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Should You Go To Walt Disney World? Spring Edition

I was recently asked if now was the right time to plan a family vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida.  It's a really tough question to answer right now with all the changes going on at Disney World.  I've been closely watching some Disney fan sites turn on Disney with what seems like negative posts every week about all the changes.  What's most interesting is when my friends tell me about their recent visit and every single one of them don't have the vacation story excitement they used to convey to me from previous trips.  Granted, they still have a great time, but some of the changes have definitely impacted the magic they've come to expect from Disney.

So here's the question every one of my close friends want to know.  Would I go to Walt Disney World this year?  The answer would surely be "yes" if I've never been to Disney World.  I didn't know how it was before, so everything would be a new experience for me and I didn't have certain expectations.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  I've gone multiple times a year prior to 2020 and have some great past experiences that can't be replicated anywhere else in the world.

Excluding the normal annual hotel and ticket price increases, Disney pushed through a laundry list of major changes in 2020.  It wasn't typical of Disney to push so many changes at once in such a short period of time.  Historically, Disney would push through a major change and wait a while for customers to adjust.  I've always believed that Disney cleared their 10 year to-do list of major changes and implemented them all at once citing the pandemic as the reason.  Now Disney is not the only company that decided to implement changes due to the pandemic.  Most every company and supplier I deal with on a professional basis continues to use the pandemic as a reason for every change and/or why they're failing short.

Here are some of the major changes that were implemented during the pandemic.  

  • Disney's Magic Express (free) was discontinued without a suitable replacement to get guest to the theme parks.  It will cost you money to get to and from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Walt Disney World.  
  • Disney Fastpass (free) was replaced by Genie+ and Lightning Lane (now a per person cost). 
  • Disney Magic Bands are no longer free.
  • No more free parking at Disney Resorts.
  • Park hopping is no longer as easy as it once was.
  • A park reservation system was introduced.  More on that below.

I've rolled with the changes over the years and can adapt to most things, but the Disney Park Reservation System really bothers me.  Prior to 2020, I could wake up every morning and decide which parks I wanted to go to.  If it was raining, then I might avoid Epcot and Animal Kingdom that day.  Now Disney wants guests to schedule which parks they want to go to prior to their vacation.  This seems like too much advanced planning when all someone wants to do is go on a stress free vacation without being restricted to a schedule.  

Another disadvantage is you're not guaranteed to get into the parks even if you're staying on grounds.  Disney's own hotel reservation system even stated that you should reserve your park choices before reserving a hotel.  I'm sorry, but if you're paying a premium to stay on Disney property, then you better have access to the theme parks.  Otherwise, why stay on Disney grounds?

From a business standpoint, the park reservation system makes perfect sense.  Disney can control park capacity and move employees around to ensure they're servicing customers.  From a customer standpoint, this restricts what guests are allowed to do on their vacations.  I really hope that Disney reverses this decision and it doesn't become permanent.

So now back to the original question.  Would I go to Walt Disney World this year?  I have no immediate plans to visit the parks based on the unnecessary inconvenience imposed by the park reservation system.  My impression is it's not going anywhere for a while.  Guests are crowding the theme parks even though they're not operating at full capacity yet.  There really is no reason for Disney to change anything until park attendance is negatively affected.

Should you go to Walt Disney World this year?  My biggest suggestion is to go into your vacation knowing that it's not going to be the same as it was before.  Don't arrive at the resort thinking everything is going to be like it was the last 10 times you visited, because it won't be.  Mickey Mouse and all the other characters are still going to be there along with all the rides you love.  As long as you know what to expect ahead of time, you should have a great vacation.   

Safe travels my friends!

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