Walt Disney World Resort News: Goodbye Magical Express, Magic Bands & Extra Magic Hours – Hello Good Neighbor Hotels?

Walt Disney World Resort – Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830

Recently, it was announced that the Walt Disney World Resort hotels will no longer offer many of the popular perks that kept Park guests on-property.  The loss of these perks at the Walt Disney World Resort may cause guests to rethink their accommodations for future Walt Disney World vacations as the cost of a stay at a Walt Disney World owned and operated resort hotel has not decreased.  However, in the eyes of many, the benefits of staying at these properties has.  Reservations at non-Disney owned hotels and resorts may be looking more and more attractive to some.  All of this has us asking ourselves, what perks are left for guests of Walt Disney World owned and operated resort hotels?

As the flagship resort of Walt Disney World, a stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort should come with perks.

Let’s face it – planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation can be difficult for even for the most seasoned of Disney Guests.  From the logistics of getting you and your family safely to Orlando, Florida in the age of COVID-19 to where to stay, dining reservations, theme park reservations and what kind of Park tickets you’ll need, it’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to plan the perfect Walt Disney World vacation.

Perhaps the most popular question asked when planning a Walt Disney World vacation is where to stay.  On-property at a Walt Disney World owned and operated resort hotel, at a Good Neighbor Hotel (many are generally still located inside the ‘Disney Bubble’), or off-property in the Orlando-area.  Previously, the Walt Disney World Resorts followed in the direction of many other Orlando-based hotels and introduced tiered nightly parking fees based on hotel class.

Over the last twenty years, in an attempt not only to keep guests returning to The World, but also to keep Walt Disney World guests confined to the ‘Disney Bubble,’ Walt Disney World’s 25 owned & operated resort hotels located across their 25,000 acre property, an array of perks were introduced exclusively to guests staying at Walt Disney World-owned and operated Resort hotels.

Walt Disney World Resort Guests staying at a Disney-owned and operated hotel prior to March of 2020 received the following exclusive benefits:

  • Complimentary Roundtrip Resort Transportation via Magical Express Bus Service to be discontinued as of 1/1/2022
  • Complimentary Magic Bands – Park Tickets, Resort Charging Privileges & Room Access in an all-in-one wearable discontinued 1/1/2021
  • Extra Magic Hours – Additional time in select Parks each day both Mornings and Evenings discontinued 3/2020
  • Complimentary Roundtrip Theme Park Transportation via the Walt Disney World Bus system, Monorail, or Skyliner
  • Complimentary Merchandise Package Pickup and delivery discontinued 3/2020
  • Disney Dining Plans discontinued 3/2020
  • Complimentary Theme Park Parking
  • 60 Day FastPass+ Advanced Reservations (in contrast to the 30 day window for off-site hotel guests) discontinued 3/2020
  • 180 Day Advanced Disney Dining Reservations (in contrast to the 60 day window for off-site hotel guests) discontinued 6/2020

The above-listed perks were designed and introduced in an attempt to keep Disney Parks guests away (or at least discouraged them) from visiting the many other accommodations and attractions within the Orlando-area.  For example, if a family of four no longer rents a car each visit and instead relies on Magical Express transportation, how will they get from Disney to Universal or SeaWorld? This transportation now becomes an added cost to the family and of course a logistics matter of its own.  Basically, the Walt Disney Company wanted to keep guests at its theme parks and resorts in order to continue capturing their vacation monies within the Disney Bubble, and these combined perks exclusive to Walt Disney World Resort Guests were the perfect way to do so – until now.

2020 was a challenging year full of uncertainty for us all.  The COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented effects on businesses across the globe, and the Walt Disney Company was no exception.  With Theme Park closures around the world, the Company’s Parks and Resort’s Division was faced with many financial challenges.  As a result, life as we know it at the Disney Parks certainly has changed.

Top: Wishes Come True Spirit Jersey | Sunglasses: Quay | Mask: Uniqlo

Magical Express

The days of complimentary transportation between Orlando International Airport and the Walt Disney World Resort are numbered.

