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Planning when to visit Walt Disney World is already a difficult decision, but with everything happening so far in 2021, it’s proved to be a bigger challenge than usual. The question many people are wondering now is: “Should I visit Walt Disney World in 2021, or wait until 2022?”
Picking the right year to visit got a lot harder to do ever since the Disney World closure that happened in 2020. Walt Disney World is open now, so in this post, we are going to help you make the best decision and figure out if you should go now in 2021 or 2022.
First, let me be upfront with you, there is no clear-cut answer to the question and a lot of it will depend on what you are looking for from your vacation. We’ll talk about the positives and negatives of going in both 2021 and 2022 including the price, crowd levels and what’s going on in the parks in those years.
Disney World’s 50th anniversary should also have a big influence on your choice as you will have to figure out if you want to deal with the construction work leading up to the big event, or the increased crowds during it.
Lastly, if you are waiting for a specific new attraction to open before going, that will weigh heavily when deciding.
One resource that will be a tremendous help to you right away is our post on the New Disney World Rides & What’s Coming in 2021-2023. That breaks down every new attraction in Disney World and everything on the immediate horizon that you might want to wait for.
You can also read our Walt Disney World Construction Guide where we have the latest updates on all the construction projects going on around the property.
One thing that is a huge help in planning our trip is that Walt Disney World is now open once again.
It’s a phased opening with all 4 theme parks now open, plus Disney Springs and a bunch of the resort hotels and restaurants. The rest of the resort will continue reopening slowly over the next year or so based on attendance levels and demand from guests.
One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the information in this post is going to change in the coming months. There are so many uncertainties and variables right now in the parks that could drastically change your experience. We’ll continue to update you as they take place.
We go much more in-depth on what changes to expect at the parks in our master post on Walt Disney World Reopening – Complete Guide, as well as explain all the new changes coming to the parks for guest safety.
Ok, so let’s get into some of the details of if it’s better to visit Walt Disney World in 2021 or 2022.
Disney World Regulars vs First Time Visitors
The first factor is what kind of a Disney World guest you are. Our advice is going to be very different depending on if you are crazy like us and have been to Disney World hundreds of times, or if it’s your first time visiting.
First off, no matter who you are, you should be planning your trip around a combination of factors including crowds, weather, events, park hours and more. Our post on the When is the Best Time to visit Visit Disney World helps explain those things more and we rank each month from best to worst.
If you are planning your first visit to Disney World, there is no “perfect time” to go.
I get it. You want this to be the trip of a lifetime, something your kids will remember forever and so you keep putting things off in hopes of finding that perfect moment to go. I have news for you, it doesn’t exist as far as the parks are concerned. Disney World is always in motion and whether or not you go in 2021, 2022, or even 2023, it will be different each time.
The risk you run is waiting so long that your kids grow up and then you miss those precious moments you could have had together. That’s why we usually say to go as soon as possible.
Even though there are plenty of new projects under construction to look forward to in 2021, there will be even more opening in 2022, and 2023, etc. You can’t wait for “the next big thing” because it goes on forever and eventually, you just have to choose a time and go.
There are already a bunch of great new attractions that are open, and they are more than enough of a draw to make going in 2021 a valid idea. Just a few years ago, Disney started some of the biggest and most impressive expansion projects they’ve ever done with many new attractions now open (more on that in a minute).
My philosophy is to seize the moment. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so why put it off if you have the time and money to go in the near future?
Normally, I would tell you “Who knows, maybe if you go in 2021 you’ll have such a good time that you become Disney-addicted like us, and will end up going back again in 2022 or shortly thereafter.”
Some months ago, this was my advice. However, 2021 is NOT a normal year. Everything has changed since Disney World rolled out all the new safety measures and restrictions that are in place for guests from now until the foreseeable future.
If you are a first-time visitor to Disney World, you aren’t going to get the real “Disney experience” in the next few months. There are just too many negatives that it would ruin your first impression of Disney World, and you might never go back as a result.
- Going around the parks all day in a face mask in 90+ degree weather
- A complicated reservation system
- Reduced park capacity
- Reduced park hours
- Limited entertainment options (No fireworks show!)
- No character meets
Right now, I just can’t in good faith tell you to pay your hard-earned money on a trip that you won’t ABSOLUTELY love, and that is worth the high prices.
If on the other hand you are a Disney veteran and you have already been to the parks recently, you have more options.
On one hand, you might be ready for a vacation after the events of the last few months, and going to your “happy place” could be just the medicine you need. I think it’s important to realize though that it won’t be exactly the way it usually is, and you’ll need to have a bit more patience than usual.
