How Planning a Disney Vacation for 2021 is Different

How Planning a Disney Vacation for 2021 is Different

Planning a Disney Vacation for 2021 is going to look VERY DIFFERENT than we’re all used to. And if you’re visiting Walt Disney World in 2020 these changes affect you too!!! With the limited capacity in the parks, the Park Pass Reservation system and canceled events and services, here is everything you should know if you’re planning a vacation to Walt Disney World during the COVID Pandemic.

All the Changes at Disney World for 2021

Ok, let’s just say that there are a TON of changes that not only affect the way you PLAN your Disney Vacation but also the way you EXPERIENCE your vacation. These changes are happening from now through September of 2021. So it’s something we’ll all be getting used to for the near future. 

All the COVID Changes at Walt Disney World

If you’re braving Walt Disney World during the pandemic, then be sure to read up on all our Disney COVID FAQ, from face mask specifications to cashless payments, we cover it all in the Disney COVID section on the blog. 

Shorter Hours in All Four Disney Parks

If you’re wondering if you should go to Walt Disney World during a Pandemic, the shorter hours alone should give you pause. With fewer hours to be in the parks and all the limited services below, we’re thinking twice about how we spend our Disney Budget. Check out the 5-day calendar for Disney park hours during your vacation.

Park Reservations are Required

With limited capacity rules being strongly enforced through different phases of the Walt Disney World reopening, it’s important to remember that the Walt Disney World capacity rules need to be followed. As a result, the Disney Park Pass Reservation system is in place. This helps guests make park reservations for which day they will be in each park. That said, a Park Reservation AND a Valid Park Ticket are now required to enter any Disney park. This system is in place from now until September 26, 2021. The good news here is that this planning piece is in place before your vacation. So you can spend time on the fun stuff like which Disney snacks to try and which rides to tackle. Learn how to make Disney Park Pass Reservations.

No Last Minute Trips

Since a park reservation is now required to enter the park, those last-minute trips will be a little harder to manage. Especially since unless you have a valid park ticket, annual pass, or package, you won’t even get access to the park reservation system. And once you do get in the system, depending on how far out your planning, the park you want to visit may be full. So, advanced planning is key. 

Park Hopper Begins at 2 pm

If you were a fan of the Park Hopper ticket, that flexibility of the Park Hopper is on pause. Mainly so Disney can keep an eye on attendance and manage park capacity. We’ve talked before about how you don’t really need the Park Hopper ticket if you’re doing the planning ahead of time. So, this is a little loss now that you can only book one park per day on the Disney Park Reservation system. But, since you’ll have to be doing the planning anyway, just think of it as a way to save money. If you are a die-hard park hopper, however, then review the Walt Disney World Park Hopper details for 2021. You don’t need a park reservation for your second park of the day, but since you can only hop after 2 pm, you’re spending quite a bit of cold hard cash for a half-day perk. 

Planning a Disney Vacation 2021

No Free MagicBand with Resort Stay

So we gotta say, the fact that Disney is no longer offering the Free MagicBands ( or character luggage tags) is super sad for us. We LOVE the MagicBand wearables and this move is the first of many to allow parks, resort, and dining access completely from your phone. For the present, MagicBands will still be available and are not being discontinued yet. Discounted MagicBands will still be available to Resort Guests for 5 dollars each in the My Disney Experience app and you can still get MagicBands on 

Disney does have plans to instead bring much of the MagicBand functionality to the My Disney Experience App, ultimately replacing them. That said, guests who choose not to purchase MagicBands will be able to use the My Disney Experience app or a Key to the World Card to access their room and enter the parks. 

60 Day Dining Reservations

Dining reservations have a tighter window. Again, this is so Disney can have some control of the crowds in restaurants. And manage this closely. As a result, Dining Reservations once able to be made 180 days prior are now changed to 60 days prior. 

This affects you MOST if you hope to walk up to a restaurant and wait for a table. At present this doesn’t seem like an option. In order to be seated, you must have a reservation. But, never fear, it doesn’t mean you miss out on your favorite restaurants, just that you have to plan for them now. Grab our Disney Dining Planner to get started and make this a fun part of your planning. We have the dining lists for each park included and planner pages for each day of your trip, so you can plan out your restaurants ahead of time, and make the Advanced Dining Reservation at the 60-day mark. 