Beginning January 1, 2022, Walt Disney World will no longer offer Disney’s Magical Express service to its guests.  This complimentary bus transportation service, contracted by Disney through Mears Transportation was, for many, the “beginning of a Walt Disney World vacation” as once they arrived at Orlando International Airport, guests no longer had to worry about how they or their luggage would get to their Disney resort hotel.  Gone was the stress of waiting for your bags at baggage claim post-flight, waiting in long lines for your reserved rental car, and of course – dealing with the chaos of I-4 traffic.

With Disney’s Magical Express, guests were able to skip baggage claim, as their luggage was labeled with personalized luggage tags affixed to their luggage pre-departure flight and then collected and distributed to their Walt Disney World Resort hotel free of charge.  There was nothing better than arriving to your Resort, checking-in, and heading into the Parks all to return to your room at the end of the day where your luggage was waiting for you in your room.  In addition, the service also offered airline check-in and baggage collection for your departure flight as well.  All of this resulted in less stress and more Park time for Walt Disney World guests. Although Magical Express service continues through December of 2021, baggage assistance has not resumed with the opening of the Resorts.  As a result, guests are now responsible for collecting their own baggage upon arrival at Orlando International Airport and transporting it to the Resort.

The best part of Disney’s Magical Express for us was the convenience factor.  Disney’s Magical Express was booked and arranged via Walt Disney World Travel.  Therefore, guests with confirmed Walt Disney World Resort vacations submitted their airline flight arrival and departure information at the time of reservation.  With this added feature, Disney’s Magical Express knew exactly when you and your luggage would be arriving.  In the past, we personally have chosen a late-night departure flight to Orlando International Airport.  Typically, those flights depart our home airport between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. and arrive in Orlando between 10:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m.  However, these flights are often delayed meaning we have arrived in Orlando well after midnight on many occasions.  With the stress of flight delays and the late-night arrival, it was always nice to know that Disney’s Magical Express would be there waiting for us when we arrived.  We understand that this would be similar with town car services which we have utilized many Orlando Car Services in the past as well, but then there is also an additional cost which can make an already expensive Walt Disney World vacation even more costly.

The Loading Area for Disney’s Magical Express service at Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Disney’s Magical Express was always waiting for us, even when our flights were delayed until after midnight and arriving at Orlando International Airport where we had the bus all to ourselves

Many Orlando-area hotels already offer round trip airport transportation for an additional fee per person (the Waldorf Astoria contracts Mears, for example).  In addition, many offer private car service arranged through the hotel (the Four Seasons Orlando for example), but also for an additional fee.  However, we feel the gap left by Magical Express will mostly be collected by ride-share services like Uber and Lyft making an already congested ride share pickup at Orlando International even more chaotic. These services are more affordable than private car or shuttle services, and they are also more attractive than sitting on a shuttle with many other guests during the age of COVID-19.  However, the biggest downfalls of ride-share services is that it is often hard to come by drivers with car seats let alone multiple car seats.  In addition, long waits can arise for guests needing oversize vehicles for larger parties and multiple pieces of luggage. There may be only two of us when we travel, but we have all of our luggage and our golf bags which automatically means we need a full-size SUV when renting a car.

Will you miss Disney’s Magical Express service? Will you rent a car, utilize a ride-share service like Uber or Lyft, or hire a private car service due to the loss of this complimentary transportation service?

Magic Bands

Beginning January 1, 2021, complimentary MagicBands are no longer offered to guests booking a Walt Disney World Vacation.

In January of 2013, MagicBands were introduced as a wearable alternative to the formerly known “Key to the World Card”.  The smart bracelet took the place of the plastic Key to the World card that guests were issued at check-in and required to carry everywhere.  Key to the World Cards were not without issue.  Key to the World cards were easy to lose (they’ve fallen out of our pockets on many occasions) or became deactivated restricting guests from entering their resort room and forcing them to head to guest services.  The idea of wearable MagicBands served not only as your room key to your Walt Disney World Resort room but also cashless payments (room charges throughout the theme parks and resorts), connected guests to their PhotoPass accounts, and admitted guests to the theme parks.

