Many things have changed since the pandemic first began in 2020, and Disney World is no exception. My family recently got back from a vacation there and despite months of planning and researching, there is still so much that I wasn’t aware of. Read on to find out what you need to know to plan a memorable vacation and what is new at Disney World in 2022.
The Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration will be going on all year long. Enjoy special treats at various restaurants and find special anniversary merchandise at the shops.
**Character interactions are a bit different this year. You can no longer get close to characters for autographs and photos. You can visit characters in certain areas of the parks at certain times, however, they will be roped off so you can’t get too close to them. Also, there are still various parades throughout the parks where you can see your favorite characters.**
What’s New at Disney World in 2022:
- Beyond Ticket Purchase, You Also Must Schedule Each Day in Advance
- Restaurants and Special Events Should Be Booked Well in Advance
- Where You Stay Does Matter
- FastPass is No More, Say Hello to Lightning Lane and Genie+
- Magic Bands Are Not A Requirement, Use Magic Mobile
- PhotoPass is Memory Maker and It’s Pretty Awesome
- Favorite Restaurants
Disney World in 2022 Tickets and Scheduling
Gone are the days when you simply purchase your Disney World tickets for your desired days and just show up. Before purchasing tickets, you need to visit Disney World’s website here to check park availability. If you purchase tickets for certain dates but there isn’t park availability, you will not be able to enter. You must plan each day and make each day’s reservation at each park. Park hopper is still an option for an extra fee if the park you hop to isn’t at full capacity.
Since the pandemic, Disney World has reopened with a much more limited capacity and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it’s crucial that you pick your dates and make your park reservations as soon as possible. Not only do the park reservations need to be made well in advance, you also need to book restaurant reservations and extra experiences (such as building a lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop) in advance (up to 60 days in advance) to ensure that you are able to do everything that you want to do.
I will say that the main restaurants my family wanted to eat at were Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Table. I began looking at reservations months out and never saw a single availability for Cinderella’s Table. We lucked up a couple of weeks before the trip and chose the only dinner reservation that I found for Be Our Guest. I was checking these daily for over a month, it is so important to plan ahead if there is a special place you want to eat. Also, the lightsaber and droid building as well as other experiences book up pretty quickly so it’s a good idea to start booking those as well.
Many of the quick service restaurants didn’t have too long of a wait so those are always an option to show up and get your name on the list without having to reserve in advance. Mobile ordering can also save time, and you can do that through the My Disney Experience app on your phone.
Before our vacation, I never saw anything about the crucial benefits of staying at a Disney Resort. My family has a timeshare not associated with Disney, so we did not receive the full benefits. If you stay at a Disney Resort, you can take advantage of the shuttles and buses, our timeshare did not even offer any transportation, they suggested Uber. So we paid $25-$80 per day for regular and preferred parking at the different parks.
The big thing that I wish I had known and would have considered staying at a Disney Resort versus our timeshare is Lightning Lane. We purchased Lightning Lane for a family of five for three days, almost $300. From reading and research, we thought at 7 a.m. we could choose a ride and pay individually for any other rides we wanted to add. That was not the case.
Only Disney Resort guests get to choose the best options for Lightning Lane and by the time those are bought up, there wasn’t much left for us to choose from. I could only pick one ride for us every few hours, I never had the option to pay individually for rides (which we gladly would have). So, we only got to use the Lightning Lane two or three times each day. Definitely not worth almost $300 and it would have been nice to know that only Disney Resort guests receive priority regardless of how much you pay.
With the parks not allowing full capacity, wait times are much longer than normal. If you aren’t a Disney Resort guest or you don’t purchase Lighting Lane, be prepared to only get to experience a few of your top favorite things each day as you will spend a lot of your time waiting in lines.
Genie Plus is a pretty cool feature that allows you to plan out your days easier. It is a bit of a shock at how everything must have a plan down to the minute at Disney World, if you come in with no plan, it won’t be a productive trip. You can pick your top rides and attractions and easily check the wait times with Genie+.
Magic Bands and Magic Mobile
Magic Bands are starting to be phased out and Disney is using Magic Mobile for contactless e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Have you seen the Magic Band prices now?! Once you download the My Disney Experience app and connect your passes, you can easily scan your pass at park entrances and lightning lane rides. It also makes food orders and wait times much easier to manage. And we all travel with our phones makes it a win-win. I recommend bringing an external battery charger in your park bag as it does come in handy.
PhotoPass is now Memory Maker and I recommend that you make the splurge on it. If you purchase in advance, you save about $40. While you can ask cast members to snap a photo with your phone, I prefer Memory Maker for several reasons. For one, all rides that take photos usually charge an arm and a leg for those pictures. With Memory Maker, you get every photo that is taken and professional photographers are throughout the parks and they scan your mobile code and those pictures also go into your account.
Most photos go into your account within minutes, some take up to a day or two. You can view and save them from your app and you have 45 days to download and share the photos. I think that’s worth it for all of the awesome quality photos that you get to keep forever.
My family visited several restaurants on our trip to Disney World in 2022, and here are our absolute favorites.
Be Our Guest
This restaurant is in a cave and decked out completely like the Beauty and the Beast story. There are three different gorgeous rooms where guests can sit. This is a three-course meal that offers many delicious options. We were seated in the ballroom and it was absolutely breathtaking. The food was beyond amazing and the service was fantastic, everything was well worth the price. The Beast also walked through and waved at everyone every few minutes. If you are looking for a family fun dining experience, I highly recommend this restaurant.
Rainforest and T-Rex Cafe
I am putting these together because they are very similar to T-rex cafe (located in Disney Springs) is owned by Rainforest Cafe. We ate at both of these restaurants and they each have themed rooms and a little show where every few minutes it gets darker and animals or dinosaurs come out and move around. We enjoyed T-rex cafe because they also have a Dino Build-a-Bear which my girls loved. The food is great, quick service, and pretty affordable. Either of these restaurants will make for a memorable dining experience.
Helpful Park Must-Haves
If you prefer a Loungefly bag, you can buy those before you go or throughout the parks at various shops.
Comfy shoes are a must-have, most guests walk 7-10+. miles per day at the parks. You won’t have time for blisters and foot pain! Sunglasses are also a necessity and if you have small children, I highly recommend that you book a stroller. It was a lifesaver for our family and if you rent for the entire park visit you get a discount. Cheap ponchos from Walmart are a good idea in case of a random rain or thunderstorm. Make all of your plans well in advance. Don’t forget to bring a fully charged external phone charger and cord.
Get your Minnie Mouse Ears online before you go, they cost $30+ at the parks!
While there have been quite a few things new at Disney World in 2022, with a little time and a lot of planning, you can still experience a memorable vacation. One more thing, masks are no longer a requirement in the parks. You can wear one if you want to, but the only time we had to wear one was on the Disney shuttle bus. Also, a couple of favorite rides of ours are Space Mountain and It’s A Small World. What rides are you looking forward to the most at Disney World in 2022?