Disney Vacation Planning 2021

No Disney Dining Plans

The removal of the Disney Dining Plan has us a little baffled, but we imagine it has something to do with capacity, staffing levels, and the need to regain months of lost revenue from the parks being closed. That said all Free Dining Promotions that were included in packages have been removed. The Disney Dining Plan is currently not available through 2021. But, we do expect that once Disney gets a handle on the new normal, that this may change. The opportunity to pay for all your dining costs upfront is sometimes a hidden godsend in the way of Disney Budget planning and sometimes can prevent you from spending too much later. 

No Fastpasses Yet

Ahhhh. Another casualty in the 2020 Walt Disney World Closing Saga! Disney Fastpasses. Truthfully we don’t know if these babies will ever come back. But as of right now they are definitely off the table as part of your Disney World Vacation Planning tasks. As part of the, No Fastpass rule guests can expect physical distancing to be in place. We’ll see this in ride queue lines, with markers on the ground for family groups to stand at least 6 feet apart. And on the ride itself with empty seats between family groups. In the Asian Disney Parks, we saw alternating seats simply blocked off with tape, so can expect something similar here. 

At one point we anticipate a replacement will be in place, similar to the Boarding Pass system for Rise of the Resistance. Because Fastpass+ was a way of life for many, and not all guests, even at limited capacity, will be ok with having to wait in long Ines for every ride on their trip. Thankfully FastPasses WERE slated to return to Walt Disney World early this year, but we’re not seeing the official FastPass update on the webpage yet! mine train at disney

No Shows or Events, for Now

The news that Mickey’s Not Scary Halloween Party was canceled didn’t come as a huge surprise. Especially on the tail end of news about all shows, fireworks, and events being canceled. But that doesn’t mean it hurt any less. As avid junkies of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, we were as crushed as the rest of them. But, happy to be safer nonetheless. You can plan a little easier though without the worry of events, shows, and fireworks. Choosing your park days is no longer based on when things are happening, so that’s new flexibility we’re happy to have. For the time being, experiences that are most worth waiting for are the distanced Character Interactions and the Character Cavalcades happening at all four Disney World Theme Parks. 

pocahontas character cavalcade at disney animal kingdom

Disney Annual Pass Program Changes

Walt Disney World’s Annual Passes are not currently for sale, and the Disneyland/ Walt Disney world combined Premiere Pass program has just been retired. So what does this mean? If you currently have an annual pass you may be able to renew. If you don’t, you may not be able to get one quite yet. Read all about the Disney Passholder changes on Disney’s official Passholder announcement page.

Planning a Disney Vacation in 2021

Planning a Disney Vacation in 2021 is going to be all about flexibility. Try to have as much planning in place as you can ahead of time. Make this fun. Grab a printable vacation planner to chart your ideas. And really get into the process. Your 2021 Disney Vacation can still be Magical! Stay tuned on the blog for all the details.

How planning a Disney Vacation in 2021 is going to be a Whole Lot Different than we're used to. From new rules, to no dining plans to park reservations. Here's eveything to know about planning a Disney Vacation for 2021. #disneyvacation #disney2021 #disneyplanning #polkadotpixies

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2 thoughts on “How Planning a Disney Vacation for 2021 is Different”

  • Looks like I will be cancelling our trip for January 2021. A shame really because we were very much looking forward to finally staying at Jambo House. I do not believe Disney will recover completely from COVID so it looks like our annual Disney vacations have come to a close. Disney vacations are too expensive under normal circumstances – it would hardly make sense to pay more for less than we are accustomed to enjoying. So sad.

  • Ughh!So sorry about your annual vacations! We know just how you feel. So many great plans in place and really, its just so pricey to only go for the rides and limited restaurant availability! We actually have a “should you or shouldn’t you go” post coming. We are of course hoping maybe by the end of next year they will have adjusted to a better new normal, but so much is in flux right now and they’re still getting a handle on how things can work and still be fun. So, yes- vacations on hold in the meantime sound like a good plan. At least you can save some money in the meantime. Thanks for reading:) Stay safe and healthy!

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