Complimentary MagicBands were an added perk for guests staying at a Walt Disney World owned & operated Resort

However, the primary goal of this project in combination with the My Disney Experience app was to capture guest data utilizing RFID technology.  The new wearable technology allows the Walt Disney Company to record and analyze where guests spend their money, what rides they are riding, how long they are in the parks, where they are eating their meals, and which of the characters they are taking photos with.  The introduction of this data increased overall efficiency and profitability within the parks.  Suddenly, for the first time in forever, the Walt Disney Company could track the habits of their guests – what they do and don’t like and how often they do all or none of these things.

In addition, the wearable technology was used to track the whereabouts of children in the parks.  If a child went missing while on Disney Property, technology could be used to locate the child and coordinate a safe return to their parents.  Of course, this portion of the program was entirely optional as some parents were uncomfortable with the idea of someone tracking their child’s every move.

From January of 2013 through December of 2020, MagicBands were complimentary to all guests with a Walt Disney World Resort reservation.  They could be personalized by color, name, and even designs for special occasions, movies, and theme park attractions.  When entering the theme park via MagicBand, special addition MagicBands would play an audible phrase or song unique to that MagicBand instead of the traditional entry jingle.  As of January 1, 2021, MagicBands are no longer complimentary and only available for an additional fee.

For us, the discontinuing of complimentary MagicBands is a win as we were never fans of the wearable technology.  Much like when staying at a big box all-inclusive resort where wrist bands are required, MagicBands simply felt like a nuisance for us – another trinket to wear on our wrists for the duration of our vacation.  Our biggest issue (besides tan lines) with Magic Bands is that, as annual passholders, we still had to carry our physical annual passholder card in order to receive passholder perks like discounts on shopping and dining.  The fact that we needed our physical card on person defeated the purpose of wearing the wearable for us.

With the use of the My Disney Experience app on any compatible smartphone, theme park guests can now do all of the things MagicBands can do with the use of their phones – or so we thought.  During our February 2021 trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, contactless resort check-in turned into a major issue.  We received the text that our resort room was ready, and we headed to our room.  Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were unable to access our resort room at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort with the Bluetooth feature on our iPhones.  The iPhone itself was working, but the unlocking mechanism in the door was not responding to the Bluetooth signal.  The door lock was illuminating based on the Bluetooth signal, but the mechanics of it all just weren’t functioning.  We called the front desk while we were standing in front of our resort room with all of our luggage, and we were placed on hold.  While listening to the hold music, Janine remembered that she may have a few old MagicBands in her suitcase from previous stays.  Luckily for us, she did, and luckily they worked! We were in our room all while we were still on hold.  When we explained to the front desk staffer who finally answered that the Bluetooth wasn’t working, they sent down an engineer to repair the door.  When the engineer arrived, he said they’d have to send someone from IT.  Long story short, the issue was never resolved even though countless staffers visited our room. Morale of this story is that guests will either need a MagicBand or to request a Key to the World card upon check in – which we did immediately after we settled into our room.

Will you continue to purchase MagicBands for an additional fee to use on your Walt Disney World vacation, or will simply make the switch to your smartphone?

Extra Magic Hours

Perhaps the most valuable Disney Resort benefit, in our opinion, is that of Extra Magic Hours, (hereinafter referred to as, “EMH”).  This complimentary benefit allowed guests of Walt Disney World owned and operated resorts additional theme park hours either morning or evenings on certain days of the week.  Morning hours offered access to the theme park one hour prior to opening to the public and evening hours offered an extra two hours after closing.  This meant that Walt Disney World resort guests were able to enter the park one hour before normal operating hours and remain in the park two hours after normal closing hours.

EMH afforded Walt Disney World resort guests the opportunity to get a jump on their day before the general public entered the parks and to enjoy the park for a few extra hours in the evenings after the crowds had left.  Although only select attractions were open during EMH, there were enough popular attractions open during these time periods that it made sense to take advantage of this perk.  Thanks to EMH, we were some of the very first guests ever to enter exciting new lands on opening day such as Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora, World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park.