On the other hand, you might want to hold out on going in 2021 and wait to go in 2022 instead. If you’ve already experienced these new lands and rides and you can’t go in both years, we recommend you waiting for some of the other projects Disney is working on for 2022 and beyond so you get the most for your money.
The new guidelines and changes at Disney World might be too much, and you don’t want to deal with all that hassle right now. We don’t blame you if feel that way and if that is the case you should wait.
Then there is Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary starting in 2021 and carrying on into 2022. Disney World is expecting more visitors in both years because of the 50th Anniversary celebration, and if you are a long-time Disney park fan like us, you will probably appreciate what Disney is working on for the event and will put up with the higher crowds.
A first-time guest won’t have that same nostalgia and is probably better off going when it’s less crowded and can enjoy the regular attractions more. We’ll get into this more in a bit. Now let’s take a closer look at the specific events going on in 2021 and 2022 at Disney World and if those will be negatives or positives for you.
Going to Disney World in 2021
What is it be like to visit Disney World in 2021? First, the Disney World parks reopened from closure last July. Since everything has gone pretty well so far, and it’s a pretty safe assumption at this point to say that the parks will remain open throughout 2021.
Though our case has gotten significantly weaker since the beginning of the year, there are a few reasons to at least consider going to Disney World this year.
The first reason why we think it’s a good idea to go in 2021 is all the new attractions that are already open. If you are a first-timer or haven’t been in a few years, there is plenty to keep you occupied without having to wait for what still is under construction.
Pandora: The World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is breathtaking and added two great new attractions to what is already my favorite park at the moment. If you haven’t been on Flight of Passage yet, I have to ask what you are doing waiting!
Then Disney opened Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios, with two more new rides, including the second-most popular attraction in the park Slinky Dog Dash.
Finally, in 2019, Disney took things to a whole other level when they opened the first Star Wars-themed land “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.” This was the most hyped new land in theme park history, and it’s done pretty well to meet those astronomical expectations. Since it opened, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance became a phenomenon and the most popular attraction on the planet.
Let’s also not overlook Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. In March 2020, Disney opened the first ride-through attraction for Mickey Mouse and we think it’s yet another must-see attraction for the park.
The Disney Skyliner also opened recently and has been a huge hit with guests and is now our favorite form of transportation in Disney World. All of these attractions are open and it means you’ll have a blast visiting them.
Price is another factor why we feel visiting Disney World in 2021 is a good idea. Simply put, the more you put off a Disney World vacation, the more you will end up paying. Disney has some of the most aggressive price increases of any vacation destination and it happens year over year, almost without letup.
Even if 2021 was a normal year, going to Disney World would be cheaper then than putting it off until 2022. With the percentage that tickets, hotels, and food all increase year over year, you would be saving hundreds of dollars (if not more) by going a year early.
Though Disney hasn’t been as aggressive as we expected up to this point, 2021 is also likely to be much cheaper than in 2022 due to the higher number of vacation deals we will see, especially before the 50th celebration. Attendance took a nosedive in 2020, and Disney will be forced to keep hotel prices at bay for a while, offering some good deals.
Disney to this point hasn’t offered discounts quite as deep as we originally expected, but they will still probably be the best offers you will see for a long time. So if you are concerned about saving money, we can think of no better time to go.
At this point it doesn’t look like the Disney Free Dining offer is coming back, not at least until the end of 2021. Instead deep hotel room discounts are where you should be looking to save money.
We saw this in 2020 and carry over into 2021 as Disney has come out with an Early Booking offer and a separate one for Annual Passholder saving 35% and 40% on hotel rooms respectively. It’s possible we will see these offers extended even further into 2021.
Having lower crowds in Disney World is another huge point in favor of going in 2021 over 2022. The economy is suffering at the moment, and with millions of people losing their jobs, the last thing they are thinking about is going to Disney World.
Crowds have been at historic lows and this could be an opportunity for you to experience the parks with minimal crowds and potentially low wait times for all the attractions. If you’ve been to the parks just before or just after a hurricane, you’ll know those can be the absolute best days to go with many of the best rides having walk-on lines.
However, the further into 2021 we go, the higher chance this advantage will disappear, so if you want to see lower crowds, we recommend going as early as possible.
Another advantage are being able to experience the new attractions coming to the parks.
Disney’s schedule has been pushed back, but it has been confirmed that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in EPCOT is opening in 2021. In fact, the entire expansion of the France pavilion will be done this year, yes, including that new crepes restaurant!
