driven by strong customer experiences.

The House of Mouse constantly looks for ways to improve the guest experience, either 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. There will be two available plans — the Disney quick-service dining plan and the Disney dining plan.

The quick-service plan allows for two quick-service meals per night of stay, as well as two snacks or nonalcoholic drinks and a refillable drink mug. The dining plan offers one quick-service meal per night of stay and one table-service meal per night of stay. It also includes two snacks or nonalcoholic drinks and a refillable drink mug.

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 Lighting 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.

The company is also exploring an individual Lighting Lane selection so that not all guests in a party need to sign up to ride an attraction.

(With inputs from CNBC)