Instead of EMH at select theme parks for Walt Disney World Resort guests, the Company has introduced a 30 minute early entry at all parks for all guests.  With this benefit, everyone has the ability to enter the parks 30 minutes early each day.  Although this does allow everyone to take advantage of the perk, instead of only Walt Disney World Resort guests, we feel it defeats the point of controlling the crowds as restricting the entry to only theme park guests for a time affords them a period of lower crowd expectations and of course an added benefit to staying on-property.

Morning Extra Magic Hours allowed Resort guests to be the first inside Pandora, World of Avatar on opening day
Of all the resort-exclusive benefits Disney has chosen to discontinue, we will miss Extra Magic Hours the most

For us, we have always enjoyed evening EMH.  We love spending our mornings relaxing at our Walt Disney World resort hotel.  This is the time when we truly unwind and enjoy our chosen resort’s themed pools, hot tubs, fitness centers, spas, restaurants, bars, and activities.  Unlike many Disney guests, our resort hotel is not simply somewhere we lay our head at the end of the day.  We enjoy exploring all our resort has to offer.  After all, we are on vacation! It isn’t until the mid-afternoon that we typically head into our chosen park where we spend the remainder of the day.  With the discontinuing of EMH, we will miss our late nights in the theme parks.  These were the times where we felt we had the parks almost entirely to ourselves.  The lines were short, the crowds were low, and the humidity was also more bearable for all.  Imagine Big Thunder Mountain being a walk-on or a ten minute wait for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – unheard of during normal park hours.  Some of our favorite Walt Disney World memories are from very late nights where we were in the Magic Kingdom riding rides until 2:00 a.m. thanks to EMH.

On occasions where we did take advantage of morning EMH, we would celebrate being able to ride all of the rides we wanted prior to the park even opening to the public.  Many times we would exit the park prior to its opening to the public and hop our way over to another park to officially start our day.  This was a great feature for families with little ones who want to maximize their time in the parks, especially first time visitors.  On our visits with younger family members, we would bring the little ones into the parks early for morning EMH, ride all of their favorite rides, and then head back to our resort ready for nap time.

In 2019, the EMH benefit began being offered at Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotels, a collection of over 50 non-Disney owned hotels located in Lake Buena Vista, Kissimmee, Celebration, and along International Drive.  These hotels include the Margaritaville Resort Orlando, the Four Seasons Orlando, Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin, Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace, Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, and the Holiday Inn Disney Springs just to name a few.

The Walt Disney World Swan is not only within walking distance of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT Center, but as a Good Neighbor Hotel this property began participating in Extra Magic Hours in 2019.

Also in 2019, the availability of evening EMH began to lessen as Walt Disney World introduced “Disney After Hours,” a hard-ticketed event allowing all park guests (not just Disney Resort Guests) extended theme park hours for an additional cost ranging from $99.00 USD per child to $139.00 USD per adult plus tax.  The cost of admission to this event was in addition to a guests regular theme park ticket meaning an entire day in theme park plus admission to Disney After Hours could cost one daily theme park visitor (not an annual passholder) over $300 USD per person depending on the day of the week.  The events were available in both the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and the only difference between these events and EMH, in our opinion, was that character interactions were included as they were not previously available during EMH.  Special addition Disney After Hours events were introduced themed around Disney Villians which had a few more inclusions than the standard After Hours event, but again we felt we were being asked to pay for a benefit that should already be afforded to us as Walt Disney World Resort guests.

Will you miss morning or evening Extra Magic Hours, or do you think the 30 minute entry for everyone will be enough?

Walt Disney World Transportation System

The use of Walt Disney World Transportation hasn’t been unique to resort guests in many years.  During the early 90’s, guests had to show their Key To the World Card prior to boarding a WDW bus, boat, or monorail (major bonus points to anyone who remembers the flag system used to identify the WDW bus destinations).  However, those days are long gone.  Anyone visiting either Disney Springs or a Walt Disney World theme park can hop on a bus to any resort or any theme park during normal operating hours without question.  In addition, anyone with a car can drive into any Walt Disney World Resort at any time as long as they have a confirmed dining reservation to display in their My Disney Experience app.

Complimentary transportation to the Walt Disney World Theme Parks is also available to guests of Good Neighbor Hotels between the theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs.  In addition, there are many Good Neighbor Hotels that are in walking distance to Walt Disney World attractions.  For example, the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin are within walking distance to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Also, the Hilton Buena Vista Palace and Hilton Lake Buena Vista are within walking distance to Disney Springs.

