Contrary to what one may think, 2021 is setting up to be one of the best years yet for last-minute trips to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Many of the established aspects of the quintessential Disney World vacation, which could also be seen as catalysts for Guests booking their trips months in advance, are still suspended or modified — and continued uncertainty does not bode well for extended planning.
So, as we turn to 2021, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why a last-minute Disney World trip is a great idea right now (and why the current park operations make it easier than ever to spontaneously book a trip).
Prior to Disney’s coronavirus modifications, one of the benefits of planning your trip early and staying on-property was that you could book FastPasses for your party up to 60 days in advance, putting you in a prime position to easily access highly popular attractions like Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Avatar: Fight of Passage, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. But, FastPass+ has been suspended since the theme parks reopened in July 2020 and there is no word on when or if they will be back.
No Extra Magic Hours
On top of FastPasses, Disney has also suspended Extra Magic Hours — the 1-2 hours prior to park opening or after official park closing during which Guests of certain Walt Disney World Resort hotels could enjoy additional time in the parks. Various hotels offered Extra Magic Hours at each of the four Disney World theme parks on staggered days.
The suspension of this perk means that a crucial incentive for Disney Guests to book months in advance has been eliminated. Now, there is no reason — outside of your own personal financial and scheduling situations — to wait over two months to take a Disney trip that does not otherwise require staying on-property or visiting on specific days, such as if you were going to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or some other extra-ticketed event. But, even those are still being canceled at this time.
No Extra-Ticketed Events
Going into 2021, we will have modified events at Walt Disney World. It was confirmed that the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts will begin this January. But, like the modified festivals that were still held in 2020, there will be no extra-ticketed events or other limited-time extra-cost events that would cause you to focus your entire trip around it.
The lack of extra-ticketed events — such as After Hours parties and RunDisney races — creates an increase in flexibility for you when it comes to planning your trip to, essentially, the span of the entire time EPCOT is hosting the festival.
Recently, Walt Disney World has made it easier for Guests to join the walk-in list for some of their favorite restaurants across the resort. In the days before the shutdown, Guests would have to wait months to eat at Disney World Restaurant. Personally, this writer had to book reservations for Le Cellier at EPCOT three months in advance at least!
That is not necessarily the case anymore and no longer do Guests have to seek out their favorite dining establishements to join the walk-in list in-person. Now, Guests can join and check dining wait times on the My Disney Experience app. This increased availability is partially helped by the limited park capacities. Mobile sign-up is part of Disney’s continued effort to keep people spread out and engaging in contactless interactions as much as possible.
What the Walt Disney World Resort has done is made it possible to experience a trip you used plan several months in advance in, say, two weeks from the date you book. In a way, it is now a much easier experience. Your park visits can no longer be determined by the Extra Magic Hours schedule, what FastPasses are available, or when you can get a reservation at your favorite in-park restaurant. And, EPCOT’s International festivals can be enjoyed without worrying about having to schedule accordingly to the extra-ticketed events.
Walt Disney World is also offering incredible deals for those looking to stay on-property at a Disney World Resort Hotel! Guests can save up to 35% off their stay most nights between January 3 and April 17, 2021, and those trips can be booked through March 15, 2021! And that discount increases to 40% for Annual Passholders!
Or, waive the discount and get two days’ worth of theme park tickets for free: “beginning Jan. 5, 2021, Guests buying non-discounted four-night/three-day room and ticket packages at select Disney Resort hotels for arrivals most nights Jan. 8, 2021, through Sept. 25, 2021, will receive an additional two days of theme park tickets.”
The most significant planning factor remaining is the Disney Park Pass reservation system. While the limited capacity restrictions may help you experience your favorite attractions during your Disney day, Park Passes are still required to enter the parks. Park Hopping is returning to Disney World beginning January 1, but you will still need a Park Pass for your first park of the day. Park Passes are made available in three “Buckets”: Theme Park Ticket Guests, Disney Resort Guests, and Annual Passholders. On average, the “buckets” for Theme Park Ticket Holders and Disney Resort Guests have the most availability.
At this time, use of the Disney Park Pass system has been extended into early 2022.
So, which parks do you want to visit, and how do you plan on visiting the Walt Disney World Resort?
Obviously, “last-minute” is a very subjective way to describe one’s decisions. However, we hope that this increased flexibility and incredible deals give you the confidence to book your trip and head to the Most Magical Place On Earth sooner than ever before.
Also, note that visiting Walt Disney World Resort, any theme park, or other public places in the middle of the ongoing pandemic comes with its own risk. Disney World has several new health and safety measures in place for that reason. To read more about Disney World’s current operations and view the health warning provided on the WDW website, click here.
If you are thinking about making your own last-minute trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, our friends at Academy Travel are standing by ready to help! Click here to get started and to receive your free, no-obligation quote today!
Editor’s Note: The opinions stated in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Inside the Magic overall.