Frustrations in Planning a Trip to Walt Disney World Right Now

Disney World Guest Frustrations

Any longtime Walt Disney World vacationer can tell you that booking a trip to the most magical place on Earth these days is a whole different experience from what it was just a few short years ago. From ongoing mitigated responses to the recent pandemic to the discontinuation of well-known services along with policy changes across the board in general, avid fans who haven’t been back to Disney World prior to 2020, yet are actively making plans to do so in the near future, have a lot of adjustments to come to terms with.

In speaking to a family that hasn’t been back to Disney since 2018, with plans for embarking on a long-awaited—twice postponed—vacation this June, the differences are so stark that it’s almost like planning a vacation to a whole other place. While some of the differences they’ve encountered are like apples to oranges, other changes are far less favorable in comparison to the ways in which things were previously done. Here are eight examples of current frustrations that longtime Disney World vacationers are encountering while making plans for an upcoming trip.

8. MagicBands Are No Longer Free

Years ago, if you were booking a stay at a Walt Disney World Resort, your group’s MagicBands were provided for free, as part of their convenient package deal. Now that MagicBands are no longer complimentary to Guests staying on Disney property, this can be a bit of a blow—especially if you are traveling in a large group and must now pay individually for each MagicBand.

Credit: Disney

Related: MagicBand+ to Make Its Debut at the Disneyland Resort

7. Transportation Woes

Disney’s Magical Express was a pretty convenient perk that many Walt Disney World Resort Guests relied on for years to take them to and from the Orlando International Airport and their specific resort hotels. But sadly, as of January 2022, operations have altogether ceased, leaving longtime fans searching out alternate modes of travel. And while there certainly are other options, many agree that none of the substitutes pack the same “magic,” so to speak. One great thing about the Magical Express service was that it was part of a magical extra for Disney Resort Guests. Another was that enchanted element of having your luggage magically appear in your hotel room.

Magical Express
Credit: Inside The Magic/Kelly C.

Without the Magical Express option, you are pretty much on your own, paying your way for transport to your hotel. Mears, the service that previously ran Magical Express operations, still offers transportation in the way of buses and even vehicle rentals, but Guests must pay for their services and are responsible for claiming their own baggage. The Sunshine Flyer is a fun-themed option that many Disney Guests embrace as an alternative to the lost Magical Express, but they do not offer 24-hour services and aren’t available at all for those on flights arriving later than 10 p.m.

Related: Flying Into Orlando? Here’s How to Get to Disney World Without Magical Express

6. Reservations About Park Reservations

One very common complaint that’s come up with Guests who have either attended (or are planning to attend) Disney Parks since their reopening is the new Park Reservation System that’s now in effect. The way the system works is pretty straightforward; Guests must make reservations in advance in order to enter a Disney Park. A frustration in deed for those who remember the old ways when such prearrangements weren’t needed! An almost equally frustrating fact is that even if you already have a ticket for a park but have failed to make a reservation, you still cannot get in.

Related: Disney World Park Reservations Now Required Through 2024

5. The Problem With Park Hopper

The Park Hopper option, which allows Guests to visit more than one Disney Park in a single day, is thankfully being offered still. But even it has been altered into a less favorable presentation from what it once was. Now, Guests with Park Hopper are restricted from “hopping” to another park from their reserved park until at least 2 p.m. Such time restraints and limitations didn’t used to exist.

Park Hopper
Credit: Disney

Related: Reminder: You Can Still Use This Park Hopping Hack at Disney World

4. Genie Doesn’t Grant All Wishes

Disney’s newly implemented Genie+ is by no means FastPass+. Although it has taken the place of the former FastPass+ system, there are noticeable differences, not all of which are so great. For instance, the fact that you must now pay for your rides with Genie+ doesn’t make too many former FastPass+ fans very happy. There’s just so much that Guests and future Guests are still trying to adjust to in learning the ropes of Genie+, and it can get a little confusing. Of course, there’s always the option of foregoing the use of Genie+ altogether, but if this is what you decide to do then brace yourself for the likely possibility of having to wait in some pretty long standby lines.

Disney's Genie
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Adds More Attractions to Genie+ Lightning Lane

3. Extra Magic Hours Aren’t the Same

Once upon a time, Disney offered Early Morning Magic for Disney Resort Guests, which allowed them extra time in a different park each day, on a rotating basis. Now, in place of such magical extras, Resort Guests are permitted to enter the park in which they have a reservation for only a half-hour prior to the official park opening. Extended Evening Hours, offered on a rotating basis between the four theme parks, were once available to all Disney Resort Guests. Now they only apply to Guests staying at Deluxe Resorts.

Disney fireworks at night
Credit: Disney

2. Differences in Dining

There are so many differences to dining at Disney World right now! And for families who have enjoyed so many exceptional epicurean experiences on past trips, most of these changes aren’t good. For starters, there are still many restaurants that haven’t reopened. So, you’re really out of luck if you happen to be a fan of a venue that remains closed, as you are still awaiting word on whether or not it will open in time for your trip that’s months away. Then there are some restaurants that have reopened but are now doing things drastically differently. We’re mainly talking about character dining options. Some restaurants have scrapped character interactions altogether while others feature characters in a socially distanced format that’s not at all as warm and friendly as it once was. And in regards to making dining reservations, it should be noted that in the past, Disney Resort Guests were allotted 180 days in advance to book any and all mealtime arrangements. Now this window of time has been reduced just 60 days. But perhaps the biggest dining disappointment off all right now is the fact that Disney Dining Plans still have not returned!

Character Dining at Disney
Credit: Disney

Related: When Will the Disney Dining Plan Return?

1. Character Distancing

In echoing the previous sentiments on socially distanced character interactions at meals, this complaint extends to Character Meet and Greets all throughout the parks as well. For some it’s just heartbreaking to watch such stoic, cold, distanced interactions, especially when the interplay involves young children who have unfulfilled dreams of hugging their favorite Disney characters in person! And on that note, it goes without saying that character autograph opportunities have been discontinued as well, with many wondering when they will return and if it will be in time for an upcoming trip.

Character Meet and Greet hug
Credit: Inside the Magic/Kelly C.

Related: Disney: Normal Character Meet ‘n Greets Returning ‘Soon’

The concept of change happening within Disney Parks is nothing new. But we have to admit that the last few years have doled out a vast number of all-too sudden changes in such a short amount of time. But through it all, Disney Parks have been doing the best they can in weathering all turbulent storms and working to constantly improve experiences for Guests the instant they are able to do so. And it’s very likely that some of the temporary inconveniences addressed in this article will in fact eventually be dissolved, resulting in yet another change—this time for the better.

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.

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