Walt Disney World Dining Plan Coming Back; More Pandemic-Era Rules Phasing Out in 2024

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

Walt Disney World today announced some changes it says will make your 2024 visit to the Orlando resort easier.

Dining Plan Returns in 2024

The biggest news is the return of the popular dining plans in 2024. Both the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan and the Disney Dining Plan will be available when you book packages for stays beginning January 9, 2024, and beyond. The Disney Dining Plan gives you the option to pre-pay for your meals as part of your vacation package, giving you "credits" that you redeem with each meal.

Of course, the dining plan itself has inspired tens of thousands of articles, blog posts and discussion forum threads, so "easy" may not be the appropriate word for the program—but it's definitely one thing vacation planners have been asking to have return in this post-pandemic travel world.

Dining Plan Symbol on kiosk menu
The Dining Plan symbols have remained conspicuous on menus all throughout the time the program was suspended, including, as here, on all of the EPCOT festival kiosk menu boards. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Reservation Rules Relaxed

Disney also appears to be ready to further relax policies put in place during the pandemic, cutting some of the steps required before heading to the parks.

When you purchase date-based tickets, you no longer need to make a theme park reservation before your visit, which means you no longer need to commit to visiting a specific theme park on a specific day each day of your trip. If you're the type who likes to wake up and leave it to the whims of the Disney bus service to pick your starting park for the day, this is great news. Even if you're a hyper-planner, this is just one less detail you need to keep track of.

This change goes into effect as of January 9, 2024, and only impacts date-based tickets. If you have a different form of admission, like a student group ticket, a sport and convention ticket, or an older unexpired ticket, you will still need to make a reservation. 

1 Day Ticket prices - Jan 13, 2023
Disney currently sells one-day park tickets with park reservations automatically included when capacity is available, as each park's tickets are now priced separately (with the Park Hopping add-on available at an extra charge). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Walt Disney World annual passholders and cast members will also be able to visit without reservations on so-called "Good to Go" days, again starting in 2024. Walt Disney World has already removed the park reservation requirement for most parks after 2:00 p.m. each day, and this is just another step down. We don't expect Disney to ever return to a true no-reservations-needed system, especially on the historically busiest times, but adding more and more opportunities for a spontaneous visit is a welcome perk.

Extended Hours Continue

Disney says early theme park entry will continue through 2024 at all four theme parks everyday. This program lets guests of the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels enter their reserved theme park up to 30 minutes early each morning, ahead of guests who aren't staying on property.

Extended evening hours will also continue on select nights in 2024. This perk is reserved for guests staying at Disney Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas, and offers up to two extra hours at Epcot or Magic Kingdom after the park closes to day guests.

Disney Genie+ Changes

In today's announcement, Disney says, "We have heard from guests that they would like ways to plan with Disney Genie+ service and individual Lightning Lane selections before the day of their park visit, and we want you to know we are working on ways guests may do this for visits in 2024."

Disney Genie
Disney Genie+ changes coming in 2024. Image courtesy Disney Parks.

No details were shared, but it looks like visitors may—someday—be able to make at least some attraction selections before ever stepping foot on property. Of course, this is the model Disney moved away from in introducing Disney Genie+, but it sounds like the fans have finally gotten their message through to the Powers That Be.

I never thought I'd yearn for the simpler days of needing to make dining reservations and FastPass+ selections months before I even boarded a plane to Orlando, but the last few years have proven that planning a Disney vacation could become even more complicated. These changes seem to be a step in the right direction, and perhaps Disney will go even further to make vacation planning truly magical.