Walt Disney World has announced 2024 vacation packages and resort reservations info, including some of the add-ons that what will and won’t be offered next year. This post offers dates and details about hotels, tickets, and more. Plus, commentary on what is not yet returning, what’s being retired, and what is not yet confirmed.
In addition to the details of 2024 Walt Disney World vacation packages, the company has released “5 updates to make your visit easier.” This basically goes through our Wish List for Changes Bob Iger Could Make Upon Returning as CEO. The good news is that Iger has now crossed off many entries from that list, albeit with a few conspicuous exceptions.
Walt Disney World’s 5 major improvements to make your visit easier come in response to guest feedback, and follow other recently rolled-out updates to improve the guest experience, like bringing back free overnight self-parking at on-site resort hotels, adding on-ride photos to Disney Genie+ service, and more.
Before we delve into the good news, let’s just get the big “not back” things out of the way at the outset. First up, and this should come as zero surprise to anyone who is paying attention, but Walt Disney World is not bringing back free FastPass. Given how well Genie+ sold over spring break despite hitting its highest price ever–over double the cost at the same time a year ago–it’s safe to assume Lightning Lanes are here to stay for at least 2024.
Despite a lot of wishful thinking from fans, Walt Disney World indicated zero intention of creating a competitor to Mears Connect or the Sunshine Flyer. There is absolutely no reason to believe Disney’s Magical Express will return in 2024…or ever. (Although, never say never. Enough of an economic downturn or Universal siphoning off attendance could change the equation. Just not until after Epic Universe opens in 2025.)
Although not directly addressed, almost certainly sticking around is the MagicBand Upgrade Program. To our disappointment, that has basically turned into the MagicBand+ pre-arrival discount, as virtually no new MagicBands (non-plussed) have been released in the last year. From our perspective, that’s unfortunate–we’d rather just stick to the OG bands.
Nevertheless, the lack of change here is worth proactively addressing since Walt Disney World did retire complimentary MagicBands for guests booking hotel reservations with one recent release of vacation packages. At least as of right now, there’s no indication that they’re retiring the discount program–or scrapping MagicBands completely–so that’s a silver lining, of sorts!
Also unchanged is the Park Hopping start time, which is currently 2 pm. After Disneyland relaxed its Park Hopping start time on a couple of occasions, we’ve been expecting and hoping Walt Disney World would follow suit. It doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen–at least, not yet.
It’s unlikely that the Park Hopping rules will be totally eliminated until reservations are gone for good (more on that below!). With that said, it feels like this is going to change sooner or later–just because nothing was announced now doesn’t mean it’s not coming. There’s still plenty of time for more 2024 announcements.
Now, let’s turn to the 5 updates. First up, Walt Disney World confirmed in the announcement that Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours would stick around through 2024. It’s our expectation that these are offerings are the permanent replacement for Extra Magic Hours.
For something that’s an optional add-on, the Disney Dining Plan is reviled by a surprisingly large number of Walt Disney World fans. (Maybe they don’t realize that they’re not obligated to purchase it?) Joking aside, the Disney Dining Plan is one of those things that’s neither inherently good nor bad, and can be a great tool or a terrible waste of money depending upon how it’s used. For some people, the Disney Dining Plan is great. For others, it’s awful. Like so many things at Walt Disney World and in life, it’s not one-size-fits-all.
Although we’re hardly DDP diehards, we’re glad to see the Disney Dining Plan returning. Our major hope is that this leads to even more normalcy on the food front, as it’s one of the few areas at Walt Disney World that is still far from firing on all cylinders as compared to pre-closure.
There have been rumors that Disney Park Pass would be retired ever since the return of CEO Bob Iger. He’s made several statements that implied he’d reevaluated it, and shortly after his return, reservations were relaxed for Annual Passholders. This doesn’t completely eliminate the Park Pass system, but makes it a non-factor for most tourists.
It’s worth noting here that big news–overshadowing all other details of the vacation packages themselves–last year was the tidbit in that announcement that the Genie+ ticket add-on would be eliminated starting last summer. We maintain that was a good move that has improved Lightning Lane availability and the service for those purchasing it same-day, but it was met with considerable fan backlash. Obviously, they were right to the extent that it was better to pay under $15 per day (I don’t recall the discounted amount of the add-on) rather than the date-based prices that now see Genie+ cost as much as $35 per day. So fair point to the angered on that one!
Beyond this Genie+ tease, we’re expecting that even more is on the horizon. This is partially informed by rumblings we’ve heard, and partially simply a safe bet. Walt Disney World hasn’t materially tweaked Genie+ in several months; an unprecedented stretch after messing with it almost nonstop last year!
With all of that out of the way, here’s what we know about 2024 Walt Disney World vacation packages and room reservations: bookings will be available for theme park tickets, resort hotel stays, and 2024 WDW packages beginning May 31, 2023 for arrivals dates beginning January 1, 2024.
Normal terms and conditions for final payments, cancellations, and change fees will apply for all 2024 Walt Disney World vacation package bookings. Essentially, all of the standard rules apply.
Next, a word of warning for those already itching to book a 2024 Walt Disney World vacation package bright and early on May 31, 2023 when bookings go live. As with most Walt Disney World “drop days,” the phone lines will be jammed and the online system will likely slow to a crawl at peak times, with Stitch eating the occasional page here and there.