And who doesn’t want to dine with a view of the planet Earth at the Space 220 restaurant? That HAS to be opening in 2021! I also can’t wait to see the new Epcot fireworks show, Disney Harmonious, which is being billed as the biggest fireworks show Disney has ever created!
That being said, there are also some negatives about going in 2021. The first is the difficulty of planning in an uncertain time.
Even though we know Disney World is open right now, you are more likely to run into travel problems or restrictions. The parks won’t shut down again, but if you are planning to go to Disney World in 2021, you need to be flexible and understand there are more challenges when booking a trip.
The policy changes in place for guest safety are also a big negative for many people. You have to wear a face-covering in most areas of Disney World. Temperature screenings and distancing in ride queues are some other guidelines you’ll have to follow while visiting.
If you visit in 2021, don’t expect the parks to run exactly the way they usually do. Each park has a limited capacity with many fewer guests allowed in each day. Contact with other guests and Cast Members is also limited and you need to keep further distances while waiting in line for attractions.
Many of the entertainment options and a few of the attractions will remain closed in 2021, including most stage shows and the fireworks.
There are no character meets in Disney, though they have introduced the Character Cavalcades which are a nice substitute in the meantime.
Even though you are likely to find a good deal on a Disney World vacation during 2021, one thing to consider is the price/value ratio might not be its maximum. Prices might be lower, but you aren’t getting as much for what you are spending with some limited entertainment options and park hours.
Even though we understand how everything works at the moment, things can change, and change quickly.
The silver lining is that the further into 2021 we go, the more likely we are to see some of the safety restrictions loosened, and some of the entertainment come back. If those things are super important to you, then going in the second half of 2021 is a good idea.
If you want to know more about what the parks are like now, read our Disney World Reopening Guide.
Another downer for 2021 is all the construction in Walt Disney World. It already was going to be bad for most of the year, but now some projects we thought were going to be finished by the Spring or Summer now likely won’t get built until 2022, or even later.
If you have seen photos of EPCOT over the last few months, you’ll have noticed Future World has turned into one big construction wall with the entire center blocked off.
Epcot is the middle of a complete transformation and that isn’t going to end anytime soon and will continue through all of 2021 and 2022.
We also aren’t getting the Spaceship Earth refurbishment like we originally thought, as that project has been put on hold.
The Magic Kingdom doesn’t have a ton of big projects going on at the moment, but they just finished a refurbishment on Cinderella Castle to get it ready for the 50th anniversary. That is now finished and the castle is looking stupendous with its new vibrant colors.
Then there is the Disney World 50th Anniversary. This could be a positive or a negative depending on if it’s something you really want to see. Since it will be taking place in part of 2021 and most if not all of 2022, if you want to skip it then you better plan your trip for no later than July or August 2021.
With all of these changes, we still think 2021 is a good year for someone who has visited many times already and first-timers, just depending on when you choose to go in 2021.
Early December 2021 could be a good time to go. This should be a good time because it’s before the Christmas crowds start coming in, and when we anticipate there being some good deals on vacation packages.
If you are interested in experiencing the new attractions we’ve already mentioned, hopefully, most of those will also be ready by the end of the year. Maybe some of the new safety policies Disney put in place might be relaxed by that time, and most of the entertainment options opened back up.
If you can’t go in December, Early November could also be an attractive alternative. This is a good alternative because the crowds are bound to be extremely low, meaning more space in the parks.
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Going to Dinsey World in 2022
Overall, there are more reasons why it’s better to wait and go to Disney World in 2022. The main reason is to celebrate Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration. “Wait, what? Isn’t the 50th celebration starting in 2021?”
Yes, while the 50th technically starts in late 2021, it won’t really get rolling until 2022.
This is going to be the biggest party the theme parks have ever seen and it will be the biggest extravaganza Disney has ever put on.
In order to get ready for Walt Disney World’s golden anniversary, a lot of work needs to get done around the parks still. Besides the new attractions and hotels Disney is building, we also expect there to be lots of minor improvements in the parks and Disney World will be as beautiful as you’ve ever seen it.
The Disney World closure has messed up the timelines a bit, and a lot of this work would have been done in 2020. Now, these improvements will get pushed to 2021 in preparation for the festivities, and some in 2022 once it has already started.
Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971, which means it is celebrating its 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021. Even though we know the anniversary date, we don’t yet know when the celebration festivities are going to start.
Before the Disney World closure, we thought that the 50th Anniversary celebration would begin in Summer 2021 and last through almost all 2022. Whenever Disney does a big anniversary, the celebration usually lasts longer than 12 months, even up to 18 months in some cases. There is nothing bigger than Walt Disney World’s 50th, so we were expecting a full 18 months in this case too.