Although the Magic Kingdom portion of Walt Disney World’s monorail system has been running since the parks reopened post-COVID closure, the question remains when the EPCOT loop will return.  A modified version of park hopping returned in January of 2021, but getting between EPCOT and Magic Kingdom remains a challenge without the availability of this service.

Although not an exclusive perk of Disney Resort Guests, visitors of the Walt Disney World Resort could ride in the front of the Walt Disney World Monorail until 2009.

Guests without mobility issues can make the walk from Disney’s Hollywood Studios (“DHS”) through the EPCOT Resorts to the International Gateway entrance of EPCOT.  This is one of our favorite pathways, and it’s a great way to walk off all those churros! However, the only other alternatives from DHS to EPCOT are bus transportation and a ride on the Skyliner with a line change.

Currently, bus transportation and driving your own personal vehicle are the only ways guests can park hop between EPCOT and Magic Kingdom.  The extended closure of this monorail loop has left many guests wondering if this closure is related to a maintenance issue, a staffing issue, or is this simply a way of phasing out a transportation system that we believe the Iger/Chapek Administration has long wanted to remove due to operating costs?

Parking for Walt Disney World Resort guests at theme parks remains complimentary as of the time of this post, but will it remain?  Currently, there is an additional fee per night to park a car at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, so there’s that.

Would you pay for parking as a Walt Disney World Resort guest, or would you consider other accommodations at a more affordable rate and figure in the cost of theme park parking?

What’s Next?

FastPass+

The FastPass ride reservation system was introduced in 1999.  Originally, theme park guests placed their Key to the World Card in FastPass kiosks near an attraction’s entrance and were issued a paper ticket which reserved them a window of time where they were admitted access to ride the corresponding attraction.  Gone were the days where you had to wait in line for your favorite rides, and guests were now free to explore the theme parks and spend their time (and money) eating, drinking, and shopping.  We can still remember the morning stampedes towards the various FastPass kiosks that commenced each morning after rope drop.  The race for paper tickets to your favorite attractions was an exhilarating adventure that often ended with a ‘5:30 p.m. ride time’ issued on a 9:00 a.m. ticket – what to do with the rest of our day?!? kids today will never understand our struggles.

As MagicBands and My Disney Experience were introduced in 2013, FastPass+ was introduced eliminating the paper ticket system and creating an online reservation system allowing guests to book their FastPasses online in advance of their Walt Disney World vacation.  Walt Disney World Resort guests were permitted to reserve their FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance while guests of non-Disney owned hotels and resorts could reserve their attractions 30 days in advance.

For us, the idea of planning exactly what theme park you wanted to be in on what day and what rides you were going to ride 60 days in advance was insanity.  This was not a perk that we took advantage of.  We preferred the paper ticket system because it meant you had to make the effort to physically be in the park and ready to ride.  Instead, reservations were made 60 days in advance and often times not kept leaving limited or no availability for the rest – especially the locals who really got the shaft on this one since they were always making their FastPass+ reservations the same day.

The FastPass+ ride reservation system was suspended after the closure of Walt Disney World’s theme parks in March of 2020 due to COVID-19.  After the parks reopened, FastPass+ remained suspended.  There are no theme park reservation systems currently available for use at the time of this post.

For years we’ve heard the rumors that Walt Disney World’s FastPass+ system will move away from a complimentary offering and become a paid add-on for theme park guests.  With current travel restrictions and crowd capacity limits, it is likely that the Walt Disney Company will move towards that goal sooner than we think.

Prior to it’s closure from COVID-19, Disneyland in California offers a paid FastPass reservation system in addition to its complimentary offering.  The difference between the complimentary and paid reservation systems is the number of FastPass reservations one can make.  The complimentary offering does not include as many reservations in one park visit as the paid version does.

