In case you missed it, Walt Disney World recently announced several exciting changes that are sure to bring back some of the magic that had been lost in the years since the pandemic altered the way we plan and experience trips to Disney Parks and Resorts.
From the return of complimentary overnight parking at Disney Resorts to promises of a “simplified” Disney Genie+ service, spending time at “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” should only become an easier feat in the coming year. Still there is one major perk from past Disney trips that remains a dream…Here’s what’s in the works at Walt Disney World, and what we would love to see make a comeback.
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Included among Disney’s latest announcements are updates on the Disney Dining Plan and the theme park reservation system.
The Disney Dining Plan is set to return in 2024, with both the quick service dining plan and the traditional Disney Dining Plan available to purchase with vacation packages for next year. Just as in years past, the plan will include one snack, one quick-service meal, and one table-service meal per person per night (or two quick-service meals depending on the plan), along with select alcoholic beverages for Guests ages 21 and over.
As for theme park reservations, one of the pandemic-era changes that is most loathed by Disney fans, the company announced some major news (for some ticket types.) Beginning in 2024, date-based tickets will not require reservations, only a selection of the start date for when Guests first plan to visit the Parks (the same process that has been in place since Disney began pricing tickets based on dates prior to the pandemic.)
While reservations will remain for Annual Passholders and Cast Members, the company did announce that these Guests will be able to visit the Parks reservation-free on select days in 2024. This change comes on top of the recent update to Annual Passholder admission in which theme park reservations are not required after 2:00 p.m. with the exception of the Magic Kingdom on Saturdays and Sundays.
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With so many of these long-missed perks returning to Walt Disney World, there is one more amenity from years past that we’d love to see return….
Disney’s Magical Express
Disney’s Magical Express had been offering Guests of Disney Resorts complimentary transportation between the Orlando International Airport and their Resorts since 2005. Unfortunately, the service was discontinued in January 2021, and while similar replacements have popped up in its absence, the fact that this ground transportation was complimentary truly was a game changer for many Guests.
Along with simply transporting Guests to their Resort or the airport, Disney’s Magical Express took care of checked luggage as well. Guests could put Magical Express tags on their bags before leaving home, and then skip baggage claim altogether when arriving in Orlando. You’d need to make sure all of your necessities were in a carry-on bag, but once in Orlando, you could have headed straight to the theme parks as your bags would “magically” arrive in your hotel room by the end of the day.
Since the service ended, Mears Connect has began as the “official” replacement for Disney’s Magical Express (Mears previously operated the Magical Express buses.) In addition, the Sunshine Flyer is another motorcoach alternative now available to Guests, offering a uniquely themed transportation experience with buses inspired by classic railroad travel.
Both options are affordable, especially considering how much an entire Disney vacation costs, but without taking care of luggage and with the added fees, for many long-time Disney Guests, the Magical Express is still missed.
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I rented a car for the first time during my last Disney vacation, and without the Magical Express to entice me with complimentary bus service, I personally lean toward renting a car for its convenience. I would not have planned to rent a car, and would have tried out one of the alternative buses, but I flew into a different Florida airport and drove to Orlando after visiting family during my last trip.
We did briefly consider returning the rental car before checking into our Disney hotel as we could easily rely on the complimentary transportation to and from the theme parks (which we mostly still did), but upon consideration of what a taxi or rideshare to the airport would cost, it just made more sense to keep the car.
The replacements for Disney’s Magical Express are certainly the most cost-effective options available right now in lieu of a full return of the old service, but for me personally, after experiencing Disney with a rental car for the first time, I think the convenience of having our own car outweighed the money-saving aspects of the replacement bus services (at least from a time vs. money perspective.)
Perhaps it’s my own wishful thinking fueling this final thought, but if Mr. Iger happens to be reading this…My only trips post-Magical Express have been the only times I’ve ventured off Disney property since checking into my Resort. If other Guests have similar experiences, it seems safe to say that spending at Walt Disney World would go up if the Magical Express were to return.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Tips as a whole.