Back in the 2010s, planning your Disney vacation was a different experience filled with lots of opportunities and experiences. Value or Deluxe accommodation? Table service or quick service dinner? Renting a car or using Disney transportation? There were pros and cons to every decision, and investigating what was best for your family was half the fun. But then, somewhere lodged between a push for increased revenue and a worldwide pandemic, the magical details got lost in the mix, and the incentives that used to make guests feel like staying at a Disney resort was a ‘must‘ slowly began slipping away.
First, it was a war on parking, with the complementary offer for resort guests revoked and replaced with a paid parking system that deterred many who traveled by private vehicle from selecting a Walt Disney World Resort. As the years went on, we saw most of the perks that drew guests to Disney-owned resorts fade away. We said goodbye to the Disney Dining Plan, which helped visitors plan and budget for their food and beverage costs ahead of time. Not long after, it was a brutal farewell to the FastPass+ system that offered Disney Resort guests the option to plan and book a few rides ahead of time.
Suddenly, those weighing up the pros and cons of staying “on Disney property” were shaking their heads and finding cheaper accommodation elsewhere. After all, if there was no extra benefit to packaging up your vacation and little advantage when it came to the quality of your stay, why go to additional lengths just to stay in an official Disney hotel? Even though many of us endured the dry spell that was Disney finding its feet again, I’m so pleased to report that there seems to be light (and a Disney Dining Plan) at the end of this tunnel.
We were excited a few months ago when Bob Iger announced the reintroduction of complimentary self-parking at the resort for guests; at the time, it was an unexpected move after the company seemed determined to double down on the changes of the Bob Chapek era.
However, yesterday took the cake when news broke that not only would the Disney Dining Plan be returning in 2024, but there is expected to be future news of a new approach to Disney Genie+ based on guest feedback — of which there is a lot! I do wonder if they might include a complimentary one, two, or three passes with resort reservations, allowing all guests to preview the system and entice them to purchase the full package. Just my thoughts, though in the meantime, you can catch the rundown with Craig here:
To many, the announcements meant the return of family to a Disney vacation. The option to add all the pieces back into what made this style of holiday so wonderful to start with. Not the individual components but the overall idea of an all-encompassing time away with your family where the elements you needed to have a manageable, good time were available to you. Yesterday, I would have read thousands of comments with guests cheering, tagging their friends, and already researching their return to the magic.
I absolutely love the direction Disney is taking with this, and not only because of the cost-saving aspect. Conducting business on a corporate level is not that different from communicating on an individual human level. Sometimes we get it wrong, and being a business doesn’t exempt you from making colossal mistakes, even with the best of intentions. I wish it did; it would make running a business a lot easier! Just like in our own lives, what matters is how you navigate out of that situation.
While many would have appreciated a chaotic level of damage control, flinging emotional and financial compensation at anyone who visited the parks, the real way forward, the long game, required a much more staggered approach. The plan needed to respond openly to guest feedback while also stabilizing the parks and resorts to a point where they could sustain that investment back into guest satisfaction. The moves had to be made in an effort to restore what we once knew as Disney Parks while also covering the needs of a post-covid business climate. There simply isn’t an Idle Tycoon game to prepare you for that challenge.
I will admit the intent behind some of the moves they made along the way wasn’t always clear; however, I firmly believe that the Disney we all once adored is back on the right path. Disney could have easily survived the growing PR problem that never seemed to affect more than morale, but instead, they have chosen to view this as a misdirection, seeing this path that leads down a road they never wanted to be on. What I see now is a commitment to change that didn’t have to be, and for that, I am grateful.
Welcome back, Disney; you’re headed in the right direction now.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.