Similarly, Universal Orlando’s theme parks offer the Express Pass.  Although Express Pass is not a reservation system, it is a line-avoidance system where ticketed park guests purchase an add-on (the cost varies by day of the week and time of the year) in order to ‘walk on’ a number of their most popular attractions in the park.  This feature is free to guests of Universal Orlando’s higher tier on-site hotels such as The Loews Portofino Bay, The Loews Royal Pacific, and The Hard Rock Hotel.  This perk is not included in stays at The Loews Sapphire Falls, Cabana Bay, Endless Summer or Dockside Inn and Suites.

Would you pay for the use of the FastPass+ reservation system or will you go back to waiting in line?

Disney Dining Plan

As more and more restaurants began closing, the purchase of Disney Dining Plans was suspended after the parks closures in March of 2020 due to COVID-19.  Prior to its closure, Walt Disney World guests had the option to purchase a number of prepaid dining plans for their length of stay.  Each year, prior to 2020, a ‘Free Dining Offer’ has been released through the Walt Disney Travel Company offering guests a free meal plan based on their chosen resort stay.  This offer is only available during select times of the year (never during the Holiday Season).  For example, a Free Dining Offer at Pop Century Resort would entitle each guest to a complimentary Quick Service Dining Plan allowing them to eat each allotment at a fast food location throughout The World.

Although many guests enjoyed the all-inclusive idea of a Disney Dining Plan, for us it simply isn’t worth it. In the beginning, way back in the 1990’s, the original Disney Dining Plan looked much different than it does today.  It truly was an all-inclusive and all-encompassed dining plan.  We can remember dining on surf & turf every night for dinner at restaurants like Narcoosee’s and Yachtsmen Steakhouse.  The current iteration which was launched in 2005 causes not only headaches for Cast Members and Guests, but it also has (in our opinion) contributed to the homogenization of culinary cuisine and menu selection throughout the Walt Disney World Resort.  There is nothing more frustrating than sitting down to a romantic dinner at a specialty restaurant and the first words out of the Cast Member’s mouth are, “are we using a Disney Dining Plan tonight?” No “hello, good evening, my name is ________, and welcome to ___________.”  In addition, we’ve wasted far too many hours waiting in quick service lines behind guests who are arguing with the College Program Cast Member about their Dining Plan allotments.  If the guests don’t understand the Dining Plan product, you’re not doing a very good job of selling it, are you?

In 2011, we took full advantage of the Disney Dining Plan with our best Disney Dining Experience to date – dinner at Bistro de Paris (now Monsieur Paul)

Although we’ve tried the Disney Dining Plan on a few trips, the math just didn’t add up for us.  As Annual Passholders, the rack room discount is far better than anything offered on the Free Dining Offer in our opinion, our Tables in Wonderland card offers a better discount in total on food AND alcohol, we eat all of our meals primarily at specialty restaurants, and the total amount of food in order to maximize the benefit of the Dining Plan would never be accomplished by us (we do not eat three meals a day or desserts).

This perk may be suspended temporarily, but we do believe it will return in the future.  Do you miss the Disney Dining Plan, or are you glad it’s gone?

Package Pick Up & Delivery

One of the oldest perks of staying on Walt Disney World Property was Resort Package Pickup and Delivery.  For as long as we can remember, guests have had the option to make purchases in the theme parks and have those items transported either to the Park’s front entrance for package pickup within three hours of purchase or magically transported back to their resort within one day.  This perk was complimentary and a major convivence factor for parents with little ones whose strollers were already overloaded.  With the addition of Festivals across World Showcase Lagoon at EPCOT Center in years past, package pickup and delivery has been a wonderful way to purchase paintings at Festival of the Arts or bottles of wine at Food & Wine without having to worry about transporting them around the parks.

Unfortunately, this service has not been reintroduced since the parks closures due to COVID-19 in March of 2020.  We are hopeful that it will return in the future as this was a wonderful benefit which we believe encouraged guests to spend more money on merchandise in the parks.

Have you utilized package pickup and delivery in the past?