That timetable, however, looks like it’s now changed. With construction delayed for all the upcoming attractions, Disney won’t be able to get most of those attractions ready in time for 2021, which means some pushed into 2022.
It’s not ideal, but Disney will likely have to launch their biggest party ever before some of the special improvements are finished, and at least the majority of the attractions that were supposed to open in 2021.
For example, the TRON Lightcycle Run roller coaster won’t be finished until early to mid-2022, and that is the only big addition to the Magic Kingdom.
They unfortunately also have to without Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in EPCOT, with that also likely pushed off until 2022.
Because of the delays, I think we will see a later start to the 50th anniversary, with festivities beginning in September 2021, the month before the official date. It will probably end up only being a 14-month celebration, lasting throughout all 2022.
All these new attractions, would normally bring huge crowds to the parks to begin with, then when you take into consideration it will be Disney’s World 50th on top of that, we should be looking at almost “normal-level” crowds at some point in 2022.
A lot of this is going to depend on how the economy recovers. If we move into a long recession, that could put a damper on Disney’s expectations for the next couple of years. People that don’t have jobs can’t go to Disney World obviously.
If the economy recovers, or at least is heading in the right direction in the back half of 2021, we should start to see crowd levels start to come back in 2022.
We think that so many people are going to wait now and not go in 2021 and then choose 2022 instead, so between this and everything new, we should still see huge attendance numbers in late 2021 and into 2022.
As far as we know, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Hotel is still on pace to open in 2021 as far as construction is concerned, but will there be a market for it? This will be interesting to watch as we don’t know if many people will want to pay for a “high-end” hotel experience like this, at least not immediately. Our guess is this won’t open until 2022.
So what does this all mean for you? If the new TRON or Guardians rides are a top priority for you, going in 2022 is now your only option. And later in the year is better. The worst thing would be to book your vacation and then find out they are opening up the following month.
Just like in 2021, we think the best time to visit will be once again after Thanksgiving into the first couple of weeks in December. You will get there before the biggest crowd surge of the year, and by then all major projects for 2022 will be completed.
If you are a first-timer and can’t go in 2021, then January/February 2022 will be your best choice as it will probably have the lowest crowds of the year.
Once the 50th celebration gets started, the parks are going to be packed through 2022 and beyond and following a normal Disney Crowd Calendar will help you avoid the busiest seasons at that point.
Another thing to keep in mind are the potential for big price increases in 2022.
Again, this is dependant on the economy and just how high attendance is looking, but once the 50th celebration is underway, Disney will surely get back to hefty price increases. So though more things will be open in 2022 than 2021, you will have to pay for them.
One of the positive changes, however, should be looser safety guidelines. Hopefully at some point in 2022, we won’t have to wear face masks at Disney World, and some of the other distancing restrictions will be a thing of the past.
If you are waiting to go for this reason, then 2022 is definitely better than in 2022.
I know you were hoping for a clear-cut answer to the question, but when comparing Disney World in 2021 vs. 2022, there are just so many factors to consider and it depends on your budget, crowd tolerance and how important the 50th anniversary and the new attractions in 2021 are to you.
In general, due to the particular circumstances facing the world at this moment, we think 2022 is the better choice. It could depend slightly on your situation though.
If you are a first-timer, we think late 2021 is a perfect time to go to Disney World. After Thanksgiving into the first couple of weeks of December are your best times.
If you are a Disney-vet who needs to be there for the 50th anniversary, going to Disney World in Late 2021, after Thanksgiving and the first couple weeks of December is best. If not, September 2021, when the festivities are likely to kick off.
If really want to wait for the TRON and Guardians coasters, skip 2021 altogether and go in Spring or Summer 2022 when everything is sure to be open.
If you are waiting for the safety guidelines to end, that is a bit more unpredictable. Late 2021 is possible, but we’d wait until 2022 to be on the safer side.
Lastly, once you figure out which year you want to go, you should read our Disney World Crowd Calendar to find out when the most and least crowded times of the year are. That will save you both time and money.
I hope that helps you decide which year is better for your Disney World vacation. Even though we have had a slight set back recently, we are still more excited than ever for all the additions coming to Walt Disney World in the next few years and think there is no wrong time to check them out. We’ll see you in the parks!
I want to know if you think it’s better to go to Disney World in 2021 or 2022…
- Are you going to Disney World in 2021 or 2022?
- What plays the biggest role in deciding for you?
Let us know in the comments section below!
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