Unless you want a very limited room category or specialty suite (e.g. Nantucket or Steeplechase Suite), it’s probably not necessary to fight the rush and call or book right away. No regular room categories are going to sell out–not even for popular dates–the first few days that reservations are available. You can call or browse the website in the afternoon on May 31 or June 1 and won’t run into issues or be stuck waiting on hold for as long. You’ll save yourself some headache and frustration.
Alternatively, it’s always a good idea to use a travel agent. We recommend requesting a quote from Be Our Guest Vacations, a no-fee Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, before the booking window opens so they can do the work for you. The agents there will book your vacation and help take the stress out of planning.
Their services don’t cost extra, they’ll reserve your room, help you with dining reservations and itineraries, and apply the best discounts to your reservation once they’re released. That’s especially valuable if you’re booking a 2024 Walt Disney World vacation package ASAP, as special offers likely won’t be available for next year’s travel dates until October (and that’ll only be for the beginning of the year–discounts are released on a rolling basis). Using an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner is the win-win option if you’re overwhelmed by the complexities of Walt Disney World, don’t want to do all of the “homework” yourself, or want someone to monitor your reservation so you save money.
We wouldn’t read anything into what hasn’t been announced yet. With the 2024 vacation package release, it’s as if Walt Disney World’s reservations center wanted to drum up business and start accepting new bookings. To be sure, some of this has been hammered out for weeks or even months–the announcement alone of the Disney Dining Plan returning would not be decided upon impulsively.
Other similarly-significant changes would likewise require careful consideration and deliberation by various teams of people. It’s possible that has not happened yet, or there isn’t consensus on timelines or specifics. In any case, there’s a degree to which the release of 2024 Walt Disney World vacation packages are a forward-looking sneak peek of the year to come, and a degree to which they’re a snapshot in time.
We mention this because it’s precisely what has happened for the last three years. Resorts that had not yet reopened, ticket options that hadn’t yet returned, and water parks were all treated similarly with previous vacation package releases. All of those things were restored gradually, and became available to book following official announcements of their return.
There’s an initial flurry of news with the announcement of Walt Disney World vacation packages, and then a slow trickle of additional news and updates in the weeks and months that follow, with all details typically released by September. We’d expect nothing different for 2024 Walt Disney World vacation packages.
In short, nothing is set in stone. Don’t treat any of these vacation package details as conclusive of the totality of what will and will not be available for the duration of 2024 at Walt Disney World. Heck, it’s not even indicative of what’s on the horizon for the remainder of 2023. Basically, the only thing they offer is a preview of what’ll be bookable in a couple of weeks.
One final thing that I find interesting about this announcement is the timing, which is once again happening earlier than historical precedent. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, Walt Disney World already has already released over a dozen different discounts for 2023, which is more than were available for the entirety of last year.
Almost all of these discounts have also been released earlier than normal by historical standards, and offer better savings than their counterparts from the last two years. At this point, about the only thing that Walt Disney World has not released early is dates and tickets for the 2023 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and any After Hours at Magic Kingdom events that might be happening this summer.
Disney doesn’t offer discounts out of generosity, and the timing of the releases is not coincidental–it’s purposeful. If weak discounting and late releases were a sign that pent-up demand had still been running strong in 2022, the increased discounting is almost certainly a sign that the opposite is no longer be true.
The same is true with the release of the 2024 Walt Disney World vacation packages. Releasing these sooner rather than later captures vacation reservations for 2024 and secures a commitment of future revenue. (It’s not a guarantee, but it’s better than nothing.) It’s a savvy move amidst or ahead of an anticipated travel slowdown, as it’d be a way to lock-in bookings before consumers start reducing their budgets and scaling back plans.
As pent-up demand continues to exhaust itself (first with domestic travelers, next with international visitors), household savings decrease and debt loads increase, inflation stings more, and the economy slows down, it seems increasingly likely that Walt Disney World will experience its own slowdown. Again, that may not be evident in crowd levels, but that’s only because Walt Disney World is offering better deals to entice people to continue coming.
As this happens, consumers will return to being more cost-conscious and price sensitive, and things will normalize to at least some degree. Based on what we’ve heard, this has already started to happen–but could worsen in the coming months. As such, Walt Disney World’s goal in announcing and releasing these packages a bit early could be to get ahead of that slowdown and reach consumers while they’re still spending big on travel. Or maybe I’m simply reading too much into this!
That’s pretty much all of the commentary we have about the announcement of 2024 Walt Disney World vacation packages. Even with all of the above said, our advice is to book Walt Disney World vacation packages when they go on sale to lock-in ticket and component pricing as a safeguard against the inevitable price increases. That’s especially true if there’s a certain hotel or room type that’s a must-have for your trip.
While we remain of the belief that prices will drop thanks to the release of discounts, that’s not a sure thing. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the course of the last two years, it’s to expect the unexpected. From a financial perspective, it never hurts–only helps–to get something locked in now. Plus, there’s the excitement and optimism of having something to help build anticipation!
Will you be booking a 2024 Walt Disney World vacation package when they’re released on May 31, 2023? Notice anything interesting about hotel room or package prices? Anything surprise you? Is there anything you must have–Disney Dining Plan, all-day Park Hopping, Fantasmic, no Park Pass–before you’ll book a 2023 trip? Will you be booking soon, or taking a wait and see approach? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments here? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!