Housekeeping

A stay at a Disney-owned and operated resort hotel used to mean superior housekeeping services, or “Mousekeeping” as it is referred to.  Twice daily housekeeping was the standard for most of our childhood and young adult years visiting the Walt Disney World Resort.  Regular housekeeping services were offered during the day while guests were in the parks or enjoying the resort’s amenities.  This service was a full service cleaning of your resort room daily including trash removal, toiletry, linen and towel replenishment, and vacuuming.  In the evening hours, turn-down service was offered as an additional housekeeping benefit of staying in a Walt Disney World-owned resort hotel.  While guests were at dinner, their resort room drapes would be pulled closed, the television would be turned on, and bed linens would be turned down with a collection of resort-specific chocolate treats waiting to welcome you back.  Unfortunately, this service was discontinued for regular resort guests and made available exclusively to club level (concierge) resort guests.  This service has never been offered to Disney Vacation Club guests with the exception of those who reserved the two-bedroom villa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Is turn-down service necessary, no.  However, it is a very nice touch that adds a little more magic to your stay.

Currently, Walt Disney World’s owned and operated resorts are now offering modified housekeeping services.  With 2021’s modified housekeeping, resort guests are currently receiving light housekeeping services every other day of their stay which includes trash removal, towel replenishment and counter cleaning.  Guests who are staying in a Disney Vacation Club room only receive light housekeeping services only on the fourth and eighth day of their stay.  In addition, guests are now able to opt completely out of housekeeping services which means no cleaning services will be offered during your stay.  Since all check-in services are now contactless, guests are directed straight to their resort room instead of visiting the resort lobby where this sign was displayed at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort.

Modified Housekeeping Service notice displayed at check-in for Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort

During our stay in February of 2020, we were not notified of the modified housekeeping services prior to check-in.  We became aware of the modified services after noticing our room was not serviced when we had returned from the parks.  After calling the front desk, the modified service was then explained to us.  We had asked if the service was available for a fee, but we were told that it is not at this time.  Prior to our stay at a Disney-owned property on this trip, we were staying at a few Good Neighbor Hotels in Orlando who were both offering regular housekeeping services.  We could not understand why Disney was no longer offering full-service housekeeping, but everyone else in the Orlando area seemed to be? This was a major deal-breaker for us, and we let resort management know it.  Returning from the parks after a long day of park hopping to an unmade bed and an unserviced room was not very magical.  Maybe it’s just us, but the two things we don’t want to do on vacation are cook or make our own bed.

Disney Parks & Resorts has announced that this change in service offerings is as a result of COVID-19.  However, those of us who have been visiting Walt Disney World frequently over the last five years have noticed a significant decline in housekeeping services.  According to Disney pre-pandemic, the resorts were short staffed and those on staff were overworked.  Was that really the case, or were their workers simply not being paid enough and quit.  If you don’t already know, service workers are already one of the lowest paid industries in the United States even though they are also some of the hardest working people out there.  Either way, unlike smaller resorts and hotels in the Orlando-area, the Walt Disney company simply has too many rooms to clean and not enough staff to do the job right.  During the summer of 2019, Disney Parks and Resorts recognized this so much so that they began offering resort guests gift cards as an incentive to opt-out of housekeeping services during their stay.  By incentivizing guests to decline housekeeping services, Disney is saving on the labor and utilities (electric, water, etc.) required to perform these tasks.

So what is the future of Mousekeeping at Walt Disney World? Are the current reduced housekeeping services a deal-breaker for you? With the known quality and labor issues Disney has had prior to COVID-19, do we see the modified housekeeping continuing post-pandemic, or will housekeeping become an optional add-on all together to a Walt Disney World vacation similar to that of resort parking, etc.

The loss of Extra Magic Hours, complimentary MagicBands, and Magical Express transportation at the Walt Disney World Resort has us rethinking our accommodations for future Walt Disney World vacations.  The cost of a stay at a Walt Disney World owned and operated resort hotel has not decreased.  However, the benefits of staying at these properties have.

Have you had the chance to or are you planning to stay at a Walt Disney World opened and operated Resort hotel? If so, we’d love to hear how the loss of any of the above-listed perks will affect your plans in the comments below!

The comments, opinions, and views set forth on this site are the reflected personal positions of the site’s creators.  This site is not an affiliate of  The Walt Disney Company.  The comments, opinions, and views set forth within this site are not the official positions of The Walt Disney Company, and they do not reflect the Company’s position.

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